Athelstan Museum opens the Moravian Church, Malmesbury

I thought I’d use this post to give a plug to one of the museum’s I mentor – Athelstan Museum in Malmesbury.

Never ones to rest on their laurels, last year the 100% volunteer run museum completed a successful fundraising campaign and were able to purchase a disused Moravian Church in the town, The last 12 months have been spent re-purposing this as a new community facility for the town, providing museum, exhibition and event space.

As part of Heritage Open Days 2018, the church will be open to the public for the first time this month (Sat and Sunday 15th and 16th September). I’ve had a sneak preview, and it is looking great and will be a real asset to both the museum and town. Full details at HODs website

The building itself dates from 1770 and was used as a church until the mid 1990s.

Moravian Church, Malmesbury in 1965
Moravian Church, Malmesbury in 1965
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Bridport Undressed

I’ve been really enjoying working with Bridport Museum as a collections consultant, supporting the small staff team and volunteers, first with their HLF funded museum redisplay and then on various other projects.

Last month I played a very small part in helping them plan and deliver an ambitious exhibition of costumes and textiles. I wanted to mention it as it is a great example of the sort of activity that can be delivered by being clever with money, calling in favours, and making the most of all the skills and goodwill of partners and volunteers.

Bridport Undressed exhibition opening
Bridport Undressed exhibition opening

The exhibition was hosted in Bridport Arts Centre, the first time the two organisations had collaborated, (but I suspect not the last). This gave the Arts Centre a very different exhibition and the museum access to a large display space.

The bulk of the curatorial work was carried out by volunteers who have been working with the collection for many years, so know it very well. This included key decisions such as what to display.

There was a long list of others who made it happen, contributing in ways large and small (and I’ve probably missed someone out):

  • Local businesses (materials)
  • Trustees (storage, logistics and carpentry skills)
  • Bridport Town Council (lifting and shifting)
  • Other Museums (mannequin loans, notably Dorchester and Chippenham)
  • Family and friends of staff and volunteers (making padded hangers and helping install and deinstall)

It was a real team effort and a great success. An accompanying gallery talk sold out so quickly it had to be rebooked and repeated.

Alongside all this, the museum took the bold decision to not just put on a traditional costume display, but to try and tell some of the behind the scenes stories of what goes into curating a collection like this, including collections care and decisions as to what to acquire (Although it became ‘Bridport Undressed’, we did have ‘Airing our dirty laundry in public’ as a working title at one point!)

Bridport Undressed exhibition
Bridport Undressed exhibition

For those of you who work in or with museums with limited resources you will recognise this way of working I’m sure.

I just wanted to take the opportunity to say well done to the whole team. A job well done.

Trowbridge Museum Closed (but in a good way!)

After years of planning and fundraising, last month saw Trowbridge Museum closing it’s doors for the final time in it’s current guise. It will now reopen in 2020, bigger and better.

The staff and volunteers have lost no time in getting to grips with dismantling the displays ready for packing and moving into storage whilst the building work takes place.

Even Teazel the museum cat has been helping out, but it looks like it all got a bit too much for him*

It was all a bit much for Teazel the museum cat
It was all a bit much for Teazel the museum cat

If you want to follow the progress of the redevelopment and also keep up to date with all the activities that the museum are still running in the community, keep an eye on their facebook page

*No cats were harmed in the making of this museum

Does your museum have a History Maker?

AIM Biffa Award Logo

The third and final round of the AIM Biffa Award History Makers grant programme is now open for Expressions of Interest.

Eligible organisations can apply for grants of up to £90,000 to create new exhibitions telling the inspirational stories of their chosen history maker.

Successful projects will show how the life and work of the history maker has helped shape the world we live in today.

We are particularly keen to hear from projects based on women who made history and history makers from diverse backgrounds.

All of the details of how to apply can be found on the AIM website, where you can also see details of the successful applicants to the previous round who are just starting their projects:

Milton Keynes Museum

History Maker – Jock Campbell

National Paralympic Heritage Trust

Science Pioneering the Paralympic Games – Dr Ludwig Guttmann, Doctor, Psychologist, Engineer

National Tramway Museum

Holroyd Smith – Electrifying the Future

British Schools Museum

Joseph Lancaster’s Educational Revolution.

Catalyst Science Discovery Centre

Harry Baker and 120 years of Chlorine

I’ll be at AIM conference next week so do come and say hello if you have a project idea you’d like to talk through.

History Makers are go!

Last month I had the great pleasure of attending the opening events for two of the new exhibitions which have been funded through the AIM Biffa Award History Makers programme.

Hawkshaw and Barlow Untold exhibition at Clifton Suspension Bridge
Hawkshaw and Barlow Untold exhibition at Clifton Suspension Bridge

I’ve been project managing this programme for AIM since it started and it was so lovely to see the first exhibitions come to life. There is another due next month, and very soon we shall be announcing the latest round of successful applicants and opening Round 3 for applications. Keep an eye on the AIM website for full details if you might be interested in applying.

Digging Deeper gallery at London Transport Museum
Digging Deeper gallery at London Transport Museum

For now, huge congratulations to the teams at Clifton Suspension Bridge and London Transport Museum for their new displays telling the stories of people who shaped our world.

Job opportunity at Bridport Museum

New Year, New Opportunity….

The lovely team at Bridport Museum are looking for someone to join them for 6 months as a Records Assistant. Details are on the museum facebook page. Working alongside the staff and volunteers this new post will be helping to update catalogue records for the museum collections, including fantastic items like this Roman bull.

Roman bull at Bridport Museum
Roman bull at Bridport Museum

Brings back memories of my first museum job, doing exactly this at Bolling Hall in Bradford. Not sure I realised then that I’d be helping other museums with this sort of work over 20 years later! How time flies.

Congratulations Trowbridge Museum

Artists impression of new gallery at Trowbridge Museum
Artists impression of new gallery at Trowbridge Museum

Really great news for Trowbridge Museum this month. The Heritage Lottery Fund have awarded a Delivery Grant of just over £1.1M to make the Onwards and Upwards project a reality. This kick starts the next phase of activity, which will culminate in the new, bigger and better museum re-opening in 2020. Well done to Clare and all the team. Time to start turning all those plans into reality now………

‘A fine addition to the Jurassic Coast’s museum scene’

Roman armour on display at Bridport Museum
Roman armour on display at Bridport Museum

Not my words, but a quote from the review of the newly re-opened Bridport Museum in this month’s Museums Journal, which also says ‘Bridport Museum is a delight to visit and its varied collection has something to offer every visitor.’

Well done us!!!!!

I’ve included this picture of the Roman Armour and associated objects as it was undoubtedly the area that caused us the most challenge from a collections point of view. The Museums Journal review states that the body armour components are ‘cleverly displayed on a reconstruction of a tunic’ which is true, but doesn’t quite capture all the fun we had with:

  • Specialist object identification
  • Conservation and object cleaning
  • Bespoke mount making
  • Bespoke lighting
  • Environmental control
  • Secure but unobtrusive object mounting

Despite a few long days and sleepless nights we were all really pleased with the end result of how this case came out.

As those of you who have put displays together will know, it is all the hard work you hopefully can’t see that creates lovely exhibitions like this.

Of course, with the museum only having been open a few months, we are now discussing ideas for the the next stage of Bridport’s regeneration!