Spring is Sprung in Wiltshire’s Museums
The clocks have gone forward, days are getting longer, the sun (hopefully) shining brighter and the museums in Wiltshire that have been closed over the Winter are staring to open their doors to the public.
But don’t be fooled – these museums have not been hibernating, inactive over the last few months. Hard working volunteers have been busy behind the scenes doing all the work required to look after the collections and create new, vibrant and interesting exhibitions.
Enjoying the displays as a visitor it is can be easy to overlook all the time and effort that goes into producing them and keeping the museum ship shape. This includes a wide range of activities such as keeping the building tidy, making sure historic collections are well cared for, documenting and cataloguing objects to appropriate standards, researching local history, writing labels and telling stories, selecting the most suitable items for display and talking to members of the local community – to name just a few!
Bradford on Avon Museum recently re-opened following their mid-winter closure, which was spent cleaning, tidying and repainting. Work carried out in the gallery includes new interpretation and displays of the Museum’s collection including road and shop signs from the town. Visitors now also have the opportunity to view pieces of plaster from a Roman Bath Complex, excavated in Bradford-upon-Avon in 1976. Not all of the changes at the Museum are immediately visible however. In addition to what’s been happening front of house, work has also been carried out with the collections in storage to make the most of the available space.
There has also been a hive of activity in Aldbourne and I was very pleased to attend the opening of Aldbourne Heritage Centre in the village over the Easter weekend.
The Heritage Centre tells the story of the village of Aldbourne through stories, photographs and historic collections collected from local residents. A large crowd of people gathered outside the Centre to witness the proceedings.
On the day the ribbon was cut by archaeologist, broadcaster and Time Team regular, Phil Harding. He spoke to the assembled visitors about how important the Heritage Centre is to the village and how it can help the community remember its history and discover more about its roots.
One of the stars of the new exhibitions is a replica of the ‘Aldbourne Cup’, an important early Bronze Age pottery vessel dating from c1700 – 1500 BC. The Cup was discovered during Canon William Greenwell’s excavation of several barrows close to Aldbourne in 1878.
The original is currently on permanent display in the British Museum, so master potter Graham Taylor was called in to create replicas of the Cup for the village.
Neil Wilkin, Curator of the European Bronze Age Collection at the British Museum, was another special guest at the opening. He recalled the day, in October 2015, when members and friends of the Heritage Group travelled to London to look at the original Aldbourne Cup. Used to dealing with small groups coming to the Museum to view items from his collections, he was amazed when a coach load of 45 people from the village turned up! He spoke of their group’s passion and enthusiasm for their community’s history and this was clearly in evidence again on the day of the opening.
A video of the opening can be found here https://vimeo.com/160895079
These are just two of the many fantastic museums within the county and once again, I have been blown away by the hard work, enthusiasm and high standards achieved in preserving their community’s stories and historic objects for the future generations. Why not explore your local museum and see if you can find out something new about your area?
Heather Perry, Museums Officer