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.
Lacock is a village known to tens of thousands of people around the world, but how many people really know it? They visit the abbey and museum of photography, have lunch in one of the pubs, look at houses dating from medieval times to the 18th century, and have tea and cakes in one of the tea rooms. If they’d been one of the participants in our Lacock interpretation day course last week they’d now know a great deal more about the history and development of this village!
At 2 PM on Wednesday 18th December a brand new and much needed visitor centre for Stonehenge opened its door to the public. The £27 million building was completed and funded by English Heritage with financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This marks the culmination of decades of work and several plans and schemes to provide a modern and world class visitor centre for this much-visited site.
The new centre is located 2 km west of Stonehenge at Airman’s Corner, between Amesbury and Shrewton. As well as providing the expected array of visitor necessities (parking, shop, restaurant, toilets) the building incorporates an impressive exhibition and interpretation facility. For the first time visitors can read and see the full story of the site and how it has been investigated just prior to seeing Stonehenge. The exhibition includes some of the real objects found during the archaeological excavations, helping to bring the interpretation of the site to life. After visiting the exhibition, visitors have the option of walking to Stonehenge, taking in many other prehistoric monuments on the way, or taking the land train there and back. This has all been made possible by the closure of the A344 which until recently allowed vehicles to drive close to Stonehenge. The removal of this road has greatly enhanced the setting and ambiance of the site.