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.
Back in 2010 one of our Conservators began work on the Buckland Fossil Table, housed at the Lyme Regis Museum. The table was owned by William Buckland one of the leading geologists of the 19th Century. Buckland was a highly regarded character who, whilst Professor of Geology at Oxford University, carried out pioneering work not only in the study of dinosaurs, but also the analysis of coprolites or fossilised faeces. The large inlay panel of the Buckland fossil table is set with coprolites which have been cut in half and polished to a high sheen. The table is highly unusual and an extremely popular exhibit at Lyme Regis Museum.
The table was stable, but fragile when it arrived at the History Centre. The table top was original, but the base of the table was a simple modern replacement. The veneer over much of the table top had lifted from the table surface, probably due to the age of the adhesive and fluctuations in the humidity of its display environment. In many areas the veneer had been lost completely.