You will have seen, if you follow our blog or have come on one of our tours, that many staff are busy at work behind the scenes making preparations for the new museum. This does not mean, however, that we have withdrawn from the wider world. The “Discovering Ickleford” Heritage Lottery Funded project has recently involved our Learning Officer Cas and Cultural Services Manager Ros working with the local community and schoolchildren there. David Hodges, one of our curators, is working with local football clubs to develop a travelling exhibition about the history of football in the area to go with some of the fantastic objects in the football collection. Our Archaeology Officer, Keith, is out on the annual dig with the Norton Community Archaeology Group exploring the site of a Bronze Age Henge.
One of the other projects in which we have had some involvement is culminating in a exhibition which opens on 9th August. “Hidden Landscapes” presents the findings from the Hidden Landscapes Project, carried our by visual artist Christina Bryant. Christina spent 12 months exploring chosen sites located along the urban fringes of Letchworth Garden City. Her interest is in the spaces that straddle the urban and the country, the ‘wilderness’ that lies just beyond the codes and surveillance of the town. Her focus was on areas showing evidence of current or recent human occupation, recording, mapping and surveying the rubbish and debris from the selected locations. She met with me, as a museum curator, to talk about curation and display of objects, and worked closely with our archaeology officer Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews in order to understand and use the painstaking methods of an archaeologist to help explore what links us with our everyday landscape.
The exhibition runs from 9th – 30th August at the Letchworth Arts Centre, and on August 15 at 7.00, Christina will be at the Letchworth Arts Centre speaking about what she has uncovered. The exhibition is a fascinating blend of drawings, maps and finds from the various sites which include: Norton Common, the old quarry on Wilbury Hills and the A1(M) underpass.
Christina is keen to get local people involved with the project as much as possible. In addition to the exhibition, she is organising a ‘wilderness excavation’ at one of the sites on Saturday 17th August, 2-4pm, which anyone will be welcome to attend. This will give people a chance first hand to experience her project.
On 27 March, eight of us plus David Sims went by minibus to visit the National Football Museum in Manchester, all funded by our football grant.
The museum was originally based in Preston, and opened in its glossy new town centre home last year. First of all we were shown round by Laura, a lovely enthusiastic member of their front-of-house team. After a pie and mash lunch, Laura plus their Education Officer and Sally, the Curator, spent most of the afternoon with us, explaining how they had had to move all the objects from Preston, how they thought of the different themes for the new displays, and gave useful tips on working with museum designers.
It was great to see the enthusiasm of all the staff for their museum, even those who hadn’t really known much about football before working there. We hope to continue the relationship, lending them items from our Football Collection and taking back some loaned items when the new museum opens.