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Hitchin

The Heritage event at Hitchin Library

Heritage event at Hitchin Library

Letchworth Festival - rainy but busy!

Letchworth Festival – a rainy but busy day!

Hitchin Festival - in Church House

Part of our Hitchin Festival  stall in Church House

This summer we have taken the pop-up museum panels on the road to various events in Letchworth and Hitchin. Our reception has been overwhelmingly positive; the main question is always ‘When can we come and see the new museum?’. We spoke to around 200 people, and although some are still sad about losing the old museums, everyone said that they understood the reasons for change, and told us that in fact they are now looking forward to having a bright and modern new museum to visit. Parents were keen to hear about the new Learning Centre, which will be ideal for holiday and after-school activities, and family historians were interested to hear about the Local Studies Centre. Everyone was happy that there will be easy access, with a lift to all floors, lots of loos (it’s amazing to remember that Hitchin Museum didn’t even have one public WC) and a café. The fact that we are telling the stories of the District through objects which have been hidden in store for years adds to the sense of anticipation. The newest pop-up panel, showing images from some of next year’s exhibitions, caused the most interest, particularly next Spring’s Arts Council Matisse exhibition;  next summer’s sci-fi extravaganza, ‘Invasion’, and next winter’s show of Nick Sharratt children’s illustrations. Nick is best known for illustrating the Jacqueline Wilson books, as well as many of his own. We hope to open the new museum at the same time as the beautifully restored Hitchin Town Hall; watch this space for updates.

Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and to SHARE Museums East for funding all the pop-up panels, and the matching free flyers.

Heritage Open Days

Join the Celebration: Thursday 11 – Sunday 14 September www.heritageopendays.org.uk

2014 is the 20th anniversary of Heritage Open Days, the event that enables people to visit buildings and places normally closed to the public. So don’t forget to book your place on our Heritage Open Days Behind the Scenes tours at Letchworth and Hitchin museums. See how staff are preparing for the new North Hertfordshire Museum. Find out about the history of the buildings and the museums. Have a look at objects as they are cleaned and packed.

Tours are free, start at 10am and last approximately 45mins to 1 hour. Spaces are limited and tours must be booked in advance (tours without sufficient bookings may be rescheduled). You can book onto a tour at Letchworth Museum or Hitchin Museum (or one of each!).

Letchworth Museum Heritage Open Day tour, Thursday 11th September 2014, 10am. To book telephone: 01462 685647.

Hitchin Museum Heritage Open Day tour, Friday 12th September 2014, 10am.  To book telephone: 01462 434476 or email:hitchin.museum@north-herts.gov.uk

Now that I have come to the end of my internship with the North Herts Museums, and taken pictures of thousands of objects, I thought I would share my favourite object from the Social History Store at Burymead.

The object I liked most in the Social History Store was the wooden Bird House.

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When we first discovered it in the depths of the store room, it was very dusty, and its only inhabitant was a lonely spider. But once we had taken the object out, dusted it off a little and taken the spider out it was clear that it was a very beautiful, decorative bird house.The birdhouse is very ornate and delicate, the bird house itself probably would have been a decoration in the front room.

In the 18th century, birds lived in dwellings that were similar of houses for people than for the birds themselves. Often made of expensive and exotic woods and built like miniature architectural models, these structures were found among the very rich and fashionable people of England and France. While structurally beautiful, most of these fantastic cages did little to support the needs of the bird. Often dangerous for the birds and difficult to clean, it’s amazing that the birds survived in these structures at all.

I particularly like the small set of steps leading up to the ‘door’, which were obviously useless for the bird, but make the entire cage look more like a house.

Finally I would like to thank everyone at the North Herts Museum Service for being so welcoming and giving me the opportunity to see the objects in storage. I look forward to visiting the new museum in 2015.