Thought it’d be a good idea to visit London’s Natural History Museum a few years ago, while my offspring were still potty about dinosaurs. We stood in the blazing sun queuing to get in for a few hours, only to find the queue continued through the entire dinosaur exhibit and beyond. The building is awesome, the experience is amazing, but the popularity makes sauntering it an exhausting slog whereby, squashed like sardines, I carried my youngest like a backpack while he slept and my elder didn’t want to see another set of dinosaur bones until she would be drawing her pension.
Compare and contrast this with the homely museum in our little town, occasions such as the world war exhibit where I yakked to a resident who was a policeman in Devizes during the war and had so many fascinating tales I had to cut him short before I was his age. Or perhaps the day when my daughter and I were in town without much to do, so we popped in to kill half-hour and, with the whole place virtually to ourselves, two hours later we were still chatting to the enthusiastic curator.
So despite it being a shame the museum’s relocation to the Azzie Courts seems to have fallen through, (?) there’s still a wonderful museum in our town, which while may not meet the standards and size of London, is tranquil and enlightening while, fun and active too.
Like many of our amenities, which other towns our size don’t seem to have, the Wiltshire Museum is something we might, but really shouldn’t, take for granted; when was the last time you popped in, even just to make a foam Stonehenge? Yeah, I’m guilty too, I admit. So I thought it’d be nice on this sunny Sunday to have a look at future goings on, and report them back to you guys, cos I’m nice like that, apparently.
Their award-winning display featuring gold and other spectacular treasures dating to the time of Stonehenge and worn by people who worshiped inside the stone circle is still running strong, and is a must-see for grockles and inhabitants alike, prior to visiting Wiltshire’s premier stones; proper jarb!
Oo-argh then, on Wednesday 6th June, there be a free lecture and guided tour of an exhibition called “Compassion in Crisis,” with Matthew McMurray, and a further one on 20th June by David Dawson. The Exhibition is currently running and finishes on 24th June, entry to the exhibition be free, thar be a charge to see the rest of the Museum.
Contact the Museum for more information 01380 727369 or email@example.com but here’s be thar lowdown me ol’ mucker:
In 1938 Stella Isaacs, Marchioness of Reading, a philanthropist remembered as the founder and chairman of the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS), now known as Royal Voluntary Service, and her million ‘women in green’ revolutionised the way the world thought about voluntary service.
During the Second World War these women of the WVS volunteered to help on the Home Front, providing compassion in crisis, to anyone who needed it. This exhibit and lecture, on the 80th anniversary of the RVS, is the story of how one woman and her ‘army that Hitler forgot’, quietly changed Britain forever. They pushed forward the cause of women, helped form the modern welfare state and were always on hand in times of crisis; from the threat of nuclear war, to caring for tens of thousands of refugees. Their simple acts of kindness are woven into the very fabric of the nation.
Also currently running until the 24th June, is an exhibition dedicated to the memory of Dr Paul Robinson, who was Curator of the Wiltshire Museum for more than 20 years. Is this who I may have chatted to the day my daughter and I popped in some years ago I wonder? As I know Lisa Brown is now the curator, and the chap I chewed the ears off without annoying, didn’t look like a “Lisa,” not the sort of question which would’ve popped into my head really!
Paul devoted much of his career to acquiring nationally important items to add to the collections at the museum, raising its profile both archaeologically and artistically. Over the last 30 years, Art Fund has generously contributed £50,000 to help purchase many important acquisitions for the Wiltshire Museum. The exhibition celebrates this support by displaying an eclectic mix of art and artefacts, such as depictions of Wiltshire landmarks and landscapes, a Roman coin hoard, a collection of medieval floor tiles and a set of 19th century Druid medals; the first time these items have been on show together. Many of the acquisitions on display have been acquired with support from Art Fund, the Primrose Trust and the V&A Purchase Fund.
Running from 6th July to 13th October there be an interesting exhibit called, “Interpretation and Expression of Archaeology and Art by archaeological reconstruction artist Peter Dunn. He’ll be showing off some of his incredibly realistic sketches and paintings, and items from the Museum’s art collection, including Henry Moore’s Stonehenge suite of lithographs, Avebury Restored by John Martin and works by David Inshaw and John Piper.
And, there’s our renowned ghost walk tutor, also traditional blacksmith, John Girvan, who is exhibiting rural art made at his forge in Devizes. The Blacksmith’s Craft runs from 7th July to 23rd September. While among smaller items, there’s collections of copper repousse leaf sculptures, animal heads and copper leaf art, it features some larger items standing over two metres high, including a handcrafted lily, an alien figure and a huge Trilapod (three-legged spider!) Some items will be for sale.
The museum also nearly always has some holiday arts activities for the nippers, this half-term they can make Medieval tiles from air dry clay, paint Stonehenge landscape, or tissue paper and acetate pictures, inspired by the John Piper stained glass window in the art gallery, plus of course the ever favourite striking a Roman Coin. You’ve got to book this one, but at just £5 per child, can’t go wrong. It’s suitable for ages 11 and under, under 8’s to be accompanied.
If you’re past keeping children occupied during school holidays, the Museum also holds many tea and coffee mornings, with homemade cakes made by and organised by their volunteers, with a chance to peruse the running exhibits. Next one is 26th May at 11:00 AM.
Keep checking the website for future events and exhibits, and details on how to support and volunteer the museum, as despite it holding many fascinating treasures, it’s a little treasure in itself.