Meet the Experts: come on a journey and meet the people exploring Collections in the Landscape during the Buxton Festival in July

Guest blog from Ros Westwood

There’s a great team at Buxton Museum developing the new gallery. I have had the privilege to work with the Buxton Museum collection for 17 years, but even so, I am not a subject specialist. Over recent years, we have attracted researchers and volunteers who have specialist knowledge. They have identified the mineral collection, the rocks and fossils, and the shell collection. After more than five years, they are coming to the end of sorting out the huge archive relating to the work of Dr J.W.Jackson. All this work is helping to shape the new displays, so we can select the most interesting objects and the best stories to tell you.

Volunteers and staff in the Project Space working on condition checking, photography, documentation and data entry.

Volunteers and staff in the Project Space working on condition checking, photography, documentation and data entry.

What is really important therefore is that we get the story right. The laying down of the geological history is complex. The mass of archaeological material needs subject specialists to describe it and understand its context. Not all of the team have been at the museum as long as I have, and I would like to thank all the specialists who have come to share their knowledge with the team. I am delighted that some have been persuaded to share their enthusiasm with our visitors this July as an event programme in the Buxton Festival Fringe.

Throughout the fortnight, the specialists will be at the museum. At I pm, lunchtime, each day (except Mondays and Carnival Day) they will either give a talk or be in conversation with a member of the museum team. Afterwards, do stay and have a chat, seeing some of the museum’s collections through their eyes.

So, who’s coming then:

Friday 8 July: we kick off with Alastair Willis, the Derbyshire Finds Liaison Officer. As a member of the nationally funded Portable Antiquities Scheme he has seen amazing finds being made by metal detectorists across the county. Come and hear about some Fascinating Derbyshire Finds.

Coins from the Kirk Ireton Hoard

Coins from the Kirk Ireton Hoard

Sunday 10 July: Pauline Beswick, archaeology editor of the Derbyshire Archaeological Journal and specialist in early ceramics will share some of secrets about the Earliest Derbyshire Pottery, from 4,000 BCE to 0. Pottery remains essential in our modern lives. Can you identify a drinking cup from a food bowl? And how can you tell which pieces are older than others?

Cup found in a barrow at Green Low, Chapel-en-le-Frith

Cup found in a barrow at Green Low, Chapel-en-le-Frith

Tuesday 12 July:  Matlock Bath was a lively tourist destination around 1800, attracting many artists to see the spectacular landscape. The museum’s art collection includes important pictures of the Derwent Valley, now a World Heritage Site. Doreen Buxton, a local historian has studied them often and will share her observations in The Derwent Valley: the artist’s perspective.

View of Matlock, Derbyshire by William Marlow (1740 - 1813). Oil.

View of Matlock, Derbyshire by William Marlow (1740 – 1813). Oil.

Wednesday 13 July: Step back in time with John Barnett, the Peak Park Survey Archaeologist for A Walk through the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, when people started farming in the Peak, began to use metal tools and built spectacular monuments including Arbor Low.

A leaf-shaped arrowhead

A leaf-shaped arrowhead

Thursday 14 July: Victorian tourists to Buxton included in their list of activities a search for Buxton Diamonds. Geologist Roy Starkey follows in their footsteps to find out exactly where they went and what they found.


Friday 15 July: Coins may look like the least interesting objects in the museum display but they are really important markers for archaeologists. Anja Rohde from the University of Nottingham in Money, Money, Money explores the secrets locked into the two faces of any coin and banknote and what they can tell us about life and customs in earlier times.


Saturday 16 July: The caves on the border of Derbyshire and Staffordshire have provided important evidence about Derbyshire pre-history. The bones of animals and later remains from people were excavated in the middle of the last century. They are being studied again by Umberto Albarella, Reader in Zooarchaeology at the University of Sheffield. Is there more we can find out about Peak District Pre-history: Dowel and Fox Holes Caves ?

Antler point, Fox Hole Cave.

Antler point, Fox Hole Cave.

Sunday 17 July: At the end of the 1700s, the business men of Derbyshire chose Joseph Wright of Derby to paint their portraits. Joseph Wright also painted important records of the changing landscape as mills were built at Cromford and down the Derwent Valley. Jonathan Wallis, from Derby Museums, with its nationally designated collection of the artist’s work, takes a fresh look at Joseph Wright’s Derbyshire.

Wright of Derby, Joseph; Dovedale by Derbyshire, Moonlight; Derby Museums Trust;

Dovedale by Moonlight, Derbyshire, Joseph Wright of Derby, Derby Museums Trust.

Tuesday 19 July:  Are there really Mermaids in Derbyshire? Among Buxton Museum’s top 10 exhibits is our pin-up girl, the mermaid. Its conservator, Anita Hollinshead, shares its history, secrets and the stories that continue to intrigue us.

The Buxton Mermaid

The Buxton Mermaid

Wednesday 20 July: Love it or hate it, Buxton Museum has the best collection of inlaid Derbyshire Marble anywhere. Ros Westwood (yes, that’s me) the Museums Manager at Buxton Museum will explore Ashford Black Marble: not black, or marble.  


Ashford Black Marble with inlay.

Thursday 21 July: Buxton has long been a tourist destination. An excavation of Lismore Fields to the west of the town in the 1980s found some of the earliest evidence of these people from more than 10,000 years ago. Daryl Garton, the site archaeologist, will tell more about Lismore Fields: evidence of early visitors to Buxton.


Part of a bowl found at Lismore Fields, Buxton.

Friday 22 July: The discovery of up to three cave lions in the quarries at Hindlow in the 1950s provided some of the most spectacular animal remains in the museum’s collections. In the Ice Age, lions were animals to fear and respect. Dr Jill Cook, Curator of Ice Age Art at the British Museum will tell more about Cave Lions in Derbyshire and Abroad.

The foot of a cave lion, Hindlow.

The foot of a cave lion, Hindlow.

Saturday 23 July:  A generation of children have grown up braving the growl of the museum bear. Dr Hannah O’Regan from the University of Nottingham wants to know when the last bear roamed Britain. In Bear Detective:  the History of Britain’s largest carnivore she will look at the evidence, the facts and myths.

The growling Buxton Bear is currently a visitor favourite.

The growling Buxton Bear is a visitor favourite.

Sunday 24 July: I’ve kept this date, just in case – there are so many people helping the project, there may be a Stop Press to capture your attention…so keep a look out on Twitter.

UPDATE:  Julia Farley, curator of British & European Iron Age collections at the British Museum, will join us on 24 July to explore everyday life in the Iron Age.

I look forward to seeing you. The lectures will be in the Project Space, so there will be limited seating. Admission is free, but your donations will be appreciated. And we are grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and all the organisations that our specialists represent for generously helping to make this programme successful.

We are getting nearer testing the digital options for collections in the Landscape too. So if you enjoy this programme, look out for that too.

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