Emmy’s Work Experience

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery offers regular work experience placements to students so they can get realistic idea of day-to-day life in heritage and tourism. Traditionally, we get them to describe their time here by writing a blog. Emmy Cooper; a second-year Travel and Tourism student at Buxton College, writes about her recent stint (as well as providing you with some exclusive behind-the-scenes photographs).

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I started a week of work experience at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery on Thursday the 4th of May. I wanted to have a placement here because I knew that the building was undergoing a major refurbishment, and I was pleased to be involved in the transformation of it. I’m also very interested in culture and tourism, so I really enjoyed developing my knowledge whilst here.

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During my week I did a variety of things, I practically enjoyed testing a new app that has been developed by the museum; it guided me to interesting locations and features in Buxton. This app will shortly be available to the public to use if they wish to explore Buxton and the surrounding areas. I gave my feedback to staff about my experience using the new app. I also delicately cleaned some of the 1,200 exhibit items the museum has! These will go on display in the new galleries when it re-opens after renovation. I contributed my ideas about the layout of the new gift shop, and placed items on display.

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This work experience placement has allowed me to learn how the museum is run on a daily basis, and what the roles and responsibilities are for the staff that works here. It has been an enjoyable week and has benefited me hugely. I would recommend Buxton Museum to anyone who is considering doing a work placement, it’s lots of fun!

Whilst I was here, the museum has not been open to the public, however I’ve been very busy and had a productive week by helping members of staff get the museum ready for the opening day on June the 6th.

Time to Take Two

Last weekend Take Two opened, a new exhibition displaying paintings and drawings from the Derbyshire County Council collection. This show explores relationships between some of the pictures at the museum, by looking at two works by the same artist or images of the same view by two different artists.

Buxton Montage by Zoe Badger (2010)

Buxton Montage by Zoe Badger (2010), winner of the Derbyshire Open Friends Purchase Prize

I joined the team at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery this summer and have spent the last 6 weeks planning the exhibition. I’ve been helped on this journey by brilliant art student and artist in the making Rachel Hesketh, who has assisted with everything and anything including locating pictures in the store, choosing works for display, researching information about artists and taking photographs. The exhibition hang was a real team effort as we carried paintings from store to gallery, agonised over the lay out and resized labels.

Part of the Old Bath, Matlock Bath by Mary Mitford c.1770

Part of the Old Bath, Matlock Bath by Mary Mitford (c.1770)

One of the remits for Take Two was that the work was ‘made in Derbyshire’ and it has been wonderful to have the opportunity to show some paintings that won’t have been seen for a while alongside some more recent acquisitions. Also on display are two works by Sheffield artist, Eddy Dreadnought, completed as part of his residency at Tarmac Lafarge’s Tunstead Quarry in summer 2014, which complement some of the industrial paintings from the museum collection.

The Peak by Gwen Tarbuck (2000) Winner of the Derbyshire Open Friends Purchase Prize.

The Peak by Gwen A Tarbuck (2000), winner of the Derbyshire Open Friends Purchase Prize

Look out for a few other treasures including a copy of Ebenezer Rhodes’ Peak Scenery, or the Derbyshire Tourist (1818-1823) – illustrated by F L Chantrey, whose engraving of Castle Rock is also on show – and husband and wife artistic duo, Samuel and Ann Rayner, whose lithograph and engraving on Ashford Black Marble are displayed side by side.

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Matlock Bath, engraving on Ashford Black Marble by Ann Rayner (c1840)

I hope this exhibition inspires you to get out and about around Derbyshire and the Peak District, and look forward to sharing more with you soon. Take Two is showing at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery until Saturday 7 November 2015.

Re-discovering Some Derbyshire History in the Museum Stores

By Heather Miles

As a recent graduate, caught in the vacuum between finishing a BA and jumping into the black hole that is Postgraduate Study, I have found myself temporarily sheltered in the relative calm of Buxton Museum. By playing the part of a volunteer, I seem to have tricked them into unknowingly giving me refuge, and I have spent this past August blissfully recording archaeological finds in a quiet office.

My project has been to update the digital records of small finds and pottery from a series of archaeological digs around Carsington and Hognaston, Derbyshire, in the 1980s. This is no small task, as I have unboxed over 700 finds lying in storage unrecorded and anonymous. Many objects sit unidentified in dusty Ziploc bags, sadly a life shared with much of our nation’s archaeological record – not all finds can be as revered as the Sutton Hoo helmet or Richard III’s skeleton.

An unassuming cardboard box, sat in storage for over a decade, contains 22 bags of cremated human remains.

An unassuming cardboard box, sat in storage for over a decade, contains 22 bags of cremated human remains.

Fortunately for me, this absence of information has created a great learning opportunity. In order to record what is in front of me, I have had no choice but to learn fast how to identify pottery wares, animal and human bone, flint objects, and metallic ores, as well as how to best preserve them when items are in need of repackaging or protection (for example, old cardboard boxes can be rather acidic). As I delve deeper into the collection and begin to understand more about our local past, more and more exciting objects are appearing before me.

One of my favourite finds so far is a leaf-shaped flint arrowhead from Hognaston Reservoir. This type of arrow is typical of the Neolithic era (4000 – 2000 BCE), a form produced for its aesthetics over the more practical barbed triangle you might tend to associate with an ‘arrow’. This particular example is of great quality, a delicate and regular shape that would have required an artisan’s skills. Because it is quite thin, and there isn’t any visible wear, it is possible that it was created purely for ceremonial purpose and was likely never used.

A leaf-shaped flint arrowhead, Neolithic era.

A leaf-shaped flint arrowhead, Neolithic era.

Apart from the occasional small find, though, there is an abundance of pottery. Locally produced Derbyshire ware fills bags in vast quantities, sometimes with over 200 sherds in one bag. It has its own rough beauty, varying from brick red to deep purple or black, with a distinctive coarse surface covered in quartz and stony grit.

Other less commonly found types of pottery give evidence of a rich Roman trade with the rest of Britain and the continent. Multiple types of Gaulish wares are present, as well as colour-coated wares from Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire. One piece of colour-coated ware in particular bears an enduring mark of humanity, a clear fingerprint pressed into a Roman box-lid from the 3rd century AD. Other sherds display intricate decorations, some made by rolling a patterned stamp across the surface, some carefully etched in using a point by hand.

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A fingerprint on a Roman box-lid, 3rd century.

 

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Four sherds of pottery showing different decorative patterns.

I feel excited to be re-discovering artefacts that give insight on all aspects of life: eating habits, organised craft production, burial, trade and commerce, and even military presence. People have settled in Derbyshire throughout the ages, and all have left their permanent impression on the landscape – and eventually, in Buxton Museum’s store rooms.

Call for Volunteers – Peak Lithics Transect

Buxton Museum & Art Gallery has recently received the finds and archive from the Peak Lithics Transect, a 30-year field walking project covering over 1000 fields and resulting in finds that include around 6000 pieces of worked stone, mostly prehistoric, plus other finds such as prehistoric and post-medieval pottery. The museum is seeking volunteers to help pack this archive to ensure it is stored effectively and is accessible for display and research.

No experience is required, just an interest in archaeology or museum work and a willingness to work socially in small groups. Full guidance and training will be given. Sessions will run on Mondays from 10am to 4pm with a break for lunch, but volunteers are free to commit to as much, or as little, of this period as they like. The first working part is scheduled for Monday 14th September and will include a short presentation about the project so far.

To find out more, or to get involved, email CITL@derbyshire.gov.uk.