Artists in Residence explore the empty museum

Artists in Residence explore the empty museum

What have our Artists in Residence been up to? Find out below…

Kidology - Artists in the Landscape

Buxton Museum is closed at the moment for renovations but as Artists in Residence we have had the privilege of being allowed access to the museum at every stage of its’ exciting transformation. We thought you might enjoy these pictures of a composer and an artist at work in the empty museum last Summer, and this beautiful building pausing for breath  before the next phase of work began. Yes, we have the best job in the world!

The acoustic of the museum building once everything had been ripped out and the sunlight streaming through the windows was too tempting to resist so we did what we do best…

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You will be able to see the art and music that we have been working on during our residency when the museum re-opens in May.

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Sharing the solstice

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Over a year ago, when we were planning events to take place while the museum was closed for our redevelopment project, we came up with the idea of doing an event to celebrate the winter solstice at Arbor Low. If you haven’t heard of Arbor Low, it’s the most important prehistoric site in the East Midlands and is often called the Stonehenge of the north.

tn-2006-a064 Print of a pen and ink drawing by E E Wilmot, 1859

The monument consists of a henge surrounding a circle of around 50 limestone slabs (now fallen, if they were ever standing) and a central cove. There are also several burial mounds and pathways nearby. Arbor Low shows periods of use over 1,000 years from around 2,500-1,500 BC, placing it in the Neolithic and early Bronze Age. Mesolithic flints found in the landscape show that people were visiting the area even earlier than this.

arbor-low-5 Panorama of Arbor Low henge…

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Mummified Moggy Added to Collection

The first object to be entered into the collection this year is a rather gruesome find, donated to the museum by resident Maxine Chuwen.

The dead cat was found during renovations down the road from the museum in Buxton’s town centre. Not remarkable, until you consider that the unfortunate feline had been sealed in a space above a ceiling possibly for over a century, halting its decomposition and leaving it a dried-out husk. Such macabre discoveries are not unknown but did curiosity kill the cat or was the creature placed there deliberately? There is an ancient superstition which involves sealing a cat into a house to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. Although strange and cruel by modern day standards, such practices would have been common as recent as the 19th century.

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The unlucky puss dropped out of the ceiling onto builders renovating the former post office in The Quadrant and was saved from the skip by the building’s owner. Her first instinct was to give the cat a proper burial but Maxine decided to bring it to the museum. She was curious to know whether there might be a connection between the entombed cat and newspapers dating to the 1890s found in the same space. In which case, kitty apparently stalked the streets of a very different town.

The staff at Buxton Museum are no strangers to prehistoric animal remains but were startled to see a more recent and well-preserved domestic specimen. Collections Development Officer Joe Perry had to take action to preserve what was left:

We gently cleaned the cat. A white residue had begun to form on the skin since coming into contact with the open air – probably a build-up of salts. Once clean, we securing the body in a sealed, low humidity environment to keep it dry and stable. When it is displayed to the public it will need a new, environmentally secure display case – so it’s come to us at the perfect moment as we’ll be having some brand new cases installed this year.

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The Buxton Museum team were initially undecided whether to accept the cat corpse and display it. However, as custodians of a stuffed bear and a famous mermaid, they know that creepy characters are extremely popular with visitors. So they intend to exhibit the Buxton Cat.

The museum reopens after extensive refurbishment on May 1 2017 but the mummified moggy may not be on display until the end of the year. You can read regular updates on Buxton Museum and Art Gallery by visiting the website and blog

For more information contact Ros Westwood at Buxton Museum on 01629 533540

8 Things we Learnt from our Pop up Museum

Whilst Buxton Museum and Art Gallery is closed for refurbishment, the staff have taken the opportunity to do something unusual. Equipped with a rather swanky gazebo and an assortment of artefacts, we have braved the single-figure temperatures and taken our “pop-up museum” out into the landscape. You may have seen us around. Our aim is to tell people a bit about the history of the Peak District and the Collections in the Landscape project. We try to draw attention to the fact that this part of the world was inhabited by brachiopods, mastodons and Romans and how its story can be told through objects. The education worked both ways and we actually learnt a few things ourselves:

Plesiosaurs are reptiles, not dinosaurs

The Peak District was not a land mass at the time of the dinosaurs but there is a piece of fossilised Plesiosaur from Dorset in Buxton Museum’s collection. However, as one clever young man was quick to point out, although these creatures flourished during the Jurassic era, they are classified as reptilian. We knew that – honest!

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There were underground toilets on Buxton Market Place

Many people are interested in how the landscape has changed within their own lifetime. When we popped-up at the Buxton market, we exhibited a few old photographs and residents were reminded of the subterranean water closet that can be seen in this 1929 photograph by J.R. Board. More conveniences were situated at the bottom of The Slopes. Apparently, they were both filled in and tarmacked over in the 1970s.

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Collections Assistant Laura Waters made a couple of observations whilst running the pop-up museum:

Keep it real

I noticed pretty quickly that people weren’t interested in replicas – so when I went with Gordon to Dovedale in half term and I had the replica coins, as soon as people realised they weren’t real they weren’t bothered about them at all: they only wanted to see and handle real stuff.

Look with your fingers

Also people really love just being able to touch things – so parents will come up telling their kids ‘do not touch anything’ or adults will come up really sheepishly assuming you can only look at things and then be amazed to discover that you can handle it all. It’s great to see how happy it makes people being able to actually get hands on with historic objects which isn’t something you get to do very often.

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Events Coordinator Gordon MacLellan, aka Creeping Toad also had some revelations:

Any excuse to talk but we need to listen

Objects are good starting points, but people want to talk as much as listen to us, so we need to be ready to listen to their stories of things found, treasures lost and wonders to be discovered

Connections to immediate environment

Our handling collection largely comes from the Peak District and it helps a lot to have a good sense of just where objects have come from and to be able to talk about those sites. But where objects have come from this immediate location that generates even more reaction; or again being able to talk about artefacts found here is really good for getting people talking and looking beyond the walls of our pop-up museum; being specific helps.

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Have something to do: Mix standing and chatting with an activity

We have drawn huge pictures on long rolls of paper, made boxes to keep personal treasures in, given out clipboards and invited people to go drawings; keep everything active -not everyone will participate but the opportunity is valued

Enjoy the opportunity

Relax, let go of worries about other work not being done and just enjoy meeting people and sharing these fascinating artefacts….

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Keep an eye on our website for more events. If you spot our pop-up museum when you’re out and about, come and say hello and tell us something we don’t know!

7 Buildings in Buxton That No Longer Exist

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

It is natural for people to affectionately remember places that were once part of their daily lives. A town the size and age of Buxton has seen many changes. Businesses have changed hands countless times and shop fronts have transformed with the fashions of the age. These seven buildings are just a selection of notable structures that have vanished from the landscape altogether.

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Cavendish Girl’s School, Corbar Road

For nearly 300 years, Buxton had segregated comprehensive schools. The boys went to Buxton College on College Road, now the co-educational Community School. No longer required, the girl’s school was flattened in the 1990s and swiftly replaced by a housing estate. I did the first year of my English A Level here and I recall that having to cross the playground as a shy teenager through a swarm of young ladies was a minor test of courage. There was a well-established belief…

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Pictures in the Landscape returns

This week, as well as being the Derbyshire schools half-term holiday, the Discovery Days festival is being celebrated across the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. When we were asked to join in, we wanted to find a way to use the museum collections in a different setting.  We don’t have many objects that relate to the mills themselves but we do have some wonderful images of the local area.

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Cromford, taken from the Bridge. Watercolour by William Day, 1789.

 

Cromford has been attracting visitors since the 1700s, when artists came to paint the landscape and tourists came to admire the industrial innovations taking place at the mills. The images in the museum collection span the period from then until the 20th century, with the landscape reproduced in paintings, drawings, engravings and photographs.

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Engraving, published by Rock and Co, 1852

This is also a revival of a project that first took place in Dovedale in 2010 as part of the Derbyshire Literature Festival. This time round, we found 16 images of Cromford to reproduce and they have been hung along the short section of the canal from Cromford Wharf to Leawood Pumphouse, a route which is easily accessible and much used by local residents, day visitors and tourists.

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Pictures in the Landscape: Cromford, 22-30 October 2016

We hope everyone will enjoy seeing some historic views of Cromford along the canal during Discovery Days – and, if they haven’t been before, take the opportunity to visit Cromford Mills and High Peak Junction at either end to make it a real day of discovery.

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery would like to thank our friends at Derbyshire Countryside Service, the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and Cromford Mills for their help with all our Discovery Days events.

A Fascination with the Victorians

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Volunteer archivist Ian Gregory often finds meaning in a an object and sparks a discussion which, at the end of the day, is what museums are all about! Over to you, Ian:

Today at Buxton Museum, I’m cataloguing photographs of objects in the collection. I have come to an image of a thermometer made from Ashford Black Marble with inlaid decoration and a pointed top.

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This object reminds me that there is currently much interest in the nineteenth century; it is the subject of television shows like Victoria, Ripper Street, Victorian Railways and The Victorian Show. The visual arts and furniture of that age are not so popular but stories and documentaries about it are all over the schedules.

Why a surge of interest in this particular epoch? It’s easy enough to talk of nostalgia but can we go deeper?

Today, we are often being told, rightly or wrongly, that…

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