End of an Era – Stripping out the Wonders of the Peak

“You’ve got to break some eggs to make an omelette”

That’s how the old saying goes, but still I must admit to having mixed feelings as I watch the strip out of the old Wonders of the Peak gallery. On one hand it’s an incredibly exciting time as the fake walls and ceilings are removed – but it’s still sad to see the old displays being dismantled.

I won’t go over old ground in explaining how and why we’ve decided to make these changes – they’ve already been summed in some of our previous posts.



The low, winding tunnels of the old gallery are actually constructed within two large rooms. More and more of the original space is being opened up each and every day. We’ve been keeping a photo diary of the progress. My intention is to publish a series of slideshows at the end of the project – to show the changes that have taken place from certain viewpoints.

Just for you, here is a sneak peek of the story so far.

Recent visitors to the museum will have discovered the Buxton Bear has moved to the Project Space. Here’s a reminder of where he used to be, and what it looks like now. The stalagmites and stalactites have also been removed. Not many people realise they were real cave formations.

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These next images show the old Georgian Room, and what you can see from the same viewpoint today.

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The Roman Displays were perhaps some of the most iconic in the old gallery. Here’s a view of the roman altars looking towards the fire exit.

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And above it all, hidden for over 25 years, THIS ceiling.

THAT ceiling

Visit us in the Project Space to find out more about the new gallery design or our exciting digital plans. The new gallery, Wonders of the Peak: A Journey through Time and Place, is currently scheduled for a ‘soft opening’ in April 2017, so make a note in next year’s diary and come along to see the exhibits!



Design ideas for the new gallery

For me the most daunting, but exciting element of the Collections in the Landscape project is the redevelopment of the Wonders of the Peak Gallery.   We’ve blogged about the redevelopment quite a lot and been on various fact finding trips to other institutions, most recently to the newly redeveloped Manchester Central Library.

Meeting with designers

Meeting with designers

Yesterday we had a meeting with three designers who have all put forward ideas for what the new gallery might look like. It was really exciting to see the designs and it has made the development suddenly feel very real.

The current gallery is a chronological time tunnel, which takes visitors from the big bang through to the Victorian period. It is windy and dark (windy as in wiggly, not blusterous), with many stud walls and areas of false ceilings, making it difficult to envisage as a blank space.

The current Wonders of the Peak floorplan.

The current Wonders of the Peak floorplan.

We intend to open up the gallery making it less claustrophobic and more accessible, while still trying to make the most of its small dimensions.  We are still in the very early stages and will not be finalising designs or companies until next year, but it has given us something to think about.

Ideas for the new gallery

Ideas for the new gallery



Done the app? Well, now see the objects!

Cabinet in the foyerWe’ve recently reclaimed a small area of the Museum foyer to display some of our lovely Buxton objects. Many of these feature in our Buxton Waters app, but we’ve also managed to squeeze in some additional objects too.

Well Dressing programmesBuxton Crescent








On display there are souvenir programmes for the Well Dressing Festivals, prints and ceramics, a miniature of Martha Norton and an array of Buxton Water bottles.

We’ve also put some of our favourite Buxton pictures up, including David Russell’s Exterior of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and a watercolour of the Thermal Baths from c. 1850s.

Exterior of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery (DERSB 2006.33)

A Collections in the Landscape Film

Steven Spielberg will be nervous this week because CITL has released its first film. I took the photographs that we used for our Buxton Shops app, plus the memories of residents that we we recorded for the same project, and edited them together into film format so more of you can enjoy a stroll into the town’s commercial past. You can watch the film here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnDPw4nvAP8. We’re also planning to show it at BMAG, along with more photos and objects related to Buxton shops. Please let us know what you think; we always welcome feedback, and stay tuned for more exciting digital endeavours.

Spring Gardens, Buxton, 1930s, collection of BMAG

Spring Gardens, Buxton, 1930s, collection of BMAG


We are experimenting with getting our collections out and about on different online platforms. We currently use twitter, facebook , three blogs and a YouTube channel, with a varying degree of regularity and success.

Our newest venture is HistoryPin. HistoryPin allows users to ‘pin’ images, audio and text to maps, creating singular points of interest or curated trails. Our first foray has been to pin the images and texts from our ‘Stories of Shopping’ onto Spring Gardens in Buxton. Let us know what you think.


We are hoping to add audio soon and also create trails using the content from our other apps.   It is early days for us, but it would be great if we could get more of our collections accessible online. Reading Museum have an impressive array of pinned collections and have created tours such as their ‘Three B’ tour which takes in flower Bulbs, Beer and Biscuits.

We are now racking our brains for suitably alliterative tour names… Wells, Water and Women? Flints, Firesteels and Faunal remains? We’ll let you know how we get on.

Getting Creative with Content

Collections in the Landscape is all about giving audiences more choice about how they access and engage with their heritage. Our developmental work, and previous projects and exhibitions, have all generated lots of quality digital content, incorporating images, audio, video and text. We’re already beginning to use certain digital platforms with some degree of success, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many means available to share this content as widely, and as creatively, as possible. After a quick research session, here are three of my favourites. Watch this space to see how we might use these in the near future!

History Pin
Our Buxton Shops pilot features images from the Board Collection, which captures bygone Buxton in a fantastic range of archive photographs. Some of these can already be found on Picture the Past. History Pin offers another platform which seems perfectly suited for such images.

history pin

History Pin Map, centred around Buxton

The concept is simple, upload your images through the platform and ‘pin’ them to a Google Map. The result of multiple users uploading content is a rich resource of historic images, all attached to specific places which can then be searched or filtered by visitors to the site or web app. I particularly like the ‘Collections’ option, which will allow us to bring any History Pin content together as Collections in the Landscape.

Every Trail
This site allows users to find and follow ‘trips’ shared by others or to record and create their own trail. The platform has a large, international community of users and is available as a handy app for phone or tablet. By adding content to Every Trail, we have the opportunity to reach an established audience.


Every Trail homepage

Every Trail homepage


Trips are basically a series of points, linked up to form the complete route. At each point the user can attach a number of different types of media, including text, image, audio and links to video or other web content. In its most simple form a trip could just be a series of directions or photographs, but obviously there’s the opportunity to attach richer, more engaging content for users to explore.

This app (pronounced ‘scavenger’) is a location-based game where users ‘Go Places, Do Challenges and Earn Points’. There’s a neat video about it on SCVNGR’s Vimeo channel. This platform could add an extra layer of interactivity to our content

SCVNGR Homepage

SCVNGR Homepage

SCVNGR allows a user to create ‘Challenges’ which are attached to specific locations alongside other multimedia content. Once made public, other users who visit this locality can have a go and earn themselves points.

Challenges can be as simple as ‘checking in’ or taking and uploading a photo but can also be more tricky, such as solving riddles or clues. The points earned by users add an element of competition to the platform and in some cases can be exchanged for rewards by participating institutions.

Just writing about these platforms has got me fired up to try something out! I hope we can announce something soon. In the meantime, keep your eyes on the blog…

The spa history of Buxton, in objects

The spa history of Buxton, in objects

Every year on average 1.3 million people visit Buxton and most visitors want to know about the history of the town. Buxton is described as ‘England’s leading Spa town’ yet all that remains of this heritage are the façades of the old spa buildings. As we have mentioned in previous posts, Collections in the Landscape is about taking the museum’s collections back to the locations where they were made, bought or used and we really want to make sure that Buxton’s history, and the town’s relationship with water, is part of this. For our trial we are creating a Buxton Walking Tour app that will guide users through the different periods of Buxton’s rich and colourful history, here is a taster of what we are going to include. 

A small selection from the Buxton Coin Hoard

A small selection from the Buxton Coin Hoard

The Romans were the first to harness the natural springs of Buxton, or as it was known then Aqua Arnemetiae. Buxton was the second most important spa town in the country, after Bath (Aquae Sulis). Sadly there is almost no surviving evidence of Roman buildings in the town but in 1978 the Buxton coin hoard was discovered on the site of the Natural Mineral Baths (used to be the Tourist Information Centre – now in the Pavilion Gardens). Most of the coins are Roman and dating from 41-400 A.D., although there are a few later coins too. The Buxton coin hoard is on permanent display in the Wonders of the Peak and a few Roman coins from our collection can also be seen at Manchester Museum.

Close-up of John Speede's map of Derbyshire, 1610

Close-up of John Speede’s map of Derbyshire, 1610

 The spa history of Buxton then advances to the 1500s, when the first developments of Buxton as we know it began. The Earl of Shrewsbury, George Talbot, built The Hall (now The Old Hall) in 1550, which would later be used by Mary Queen of Scots when she was in custody at Chatsworth in the 1570s. This saw the beginning of the business boom in Buxton and in 1577 there were two inns and eight ale houses in the town – there were only 18 inns in the whole of Derbyshire! Shrewsbury’s Hall replaced an earlier structure on the site, suggesting that Buxton was popular for its water before then. Very little survives from Buxton in the Medieval period so early prints and written records are the best evidence for the town during this time. The 1610 map of Derbyshire (above) clearly shows The Hall with St. Anne’s well and the cold spring next to it.

Souvenir Patchbox from Buxton

Souvenir Patchbox from Buxton

The 18th century was a period of massive expansion for the town. The 5th Duke of Devonshire wanted Buxton to challenge its old rival Bath and set about creating an architectural centrepiece. The Crescent was completed in the 1780s. The Crescent contained hotels and a glamorous assembly room, and on the ground floor it housed boutiques selling souvenirs. The 6th Duke maintained the tradition and re-built the Natural Mineral Baths and the Thermal Baths. In the late 19th century the Pump Room (house) was re-built too. By this point Spa tourism was a significant income for the town and Broadwalk (by Pavilion Gardens) was lined with hotels. However the popularity was not to last and the 20th century saw the demise of spa towns. The Thermal Baths, the last of the baths offering public treatments, closed in the 1960s. 

The Crescent in the snow, 2010

The Crescent in the snow, 2010

Although not currently a spa destination Buxton is still a popular place to visit because of its beautiful architecture and breath-taking scenery. The town remains in popular culture; the Opera House and the Buxton Fringe are a must on the comedy circuit, and the town is frequently mentioned as a good place to elope to/visit in the TV comedy Fresh Meat. It is hoped that the re-development of the Crescent back into a spa hotel should once more cement Buxton as a spa destination, but we shall have to wait and see. In the meantime why not follow the Collections in the Landscape blog for more information on the spa history and invites to join us in our app testing, which will take place in March.

A Trip to King Sterndale

A couple of weeks ago I took another trip into the Derbyshire landscape, this time to the hidden gem that is King Sterndale. I also took a rather unusual form of transport… 


We prepare to board the tram!

We prepare to board the tram!

Believe it or not, the Wonder of the Peak tram is actually a converted milk float! The guides drive visitors around Buxton (navigating some exciting, steep hills!) exploring the town’s history. The atmosphere inside the tram is pretty special, and passengers regularly find themselves sharing their own stories and memories.

The trip to King Sterndale was to test the feasibility of taking visitors to interesting locations outside of Buxton. Would we get up the hills? Would we ever get home!?
From my point of view, the trip was also an opportunity to meet like-minded people and to talk a little about Collections in the Landscape.

So how did we all get on? Piling onto the tram, we pulled away into the road and began our journey. Pot-holes and some steep downhill sections made the journey quite exciting at points but we were soon out in the countryside and covered the 4 or so miles to King Sterndale in around half-an-hour.

There’s only one road into King Sterndale, and it’s single track for most of its length. The landscaped suroundings, more akin to a country estate than the nearby bleak moors, are thanks to the Pickford family. The Pickfords made their fortune in the carrier trade, with origins back to the early 17th century (in fact Pickfords removals stick exists today). In the mid-18th century their covered wagons stopped at King Sterndale on the journey south to London. Some contained cobblestones from the family owned quarry situated between Buxton and Macclesfield.

Without wanting to sound clichéd, King Sterndale has an atmosphere of ‘time stood still’. Standing in the village, it’s very easy to imagine the view has changed little in the last 100 or so years.


Inside Christ Church

Inside Christ Church

Highlights of the trip included a visit to the fascinating Christ Church, built in 1847, and to the remains of the old medieval butter cross. The village is also a stone’s throw away from Deep Dale and Thirst’s Cave, from which the museum has a wealth of archaeological finds.

The trip was a facinating visit to somewhere I’d never been before and knew nothing about. I was also able to talk to lots of like minded people about Collections in the Landscape. I’ve since been informed that even the tram itself is now a ‘Collections Ambassador’.

Don’t just take my word for it, check out Discover Buxton’s Flickr feed. 

Oh, and in case you’re still in suspense, we did make it home!