This week Polly Redman, currently based at Buxton Museum working on Inspired Collections Retailing, looks at a museum exhibit from a different angle.
OK I’ll admit it: when I visit a museum, one of the things I look forward to most is the gift shop. Sometimes I’ll rush through the exhibitions wondering what treasures I could find at the end. A lovely card with that painting I really liked or a uniquely produced item that will remind me of my visit. On occasions I will spend more time in the shop than in the museum itself.
My name is Polly and I will be working with Buxton Museum on its retail offer and the shop. My life at the museum is all about playing shop and is very retail focused. So when I was asked, for a text writing workshop, to take my attention away from the shop and venture into the actual exhibitions and find an object to write about I had a minor panic attack. I decided I would not cheat or take the easy way out and pick something from the shop; hey, those things are objects too! But I would try to find an object from the exhibition that I could link to the shop. To prove that what we have in the exhibition is important enough to sell, give visitors something great to take home with them to remember their visit by and do a bit of cheeky advertising too.
The object(s) I picked for the workshop are from a selection of Ice Age remains titled ‘Adapt, Migrate or Die’ which sounds quite intense and had my attention straight away!
I found out that in 1901 some unique remains were discovered in a small cave near Dove Holes. They tell a story of animals living in these areas about one million years ago, mind-blowing I know, when they were faced with a battle for survival as plants alone were not sufficient to sustain their lives.
Among the remains were the bones of now long extinct beasts such as the Mastodon and Sabre Tooth Tigers. And it begged for the question; how and why did these bones end up in the cave? I bet Sir William Boyd-Dawkins, who presented this collection to the museum, could just picture the scene; the scene of the carnivore and its prey…
A ferocious Sabre-Tooth Tiger creeping slowly towards a family of Mastodons and stalking his prey. Keeping low to the ground, circling in as closely as possible, sometimes pausing and hoping his cunning partner is distracting the baby Mastodons huge parents enough for it to move away and a bit closer. Raising and lowering his head the Sabre-Tooth judges the distance and angle to then suddenly spring from its cover and mortally wound the young Mastodon calf with its seven inch curved saber-shaped canine teeth dragging it back to the cave for his own family to feed from and survive another day in the harsh Peak climate.
This fantastical scene and the magnificent Sabre-toothed beast takes me right back to our lovely shop and the wonderfully popular Ice Age items the museum stocks. Where amongst all the shiny gem stones and marvellous minerals the visitors have the opportunity to take home a soft, cute and cuddly but fierce Sabre Tooth Tiger or a Woolly Mammoth. They come in two sizes and make great gifts ready to get little (and large) imaginations running wild with scenes possibly like our own Sir William Boyd-Dawkins.
Pssst, why not consider the museum shop for your Christmas shopping. We have some great stocking fillers for creatures great and small!