Museum and archive collections are, in their very nature, eclectic. They often have roots in one person’s fascination with the past and they develop and grow much like a tree putting out roots. They are often dependent on donations, and collecting policies within museums are developed to provide some structure to this form of collecting, making sure that very valuable storage space is used to best advantage and the best are represented. It is not that often that choices can be made by museum and archive staff about what to purchase, what gaps to fill and who to represent.
The HLF Creative Wiltshire project has aimed to facilitate just that. With a carefully prepared bid back in 2014 we were successful in achieving funding to add to some of our Wiltshire collections and with careful consideration we have purchased items that aim to fill gaps, often representing a new creator with a strong Wiltshire connection. We are now reaching the end of this project and our final exhibition at Salisbury Museum will show off some of our recent purchases.
This project is not just about the purchases, it is also about offering training and development to volunteers and staff associated with museums within the county, education workshops, a tool kit for teachers and other events in the wider community. The exhibition at Salisbury Museum has provided a perfect opportunity to put an ‘Exhibitions Assistant Trainee’ in place, to plan, oversee and install the final exhibition with the support of the Salisbury Museum Director, Adrian Green and his team.
Thank you to Emily Smith, our successful applicant, who has been able to gain great ‘hands on’ experience of all aspects of exhibition work within a museum context. We gave her a tough brief; expecting planning, curation, exhibition design, mounting of work, co-ordinating staff, borrowing and transferring of objects required from around the county and you have had a busy four months putting this in place. We thank you for your enthusiasm and we cannot wait to see the results. The exhibition at Salisbury Museum will be open from 19th January to 4th May 2019; (extended to 29th September 2019) why not pop in and see what you think? You will find work by Rex and Laurence Whistler, Howard Phipps, Nancy Nicholson, Nick Andrew, Jonathan Wylder and Wilfred Gabriel de Glehn, amongst others.
Using items purchased to stimulate others is another aspect of the project and so ARTeology was born. A group of 14 artists spent time looking at the purchases, visiting archives and museums and responding creatively, in a way that has led them in very different directions. This has resulted in various journeys, examining an object and delving into its past, such as the 18th century bells made by Robert Wells of Aldbourne; our artist spent months drawing intimately in pencil, researched the history of bellmaking, sourced the metals required and produced three miniatures in oils, as well as etchings of the bells in use.
Another was intrigued by the Pelham Puppet archive and was moved to create a ‘Pack of Knaves and paintings focusing on the comical and often subversive characters, with writings to inform. Another loved the glass etching of Laurence Whistler and researched into medieval glass methods producing a light box that illustrates these techniques and processes.
Other influences were landscape based, drawing on the rolling Wiltshire landscape and reflecting our unique chalk horses by artists like Michael Cullimore; or as an alternative, the sense of village and community as favoured by Robin and Heather Tanner. This work is now on show at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge until 16th February 2019 so go along and see what you think of the responses of this wonderfully creative group.
During the course of the project other exhibitions have been held at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and Chippenham Museum. Both have focused on recent acquisitions to their collections. Sophie Cummings of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery says the project has exceeded her expectations and allowed them to purchase pieces by Ken White, previously un-represented in their collection, as well as fine art by Joe Tilson, Harold Dearden, David Bent and Janet Boulton, amongst others and ceramics by Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie, Patricia Volk and Sasha Wardell.
Chippenham Museum have been able to highlight the importance of Bath Academy of Art and recent acquisitions include work by Clifford Ellis, Rosemary and Penelope Ellis, Howard Hodgkin, Adrian Heath, William Brooker and Henry Cliffe; all artists that had a strong association with the art school based at Corsham. The Watlings of Lacock are represented with silver and jewellery by Graham, Jane and John, inspired 20th century pieces by this talented family of goldsmiths.
Choices were not always easy and much collaboration has taken place between curators, project officers and our acquisition panel. Market forces have also played a role as some objects we hoped to find have not been available within our time period. Strict criteria terms had to be met and often this led us to focus on 20th century material which has proved a bonus, allowing us to represent living creators and gain their input and opinion as to their best work.
A full list and locations of acquisitions can be found on the Creative Wiltshire website at https://creativewiltshire.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/acquisitions-as-of-feb-2017.pdf
We now enter our evaluation phase as the project nears its end. We’ll reflect on how we’ve achieved our project aims. We wanted to ensure that the heritage of cultural and creative works was collected to form part of community collections which will ensure a fuller account of our communities past and present for future generations.
One thing we are agreed on is that it has been fascinating, educating, revealing and we wish we could do it all again!
For now, please do enjoy the current exhibitions at Salisbury Museum and Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge.
Joy Bloomfield, Project Officer
What’s a better way to start the New Year? ….none other than the celebration of the wealth and breadth of Wiltshire’s creative talent in this first guest blog of 2019.
Our blogsite has followed the story of Creative Wiltshire and associated ARTeology projects. Take a look back at our previous blogs from 2015:
- Creative Wiltshire and Swindon – collecting creative heritage for future generations
- Guest blog: Chippenham Museum Curator Melissa Barnett discusses how the museum’s post war and contemporary art collection has developed
- Update from Creative Wiltshire and Swindon – collecting creative heritage for future generations
- ARTeology – ART inspired through ART re-discovered
- Guest blog: Joy Bloomfield talks about ARTeology – contemporary artists response to the Creative Wiltshire collections in museums and archives
Participating organisations: Salisbury Museum; Swindon Museum and Art Gallery; Chippenham Museum; Trowbridge Museum; Pewsey Heritage Centre; Bradford on Avon Museum; Athelstan Museum; The Young Gallery; and Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre.”