The honorary curators have been busy with quite a few project recently. Here’s just some of the things they’ve been up to…
Café oral history drop-in sessions
As part of her project, Catherine has been running a series of drop-in sessions in cafes around Warrington. Her aim has been to sign up Warrington women who are interested in sharing their life stories through oral history interviews.
Inspired by the museum’s scolds bridle, a barbaric device supposedly used until the early 1800s to punish ‘troublesome or nagging’ women by clamping their tongue, Catherine’s project looks at how attitudes to women have changed. If you are interested in taking part and have an interesting life-story to tell then please contact Bill Longshaw.
The Winwick Brooch
As part of their project, Catherine and Elaine have been researching the history of what has become known as the Winwick brooch.
The brooch, dating from the 1400s, is a late medieval annular or ring brooch, also sometimes described as a fede-ring, because of the two hands clasped in faith or troth. It is made of solid gold and was found by a metal detector enthusiast somewhere in the Winwick area in 2006.
Ring brooches were popular in the middle ages and were used to fasten the high neck of a lady’s gown. They were exchanged as a token between lovers who would then wear the brooches, sometimes with secret inscriptions, close to their heart. This particular brooch is inscribed pensez de moy (‘think of me’) on one side and is embellished with a five leaf flower design, probably of forget-me-nots, on the other.
In their research Elaine and Catherine made contact with Canon June Steventon from St Oswald’s Church in Winwick and they were all able to come to the museum to see the brooch last week. As the Brooch was buried in the ground, there is no way of knowing why it was in Winwick and we can only imagine might have owned or lost it. By looking at Parish records they hope to find out about what Winwick was like in the 1400s, who lived there and who might have passed through. Catherine is looking at the lives of women in the Warrington area, so the brooch fits in well with her topic. As the brooch is decorated with forget-me-nots it also relates directly to Elaine’s research into wild flower and the language of flowers.
Following the recital we held at Tabley House in the summer (see previous blog), David Lloyd-Mostyn has now begun to work with some of the A level music students at Lymm High School. The project takes its inspiration from a variety of sources. As well as the music the students heard in July, they have recordings of Robin Bigwood playing our own virginals, made during its restoration and also recordings of some of the creaks of the floorboards at Tabley House to work from! All of this material will be used as the basis to make new compositions and ambient sound to be used in the Cabinet of Curiosities Gallery in January
David and the students are hoping to have the compositions ready before Christmas so that they can go back to Tabley to have the pieces played and recorded for inclusion in the gallery.
Museum interpretation: labelling a hedgehog
The time for installing exhibitions, writing labels and generally completing projects is drawing ever-nearer! So, last week, to help the honorary curators in this process we ran a workshop on writing museum text and labels. Access and interpretation expert Jennifer Vickers was on hand to give help and advice creating labels that can help visitors to make links with museum objects.
The honorary curators soon learned that making text accessible for a wide range of audiences is a challenging task, especially when you only have a limited number of words (50 for a label and 250 for a text panel) to play with. As well as showing examples of good and bad museum text, Jennie introduced a number of practical exercises. These included creating a label for a stuffed hedgehog and finding ways of describing a range of objects to visually impaired people, families and ‘aliens from outer space’. The team thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. Here are some of their comments.
“I really enjoyed the way we were invited to engage with the subject, try our hand at doing some writing, and give our own criticisms and compliments. Whether I’m ever going to be able to meet Jennifer’s high standards is another matter but at least I know what I’m aiming for! I had begun to get some labels together, but now these will have to be put under scrutiny. A good thing!”
“…it was excellent and really informative and it has made me think more carefully about presenting information. The session was very well structured and the hands on exercises were really effective.”