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 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 Heritage Lottery Funded 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, as well as 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 she has had a busy four months putting this in place. We thank you for your enthusiasm and we are thrilled with the results. The exhibition at Salisbury Museum has now been 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.
Emily Smith celebrating the installation of the exhibition at Salisbury Museum
During the course of the project other exhibitions have been held at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and Chippenham Museum and 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 and ceramics by Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie, Patricia Volk and Sasha Wardell.
The current exhibitions at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery are also well worth a visit.
An Art of the People – Ramsbury & Cricklade Potteries features work by Ivan and Kay Martin of Cricklade, and Peter Holdsworth of Ramsbury.
Out of the Box: An exhibition of paintings by David Bent
An exhibition of work by David Bent which includes geometric landscapes, intricate photographic collages and paintings as well as his aviation art and “Movement 2000” series. Stunning and inspiring work by this Swindon based artist.
David Bent’s studio, work in progress
As Project Officers, myself and Julie Davis were delighted to visit David Bent in his studio and learn more about his work. Accompanied by Sophie Cummings, Curator at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, we were able to make purchases that enhance both the museum collection and the print collection here at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. It was truly inspiring and talking to David was hugely informing, helping us understand his way of working.
Chippenham Museum have been able to highlight the importance of Bath Academy of Art, based at Corsham 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. The Watlings of Lacock are represented with silver pieces by Graham, Jane and John; inspired 20th century work by this talented family of goldsmiths.
Work by Adrian Heath, Howard Hodgkin, the Cliff Ellis palette and Graham Watling silver
Choices were not always easy and much collaboration took 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.
We now enter our evaluation phase as the project nears its end and are all agreed that it has been fascinating, educating, revealing and we wish we could do it all again!
Enjoy the current exhibitions at Salisbury Museum and Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.