Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Portrait with a cat's head!

Charles Waterton (1782 - 1865) is one of Wakefield's most fascinating characters, and will be featured in the new museum.

He was a pioneer.  He studied the wildlife and people of the South American rainforests, his tales of capturing specimens such as the caiman crocodile (pictured above on the banner) reading like 'Boys' Own'  adventures.  He was still climbing trees into his 80s!

Waterton perfected a new way to preserve animals for display, performed experiments on rainforest poisons which have been important  in modern medicine and founded the world's first nature reserve - at Walton Hall, Wakefield.

Charles Waterton is such an important subject for Wakefield Museum, that we were absolutely delighted to receive some new donations relating to him recently.

Mr Benjamin Weeks from Switzerland (the great, great, great grandson of Charles Waterton) has recently donated an oil painting of Charles Waterton painted by a student of the Royal Academy. This painting is based on the original 1824 portrait by Charles Willson Peale which is currently on display in the National Portrait Gallery.  It shows Waterton posing with the preserved head of a cat!

Museum Registrar, Leanne Dodds taking in the new donations
Mr Weeks also donated 28 pieces of Waterton family porcelain, 9 of which have the Waterton family crest on them and may have been used in Walton Hall when Charles Waterton lived there. The items belonged to Mr Weeks’ late mother Mrs Pamela Weeks nee Waterton who was Charles’ great, great granddaughter.

The family have previously donated 4 of Charles’ ‘Wanderings’ notebooks written during his time in South America, a number of photographs and prints of Walton Hall, a poem about Charles written on his death and a wall clock owned by Charles Waterton.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wakefield Museum is Looking for Love!

Wakefield’s new museum will contain an area exploring love.  We have a wartime wedding dress, made out of net curtains, various early Valentine’s cards, and even a medieval posy ring! 

We would really like to collect some more contemporary love stories to display when the museum opens this Autumn.

Medieval ring from Sandal Castle - the inscription reads 'I'm all yours' in medieval  French
Are you a couple that met or courted in Wakefield’s Music Saloon on Wood Street?  If so, we would love to hear from you so that we can arrange to meet with you and be told all about how you met.

Or, have you recently had your hen-night in Wakefield (or will be having one soon)?  We would love to be able to display some of your hen-night kit!  Did you have ‘L’ plates, customised T-shirts etc.?  Please get in touch if you would be happy to donate some items (and a photograph of you with your ‘hens’) for display in the love section of the museum!
To contact us, please email to leave your contact details, and we will be in touch!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Technology - it's all in hand!

We are really excited to be developing content for multimedia handheld devices for use in the new museum.  These little screens will carry images, video and sound clips, which means that we will be able to develop a whole range of tours -  on different subjects and for different audiences. 

In addition to  tours, we will produce some interactive family and school trails - the screen will ask questions to encourage you to look closer at an object, or consider a topic more deeply.
The mediaPacker - exciting new guided tours and interactive trails

The really exciting thing about using these particular units, is that they are really (really!) easy to program, meaning that we will be able to frequently develop new tours and interactive trails in response to new exhibitions or special events. 

We plan to start with developing an interactive family trail to really test our programming skills! This will be followed by an expert-led tour for adult users.  Trail content for young adults/teenagers will be devised in collaboration with secondary school pupils.  That's just for starters!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

News from the Stores

Display maker, Lee Wheeler, started working with us this week. He is making the mounts for the objects going on display. He works with metal and Perspex to make supports, cradles and frames for our collections. The objects chosen for the new displays range from fragile and delicate to heavy and awkwardly shaped or weighted.
Lee Wheeler and his assistant James at work

It is extremely skilled work which is largely unseen in the display. The mount shows off an object in the best way without it being seen itself. 
The Celtic head, mounted for display

The mounts are made to hold the objects securely and discreetly

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sounds interesting!

We have an interesting range of oral histories in the collection, ranging from those from miners and policemen involved in the 1984/5 miners' strike in Wakefield, to an interview with Geoff Oakes (ex Wakefield Trinity hooker).  The museum Registrar, Leanne Dodds is busy splicing and editing the clips for use in the new museum.
Museum Registrar, Leanne Dodds, editing audio clips

These include quotes such as this one from Geoff Oakes talking about returning to Wakefield after winning the Challenge Cup in 1960:
"We came back on the train to Wakefield Westgate station and they had an open top brewery waggon and we all climbed on that and went up Westgate on which you couldn't move, it was chaos, absolutely brilliant, just a wonderful memory."
Showing the Challenge Cup to the crowds from Wakefield Town Hall, 1960

We also have a series of oral histories from people who grew up during the Second World War.  These short clips provide a wonderful insight into Wartime Wakefield, and include snippets such as:

 "At the entrance to Clarence Park there were two big iron gates and two pillars with big stone balls on the top.  When the bomb had blasted, one of these two balls had blown off in the middle of the road and in the dark, one of the ARP Wardens saw it with a flashlight and thought it was a bomb.  So they closed the road off, until daylight, when they realised what it was and then felt right fools!" 

Some of these anecdotes are now also being incorporated into the WWII school sessions that will be delivered in the museum, fleshing out our wartime housewife character for role-play presentations to really help us to bring them to life!

Leanne is also editing video clips to be shown in the museum.  These include footage of Wakefield Trinity, of the centre of Wakefield  in 1925, and an interview with Denis Parkinson, the 5 time TT winner.