Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Arts Council England supports Wakefield Museums!

Get ready for a really exciting couple of years for Wakefield Council museum service. We have just heard brilliant news that the Arts Council England, Renaissance Strategic Support Fund will be funding around £150K of exhibitions, displays and redevelopment across the museum service 2013 -2015. 

This funding will allow us to deliver a wide ranging programme of activity including an exhibition showing off our costume collection, a redevelopment of the permanent displays at Pontefract Museum and the conservation and display of a Viking/Saxon period logboat from Stanley Ferry.  Watch this space for more updates of projects.

This 1000 year old logboat, excavated from Stanley Ferry in 1838, will be coming back to Wakefield from Yorkshire Museum.  Stanley Ferry's ferry returns!
This funding demonstrates Wakefield Council’s commitment to ensuring that culture in the district continues to be supported through difficult financial times.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Anatomy of a display - the Anglo Saxon Cross Shaft

Object: stone cross

History: It stood in Wakefield’s market place (where the Bull Ring is today) from the 800s until the late 1500s when it disappeared. It was rediscovered in the 1860s being used as a step outside a butchers shop on Westgate. The shop was to be demolished to make way for Unity Hall when Charles Waterton’s son Edmund found it and moved it to the grounds of Walton Hall.

Display style: The cross was a landmark in the centre of Wakefield and probably used for preaching and a place to meet.
We wanted it to act as a landmark in the displays marking the beginning of the Wakefield Stories gallery and acting as a signpost between the Local Studies Library and the museum. It also signposts part of our approach to the new museum. Visitors are encouraged to ‘meet the people’ of Wakefield by exploring the stories of some residents, or start their own stories and learn about new characters in the Local Studies Library.

The big challenge was to show it as it looked when it was first made - a towering, colourful landmark.  This is what we came up with...

The cross was displayed at Wakefield Museum on Wood Street from 1979.
For the new display we wanted to show how large and impressive the cross was before it was broken. Wakefield Its History and People by JW Walker had a very useful illustration which inspired our display.

Walker's illustrations were used to computer-generate images of how the cross might look on display.

The surviving piece of stone is very heavy, and displaying it above floor level was quite a challenge. Our fit out team built a large platform to support both the stone and the people lifting it into position.
Hidden supports built into the ‘new’ parts of the cross hold the stone in place.
The cross was originally painted. Our scenic artist Rick decorated and then painted the ‘new’ sections of our cross in colours which were used and available to the Anglo Saxon people of Wachenfeld. Mainly red and yellow ochres (earth colours) with a dash of more expensive pigments.

Local illustrator Richard Bell popped in and sketched Rick painting the cross.  See Richard's own blog to see what he made of it!
Computer generated illustration of how the cross might look as a landmark behind our entrance board.

The cross proudly stands in Wakefield Museum and signposts the entrance to the Wakefield Stories gallery and Local Studies Library.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Food For All Seasons

On Wednesday we had a good audience for the official opening of Wakefield Museum's new temporary exhibition - Food For All Seasons.

The exhibition uses documentary evidence to explore the seasonal availability of food in 14th century Wakefield - and compares it to what is available now. Looking at food shortages, and their effects on the body, medieval farming, storage and feasting, the exhibition is full of stunning medieval images and exciting objects - even including a reconstruction of the Sandal Castle larder!

In particular, for the first time, the exhibition brings together on display loans of documents including the Wakefield Manor Court Rolls, Graves' Accounts and a beautifully illuminated Book of Hours.
The 'Summer' section of the exhibition - exploring medieval farming and displaying tools from Sandal Castle

The 'Winter' section looks at feasting, and displays a range of medieval tableware from Sandal Castle

Medieval documents are 'brought to life' by a pair of talking heads

The exhibition displays some beautiful medieval objects
Visitors were entertained by medieval musician, Peter Bull - here seen playing the hammered dulcimer.
Medieval music at the entrance of the exhibition
The exhibition also includes seasonal recipe cards to take away - including a medieval recipe, and a medieval-inspired recipe from Create Cafe.  Visitors to the opening were treated to samples of Create's recipes in the cafe - and very popular they were too!

Visitors enjoying the medieval-inspired recipes from Create
Food For All Seasons is the third exhibition from You Are What You Ate: Food Lessons From the Past - a project run in partnership between the University of Leeds, the University of Bradford and Wakefield Council, funded by a Wellcome Trust Society Award.  The exhibition runs until the 29th September.

The project includes free talks, workshops and activities.  For information of forthcoming events, see the project website.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Very Special Visit

Just to quickly share some photos of yesterday's event that were posted on Twitter.  If you took any photos/videos, we would love to see them!

The council's Chief Executive, Joanne Roney, was filmed talking to Sir David Attenborough over lunch.  You can see the film here.
Sir David Attenborough was shown around the museum by our curator, John Whitaker

Sir David Attenborough officially opens the museum
Sir David talked about eccentricity of Charles Waterton

We were delighted that Sir David took the time to sign so many autographs
Sir David with Councillor David Dagger
Sir David met a friendly crocodile!
Sir David was interviewed for BBC Look North

Dancing caimans mingled with the crowds!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wakefield Museum - The Official Opening

We are all getting ready for our official opening on Saturday. It’s going to be a day to remember.

The public events kick off at 12:30. There will be music and dancing, fun craft activities and… oh yeah… National Treasure and Charles Waterton Enthusiast Sir David Attenborough will be helping us celebrate by drawing the curtain at 1:20pm! We are privileged to have him attend and it is a fitting way to crown a new museum that we are very proud of.
Sir David will also attend a short book signing after the opening ceremony.
Sir David Attenborough will be officially opening Wakefield Museum this Saturday

We hope you can come along!

The Museum Team