Our first object of the month is this lovely taxidermy of a female Huia bird (Z.00270).
Pupils taking part in the Big School Birdwatch this month are very unlikely to see a Huia, as they have only ever been found on the North Island of New Zealand. Even our kiwi followers will be hard pressed to see this bird outside their window, because they are thought to have gone extinct around 50 to 100 years ago.
To those in the know, it’s easy to tell this specimen is a female. That’s because Huia birds had the greatest variation in beak shape between the male and female, of any bird species in the world! As our Huia demonstrates, the female had a long, slim, downward curving beak. Meanwhile males had a much shorter and more robust beak. This variation between the male and female is known as sexual dimorphism. It is a topic which former Shrewsbury resident Charles Darwin discusses in his works on evolution. You can find out more about Darwin in the Shropshire Gallery.
Fossils show that Huia originally lived across pretty much all of New Zealand’s North Island. However, from around the 14th Century their range began to shrink and the Huia disappeared from the west. This was caused by the arrival of the Maori and later European settlers. Both groups hunted the Huia and cleared the forest it lived in, to make way for things like agriculture.
In Maori culture, Huia were considered sacred, and the wearing of their skin and feathers was reserved for those of high status. This is why during the Duke and Duchess of York’s visit to New Zealand in 1901, a Huia feather was placed in the Duke’s hat as a token of respect. The wearing of a Huia feather in your hat then became very fashionable in both New Zealand and England. Hunting of the Huia increased to meet the demand of the fashion market and as a result the Huia population shrank.
As the Huia became rarer, their skins and feathers became ever more valuable, and collectors and museums were very keen to get specimens before they disappeared completely. Our taxidermy of a Huia was purchased at auction in the mid-20th Century by former curator of Ludlow Museum, John Norton. We don’t know when, where or why the specimen was originally collected, but it seems likely that it was taken to add to a private collection at a time when Huia were at risk of extinction.
This Huia isn’t the only bird we have in the collection that is thought to have gone extinct due to human factors. Also on display at SM&AG are a Passenger Pigeon and even a Great Auk (sort of…).
To celebrate Heritage Open Days, Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery are offering visitors free entry on Sunday 10 September 2017.
Usually £4.50 for adults, visitors to the Museum will be able to see the amazing collections on display that bring over 650 million years of history to life completely free!
During your visit, you will get to see some of the best preserved mammoth bones in the UK, one of the UK’s finest fossil collections as well an entry to the wonderful special exhibitions, Antarctica: Life in a hostile land and Synthetic Landscapes.
Lezley Picton, Shropshire Council Cabinet member for Culture and Leisure, said:
“Heritage Open Days is the largest heritage festival in the UK so it’s great to see Shropshire Museums and Archives getting involved.
“As well as the amazing things to see and do at each site, visitors will get to go behind the scenes and see and do things that are only available a very limited number of times a year.
“I’d encourage everyone to make the most of this great opportunity and get to our sites… and it’s free!”
As well free access to the Museum’s galleries on Sunday 10 September, you can explore the Medieval town of Shrewsbury on a free guided town tour, which usually cost £7.50. Advanced booking is advised to ensure your place.
These tours take place on Thursday 7 September and Friday 8 September and start at 2pm at the Visitor Information Centre housed in the Music Hall.
Loyd Grossman, Patron of Heritage Open Days, said:
“At a time when many of our heritage sites, museums and buildings of cultural interest are under increasing economic pressure it’s heart-warming to see the number of Heritage Open Days events continue to grow. Our army of volunteers play an important role in championing our wonderfully diverse local heritage, opening up doors and keeping access free for these very special four days every year. We are keen to encourage people to stand up for the places that are important to them by bringing to life their stories for everyone to enjoy.”
Come and discover the stories that make this county unique. Explore millions years of history through a thousand remarkable objects in the extraordinary set of buildings that house Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery. From a medieval town house to an early Victorian Music Hall they span more than 750 years of history.
During your visit, you can also visit stop. café bar, the Museum’s vibrant café bar, which provides the perfect spot for relaxing after visiting the Museum’s galleries or taking a break from taking in the town of Shrewsbury.
Heritage Open Days is the largest heritage festival in the country; in 2015, over 4,800 events welcomed around three million visitors across England.
Heritage Open Days operates as part of the National Trust with funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
See what else is happening across Shropshire Museums & Archives other amazing sites: Shrewsbury Castle, Shropshire Archives, Acton Scott Historic Working Farm and Ludlow Museum & Resource Centre.
Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery are delighted to be offering FREE entry for children from Saturday 26 August 2017 until Friday 1 September 2017.
Children up to the age of 17 will be given free entry to Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery where they can explore the exciting and varied history of Shrewsbury and Shropshire, as well as the current special exhibition, Antarctica: Life in hostile land.
During their visit, children will be able to see some of the best preserved mammoth bones in the UK, take part in the Maximo Mouse museum trail, have a go at the interactive exhibits in the Medieval Gallery, dress up and take part in hands-on craft activities. The Friends of Shrewsbury Museum are providing extra funding for these activities which will help children to get the most from their museum experience.
Entry for children usually costs £2 but this will be paid by The Friends of Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery for the duration of the week. The Friends hope that young people and their families will discover the wealth of activities on offer at their local museum and have a great day out.
Children under the age of 14 will need to be accompanied by an adult when visiting the Museum.
Lezley Picton, Shropshire Council Cabinet member for Culture and Leisure, said:
“We’re all very excited to be able to offer children free entry to Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery for the week and we’re particularly grateful to the Friends for supporting us in this endeavour, among many others.
“A lot of work has been put into making Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery a child friendly place to visit so we’re looking forward to welcoming as many children and families as possible.”
Over the years the Friends have provided support worth over £100,000, mainly through helping with the funding of new acquisitions for the museum.
David Waterhouse, Chairman of the Friends of Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, said:
“We are delighted to be able to help to increase access to the Museum over the holiday period for children and hope that this would lead to a continuing interest in the wide range of information and activities that Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery has to offer.”
The Friends of Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery
The Friends of Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery currently has around 300 members and, over the 30 years since its foundation, has provided continuous support, initially to Shrewsbury’s Borough Museums, but since the local government reorganisation in 2009, to Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.
Recently the Friends have been the principal sponsors of the very successful Margaret Rope exhibition ‘Heavenly Lights’ giving £5000. With substantial help from a generous benefactor, a further £7000, has been given to the costs of the current exhibition ‘Antarctica, Life in a Hostile Land’ which is on display at the museum until 17 September.
Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery invite all ages to be involved in an interactive art and reminiscence exhibition, The Beat of the Butterflies’ Wings,
22nd November 2016– 22nd January 2017
The Beat of the Butterflies’ Wings has been devised by Artist Jill Impey, and support funded by Arts Council England. It has so far involved over 150 participants aged from10-90 years and will continue to develop through performances, talks, workshops and the addition of butterflies to Jill’s Empire Chandelier installation, Prism.
The Project considers the 100 years of British involvement in conflict since the First World War: the war to end all wars. It has progressed through a series of 12 initial workshops in Shrewsbury venues including The Redwoods Centre, Coleham School and Participate Contemporary Artspace. Participants aged 10 to 20 years and 65+, have interacted with a 1930’s themed Cabinet of Curiosity, investigating contemporary art works and memorabilia, through performance, drawing, and making origami peace butterflies. Subsequently, Jill, recorded their stories and expressions of hope for peaceful resolutions to conflict. This sound work, Words about War, Words about Peace now forms part of the exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.
A further 5 exhibition workshops took place, with artists: Keith Ashford, Jacqui Dodds, Julie Edwards, Eliza Glapinska, and Jill Impey, bringing together a mix of older and younger participants. They selected objects for the community exhibition cases in Shrewsbury, from the Museum Archive at Ludlow. The group developed printmaking skills to illustrate themes relating to war and peace, explored ideas through text and the juxtaposition of objects. Participants also provided personal heritage items to add resonance to the display, which has been described as very moving by visitors to the Museum.
If you/your organisation would like to visit the exhibition and take part in workshops/talks contact:
Jillimpey.co.uk or visit https://www.facebook.com/TheBeatoftheButterfliesWings/
Supporting Organisations: Age UK; Arts for Health, South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare, The Redwoods Centre; Coleham Primary School; Participate Contemporary Artspace CIC; Shrewsbury College; Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery; Ludlow Museum Archive; Shropshire Council.
Inspired by the vivid imagination of stained glass artist, Margaret Rope, a local writer – Kate Innes – is creating poems based on the windows, artworks and ephemera in the exhibition.
“The presence of birds, beasts, legends, flowers and the affectionate details of daily life in Margaret Rope’s work, executed with a perfect balance of form and colour, spoke to me. I knew there were many stories just under the surface of the glass, ready to be written.”
Poems will be added from time to time. These verses offer another way in to the exhibition. Just as the light made by stained glass inside a church can be seen from different perspectives and in a variable weathers, so the interpretation and appreciation of Margaret Agnes Rope and her work is open to all.
Kate Innes trained in Archaeology, Education and Museology before turning to writing full-time. Her novel, The Errant Hours, is set in the Welsh Marches in the thirteenth century.
Heavenly Lights – The Margaret Rope Exhibition is open until the 15th January, 2017.
ARTS CAFÉ – SHREWSBURY MUSEUM & ART GALLERY
The next Arts Café is on Wednesday 14th December, 6.00pm to 8.00pm at the Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery.
The event will include:
Artist Talk by Nathalie Hildegarde, a stained glass artist who has exhibited nationally and internationally. Nathalie has been successful in securing funding from the Arts Council to make a stained glass window for the Museum. To view her work, please go to: http://www.couleurlive.com/.
Opportunity to look around the ‘Heavenly Lights: The Untold Story of Stained Glass Artist Margaret Agnes Rope’ exhibition and networking.
£3.00 per person, to include refreshments and free access to the exhibition and parts of the museum.
To book a place, please contact Megan Claydon, email: [email protected]
Giant images of stained glass works by Shrewsbury-born artist Margaret Rope will be projected onto the front of the town’s Museum & Art Gallery on the evening of Tuesday 25 October between 7pm and 9pm.
The projection will be the work of international light artist Andy McKeown and is a celebration of the exhibition ‘Heavenly Lights – the untold story of Shrewsbury stained glass artist Margaret Agnes Rope’, which runs at the Museum until 15 January.
On the evening of 25 October the Museum will open late, until 9pm, and there will also be drop-in stained-glass inspired workshops for children with community artist Jamila Walker – offering the chance to make jam-jar lanterns and coloured designs out of straws. The workshops run from 5pm to 9pm and are included within the Museum’s usual admission fee. Parents are invited too.
The workshops will also run on Wednesday 26 October between 10am and 2pm.
Andy McKeown said:
“I have a longstanding passion for stained glass in all its forms and it has featured in a great many of my building illuminations. It is a delight to be able to illuminate Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery with fragments and panels from this wonderful exhibition.”
Jamila Walker said:
“The workshops will be accessible, colourful and fun, giving children and their parents the opportunity to create bold simple pieces as well as intricate sculptures and lanterns, all inspired by the vibrant works of Margaret Rope.”
For more information about the celebration event visit www.shrewsburymuseum.org/events.
For more information about Jamila Walker, visit www.jamilawalker.webeden.co.uk.
“Heavenly Lights – The untold story of Shrewsbury stained glass artist Margaret Agnes Rope” is open at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery until 15 January 2017 but closed on Mondays from October (not including Monday 24 October, which is half-term week).
About Margaret Agnes Rope
Margaret Agnes Rope, born in 1882, produced stained-glass that can be found in churches and cathedrals on three continents, and which is now also collected by American museums – but she is now largely forgotten here in the UK, and even in her home town of Shrewsbury.
Examples of Margaret Rope’s work can be seen in Shrewsbury (at the town’s Cathedral and at St Mary’s Church) and in churches across the UK, from Suffolk to South Wales to Scotland. Her stained glass windows can also be seen at churches in Australia, South Africa and Rome – and in museums in Los Angeles and New York.
‘Marga’, as she was called, was an instinctive rebel – known for smoking cheroot cigars, riding a motorbike and wearing her hair short – in an era when women had few opportunities to express themselves artistically. Without backing from a patron, rich family or husband, she made her own way in her career, one of a new generation of artists as much at home in a workshop as in a drawing-studio.
Her work – influenced by the ‘Later Arts & Crafts’ style – soon became well-known for its jewelled dazzling colours, its personal stamp, its startling modernism, and its sense of spiritual vibrancy.
Yet, within barely a decade of her first success, she chose to become a Catholic nun, moving into an ‘enclosed’ convent. However, even now, shut away from the world, she continued to work, in a small studio provided by the other nuns.
The story of Shrewsbury stained glass artist Margaret Agnes Rope was featured on Inside Out on 26th September. You can see the report here:- http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0493hfy The programme visits various locations associated with Margaret including Shrewsbury Cathedral, the convent at Quidenham and takes a look at the exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery that celebrates her work.