Blog: Rosemary Thornes talks about volunteering

I am very interested in SM&AG. I believe that a thriving and forward-looking museum service is important not just for education, culture and recreation, but also for tourism. This is why I volunteer and I would like to tell you about two very different aspects of my volunteering.

An image of a volunteer of Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, whose volunteering is invaluable.

Rosemary Thornes

First, I am a member of the Friends of the Museum. There are more than 300 of us and we are here to support the Museum. I am Secretary at the moment and enjoy liaising between the Museum and our members, aiming to keep Friends updated with Museum news and events. The Friends put on a series of lectures at the Museum and arrange visits to historic houses, other museums and exhibitions. We also provide financial support for purchases and programmes.

Second. I am also a volunteer at the Museum. I have been volunteering here for more than five years, ever since the new Museum opened on 1 April 2014. I just do half a day a week, as a Gallery Guide, on Sunday afternoons. The Museum seems to have difficulty finding volunteers for Sundays, perhaps because a lot of us are retired and have family responsibilities at the weekend, but I have settled into this little slot and rarely miss a session. This has one lovely consequence – I find myself working alongside young people, often students from local schools and colleges, such as the Sixth Form College and this is very refreshing. On the other hand, it also means that I do not get to know many other volunteers, unless they also happen to be members of the Friends.

When I started I was a bit doubtful about being a gallery guide. I’m not a natural conversationalist and in previous volunteer jobs I had always undertaken research or something in the back room, which seemed more in my nature. But the Museum provided training and over the years I have become more comfortable approaching visitors and talking to strangers. I think this experience, gained on Sunday afternoons, has improved my confidence in other situations when I might have allowed myself to be isolated.

An image of the Medieval Gallery at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery
I am happy working in any part of the Museum but I like the Medieval Gallery best. I especially enjoy it when families come and I take the handling collection from the trolley and get the children to talk about the objects they are holding.

I am now in my late 70s, but am still fit and enjoying new experiences and situations. I admit to having the occasional lapse of memory, but the display posters and excellent notes in the gallery files are there to remind us all of the details. And so I hope to continue volunteering for a few more years.

I would encourage other people to join the Friends and, if they have half a day free, to volunteer. The staff at the Museum have always made me feel an integral part of the system and I feel as though I belong.

Rosemary Thornes, Volunteer and Secretary of the Friends of SM&AG

Volunteers have an invaluable role in enabling us to deliver our workshops, events, education programmes and much more. If you are interested in volunteering with us and joining our wonderful team, click here for more information or you can call (01743) 258885 or email [email protected].

#volunteersweek

Blog: Volunteering with Mini Mammoths

Back in 2014 when I started looking after my son full time I discovered a fantastic baby and toddler group at Shrewsbury Museum called ‘Mini Mammoths’. It was a wonderful and happy group and had something of an ‘educational’ spin. When my son reached school age we attended what I thought would be our last mini mammoths but then as I was going to be returning to college to work towards becoming a Teaching Assistant (which would involve a placement in a school) I thought volunteering and help out at Mini Mammoths would be a good thing for me to help with my course.

An image of a volunteer with a toddler helping him paint while volunteering during mini mammoths

Dominick Lack volunteering during mini mammoths

So in September 2018 I began as a volunteer at the group and have loved every minute of it. It has tied in very well with the course and I have learnt things in parallel. It is a great group to be part of and I have got to dress up and be silly and also to help out both the parents and the children.

I think it will be a nice addition to my CV and has already been a good talking point at interviews. It will be a shame for my time at mini mammoths to come to an end but I know that I have learnt much and been a happy and friendly helper in a fantastic setting for so many amazing people young and old.

Dominick Lack, Volunteer

Mini Mammoths

Mini Mammoths runs every Friday from 10 – 11.30am during term time. Due to popularity, we recommend booking your place in advance. You can do this by calling 01743 258881 / 258888 or email [email protected].

For more information about Mini Mammoths, click here.

Volunteering with us

Volunteers play an invaluable role in enabling us to deliver our workshops, events, education programmes and much more. If you are interested in volunteering with us and joining our wonderful team, click here for more information or you can call (01743) 258885 or email [email protected].

#volunteersweek

Object of the Month – June 2019

Butterfly Drawer

It’s Butterfly Education and Awareness Day in June, so our Object of the Month is this drawer of butterflies from a cabinet of specimens collected by John Norton.

Many of the butterflies in this drawer are around 60 years old.  They were collected by John Norton, who was Curator of Ludlow Museum 1959 – 1989.  John was well known in the county as an inspirational Natural Historian and Geologist who did a great deal to interpret and promote the Museum Collections.  In this drawer, John has added small species distribution maps and paintings to illustrate the butterflies and caterpillars, all to increase understanding of these wonderful creatures and the collection.

The cabinet from which this drawer was taken is similar to butterfly cabinets that would have been found in the homes of many middle-class families during the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Victorians believed that the study of natural history contributed to good mental health.  Consequently, during the 19th century, the collection of things like birds, shells, wildflowers and butterflies became very popular hobbies.  As you can imagine, many people capturing and killing plants and animals for their collections had a significant impact on nature and sadly, several species have gone extinct due to this over collecting.

However, the popularity of collecting plants and animals during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries played an important role in building natural history collections.  Many local museums, including those in Shropshire, evolved from private collections and the societies that emerged around the hobby of collecting.  These collections and learned groups were also important in the emergence of professional biological disciplines.

Butterfly collections such as our Object of the Month can be used as a teaching tool and as the basis for research.  Not only can the butterflies be inspected, and changes in species noted through time, but where there is collection location information, variations in population distribution can also be studied.  Unfortunately, none of this can help us conserve and protect the butterflies we have around today.

Luckily, the taste for collecting butterflies has virtually disappeared in the UK.  Instead, butterfly enthusiasts are now being encouraged to collect information and digital images of the creatures to help scientists and conservators keep track of these important pollinators.

There are many wonderful natural history specimens waiting to be discovered in our Shropshire Gallery and even more available for research at Shropshire Museums’ Collections Centre in Ludlow.

Object of the Month is on display in the Visitor Information Centre and features on our social media feeds:

@shrewsmuseum      @shrewsburymuseum      @shrewsburymuseum

Drawn of the Dead coming to Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery

Join us as we prepare to open a new exhibition ‘Drawn of the Dead’ celebrating the work of internationally famous comic artist and Comics Laureate Charlie Adlard.

An image of the artwork to promote the new exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, Drawn of the Dead. Original work by Charlie Adlard will feature in Drawn of the Dead.

Drawn of the Dead will open on Saturday 1 June 2019 in partnership with the Comics Salopia festival which brings a stunning selection of comic artists to the county as well as celebrating the county’s home-grown talent.

In this exciting new exhibition you will find a stunning selection of Charlie’s original works from the Walking Dead comic series displayed alongside immersive, set piece installations created by sculptor Andrew Bryden.

AMC’s blockbusting television show, The Walking Dead, now in its 9th season is a spin off from the revered comic book series created by Robert Kirkman and Shropshire’s own Charlie Adlard.

This unique exhibition extends to the museum balcony where you will see the breadth of Charlie’s work beyond The Walking Dead. Images from cult French comic Vampire State Building are displayed alongside Charlie’s life drawing and original books Code Flesh and White Death.

Lezley Picton, Shropshire Council Cabinet member for culture and leisure, said:

“Shrewsbury and Shropshire has a huge amount of creative talent and I’m thrilled that Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, having partnered with the new Comic Festival, are able to display some of this work.

“Charlie Adlard’s work is internationally famous so it’s fantastic that we are able to display some of his original artwork in what will be exciting and interactive visitor experience. I can’t wait to see it!”

Charlie Adlard, said:

“I’m incredibly proud to have this exhibition in my home town. And, not only is it here in Shrewsbury, but it’ll be the best exhibition of my works staged anywhere. It’s going to be a truly immersive experience.”

SM&AG will be working with education sector partners including Nottingham Trent University. The aim is to give opportunities to students on theatre design courses to work with SM&AG on the build of the exhibition.

For more information about Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, click here.

Shrewsbury Comic Festival

Shrewsbury Comic Festival will take place on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 June 2019.

SM&AG will be running a host of special events, workshops, talks and book signings over the course of the Comic Festival.

The Comic Festival will take place at a number of venues across Shrewsbury and will celebrate the work of Charlie Adlard and many other famous comic artists who call the town home.

Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery is owned and operated by Shropshire Council.

Further Information

About Charlie Adlard

Charlie began his work in the UK on the 2000 AD series including Judge Dredd and Armitage. He also worked on White Death with the local Robbie Morrison. In the United States, he is best known for his work on The X-Files, Marvel and DC comics and The Walking Dead.

He has been the penciller on The Walking Dead since 2004 and was the UK Comics Laureate from February 2017 – February 2019.

Object of the Month – May 2019

Crossbow

It’s Zombie Awareness Month and our ‘Drawn of the Dead’ exhibition is on the horizon. This exciting exhibition features some of the original artwork produced by Shropshire’s Charlie Adlard for the hugely popular ‘The Walking Dead’. So it seemed appropriate to us that our object of the month for May be this pest controlling crossbow [H.06225].

An image of a bullet crossbow. The bullet crossbow is the Object of the Month at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery and can be seen in the Visitor Information Centre.

Bullet type crossbow (H.06225) Photographs by Jeremy Hall.

 

This is an English, bullet shooting, crossbow dating from the early nineteenth century. It would have been used for hunting small animals like rooks. Earlier styles of crossbows fired stones and clay pellets, but bullet shooting bows like this one were designed to be more accurate and damaging, using half ounce balls of lead as their ammunition.

Box lock with Catch, Trigger, and Sight

To load the weapon the string must be pulled back and secured on the hook shaped catch. This crossbow has a built in bending lever to make this process easier. This leaver is attached by a hinge to the box lock, where the catch and the trigger button are positioned. Also on the box lock is a sight with five sighting holes. It is engraved with pretty leaf scrolls. At the front end is the less pretty but equally practical, ‘U’ shaped foresight.

Select your weapon wisely…

Unlike guns, crossbows are quiet when fired. This means you can take a shot without scaring off your prey or alerting others to your presence. This made them popular with poachers in Tudor England. It’s also why they may just be the perfect weapon for use in a zombie uprising.

Foresight

If a dawn of the dead situation were to occur in Shropshire, there are several weapons on display around Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery which could be utilised alongside this crossbow. However, an even better place to find yourself would be Shropshire Museums Collection Centre in Ludlow, where an array of historic weapons are stored, and ideal for the fight against the undead.

Arms and Armour Catalogue

For those that like to be prepared and in the know, a full catalogue of the Arms and Armour in Shropshire Museums collection is available for purchase. This wonderful and detailed catalogue was produced in memory of photographer, and former volunteer for Ludlow Museum, Jeremy Hall.

Object of the Month is on display in the Visitor Information Centre and features on our social media feeds:

@shrewsmuseum      @shrewsburymuseum      @shrewsburymuseum

Family fun this Easter with Shropshire Museums

Join Shropshire Museums this Easter holiday for a whole host of family and child friendly events, arts and crafts sessions and trails.

Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, Shrewsbury Castle and Acton Scott Historic Working Farm are running events perfect for the whole family from Sunday 14 – Wednesday 24 April including some special Easter themed fun.

Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery

Join us for Bear themed sessions and events and visit our current special exhibition, Bears!

An image of a mother and her young son who is holding a teddy bear, reading a book in the bear cave in the Bears exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery. Visit the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery on 30 or 31 March 2019 and get free entry.

Reading in the bear cave in the Bears exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery

Paddington 2 will be screened on Wednesday 17 April on the balcony in the Museum.

Join storyteller Sally Tonge for Bear, Sing and Share on Tuesday 16 and 23 April at 11am for some Easter holiday magic.

An image of storyteller Sally Tonge who will be hosting Bear, Sing and Shine over the Easter school holidays at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

Storyteller, Sally Tonge will be hosting Bear, Sing & Shine over the Easter holidays

For more information about Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, click here and you can see the full list of events here.

Shrewsbury Castle

Shrewsbury Castle will be open throughout the Easter holidays including Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday.

An image of Shrewsbury Castle and it's pristine grounds. Neatly mowed lawns and a well kept path lead to the front of the remarkably well preserved castle.

Shrewsbury Castle

During Easter, children will be able to take part in the hugely popular teddy bear hunt encouraging them to delve into the collections and note where they find the bears and what is around them.

Usually opened only once a year, Laura’s Tower will be open on Easter Sunday giving visitors a rare opportunity to enter and explore, free of charge.

An image of Laura's Tower at Shrewsbury Castle with green trees to the right and ivy growing up the side. Laura's Tower is open for the Heritage Open Days festival.

Laura’s Tower at Shrewsbury Castle (©Chris Glover)

For more information about Shrewsbury Castle, click here.

Acton Scott Historic Working Farm

Acton Scott Historic Working Farm will be running family and child friendly Easter demonstrations throughout the school holidays.

Join the team for grooming the shire horses, chick holding, bottle feeding the lambs and a guided tour of the Victorian farm yard every day during the holidays.

An image of a toddler stroking a lamb that is being held by a farm worker keeping alive the heritage of a Victorian Farm.

Toddler meets the lambs at Acton Scott Historic Working Farm

Easter events at Acton Scott Historic Working Farm will be running from Sunday 14 to Wednesday 24 April. For more information about the events, click here.

All three of these attractions are open during the Easter bank holiday weekend.

 

Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, Shrewsbury Castle and Acton Scott Historic Working Farm are owned and operated by Shropshire Council.

Object of the Month – April 2019

Bull Terrier Oil Painting

April is National Pet Month, so rather fittingly we’ve picked this Bull Terrier oil painting (FA.00552) as our object of the month.

An image of a nineteenth century portrait painting of a now extinct Dudley Terrier. This is the object of the month at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

Portrait of Dudley Terrier

This nineteenth century portrait painting is thought to be the only known image of the now extinct breed, Dudley Terrier.

The painting was bequeathed to Shropshire Museums in 1990 by Miss Phillips. It was thought to feature a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. However, its likely identity as a Dudley Terrier was suggested through the Art UK website in 2016.

Dudley Terriers, also known as the Dudley Dog or Dudley Bulldog, were created in the Black Country region in ninetieth century as fighting dogs. They are named, as you might have guessed, after the town of Dudley.

As you can see in the painting, the Dudley Terrier was a short-coated dog with reddish tan colouration and a red nose, but they didn’t always have the white markings on their chest and feet. A descendant of the old Irish Bulldog, it is taller and leaner than a standard Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Their average height was around 50 centimetres and they had a muscular, athletic build. This combined with its tenacious personality made it very popular as a fighting dog.

In 1835 the Cruelty to Animals Act outlawed dog fighting but the practice continued for many years afterwards because the law was not enforced. This meant that Bull and Terrier breeds flourished. However, the law was eventually enforced, and these breeds of dog lost popularity. Some, such as the Dudley Dog, disappeared completely.

Dudley Terrier’s Pale Nose

Though now extinct, the Dudley Terrier’s bloodline lives on in breeds like the Irish Staffordshire Bullterrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier. Though a largely forgotten breed, its name is remembered in the term ‘Dudley Nose’, which is commonly used to describe a pink or pale coloured nose on a dog.

Animals can be found in lots of paintings around Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery. Explore all the spaces in the museum and see how many you can spot!

Object of the Month is on display in the Visitor Information Centre and features on our social media feeds:

@shrewsmuseum      @shrewsburymuseum      @shrewsburymuseum

FREE entry as we celebrate our fifth birthday

We’re celebrating 5 years of opening and we want you to join us so we’re offering FREE entry on Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 March 2019.

Join staff and volunteers in The Square in Shrewsbury town centre on Saturday 30 March 2019 between 11am – 3pm and help to create a giant birthday cake!

Since we opened on 1 April, 2014, we’ve welcomed 415,963 visitors.An image of a father and his son looking at the Lego model of Rochester Castle with intrigue in the Brick History exhibition which is open at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery until Sunday 15 April 2018.

Over the past 5 years we have held 36 special exhibitions including Lego, Vikings, Secret Egypt, and are currently hosting a popular teddy bear exhibition from Seven Stories the National Centre for Children’s Books.

 

Fay Bailey, Shropshire Museum’s service manager, said:

“We’re delighted to have welcomed so many visitors over the last five years. We’re celebrating five years of SM&AG with a packed programme of workshops, films, exhibitions and events for 2019 which showcase Shropshire’s talented artists and makers.”

SM&AG lets you experience the stories that make Shropshire unique as you explore millions of years of history through over 1,000 remarkable objects and encourages children to delve deeper by taking part in the Maximo Mouse Trail.

Did you know that the Museum’s resident café, stop.cafe have baked (on site) nearly 100,000 slices of delicious cake. If you put those slices end-to-end, to make a cake trail, it would stretch for nearly one kilometre?

Bears!

This exhibition invites you to come face-to-face with your favourite bears in this new exhibition created by Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books.

An image of a mother and her young son who is holding a teddy bear, reading a book in the bear cave in the Bears exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery. Visit the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery on 30 or 31 March 2019 and get free entry.

Reading in the bear cave in the Bears exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery

On your journey through the exhibition, you will meet iconic bears like Winnie the Pooh and Paddington bear as well as many of the bears who feature in popular contemporary children’s literature.

You can hunt for bears in the bear forest and enjoy original manuscripts and illustrations from Phillip Pullman, Michael Rosen, Martin Waddell, Julia Donaldson and many more.

This exhibition is open at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery until Sunday 28 April, 2019 and is perfect for the whole family.

Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery is owned and operated by Shropshire Council.

 

Object of the Month – March 2019

Woolly Mammoth Jaw Bone

It’s British Science Week this month, so our object for March is this amazing Woolly Mammoth Jaw Bone. (G.15001)

An image of a woolly mammoth jaw bone. This is the Object of the Month at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery and can be seen in the Visitor Information Centre.

The Woolly Mammoth jaw bone is our Object of the Month

This jaw bone is part of an almost complete adult woolly mammoth skeleton which was found, together with bones from several juvenile mammoths, in a spoil heap at the Condover Quarry near Shrewsbury in 1986.

The skeleton is the most complete and best-preserved woolly mammoth in Britain, and its discovery is even more important because of its surprisingly young age. Carbon dating puts this woolly mammoth in Shropshire just 12,700 years ago. Which is a time when it had previously been assumed woolly mammoths had gone extinct in western Europe.

Using a variety of techniques scientists were able to not only work out when this mammoth died but likely how and at what age.

An artist illustration of three woolly mammoths battling through a fierce snowstorm. The woolly mammoth jaw bone is the Object of the Month at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery.The mammoths are thought to have died after getting stuck in a shallow, body of water filled with sediment, known as a kettle hole. Things like pollen and invertebrates were used by scientists to determine the landscape and climate in which the mammoths were living before their death. They found it was most likely a dry treeless landscape with a temperate climate not much cooler than we have today. The kettle hole was comparatively rich in vegetation, which might be why the mammoths were drawn to it. Little did they know it would mean their demise.

An image of a woolly mammoth jaw bone. The mammoth jaw bone is the object of the month at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery and can be seen on display in the Visitor Information Centre.This jaw bone is very useful for aging the woolly mammoth because it contains teeth. Woolly mammoth had four teeth. One on each side of their jaw, top and bottom. Over their life time they would get six sets of these, increasing in size as the got older. Unlike ours, mammoth teeth are replaced from the back of the jaw. Moving forward to replace the old one. This specimen of lower jaw contains two teeth. One near the front which is worn smooth through use and one behind coming through to replace it. The plates that make up the teeth can be seen, creating a stripy pattern on the front worn tooth. Based on the size of the teeth, it is inferred that these are the second and third set of teeth for the woolly mammoth. Using the ages elephants get their different sets of teeth for reference, it was reasoned that this mammoth was likely around 28 years old.

An image of a huge woolly mammoth tusk that is stored at Shropshire Museums Collections Centre in Ludlow. The woolly mammoth bones were only in the ground for a dozen or so thousand years, meaning they didn’t have time to fully fossilise. As such, in order to preserve them for the future, they must be stored in an environment in which temperature and humidity are controlled. Several the woolly mammoth bones are on permanent display with us at SM&AG in a specially made display case. The rest are normally held in the store at the Museum’s secure climate-controlled Collections Centre in Ludlow. Several bones are also currently on display in the gallery space at Ludlow Library as part of the Evolving Shropshire exhibition, which is coming to a close at the end of this month.

Object of the Month is on display in the Visitor Information Centre and features on our social media feeds:

@shrewsmuseum      @shrewsburymuseum      @shrewsburymuseum

 

Object of the Month – February 2019

Love Token

Our object of the month for February is this Love Token. Which is fitting for the time of year when we are thinking about romance and celebrating Valentine’s Day.

An image of a love token. The love token is the object of the month at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

From the 16th Century onwards, young men have been known to give tokens to young ladies as a sign of their love. If the young lady kept the token it meant she felt the same way. If she didn’t return the feels she would discard the token.

Love tokens were usually made from a single coin, which was physically bent by the young man into an S shape. The surface of the coin was often smoothed down to remove features like the monarch’s head. Additionally, initials or love symbols such as hearts were sometimes engraved onto the token. All of which can make it very difficult to identify the exact coin from which they are made. Most love tokens are made from silver sixpences, but some made from gold and copper coins have also been found.

An image of a love token. The love token is the object of the month at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

Our object of the month is particularly special, because it is made from three coins which have been folded together into what appears to be a heart shape. There are no other examples quite like this known, but it is reasonably assumed to be a love token. It is also officially a piece of treasure (Treasure Act, 1996).

The coins are well worn and perhaps also clipped, making it hard to date them exactly. The size of the coins and the letters ‘LIZA’ visible on the surface suggest that they are silver sixpences from the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603). It is likely that the coins were being used as currency well into the 17th Century, before being fitted together in this way.

This special love token was found by a metal detectorist in North West Shropshire in 2008 and reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme for recording (see record). After being declare treasure, it was acquired by Shropshire Museum Service in 2011.

Shropshire Treasure Trail logo

There are many other wonderful pieces of treasure on display at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, and across the county. To learn more, check out the Shropshire Treasure Trail.

Object of the Month is on display in the Visitors Information Centre and features on our social media feeds:

@shrewsmuseum      @shrewsburymuseum      @shrewsburymuseum