It was good to break up lockdown with a Content Development Report on Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings for designers Mather. The research for this £20m project was fascinating. The Flaxmill was the world’s first iron-framed and therefore fireproof building. It later became a Maltings for beer and housed light infantry in the Second World War. But English Heritage want more than a standard story of mill owners and poor workers, so it was particularly interesting to dig into the work the Friends of SFM have been undertaking on the real lives of local working people – and the influence they had on factory reform.
It is a great privilege to have been appointed Honorary Curator for Kent County Cricket Club. I’ve been working with the Kent Cricket Heritage Trust for the past couple of years and now join the Club itself to direct the caring and sharing of their museum and archive collections. Our vision is a collections experience at the Canterbury ground, but in the meantime there is plenty of collections management to keep me and the team busy. I will continue to vary my work with freelance projects.
My main freelance job last year was researching and writing the content plan for the redevelopment at Gretna Green Museum. Working for designers Mather, it was a completely new subject for me! But it was fascinating separating the myth from the much more interesting reality, and I got to discover Fleet, Border and runaway marriages alongside historic misbehaviour and enterprise.
The new exhibition in Westminster Hall at the Houses of Parliament, `Voice and Vote: Women’s Place in Parliament’ has opened to excellent press coverage. Designers Metaphor have created an evocative structure, with recreated spaces, wonderful objects from the Parliamentary Archives and private collections, clearly told accounts of the women who fought for the vote (and a few who fought against it), and thought-provoking questions for the visitor. It was a privilege to be part of the team that researched, wrote and moulded these stories.
The photos show the final `Chamber’ set, the exhibition in Westminster Hall, Lady Peers and MPs and the infamous `Cage’, the Victorian viewing gallery for Ladies.
2018 is the centenary of the first women gaining the vote for the UK Parliament. I’ve been helping research and write this interactive exhibition at the Houses of Parliament for designers Metaphor, using the collections of the Parliamentary Archives. The stories range from the banned women watching the Commons through a ventilator in the attic, to the assaults of the suffragettes and the struggle for equal treatment – and a decent sized room – once in Parliament. And the stuff is great – that’s the banner the suffragettes unfurled from the Commons Gallery, a waitress on the terrace, and a police note about Emily Davison breaking windows – she was a serial offender! The stairs wind up the Victoria Tower, built for the Archives. The exhibition opens in June in Westminster Hall.
Poole Museum has some great buildings and collections and it’s been really interesting visiting, listening and writing a feasibility study for their future, along with colleagues Stephen Greenberg and Kara Dickinson from Metaphor Design. Scaplen’s Court and the Town Cellars are grade 1 listed, and you can see the harbour from the top floor of the warehouse building. The pottery is great, of course, but the wreck remains are the big stars. This can be one of the south’s best museums.
top left to bottom right: Poole Museum warehouse building and atrium; View to harbour across Town Cellars; Scaplen’s Court: Anthony Caro’s `Sea Music’; C18 Swash wreck rudder; 1950s Poole dish; the Sea Planes at Poole.
My article `Letting stuff live’ has been published on the well-regarded and heavily-visited website The Museum of Marco Polo.
It’s a provocative think piece on what we are actually doing with stuff in museums – my answer is not enough. Marco Polo introduces it
`Caroline Ellis speaks up for objects, asking whether we should let them lead fuller lives in museums – and acknowledge the rich lives they led before they came to us.’
The Museum of Marco Polo is curated by writer Rachel Morris of designers Metaphor and is recommended for an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.
It’s great to be back with the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery team. Plans for the new hub of museum, library, adult ed, tourism and community services are coming together quickly and I’m working with museum designers Metaphor. Tunbridge Wells’ excellent collections are going to populate the whole building, and I’m researching and writing lots of content on those collections for the project. Metaphor are turning the often surprising stories of Tunbridge Wells into a fresh and exciting way of enjoying all that stuff.
Many congratulations to friends and colleagues at the Silverstone Heritage Project, the BRDC Archive and Mather Design on their Stage 2 HLF pass. Plans are now moving quickly towards the Spring 2019 opening date for the Centre, not just building and fitting out, but gathering in those private collections that are such an important part of British racing heritage. More details at http://www.silverstone.co.uk/about/silverstone-heritage-experience/
I’ve been helping out the recently established KCCC Heritage Trust with curatorial advice on their collections. Care and cataloguing are the priorities and they have a great collection to share more widely. It was a privilege to handle material like the original 1876 scorebook for WG Grace’s 344 against Kent – the first ever score over 300 and his highest. There are many memories of the 1970s glory years to bring a tear to the eye of us Kent fans, but also an eye on contemporary collecting.