Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has suspended its volunteer programme during its temporary closure. This hasn’t stopped volunteer archivist Ian Gregory thinking about the collection of photographs he has been documenting and how some of the images apply to the current crisis:
In these uncertain times, people are drawing parallels between the current coronavirus lockdown and the Second World War. Both involved the suspension of rights and opportunities that had once been taken for granted. Both are characterised by people holding onto hope that things will get better, and by ordinary people doing what they can to help. These thoughts come to mind as I remember a photograph from our collection at the Museum.
In July of 1949, Princess Elizabeth, now Queen, her husband Prince Philip and her mother visited Buxton. They attended the Well Dressing festival and went on a walkabout in front of The Crescent. Crowds turned out to greet them, together with local bigwigs. I know the war was over but this country was still feeling its effects. Rationing and National Service continued while many areas flattened by the Blitz hadn’t been rebuilt, or only with temporary structures. This young woman represented hope for many, a prospect of better times ahead. Her recent wedding had cheered many who were living with austerity.
Today we know that our economy boomed in the 50s and 60s, but we don’t know when the present lockdown will end. Then again, our parents and grandparents didn’t have crystal balls in 1949. They must’ve wondered how long it would take for the nation to recover and today I can relate to that.
The present situation worries me, not just because of the virus but because of the potentially devastating effects on local businesses. If we remember that its possible to come through a crisis then it helps us to cope. The image of Princess Elizabeth in Buxton evokes a period when we kept going and rebuilt. It reminds us that it can be done.