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Whispers in the Grass

July 2019

Low Haymeadows 36

These hills,

Buttress the sky,

Green mounds echo the sky,

Draw rain into this deep valley,

Its thirst.

 

Low Knapweed, 1Part of the BM125 project involved taking ideas about the Collections back into the landscapes a lot of those collections came from. In July, as one of our public events, Creeping Toad teamed up with Borderland Voices to host a poetry and art day at the Dove Valley Centre in the Upper Dove Valley fitting the day into the Buxton Fringe Festival

 

 

26 people joined us for a day of walking and wandering, scribbling ideas, sharing words, creating pictures and eating cake. We didn’t tie the day to any particular artefacts but drew upon the historic landscapes of the Moorlands and poems unfolded about the flowers we met, the drystone walls and the agricultural history of the area. The clear night-time skies over the dales inspired solar system pictures while other people focussed in to capture the flowers of traditional haymeadows.

Solar system copy

Poems from the day are being posted on the Creeping Toad blog and some of the shorter pieces, especially the riddles, will be logged onto the Wonders of the Peak app to tempt people out walking to create their own

 

Rock-weigher,

Field-ruler,

Bone-layer,

Stone-shepherd*

Have a go yourself?

A quick haiku activity: go outside and sit down on the ground if you can. There, a) look at the sky above, b) touch the ground below, c) reflect on how these sensations make you feel. Turn those three thoughts into 3 lines. You might use the syllable convention ( 5 syllables, 7 then 5 again) but you don’t have to! Go for short, clear images and hold onto room to breathe….(Looking up, reaching down are a good pair of sensations, you could use others!)

Two haiku:

Whispers in the grass

Little rustles through small stems

Wind flowing freely

Low flower strip

Performance begun

Wind playing its instruments

Grass whispers softly

 

Thanks to our Whispers poets and artists

The opening poem is by Mary King,

for the others we haven’t got notes of the poets names!

*answer: drystone waller

Creeping Toad blogs:

Summer warmth

Echoing the sky

A voice in a field

DVC morning
morning from the Dove Valley Centre

 

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Bear Days in Buxton

Bear detail

Celebrating the years that something has been standing stuffed but still growling in a museum may seem a bit odd, but “The Buxton Bear” has been a feature of the Museum since its arrival 30 years ago. When the Museum redesigned its Wonders of the Peak galleries in 2017 there was much debate about “whether the bear should go”.

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not a local bear

After all, this is not a local bear (probably a North American Black Bear, maybe a Brown). It isn’t an established part of the Collection – it was brought in to give the museum a bear in a cave as an example of the excitements of life in the Peak District a few thousand years ago (although at the time our bears were probably larger and didn’t growl in trans-Atlantic accents). The Bear, however, is well known, well loved (by some), well loathed (by others) and well dreaded by adults who were growled at when they were (presumably) much younger. The Museum just wouldn’t be the same without The Bear rumbling away in a corner.

So, The Bear stayed.

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Bear badges

And this year marks 30 years of growling away in a corner of the Gallery. Over the summer, the Museum staff have been encouraging the Bear into new looks. We have seen a Boating Bear, a Wimbledon Bear, a Holiday bear, a Pride Bear.

 

The Museum’s regular event artists (including myself), have also been joining in with assorted Bearday activities. There have been bear masks, bear finger puppets, drawing big bears, making cards of small bears, bear heads. On Sunday just gone, we had a Teddy Bear’s Picnic out on the Slopes in front of the Town Hall. Here, between sandwiches and running around, we made bear badges and bear bunting. There were

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Bear Bunting

crowns for teddy bears (and cuddly zebras and pigs). There were Bearday Cards (sorry, Bear, they all went home with the children who made them!) and a general sense of ursine cheerfulness

 

So if you are in Buxton, please do drop into the Museum and say hallo to our Bear. She (or he? Not quite sure) is definitely one of the family.

 

 

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the Bear stole a diamond*

 and thanks to all all our Bear event participants and to Richard Johnson for the original bear line drawings we used for the badges!

*the bear stole a honey diamond from the snail who owned and guarded it….

Out of Africa: The Discovery of a Human Ancestor

Volunteer archivist Ian Gregory shines his unique torch on another murky corner of Buxton Museum’s collections:

In 1921, miners working at Broken Hill, Zambia (then called Northern Rhodesia) discovered the skull of an ancestor of humanity. Reports of this discovery came into the collections at Buxton Museum, via the geologists William Boyd Dawkins and J.W. Jackson. Both men took a keen interest in scientific discoveries outside of as well as within the British Isles and in many different fields.

DERSB-71609-Primative Skull from Rhodesia

It is interesting to compare scientific knowledge from the 1920s with that of the time of writing. Experts compared the skull from Zambia with the remains from Piltdown in Britain in the hope of shedding some light on it. They were wasting their time; the fossils from Piltdown were later exposed as a hoax. One expert lacking the benefit of hindsight, found the Zambian skull was less important than Piltdown in our understanding of early humans. Radiocarbon dating had not been developed so there were arguments over the African fossil’s age. Since it was buried under layers of stones and animal bones it was certainly old, but no one could be sure how ancient.

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Despite all that, I was struck by how contemporary some of the comments were. One report said that Charles Darwin had predicted that Africa would yield important fossil humans, indeed might be the cradle of humanity. This was a minority opinion until the 1950s but clearly not unheard of before then. Experts also deduced that the skull’s owner had walked upright as well as modern humans can. Comparisons were made with a fossil called Pithecanthropus which came from Java. This has then been re-classified as Homo Erectus but unlike Piltdown man, it is still accepted as a genuine prehistoric material. Remains of European Neanderthals were also used for comparison. One writer says “the Rhodesian man has one of the links in the chain of which many species would be found.” That turned out to be correct.

Today the fossil from Zambia is classified as Homo Heidelbergensis a probable ancestor of both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens that lived in Europe and Africa from 700,000 to 300,000 years ago. Scientists have dated their bones, measured their brain cases and collected their stone tools. Yet questions remain: Did they have language? If not, how close to it did they come? Did they bury their dead? Or tell stories? Or paint themselves with ochre? Many believe that they did but can we be sure? Even in 2019, we don’t know everything about our ancestors.

The Crescent- A Stitch in Time

Nikki Anderson one of our Museum Attendants and Textile Designer has put together this blog about the 19th Century embroideries that are on display here at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.

To celebrate the reopening of ‘The Crescent’, the iconic hotel in the centre of Buxton, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery are exhibiting some rare and exciting art works dating back to the early 18th Century alongside some more contemporary paintings and prints.

The Crescent was built in 1788 and included a hotel at each end of the building and six town houses in the middle and was commissioned by ‘The 5th Duke of Devonshire’. Its purpose was to provide luxurious accommodation for visitors to the town. His vision, to create a spa town to rival Bath. Architect John Carr designed the building which was completed in 1788. It quickly became a popular visitor attraction and became a focus for artists whom would interpret ‘The Crescent’ in various art forms.

Embroidery 1
Embroidery 1
Embroidery 2
Embroidery 2
Embroidery 3
Embroidery 3

 

I was fascinated in particular with 3 pieces of embroidery on display. All 3 embroideries show the view of ‘The Crescent’ as the focal point from the slopes at St Ann’s Cliff. There is little known about the embroideries other than they were created in the mid 19th Century. The detail achieved in these works is incredible. You can see in the detail below the accuracy in very small detail. This photo has been magnified so the tiny stitch work can be seen.

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These embroideries have been created from etchings by Henry Moore which were made in 1819. Often the etchings were printed onto the silk fabric and the free hand embroidery was used to create the painting. On close inspection it appears that most of the embroidery would have been done by machine possibly using a pantograph method to transfer the stitches. Silk became very popular in the late 18th Century and by the mid 19th Century it became a common pastime to make these silk embroideries. I love the different contrasting effects used by the satin stitch on the machine and the hand stitching using running and seeding stitch (embroidery  3) whilst still obtaining such a delicate nature to the works. The fashioning of metallic threads of the 18th century have also influenced these works alongside the popularity of satin stitch and long and short stitch. In the magnified photo below a method called ‘couching’ has been used. This is where threads are placed on the surface of the fabric and then sewn stitched on by hand or machine. If you look closely you can see where the couching has unraveled showing the loose yarn.

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It is  interesting to note the fact these embroideries were worked upon in only 2 or 3 shades. Black and gold and/or beige silk. This may have also been influenced by’ Blackwork’, which was developed in the 16th and 17th Century and was incredibly popular.

These incredibly beautiful pieces of embroidery are on display alongside etchings, paintings and photographs until the 1st September at Buxton Museum & Art Gallery.

 

Discovering objects

Well done, guys!

Derbyshire Record Office

Our crowdfunding campaign for packaging the objects from our Franklin collection has reached its £1000 target! A huge thank you to everyone who has donated – your support is much appreciated.

The Franklin objects have made us realise that we have other fabulous, exciting – and sometimes downright strange – objects in some of our other collections, which should also be properly packaged in museum quality boxes. So we’ve decided that any extra money we receive through our crowdfunding campaign will be spent on looking after those items.  We’re sure to discover more of them as we start hunting through our collections, but to give you an idea of the kind of objects we have:

An Ashbourne Shrovetide football from the 1930’s:

footballA beautiful piece of embroidery from 1937, showing Bakewell Market Place:

embroideryAnd a collection of textile samples, including this elephant pattern:

elephant

If you’d like to help us look after these…

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