From Time to Time

Volunteer Ian Gregory gives us a personal account of this week’s official reopening of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery:

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Manager Ros Westwood reveals The Wonders of the Peak to The Duke of Devonshire

From time to time, long-lasting establishments have to reassess themselves and make changes. Some of you will know this happened recently at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery when the Wonders of the Peak exhibition was revitalised and updated. On Tuesday 12 September, I was privileged to attend the official reopening ceremony for the display.

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Dave makes last minute adjustments to the Roman soldier

The ceremony took place in the art gallery upstairs, under a plaster ceiling from the days when the building was a hotel. It was very well attended; infact the place was crowded and so many people made the gallery rather hot. As well as staff and volunteers like myself, there were journalists, members of the public, County Councillors and the 12th Duke of Devonshire. One woman fainted but she quickly recovered and didn’t need medical attention.

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The reopening of the museum coincides with the legend that is Emily leaving for a new job

Ros, the manager of the museum, gave a speech. She outlined the history of the building, which was a hotel and then a military hospital before becoming the museum in 1928.

Ros’ speech

Then the leader of Derbyshire County Council spoke, followed by Jonathan Platt from the Heritage Lottery Fund and finally The Duke of Devonshire, who emphasised the importance of community and Buxton Museum belonging to the whole community. He also reminded us that the landscape has always changed and felt the hand of humanity, and he urged us to embrace recent changes in technology. This ties in with an app which we are developing for the museum. The Duke also remarked that he remembered telephones like the one in the first case visitors come to. Ros then spoke again. Some children were present and she told them that the bear is still here, adding that he was hungry.

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Remember these?

It was time to view the new Wonders of the Peak exhibition. We entered the new gallery which is much spacious than its predecessor. It also features videos and touch screens new to our museum. I was impressed and everyone else appeared to be too. The exhibition starts with the Carboniferous Period about 350 million years ago when the limestone which underlies much of the Peak District was formed. It picks up the history about 1.9 million years ago with bones of mastodon and scimitar-toothed cats, then goes on through The Stone Age and Iron Ages into Roman and Saxon times, then through the Blue John and Ashford Black Marble objects from Victorian times and so to the 20th century.

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The reopening is accompanied by music from Amanda Johnson of Kidology

The visitors left and the staff locked up. It had been hard work preparing for all this but it was worth the effort. I’m sure the vast majority of people who came that day would agree with me there.

Ros’ speech

You can plan your own visit here.

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While the Museum is Closed …

It’s been two weeks since Buxton Museum and Art Gallery closed for refurbishment and there have already been dramatic changes to the building. The staff room has been emptied to make way for a lift and the builders have ripped out the old toilets. This means the museum staff are temporarily having lunch in an empty art gallery and visiting a portable lavatory. We are happy to endure these provisional measures to improve the facilities for you, dear public.

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Closure has given us the opportunity to take stock of the museum shop and pack everything away. This entails counting hundreds of imitation Roman coins, gemstones and Woolly Mammoths. The retail is actually part of the redevelopment. Arts Council England are kindly funding Buxton Museum to help improve both the shop and the merchandise. Some of the items on sale when we re-open next Spring are based on the collections and they will help the museum to establish a stronger identity. Click here for more information about our funding.

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Goyt’s Bridge over the River Goyt by G.M. Brown. Copyrighted.

Some of the front-of-house staff are mucking in and have begun to write content for the new gallery. I’m working on a digital trail around the Goyt Valley. We aim to supplement a walk around the heritage-rich location by revealing items from the museum. It is based on an old blog of mine but we hope to build on this with the help of the Peak National Park rangers who care for the Goyt.

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Empress cinema, Chapel-en-le-Frith 1935 Board collection. Copyrighted.

Jasmine is busy with a similar assignment on Chapel-en-le-Frith, a small town in the Peak District. Her granddad once lived there and Jasmine is applying the family knowledge to form a picture of the town’s fascinating and little-known history. Our goal is to do this with a lot of places in the Peak District. Buxton itself is ready to explore with a fledgling trail; see pocket.wonders.co.uk

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The museum’s temporary closure doesn’t mean we have stopped running events. Our pop-up museum was previewed outside Buxton Opera House on Heritage Day two weeks ago and it will be making more appearances over the next few months. Watch this space.

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Sooty was putting on a show too!

For more Buxton Museum and Art Gallery events, check our website.