Tag Archives: Wonders of the Peak

From Time to Time

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

opening day 03

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.

opening day 01

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.

opening day 04

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.

opening day 02

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.

opening day 05

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.


Wonderful Wonders?

Since Buxton Museum and Art Gallery reopened on 6 June this year, visitors have had the chance to come in and see the brand new Wonders of the Peak gallery. Though not yet complete, we have found that giving people the opportunity to see the developments in progress and talk to staff has been a welcome one.


Of course, the old dark and spooky Wonders of the Peak was cherished by a lot of people over its 27 year lifespan and the change has not been valued by everyone. However, the majority of recent visitors have given the new brightly-lit Wonders of the Peak the thumbs up, along with the refurbished foyer, gift shop, toilets and lift to the first floor. Here are some of their comments:

Never realised before that the museum had such a wide variety of objects. New display much better.

Love the changes; it feels much more accessible. So glad you kept the bear!

Absolutely stunning and fascinating! A treasure of a find and such a pleasure to visit this beautiful museum. You can see the care and attention to detail has gone into the renovation – so beautifully done.

The staff are very informative and very pleasant. Well worth the visit.

Excellent restoration, inviting and interesting. Although the quirkiness of what I remember has gone, the eclectic items are still there. A lovely surprise.


Love accessible lift, light open spaces, excellent for grandchildren.

Great choice in the gift shop.

A beautiful find after just arriving in Buxton.

Wonderful – we are lucky to have this here!

I really enjoyed every minute of this magical place.

Really impressed. Thank you. Lots of interactive things to engage our kids and very varied content.

Brilliant little museum. Great displays and interesting stuff. Thank you for the hard work!

the boss

After years of endeavour, it’s great to have some appreciation and we do listen to the suggestions too. The most common criticisms are that the museum looks closed from the outside, that there’s not enough for children to do and that the bear doesn’t growl. We will take notice of the feedback and work to rectify these grumbles.

You can plan your own visit here.


Time for a bit of Spring Cleaning


With the reopening of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery close on the horizon, the time has come to dust the cobwebs off the collection so that it can match the rest of the new shiny gallery.

I have been working closely with the museum’s bone material. In the picture above you can see that some of the pieces – like this hyena jaw bone discovered in Elderbush cave – were in definite need of a little TLC after being displayed for so many years in the old gallery. So, adorned with a set of brushes and little pieces of rubber sponge I began the task of patiently dabbing, wiping and brushing away the years to breathe new life into each of the bone objects.

Below you can see the after shot of my work, and evidently
a little bit of spring cleaning really does make all the difference!


Jasmine Barnfather MSci MA, Museum Attendant / Museum Assistant,
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Bear Share

Some plucky visitors took the rare opportunity to step into the bear’s cave at Buxton Museum to have their photo taken. Normally out-of-bounds, the rocky domain of the beloved ursine scare-monger is accessed by staff via a locked door at the back. Considering it was the last day of the old Wonders of the Peak exhibition and seeing as they asked nicely, we decided to reward these people for their bravery.

helen's bear

Click here to see how the new project is coming along.

One Last Walk through the Old Wonders?

This Saturday sees the door closed for the final time on the Wonders of the Peak gallery at Buxton Museum. A characterful and treasured museum display, The Wonders first opened in 1988 with an anticipated short lifespan. Due to the creativity and resourcefulness of the museum team, the gallery became very popular and won Museum of the Year in 1989.

Hyaena peering down

Despite its credentials, it is no surprise that the gallery is starting to look its age over twenty-five years later. It is dark and atmospheric but anyone with less than perfect eyesight, such as myself, can struggle to see particular sections. The long winding tunnel format is exciting and mysterious but less than ideal to anyone with a push chair or wheel chair. The labelling is informative but a little too wordy for today’s sound byte generation. And there’s no buttons to push!

WOTP - minerals

If you would like one last walk through the Old Wonders before it closes, last admission today is 5pm, Thursday 31st December at 4.30pm or Saturday 2nd January at 4.30pm.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery, the new Wonders of the Peak will open in Spring 2017. Like its predecessor, the gallery will attempt to tell the unique story of the Peak District using the museum collections. Despite being closed for redevelopment, you can still visit the project space and talk to the museum team as they work. Infact, it’s your chance to become more involved than ever before. Click here for more information.