Become a Friend of the Swindon Museumand Art Gallery

For only £15 a year, you can become a Friend and come along to our talks, join us on trips out to places like The Royal Academy and Pallant House Gallery, there's always something going on. To become a Friend or find out more about us, go to the website

Friday, 7 February 2020

Talks and Trips 2020

Starting with the complete flyer and then a breakdown of all talks and trips, above the outer part of the flyer, and below the inside. Tickets for talks can be obtained at the museum during opening hours, and also normally from our website. The website is currently unavailable, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Booking for trips is by emailing Linda Kasmaty on , don't forget Friends get reduced price entry for talks and priority booking on trips. Why not join today if you're not already a member?
 and the front page which summarises the activities:
Our first talk of 2020 takes place on Thursday 27 February, Professor David Manley will be talking about the development of British abstraction during and after World War II
 In March our talk will be about the award winning Museum of Computing given by the highly entertaining Jeremy Holt.
Our first trip of the year is to the Corinium Museum in Cirencester on 21 April, some of you may remember Amanda Hart gave us a very interesting talk about the Museum in October last year, so we thought we'd take a trip out there. We're going independently, there is a good bus service to Cirencester, and meeting there at 2pm. We will have a talk in the lecture theatre and a look round the museum. Cost to be announced soon.
Our April talk is by astrophotographer Gavin James who takes photographs from the Blackett Observatory at Marlborough College. This link to their website gives you up to date information about the night sky.
Our second trip of the year to the wonderful Sandham Memorial Chapel. It's owned by the National Trust, so members please remember cards. We'll have a 40 minute talk, a look round the paintings and lunch at The Carpenter's Arms opposite
Our May talk is by the very popular Jon Ratcliffe, he will give us a very different view of Swindon. What might have been.......
Our third trip is to the fabulous Banwell Bone caves. I must admit to being sceptical about these, but have a look at the website, this looks like a fascinating trip.
Dr Gill Clarke is making a return trip to Swindon MAG to atlk to the Friends about an exhibition she is curating at Russell Cotes museum
Dr Gill Clarke's talk will be followed by a trip to Russell Cotes Museum in Bournemouth, more details nearer the time. I think we will have to book a coach for this trip as well.

Our final talk before the summer break in August will be a talk by Sarah Purvey ahead of her exhibition in the gallery the following week.
And last but by no means least, our final trip of the year will be to the Sculpture in the Landscape 1969-2020 exhibition in September organised by Friends of the Garden, this will be the seventh and final exhibition organised by this group. Find out more here 
There's a fascinating story on the website.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Restoration of Roman Wine Strainer

Last week a small group of  Friends visited the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham, ideally placed from our point of view about 5 minutes from the railway station. The last time we visited the history centre was for a guided tour of the building, and to briefly glimpse the Highworth Pot from outside the laboratory. I've looked up the post and discovered that we actually visited in February 2012. One of the benefits of writing about every event the Friends engage in is that there's always a record to look up. Here's the link to that trip in 2012.
This time we were going to look at the Roman Wine Strainer, currently being conserved by Beth Baker, Senior Conservator at the History Centre, funded by money raised by an appeal to Friends' membership. We met Beth in the reception, and then were taken up to the laboratory, where there were 3 people working. The other two are working on cleaning up coins. The work requires such intense concentration that they have 45 minute timers reminding them to stop working and stretch their hands. Beth remarked that it's easier to work on the strainer in the morning because of the intense concentration and care required when handling the wine strainer.
 Beth, seen below, explained the process she's using to stabilise and try and strengthen the wine strainer which is made of very thin copper alloy.
 Here she is pointing out some of the more difficult parts of the process
 and here she's showing us a stand that has been specially made for the wine strainer. When in the stand, a lot of pressure is taken off it, and people will be able to see it very clearly

 Here Beth is putting the strainer into the stand to show us how it works, it seemed like a tight fit, and I was worried that it might get crushed when being put in or taken out.
 making further adjustments to the stand
 and here's a close up of it
 and this photo below shows how good it looks when fitted into the stand. The delicate pattern of holes is beautiful.

 Mike McQueen above came to meet us; he was working in another lab
 Kathy having a good look
 and a final photo
Why was wine strained? Apparently herbs were added during the process, and had to be removed, and if the wine was made from fruit, presumably that had to be strained. I wondered where the wine strainer was found, and how on earth is was so relatively well preserved. Beth didn't know of the provenance of the strainer, but there was a suggestion that it came from the old Purton Hospital site. Thamesdown Archaeological Unit undertook an excavation there ahead of the development of the site with new housing.  They found a small high status Roman cemetery.  The wine strainer was placed with one of the burials.  Another grave contained a stone sarcophagus in which there was a lead liner .
A few years ago Foundation Archaeology undertook an excavation on another part of the site.  They did not find any sign of further burials which suggests the cemetery was probably a small family graveyard.  The did find evidence of a post framed Roman building and finds of decorated wall plaster and a possible under floor heating system suggested this was also high status.
A reader of the blog has refuted the theory that the wine strainer was found in Purton and says this:
'The wine strainer came from the outskirts of the Roman Town at Lower Wanborough. It was found by a metal detectorist, he contacted me upon its discovery and I went out and helped him remove it from the ground. He subsequently donated it to the museum.'
That sounds quite a definite account doesn't it?
There's a really good blog on the History Centre's website with a piece on another Roman wine strainer, worth looking at that. All being well, we'll get our wine strainer back in the Museum in a few weeks time.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Friends' January Social

To mark the opening of the exhibition, Pop and Prosperity:1960s British Art from the Swindon Collection, we held an opening night, and also took the opportunity to introduce two new part time outreach workers at the museum and unveil a new painting we had been given by our Patron, Desmond Morris.
We started the evening with an opening of the exhibition by Katie Ackrill who has been appointed Art on Tour Project Engagement Officer at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.
 Art on Tour is a project to advertise our Collections more widely, currently at STEAM Museum and also the Civic Offices in Euclid St.
 Mags Parker, seen in the picture above near the wall, also spoke about her new role as Education Officer at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. On a recent visit to New College, she asked how many of the students studying art had been to the Museum, out of a group of approximately 15 students, 2 had visited the gallery.
 I took a few photos of the assembled Friends, it was a very popular evening, with about 80 present.
 After Katie and Mags introduced themselves and how they saw their roles, the big event of the evening for me, was to unveil the painting we had been given by Desmond Morris, the choosing of the picture is written about in the previous blog post. The painting had been very well wrapped by Rona Marsden, who runs Rona's Gallery where Desmond's work was being shown, but was finally revealed. Erik Burnett-Godfree kindly agreed to talk about Desmond Morris and the painting, and a bit about why we had chosen it.
I love the painting and think people were very pleased with our choice.
 There was then time to chat and look at the Glyn Uzzel exhibition in the smaller part of the gallery

We now have three paintings by Desmond Morris, from his early period, Girl Selling Flowers, 1948, currently in the Civic Offices as part of the Art on Tour project
 and Mysterious Gift, 1965 which is in the current exhibition

Collecting Desmond Morriss's Picture from Oxford

Desmond Morris famous zoologist, ethologist and surrealist painter, as well as a popular author in human sociobiology, is known for his 1967 book The Naked Ape, and for his television programmes such as Zoo Time. His Wikipedia entry mentions that he was born in Purton, his family moved into Swindon when he was a child and his grandfather, William Morris founded the Evening Advertiser. What the Wikipedia entry does not say is that Desmond Morris has been Patron of the Friends ever since their inception 26 years ago! When he received a copy of the latest magazine, he was very pleased when he saw the image of 'Girl Selling Flowers' on the front cover. This painting, a great favourite, was painted in 1948 when Desmond was 18.
Desmond emailed me to say that he would like to give the Friends a Christmas present. We could go and choose a painting of our choice from Rona's Gallery in Oxford. I contacted Rona Marsden, the gallery owner, and in early January, three of us traveled to Oxford on the bus, met Rona and had a look round the gallery. I took photographs to record what was a very exciting morning.
Here's the gallery from the pavement:
and in a bit closer:
I've taken photos of the paintings on the walls to give an idea of the choice we had to make
Here are Tim Carroll and Erik Burnett-Godfree discussing the paintings, and how to make the choice
These paintings were brought out of the window
And here is Rona showing us a copy of one of Desmond's books
More chatting
Three paintings that were in the window, were turned round for us to look at
It's interesting looking back at the process we went through in order to make our final choice
I was keen on this one, and if I had gone on my own, might have chosen this one, not properly represented here because Rona's Gallery is a pop up shop, and was a Russell and Bromley shoe shop, the fixtures and fittings, including the lighting were intended for showing shoes to their best advantage, so the white spots seen on the painting are spotlights.
These two were strong contenders at one part of the process
While waiting for a decision about which painting to choose, I took a couple more photos
I imagine the small shelves were put on the wall for displaying shoes
And we have made our choice, Rona is showing us the title of the painting.
and here's a lovely picture of Rona with our painting, with a lot of reflection from the lights!
I noticed there was a mirror which might give us an interesting photo
and here is a close up of our new Desmond Morris painting which we love. As before, the white spots are reflections on the glass
I finally took a photo of Rona filling in the paperwork for the painting, she then wrapped it beautifully and it was not opened again until it was shown to the Friends attending a Private View on the 21st of January.
We would like to extend a big thank you to Desmond Morris for this kind gift for the Swindon Collection, and belatedly wish him a happy 92nd birthday.
As Desmond noted, we now have an early, middle and late Morris in the Collection.