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Thursday, 19 December 2013

Christmas Party at the Museum

There was a small Christmas gathering at the Museum today with sweet and savoury nibbles and a feeling of elation still evident among those present, after last week's council vote to accept the Report recommending the building of a new Museum and Art Gallery on the site of the Wyvern car park.
Here's the festive Christmas tree:
 And a couple of photos in the downstairs room on the left as you enter the building.

If you did not know about this event, it may be because I do not have your email address, if that is the case, and you would like to receive email updates, please make sure you complete your email address on this years renewal form, email me via the email address at the top of the blog, or leave it at the Museum Reception.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Brilliant New Signage Proudly Proclaims 'Here We Are'

So much has been achieved recently at the Museum and Art Gallery in Bath Road, and now instead of looking quizzically at you if you mention this, and asks where it is, everyone knows we have a Swindon Museum and Art Gallery that we're proud to proclaim.
Here is the noticeboard:
In the top left hand corner is the new logo:
Really good lettering.
And a bleached out top of the photo, but 'MUSEUM' above the door again.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

The Good News is that Swindon will have a New Museum and Art Gallery in the Town Centre

The cabinet voted through the proposal that a new state of the art, purpose built museum and art gallery should be built on the site of the multi storey car park beside the Wyvern.
All parties agreed this would be a real asset to Swindon, and look forward to the completion of the project which will take an estimated 5 years at least.
More on the BBC site:
On the way home, in the mood for new developments, I took some photos of the new development on the old college site:

Visit to the Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum on the 4th of December

The trip was instigated by Frameworks, an organisation which aims to bring several museums and art galleries together and encourage an exchange of views between the Friends of Bristol, Bath Holbourn, Cheltenham and Swindon museums and art galleries. There have been visits to Bristol and Bath, apologies for lack of reports on those visits, and hopefully Frameworks will run more trips.
Cheltenham's Museum and Art Gallery opened in October this year, after being closed for almost 2 years for a £5 million demolition and rebuilding of some of the main parts of the building, here's the outside view:

We met in the main reception  2pm, divided into two groups, the first group was shown the arts and crafts gallery first:
 Above an embroidery designed by May Morris in the early 1890s.
From there we were taken into the main art gallery, open for the first time since the late 1980s as a dedicated art gallery space:
 Above Stanley Spencer 'Village Life' 1939-40

 Jake and Dinos Chapman 'One day you will no longer be loved (that it should come to this)' 2010. This is a recent acquisition, I have included the gallery information below.

 We had afternoon refreshments in the area beside the fashion part of the museum the people involved with managing the mannequins were as interesting as their charges:
The second part of the visit involved being shown around the exhibition 'Casting Brilliance: Glass by Colin Reid which runs until 5th of January 2014.
 The piece above is kiln cast and polished optical glass with copper patina. It is cast from rocks on a beach in Japan, and looks fabulous.

 This piece is called 'Cornucopia Mirror' made from Kiln-cast optical glass with copper patina and mirror. Two more pieces can be seen in the reflection.
There is a film accompanying the exhibition which helps elucidate the processes.
In our free time at the end of the organised part of the visit, I saw some of the rest of their collections:
 Above Henry Tonks 'Two Girls in a boat', interesting to see what he produced after reading 'Crisis of Brilliance' about the Slade artists around the time of WW1.

 And photos of some of their pottery store:

This was a wonderful chance to look round Cheltenham's Museum and art gallery, special thanks to Kirsty Hartsiotis and her associate for making our visit so special.
 I'll certainly pay them another visit soon. Links to their pages below:
Facebook: Cheltenham Arts and Crafts Museum

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Exciting Press Release Ahead of the Council Meeting on 11.12.13 at 6pm

Press release about the latest plans for SM&AG:

An exciting plan to create a cultural hub in Swindon could soon take a significant step forward.
Next Wednesday (11 Dec) Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet will be asked to approve that a site off Princes Street, which would include the soon to be demolished Wyvern Theatre car park, be used to house the town’s museum and art collections in a new purpose-built facility.
The site, which is next to the Wyvern Theatre, was chosen following an options appraisal by heritage specialists Barker Langham as it fits in with the Town Centre Masterplan and the Council’s Economic Strategy, which notes that a new Museum and Art Gallery would help to improve Swindon’s external image and act as a draw to businesses considering an investment in the Borough.
Owned by the Council, the identified location could also be used for a range of uses such as performance spaces, public realm or offices and housing.
The Cabinet will also be asked to commission further detailed feasibility work for the proposed museum and art gallery within the context of a ‘cultural quarter’ that would also include a new theatre in the same vicinity. The feasibility work would also be required to identify the most appropriate business model to generate on-going revenue and capital funding to support the facility into the future.
A new home for the Borough’s museum and art collections is an aspiration of Swindon Heritage Board, while a visit by HRH the Duchess of Cornwall to the town’s art gallery last year resulted in significant interest from local potential benefactors who are extremely supportive and keen to help the project. This group is being led by Robert Hiscox, Honorary President of Hiscox Insurance, who is himself a substantial art collector.
Swindon has one of the best collections of 20th Century art outside of London, but, due to the size of the current Swindon Museum and Art Gallery in Bath Road, only a limited amount of the artwork can be displayed at any one time.
A new art gallery and museum would meet a number of objectives set by an advisory group which has been overseeing the development and delivery of the work by Barker Langham.
These include maximising the regeneration and economic benefits for Swindon, enabling the current collections to grow and become world class, to generate cultural tourism and to ensure a positive and sustainable future for the collections.
If the Cabinet support the recommendations the Council will also apply for financial support for the project from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Cllr David Renard, Leader of Swindon Borough Council and chairman of Swindon Heritage Board, said: “I am really excited that our long-held ambition to find a new home for our superb art and museum collections is starting to take shape.
“If these plans are supported by Cabinet it will act as the catalyst for us to really move forward with this project to provide a real cultural legacy for the Borough.”
Cllr Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Economy, Regeneration and Culture, said: “The site identified in the cabinet report ticks a number of boxes but the fact that it ties in with our Town Centre Masterplan is very important.
“We already have hundreds of millions of pounds being invested in the town centre through the major regeneration schemes that are currently underway and a cultural quarter in this location would link these developments together.”
Robert Hiscox added: “The Swindon Museum and Art Gallery has a fascinating collection of Modern British and Contemporary Art, but the collection deserves a better home and it is inspirational that the Council, the politicians and local people have united behind the vision of building a new one.
“A new museum and art gallery would bring a cultural vibration to the heart of Swindon and be a vital part of its regeneration and a great asset to the whole region”.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Erik Burnett-Godfree's Talk on Friday 22nd November at 8pm

Erik Burnett-Godfree provided just the sort of enthusiasm we were looking for in at 8pm on a Friday night, the numbers had by the time of the talk swelled from 40 for the AGM, to more like 70 for Erik's talk. He began by setting the date, the 22nd of November in history, it's St. Celia's day, and also the anniversary of the death of JFK, Aldous Huxley and CS Lewis, and several other things.
Erik then rapidly rattled through his CV before moving on to our 'fantastic collection of 20th Century British art.

He outlined the role played by three key people in acquiring the collection: Harold Jolliffe, Borough Librarian from 1946-68 who thought in 1963, it was time we had an art gallery in Swindon. James Bomford, after loaning the greater part of his collection to Harold Jolliffe, announced he was giving it to Swindon. The third person mentioned was Richard Morphet, long associated with the Tate Gallery, firstly as a curator, later as Keeper of the Modern Collection, he advised on acquisitions for 30-40 years. He was given a small purchase fund, and went shopping for modern work produced by artists creating reputations.
One of the conundrums now is how we can afford to fill in the gaps in the collection, one way would be to encourage works to be gifted by collectors who would like their works to sit among our collection.
Erik went on to look at particular paintings in detail and talk about his admiration and fascination with them; including  Ben Nicholson's 'Compostion in Black and White' 1933 and
LS Lowry's long line of people entitled 'A Procession'.

Edward Wadsworth's 'Bright Intervals' seen above is a particular favourite of Erik's, it's a super realistic painting with many contradictions.
John Hoyland's application of paint in 'Trickster' is in complete contrast to Wadsworth's smooth application.
 The final painting he talked about was Maggie Hambling's 'Descent of the Bull's Head'.

After the entertaining and informative talk, we anticipated thanks from Paul Ricketts, but there was added excitement in the shape of Mike Pringle who had nominated Erik Burnett-Godfree for a  Swindon Does Arts Hero Award.
Here he is rather far away receiving the award.
And afterwards holding it in his right hand and moving too quickly, so he and Mike are blurry.
Lastly, I have included 3 photos which give an impression of the numbers of people who attended the talk last Friday. It was a great evening, our thanks again to Erik for coming along and inspiring so many.

Monday, 25 November 2013

AGM on Friday 22nd of November

The 20th AGM of the Friends of SM&AG was held last Friday at 7pm. There were about 40 people present, it felt almost crowded, I have tried to take a photo to give an idea of the numbers, but because of the way the seating was arranged, it wasn't easy.
 I have included 3 photos giving slightly different views.

After the main business of the meeting, Helen Miah, recently appointed team leader of the M&AG, talked about 'the way forward'. This involves looking at the possibility of building a new museum and art gallery in the town centre on one of a possible 4 sites to be decided on the 11.12.13 at a council meeting. In the meantime, there will be new exhibitions, starting with an abstract exhibition next January.
Paul Ricketts, chair of the Friends wrote eloquently in his report for the AGM about the optimism he felt about the recent changes in personnel managing the museum and art gallery, particularly its move from the museum sector. To quote Paul:
'After years of running the staff numbers down and losing visitors as a result, Swindon Borough Council finally appear to have got serious about the Museum and realised that this is how a town can best show how proud it is both in where it has come from, where it is now, and where it is going.'
Those who couldn't attend the AGM will receive a copy of this report.
We hope to increase the number of Friends, and improve communication with them via email. If you have not yet sent your email address, please do so by emailing

Monday, 18 November 2013

Come along on Friday 22nd of November to a talk on the Swindon Collection by Erik Burnett-Godfree

The talk is at 8pm and follows the Friends' AGM which starts at 7pm, both are being held in the gallery. Tickets for the talk cost £3.50 for members and £4.50 for non members, they are available from the reception at the Museum and on the night.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Highworth Pot is now Taking Pride of Place in the Museum

It seems that the Highworth Pot has been talked about for a long time, it was found in 2008, and has undergone several procedures at the Wiltshire History Centre, including analysis of its contents.
The pot is estimated to be Roman, from around 1-2AD, it was a useful pot then because when it broke, it was mended. Here's the information that goes with the Pot:
The last time I saw the Highworth Pot was on a visit to the Wiltshire History Centre, I wrote about it on the 22nd of February 2012, so it was good to see it without the 'bandages' which it appeared to have round it then:
 Above in its case, and below a couple of photos to show you the staples:

The 'offical' photograph used in publicity is this one which is great because it's without reflections:
Come along and see the Highworth Pot soon.

Visit to the Museum & Art Gallery from the Friends of Bristol Museum

The Friends of Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives visited the Swindon Museum and Art gallery on Friday afternoon, after lunch a Heelis, the National Trust headqueaters. There were 44 of them, so they were divided into two groups, while Sophie Cummings, the curator of SM&AG showed half of them round the gallery, the others looked round the museum.
It was interesting to hear the gasps as people came into the art gallery and saw the paintings on display.
After Sophie's talk, it was interesting to find out more about the Bristol Friends; the membership is about 800, they seem to be a very active organisation, something to aim for in the future.
Here are a few photos of the Bristol Friends taken in the gallery:

 Sophie talking about our Mary Fedden paintings
 Sophie in front of 'Florestan'
 Above people looking round, there were complaints that the labelling was hard to read where it was low down, two people can be seen trying to read a label.
 To find out more about the Bristol Friends, please click on their website below:

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Saving Silbury Hill - a talk by Chris Penny on the 24th of October

Despite it being my daughter's birthday last Thursday, I managed to be at the singing and candle blowing out part of the celebrations and was then surplus to requirements, and was very pleased I had managed to hear  Chris's talk on Silbury Hill, he's such an enthusiast and knows so much about neolithic features in the landscape. He also has been associated with Avebury and Stonehenge since 1991, and now looks after 241 National Trust volunteers.
What we learned was that Silbury Hill is the largest man made mound in the world in the prehistoric period, it's the most labour intensive as well, 500,000 tons of chalk were used in its construction between 2400-2300BC. It sits in the centre of a Roman complex and was probably constructed in the area because there are 187 springs around Avebury providing water for the settlements. It is thought it was possibly built for ceremonial or religious reasons, but this is pure speculation, no one really knows for certain why Silbury Hill was constructed.but there are no artefacts inside.
The Anglo Saxons cut the top off Silbury Hill to make a fort, it measures 70 feet across, and is 36metres high and the base covers 5 acres.
Excavations have been made into Silbury Hill to find out what is inside and maybe gain insight into why it was built. Firstly in 1776, Cornish miners drilled a hole into the top, then in 1849, John Merryweather tunneled into Silbury Hill; this was repeated in 1968 when a 250 foot long tunnel which was 6 foot wide and 8 foot high.
 And here's a photo of the tunnel:

 The BBC hoped it would become a tourist attraction, but English Heritage wanted it filled in. The tunnel was poorly filled in leaving voids in 1968.
In 2001 a hole opened up in the top of Silbury Hill, previous excavations and tunnel making had made the hill potentially unstable, and here's a photo of the hole in the top of Silbury Hill:

 There are very few Neolithic finds, as is the case with the stone circle, these sites are called 'clean sites' because of this. Dating for the completion of Silbury Hill as 2300BC came from the finding of a strategically placed antler; there are artefacts from the Roman and Anglo Saxon periods.
 It has now been restored and is now stable and should stand in the landscape forever.
Many thanks again to Chris for coming in to give us such an interesting and informative talk, and thank you very much Chris for the great photos of the tunnel and the collapsed top of Silbury Hill.