With the Pearl Anniversary of the formation of the Friends next year, I thought I'd type out a piece of paper titled The History of the Museum Friends given to me about 10 years ago by Paul Ricketts who many of you will remember as a Chair of the Friends for many years. It details 10 years of Friends' activities from their inauguration:
1993 Launch of the Friends on July 6th with a talk by the Friends' patron, Desmond Morri, attended by the Mayor, Doreen Dart, and 160 guests. First issue of the Friends' Journal in the Autumn. The talks included the history of the cinema in Swindon by Keith Saunders, a visit to Longleat and Jurassic Discoveries in Wiltshire by Dr Neville Hollingworth.
1994 The Friends now numbered 128. A survey of the members showed 95% were interested in talks on art, 75% liked the idea of trips to art galleries and places of historical interest, 54% were committed to the idea of fundraising events and 95% found the Journal interesting. The 1994 talks featured Dr Julian Sallabrass on the Henry Moore Foundation, Justine Hopkins on the artist Michael Ayrton. George Melly on Richard Hamilton and the '60s art scene, the broadcaster Johnny Morris on Pigs and Picasso, Michael Leber on LS Lowry and John Hoyland discussing his own art.
1995 The Friends were involved in choosing the pictures out of the whole art collection to be displayed in an exhibition entitled 'The People Choose'. The Friends were able to get involved in the practical museum work to handle, annotate and catalogue items for the records.
1996 Friends' trips included going to see Blake and Reubens exhibitions at the National Gallery as well as tours of the Georgian architecture of Bath and of the ancient heart of Oxford. The Friends became a registered charity (Charity number 1050267) There was a presentation by Basil Beattie to coincide with the acquisition of his painting 'Witness VI'
1997 Friends' trips to Christchurch Picture Gallery, Oxford. Friends were invited to take part in interviewing and compiling information for the Railway Village Oral History project. Talks included Neville Hollingworth on geological finds in the Wootton Bassett mud springs, John Cooper on 20th Century painting and portraiture. The Friends became involved in their first purchase for the museum, an earthenware quart jug, c 1860, from the Eagle Tavern, new Swindon, purchased at auction for £131.
1998 Talks were by Alan Holden on 'Molly Holden, Swindon's forgotten poet'. Anthony Frost, son of Terry, talking about his paintings, 'Brunel's Legacy in Swindon', Bryn Walters on 'Roamn Archaeology' and Paul Gough talking about his work to coincide with his exhibition.
1999 A guided tour at the National Museum and Gallery in Cardiff. Talks were Bernard Thomasen 'Surveying for the Time Team', Bill Wimbledon on 'The Geology of Swindon Hill', Barley Roscoe on 'The Ceramics of Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie', Sarah-Jane Arbury on 'Performance Poetry' and a talk by the artist Maggi Hambling. In August there was a wine tasting held in the Art Gallery, The Friends made a grant towards the purchase of a hoard of Civil War coins from Wroughton and a second grant to pay 50% of the cost of new chairs for the Museum- to help pay for these, the Friends introduced the practice of running a draw at all their events.
2000 There were talks by Paul Robinson, Curator of Devizes Museum on Wiltshire folklore and Paul Danks from Swindon College on the student exhibition now on in the Gallery.
2001 There were talks by Dr Alison Taylor on 'Hilda Carling', by John Webb on 'Talking Brass' and by Fred Baier, one of Britain's top furniture designers who was commissioned to design the front desk at STEAM. The Friends contributed to the purchasing of the painting 'Head (1999)' by Tony Bevan.
2002 This year's Friends talks were Teresa Squires on 'Holy Rood and Christ Church, Swindon, the County Archaeologist for Wiltshire, Roy Canham on 'The Archaeology of Swindon Hill', the painter Tim Hyman on the work of Stanley Spencer, Dr John Taylor from the British Museum on 'Mummies and Mummification' and Paul Murdin on 'The Moon Pictures of Samuel Palmer and others'. The Friends contributed to the purchasing of 'Girl Selling Flowers by Desmond Morris and a Tudor silver dress fitting found at Wanborough.
2003 This year's talks included Linda Lambert on 'Ceramics from a publishing perspective', a conducted tour of Swindon Reference Library, Graham Ellard on photographic cycloramas, Sam Moorhead from the British Museum on 'Roman Coins in Wiltshire and Neil Dowson from the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust on 'Swindon's canals'
To bring us up to date, I'm going to include a photo from our most recent talk, September 2022, when Lucy Abel Smith held a favourite from her ceramics collection, a piece by Hans Coper
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