Interview with Young Explainer: Rebecca Collins

Name: Rebecca Collins

Favourite Sandwich: Uhm… Chicken and red pepper ciabatta from Costa.

Where do you come from and what do you do?

I’m from a small village called Abercrave in the Upper Swansea Valley, Wales. I’m an Illustrator and I study illustration at the University. I like to make mixed-media images for a variety of contexts including Children’s Books and Surface Pattern.

What’s your role in Young Explainers?

I am the co-ordinator of the Social Media team and I run the blog. This has given me a chance to really understand promotion and social platforms on the internet, and helped me really appreciate organisation and consistency! I also help out with the design aspects of the project, including creating flyers and visuals for events, helping design text panels and information books.

Are you enjoying Young Explainers?

What have you learnt so far? Very much so! I have learnt a lot about team work, and about more practical things like Gantt charts and note-making. I have also learnt about creating design work for clients and as part of a team, and working in a professional environment, which is incredibly useful!

How does Young Explainers relate to and support your personal aspirations?

I don’t really know what I want to do in the future at the moment, but I think I am learning a great deal about applying my illustrations and design skills to a working environment, as well as achieving short-term goals like, gaining experience of working in a team, learning about budgeting and improving my communication skills. I have actually created a drawing project on the Cottonian Collection, as I was so inspired by the Young Explainers project.


Any words of advice to future Young Explainers?

Get stuck in! This project is a brilliant opportunity to pick up some skills and experience and to make new friends. Enjoy it and embrace it! …And turn up to every meeting!


A quick hello from the Young Explainers! We’ve had some very exciting developments recently and we’re here to share them with you. Many of our projects are coming into their final stages: the gallery text panel is written and about to be printed, the labels are nearly completed and ideas for a gallery catalogue are being rounded off.  The Art Nibbles are almost ready to be filmed and put onto the Museum website and the Art Bite gallery talks are almost ready to go (Sorry, you’ll have to wait until June to hear them!). The most exciting update of them all has to be the Event! We’ve got a time (7.30pm), date (9th May) and a place (the Roundabout pub, Plymouth), and an itinerary – there’ll be a quiz with prizes, a fun photo-booth, some snacks, some drinks and live music, all to an 18th Century Masquerade theme! Keep an eye out here, on our twitter, @youngexplainers, and on our facebook,, for more updates.

Welcome to the New Young Explainers!

It is with great pleasure that I can invite you to keep up to date, participate with and enjoy our progress as we take you on a dizzying romp through one of Plymouth’s most important artistic legacy, The Cottonian Collection.
The whole collection was bequeathed to the city in 1862, the collection represents the artistic flavours and trends of 17th and 18th century art and design, and includes several unique items of furniture, oil paintings, a library, sculptures and an incredible print collection. The Young Explainers will be focusing solely on the print collection, where we will be bringing you a fascinating glimpse into trade, power, religion, nudity and ethics in the 18th century.
Featuring an all-day interactive event at the museum, online videos, two Art Bite talks on ‘Nude or Naked’ and ‘Makers and Methods’ and a complete revamping of the labelling and display of the print collection, we’re making sure we create a feast for the eyes, as well as reinvigorating the health and well-being of the incredible Cottonian Collection.
Keep up to date with our progress on this blog, follow us on twitter@YoungExplainers.

Tea at the Cottonian a Success!

What a success our first event of Young Explainers 2013 has been! On Friday the 11th of October we hosted an event at the Museum named ‘Tea at the Cottonian’; there were special guests including the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Vivien Pengelley, Peter Smith, the deputy leader of Plymouth City Council as well as Monika Kinley OBE, who attended. The event was an opportunity to re-air the collection to the public whilst exposing the Young Explainers new gallery labels and guides.

The event started with Dr. Jenny Graham, Associate Professor in Art History at PlymouthUniversity, playing a mixture of 18th century music on the grand piano from the museum balcony, which was a beautiful start.

We laid out a selection of cakes and tea to fall in with the refreshments that the Mayor and Mayoress put on at the original opening of the collection. The designated ‘Cottonian Collection’ is an engaging assortment of works collected over a number of generations, made up of a variety of disciplines and deep in its own history. Through the event there was a welcome speech conducted by myself (Victoria Smith) as well as a short history of the collection.

Following this we invited the guests to split into three groups so that they could circle around the gallery to listen to small talks on the sculptures and oils as well as the theme of mythology in the collection.


[Pictured above, l-r: Katie Palmer, Luke Pitcher, Xia Yu, Victoria Smith, Cllr Peter Smith, Lord Mayor Vivien Pengelly, Ellie Barker, Natalie Butler, Liv Davies, Kristin Annus, Katy Neusten]

We had a lot of great feedback and all who attended and helped out had a marvelous time.

Pictures were taken by photography student Lewis Mulrennan-Cook. To view the Tea at the Cottonian photos, please click here.

To view his photography page, please click here.

The Cottonian Collection; A Brief History

Time is quickly running away with itself, and it is now time for the Art Bite scripts to be taking shape. An Art Bite is a twenty minute talk given by the Young Explainers to a small collection of the public within the gallery space.

One of the Art Bites this year will be focused on the history of the Cottonian Collection, from its humble beginnings right up to the modern day. Without wealthy benefactors, such as William Cotton, giving to institutions such as the Plymouth Proprietary Library, this country would not have such a thriving collection of artistic history. The Cottonian Collection itself dates back to the 1600’s, when Robert Townson collected a great deal of books, most of which were sermons. He had also begun to collect a number of paintings and drawings; this was the foundation of the collecting culture that developed in the 17th century.

From here the collection passed through to Charles Rodgers, whom Townson worked with at the Customs House, London. Rodgers made many of his own additions to the collection, but he had no male heirs, so the collection then passed to William Cotton; Rodger’s brother-in-law. After Cotton’s death the collection passed down through two more William Cottons. William Cotton II unfortunately sold a vast quantity of the collection due to a lack of space to house the massive collection. By the time the collection was passed to Cotton III the collection was but a fraction of the size that Rodger’s once was.  Fortunately for Plymouth, Cotton III gifted the collection to the people of Plymouth in two installments, in 1852 and 1862.

Once the collection was given in its entirety in 1862 it held around 4,700 prints and engravings, and some unique and extensive series of illustrations of the Italian, Flemish, French and English schools. The bookcases contain around 500 volumes of rare and valuable specimens, from early typography to Greek and Roman classics and Fine Arts. There are also 1,500 volumes of English books, which contain articles of ‘veriu’, carvings, and illustrated 15th century missal. 250 original drawings by ‘Old Masters’ are also included, from names such as Rubens, Van Dyke, Leonardo da Vinci, and more. There are also framed paintings, some of which are by Joshua Reynolds, drawings, illustrated manuscripts, terracotta statuettes, bronzes, antique 17th century vases, bookcases, and cabinets, most especially one from the 17th century inlaid with red tortoise! 

For more information on the events that we have organized please visit –