Museum On Tour, 5 July 2017: Summer’s here and autumn’s in the planning

by Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer

Our Beryl: Beryl Cook at Home
Our new Beryl Cook exhibition has been open for just over a week and we’re thrilled with how it looks. As I mentioned in last month’s #MuseumOnTour post, we’ve co-curated it with her family which has given us access to some of her earliest and quirkiest works.

The exhibition will be on display until the end of 9 September and is free to view at the Council House. We’ve got lots of events taking place over the summer which take their inspiration from the exhibition which we hope you’ll enjoy if you come along.

Advert for the Beryl Cook exhibition at Plymouth's Council House June 2017

The Cook family has produced a range of merchandise which we’re also selling in the exhibition. Lisa Coombes, one of my colleagues who works in our Business Support team, has overseen the creation of a retail area which looks great.

This is the third exhibition we’ve hosted at the Council House this year. It’s great to have a space where we can continue to run a temporary exhibition programme even though our main building is closed.

Turning part of what has always been a private building into a public space is not without its challenges – especially when the building doesn’t belong to you and is used for a variety of functions. We have been working with a number of our City Council colleagues behind the scenes to ensure everything runs as smoothly as it possibly can. We’ve also installed some extra signage on and around the Council House for members of the public who still aren’t sure where it’s located – it’s the building to the left of the Civic Centre.

Photograph of the front of the Council House Plymouth

Poppies: WAVE
Now our summer programme is well and truly underway we’re finalising our autumn/winter activities as well as planning ahead for 2018.

During the latter months of 2017 our two biggest projects are both partnership initiatives. We are thrilled to be working with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) who are bringing ‘Poppies: WAVE’ to the city from 23 August to 19 November. You may have already seen quite a lot of information about it in the local press and online. It will be installed on the large war memorial on the Hoe.

The iconic sculpture presented by 14-18 NOW is a sweeping arch of bright red poppy heads suspended on towering stalks. It’s one of two sculptures, by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, initially conceived as the key dramatic sculptural elements in the installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’. Millions of people saw it at the Tower of London in 2014, marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. You can find out more about it here.

Photograph of Poppies: WAVE in Southend 2017
‘Poppies: WAVE’ has recently been installed at Barge Pier, Shoeburyness, Southend-on- Sea as part of its UK-wide tour organised by 14-18 NOW. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for 14-18 NOW).

We have been working with the CWGC over the last few months to help devise an events and engagement programme that will take place while ‘Poppies: WAVE’ is in Plymouth. Full details will be announced very soon!

In the meantime, you can watch an official video clip produced by 14-18 NOW by clicking on this image.

Photo of poppies

We The People Are The Work
Our other main autumn/winter partnership project is ‘We The People Are The Work’ and sees us collaborating with Peninsula Arts, Plymouth College of Art, Plymouth Arts Centre and KARST on a multi-site exhibition which will be on display from 22 September to 18 November.

‘We The People Are The Work’ has been curated by Simon Morrissey. It will feature a series of new artworks by five international artists that explore our engagement with politics and identity. Take a look at the website for more information about the project and the artists. We’ll be revealing more in the coming weeks!

Museum On Tour, 7 June 2017: New exhibitions and events

by Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer

Summer was always a fun time at the Museum and Art Gallery before we closed. We would make sure we had exhibitions on display that were of interest to local residents and tourists. Our holiday workshop programme brought many families into the building and gave children lots of opportunities to be creative.

Thankfully as a result of our ‘Museum On Tour’ programme it’s business as usual this year, even though we’re having to use a range of offsite locations instead.

Image copyright John Cook 2017. www.ourberylcook.comOne of the major elements of this is the exhibition of work by much-loved artist Beryl Cook that we’re staging at the Council House from 24 June to 9 September. Cook lived in Plymouth for many years and we have three works by her in our permanent collections.

What’s so special about this exhibition is that we have co-curated it with Beryl’s family. They were the most important thing in her life. As well as providing us with access to some of her earliest and quirkiest works, working in collaboration with them has given us a range of personal insights into her and the people she loved the most.

The exhibition will be divided up into a series of different themes including fame, family and friends and fantasy. There will be a special range of merchandise available to purchase – a new experiment for us at the Council House.

The exhibition has also given us lots of inspiration for events and we’ll have a host of talks, tours and family activities on offer. You can find out more about all of these from the what’s on section of our website. It’s great to have an exhibition that we can generate so many ideas from.

Image copyright John Cook 2017. www.ourberylcook.com
Image © John Cook 2017. www.ourberylcook.com

This work shown above is one of the paintings that will feature in the exhibition. Many people local to Plymouth will recognise the location as the famous Elvira’s cafe in Stonehouse! A man sits at one table drinking a large mug of tea while a dog watches its owner eating a sausage sandwich at another. The woman behind the counter who is serving a customer with a piece of cake is Teresa, Beryl’s daughter-in-law. Teresa will join our exhibition curator Hilary Bracegirdle for a lunchtime talk next month during which she will share her memories and stories.


Another exciting development for us over the summer are our ‘Out and About’ events. Staff and volunteers will be taking a series of themed activities to local community festivals across the city and beyond over the next few months. We began with a successful event at the Freedom Community Festival last weekend and will also be at:

  • Contemporary Craft Festival, Bovey Tracey: 9-11 June
  • Armed Forces Day, Plymouth Hoe: 24 June
  • St Levan Fair, Plymouth: 15 July
  • Love Parks Week, Whitleigh Hub, Plymouth: 20 July
  • Plymouth Play Day: 2 August – a venue for this will be confirmed soon
  • Devonport Park Festival, Plymouth: 20 August

If you’re planning to attend any of these events make sure you come and say hello to us on our stand. Here are some images from the Freedom Community Festival to close today’s post. People made banners and badges highlighting the things that are important to them. Thanks very much to everyone who came along and got stuck in!

Museum On Tour, 10 May 2017: Plymouth History Festival

by Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer

Hopefully many of you will be aware that the Plymouth History Festival began on Saturday (6 May).

This is the fifth year in a row that it’s taken place and I have been involved with helping to co-ordinate and promote it since it began.

The festival runs until 4 June. Many people might think this is the busiest time for me on the project – but the bulk of the work actually takes place between December and April.

Myself and other colleagues who are responsible for event programming usually meet in early October to decide the dates and any particular themes for the following year. We then announce these in the press and give the individuals, societies and organisations who want to be involved around 2-3 months to confirm their events with us. We also have to make sure we have our own events organised by the deadline!

Once all the information is in I have my first major task on my hands: editing everything into a consistent format, double checking dates, times, address and contact information, creating a diary of listings for each day and then using it all to build our website. I usually put this live by mid-February.

After this my next major task is to take this information, source around 40 different high resolution images to go with it, write the foreword, draft copy about the latest developments with the History Centre and then brief all of this in to a graphic designer so they can produce the festival brochure. This is a massively popular piece of print.

While the brochure is being designed I source the printer, book advertising space in as many of the local what’s on publications as the budget will allow, liaise with our distribution company and raise the relevant purchase orders. Then there’s the job of proof reading the brochure, running it past everyone involved, briefing any amends back to the graphic designer, proof reading it again, signing it off, getting the artwork to the printer, checking their proof to make sure everything is fine with the colours, pictures and fonts, and then finally approving it for print.

Once the brochures have been delivered our distribution company collects around half of them and gets to work dropping them off at a range of venues across Plymouth and the travel to work area. The other half are distributed through our own networks, at the events we attend throughout the month and by the festival event providers – all of whom have been brilliant about coming to the Museum to collect their copies this year.

By this point I will have also sent out information about the festival to local media, forwarded the artwork for any adverts we have booked to the relevant publications and planned a social media campaign. The History Festival has its own Facebook and Twitter feeds and in the run up to and during the festival I post and share regular updates. This year we have also produced a series of graphics for the Big Screen in Plymouth’s city centre – I’ve used them in this post. I’ve also been able to secure some of the large format poster sites in the city centre car parks so we have produced a series of posters for these, as well as for the library network and Tourist Information Centre.

I’ve been very proud of the History Festival since it began and as a Service we are hugely grateful to all those who take part. It is a mammoth amount of work – a fact that isn’t necessarily acknowledged the way it should be. Lots of my colleagues from the Arts and Heritage and Library Services are involved too and are running events at different times throughout the month. There is no separate team to deal with the management, coordination, promotion or facilitation of the festival – we are doing all of this on top of our ever-growing commitments to the History Centre.

This year’s festival began with a really successful Local Studies Day and there are nearly 100 different events on this year’s programme including exhibitions and displays, guided walks and tours, talks and presentations, music, film and performance, special events and family activities. There’s real variety on offer for all ages and interests and the range of subjects highlights the depth of Plymouth’s history.

Take a look at the festival website if you haven’t done so already and I hope you enjoy the events you attend. Plymouth History Festival will return in 2018 and we will announce the dates and details a little later in the year!

A Hidden Paradise in Ford Park Cemetery

By Jan Freedman, Curator of Natural History

We are surrounded by mini-beasts. They are everywhere: in the soil, the trees, the grass, and even in rivers. With over a million different species worldwide, this is the most diverse group on animals of the planet. (Compare that to just over 5,400 species of mammals!) Beetles with their hard, shiny cases, to butterflies looking so delicate as they clumsily flutter in the air, the world of mini-beasts is truly spectacular.

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Behind the scenes in Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery are over 100,000 insects. Here is just one drawer of British Beetles. Image by Kim Davies

To highlight, and celebrate this miniature world of creatures, the Royal Entomological Society have set up the bi-annual event, National Insect Week. During the week, events and activities run across the UK to highlight how amazing the world of insects really is.

The real challenge with appreciating mini-beasts is trying to spot them in the first place. They are all around us but because they are so small, and many are so well camouflaged, they are not easy to see. Unless you happen to be looking for them.

The Wild about Plymouth group met for their annual bug hunt at Ford Park Cemetery during National Insect Week. A cemetery may seem like a bizarre place to hold a bug hunt, but Ford Park Cemetery is a rich habitat for many animals: mini-beasts, small mammals, birds, and slow worms. The Trust, who manage the site, promote the rich wildlife through exhibitions, walks and events throughout the year. Scientists from Plymouth University and Buglife came along to supply equipment and help identify the creatures.

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The groups getting together to share their mini-beast finds.]

Full of excitement, the families that came along wanted to discover that was hiding in the long grass, or what they could shake from trees. To search for the unseen, you need a little patience. And a net. And an umbrella.

A sweep net is the obvious weapon of choice for the little ones. Sweeping the net through the long grass and back again several times picks up a surprising amount of mini-beasts. We found dozens of beetles (weevils, thick legged flower beetles and more!). 3 or 4 different types of leafhoppers sprung out of the net as we peered closer. Bright green orb web spiders peered out at us, and we were lucky enough to see a wolf spider carrying her bag of eggs. Just one sweep in one spot, and dozens of species.

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A pot of bugs. The little blue insect on the right is a lovely little weevil. The other two are ‘true bugs’, similar to shield bugs but thinner bodies.

A rather popular method was the ‘beating’ technique. Here, a tent pole gently taps a branch, while underneath an upside down umbrella catches anything that falls out. And a surprising amount of life falls to the umbrella below. More orb web spiders, leafhoppers, snails, and lots of flies. From what just looked like a boring tree branch was a hidden metropolis of life.

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Behind the scenes in Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery are over 100,000 insects. Here is just one drawer of British Beetles. Image by Kim Davies

Dozens of mini-beast species were seen at this Bug Hunt. I sat for a moment in between identifying insects, and watched a flower. A tortoise shell butterfly, gently stopped for a moment using it’s long tongue to taste the sweet nectar. Three different bee species buzzed by. Some unidentified flies zipped in to the flower. One flower. So many species.

Mini-beasts are key to the diversity of our planet (and vital for an important healthy planet where we can live).  Not only bees, but beetles, flies, butterflies, moths, hoverflies and more pollinate plants. They keep the soil healthy for plants to grow. They provide food for birds, bats, badgers, hedgehogs and so many more animals. Without mini-beasts, the world would be a desolate, empty place.

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The umbrellas were turned the other way round when a spot of rain hit. But even this didn’t stop the families looking at the mini-beasts!

The greatest joy of the bug hunt was watching the families working together. Sisters showing their brothers things they had found. Children were showing their parents an unusual bug. Families even joined forces and helped each other, and shared each other’s excitement when a weird and wonderful new mini-beast was seen! Getting out, exploring in the grass and discovering new things brought so many smiles. Enjoying nature together and seeing the joy it can bring helps the next generation to appreciate it. And protect it for the future.

Visit Ford Park Cemetery’s website to find out more about their events.  You can also see some of the museum’s specimens on display in an urban wildlife exhibition from Saturday 8th October to Sunday 20th November 2016.

The Buglife website has lots of information helping to protect bugs and run many events and activities across the UK.

Meet the Experts!

By Emma Philip, Curator of Fine Art

Don’t forget, you can soon hear all about the Cottonian Historic Furniture Project from two experts who have played a key role.

On Tuesday October 22 at 1.10pm, Dr Adam Bowett will talk about his research into the furniture, its makers and many exotic specimen woods.  Click here for further details;

http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/eventitem?newsid%3D319728

On Tuesday 26th November at 1.10pm, John Hartley, Managing Director at Tankerdale Limited will discuss the process of conserving our historic furniture.  Click here for further details;

http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/eventitem?newsid%3D319732

Thanks to the Designation Development Fund at Arts Council England, tickets for these two events are COMPLETELY FREE!  Please visit our Welcome Desk or call 01752 304774 to claim yours.