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!

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 – http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/homepage/creativityandculture/museums/museumpcmag/artsandheritagewhatson/museumevents/museumartbites.htm