Poetry Reading by Helen Mort at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery

Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery are delighted to invite you to join them on Friday 27 October 2017 for a unique poetry reading by the amazing Helen Mort.
The recent winner of the Mslexia Women’s Poetry Prize 2017 for her poem ‘Vanishing Point’, Helen has received rave reviews of her work from her peers, including current Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy.
“Helen Mort is among the brightest stars in the sparkling new constellation of young British poets” – Carol Ann Duffy
“Helen Mort’s ‘Vanishing Point’ was an immediate definite for me. As soon as I read it, I knew I’d found a winning poem; subsequent re-readings confirmed it quite quickly as the best in the competition. Something truly magical happens in this poem: there’s a vortex in the middle of it that works like a spell” – Sinead Morrissey, Mslexia Women’s Poetry Prize Judge, 2017
Doors open at 6pm the reading will begin at 7.30pm. Early arrival will give you the chance to explore the amazing museum galleries, experience Samurai: Warriors of Japan and have a drink and relax prior to the performance.
Following the performance there will also be an opportunity to purchase a copy of Helen Mort’s newest publication … and have your copy signed!
In 2013, Helen Mort was shortlisted for the T.S Eliot Prize which is awarded to the best new verse published in the UK and Ireland.
Tickets for the event cost £7.50
If you are a season ticket holder at the Museum, a Friend of Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery or an Art Fund Member, you can purchase a ticket at the reduced rate of £4.50.
Although tickets can be purchased on arrival, spaces are limited so it is recommended that you book your place in advance to avoid possible disappointment. To book your ticket, please visit us at the Visitor Information Centre at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery or call 01743 258885.
The reading by Helen Mort is the second in a series of poetry readings at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, held on the last Friday of each month. The first of which heard readings from Gillian Clarke and Liz Lefroy, which was brilliantly received.
Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery are also delighted to announce that Jo Bell will be joining them on 24 November 2017.
If you would like more information about this event, please call 01743 28885 or pop into the Visitor Information Centre.


Making the Most of 3D digitisation in Museums

The last talk in the 2016-17 Friends’ Lecture Series was somewhat different from normal.  We usually have talks about local worthies, historic houses or artistic movements. This month James Grimster from Orange Leaf Systems spoke about Virtual Reality/digitisation in museums.  He brought along a headset with earphones and light beam handset for use by one or two volunteers while he gave his talk(more of this later).He explained how the new technology has become cheaper and more available and how it could be used  to enable people to visit digitised museums in their imagination. This glimpse into the future stimulated  a prolonged question and answer session.  Moving paintings, sculptures and artefacts around for exhibitions is costly, time consuming and possibly risky. Also items would leave holes in their original ’homes’. Instead they could be put in a virtual museum . These problems would then be solved.  People with mobility problems could access museums without leaving home.  Some people expressed the idea that being in a state of virtual reality was lonely compared with the more enjoyable experience of walking round a museum with a friend.  James pointed out that interaction with a friend over the airwaves would be possible on a shared visit to a virtual museum.

Does it matter if such experiences are not real?  Would it matter that the choice of what to view in a virtual gallery might be limited to someone else’s selection made from a museum’s stock actually on view during a real visit?  What might happen to real museum visitor numbers if the technology became cheap enough for all to buy? These and other points contributed to a lively and engaging meeting which was enjoyed by everyone there.

Visiting a Virtual Museum

VR headset


I was lucky to be given the opportunity of experiencing a virtual museum at the talk. Donning headset, earphones and with a light beam handset, I entered this virtual world. What I was seeing was transmitted to a screen for the audience to view.


I started in the central gallery of the virtual museum. Here were displayed Michelangelo’s David and the Mona Lisa, with a huge circular Mayan stone towering above me. Behind me was the entrance desk and turnstiles, and on either side corridors leading to other galleries. James explained that by pointing the light beam at where I wanted to go and clicking, I could ‘move’ about. Being able to move all around the David statue was much more akin to the real thing in situ than any photograph can be.  I was, of course, totally blind in the real world, and the temptation to walk along the virtual corridors was hard to resist and several times had to be stopped from walking into the real objects around me. Using the light beam I moved along the corridors on either side to see other galleries. On one side gallery were Far Eastern exhibits and on the other a Terracotta Army display, complete with sounds of battle.

Getting used to moving with the light beam was at times ‘interesting’, such as when I got ‘up close and personal’ to David’s rear end!! I think my reaction amused the audience!

There are huge advantages to this kind of display for education, training and for those unable, for whatever reason, to visit the real thing. VR is the next step on the way to seeing and experiencing at a distance. After all people have said ‘ah but it’s not the same as the real thing’  about print, photographs and films.  Whilst a virtual museum cannot replace the experience of seeing the artefacts in real life (the vastness of the Terracotta Army or the joy of being in Paris or Florence) it is an interesting experience.

So as technology advances, as the saying goes ‘watch this space’.



A Friend who is also a Museum volunteer writes:

This exhibition, ‘Heavenly Lights’, featuring the life and work of Margaret Rope, a native of Shrewsbury, ran from September 12th 2016 to January 15th 2017.
The Friends gave £5,000 towards the costs – the most we have ever given for an event like this. And we were well rewarded for our support. The number of visitors was high and people came from all over the country and even a few from abroad.

This was the first-ever retrospective of the life and works of Margaret Agnes Rope, who was one of the leading stained glass artists of the early twentieth century.
Exhibitions of stained glass are rare because of the obvious problem of acquiring appropriate exhibits, but the Museum overcame this by installing a state-of-the-art projection system to show giant images of windows on the Museum’s walls, including the Saint Winefride window from Newport RC Church (below).

Saint Winefride window (detail) by Margaret Rope
They also worked co-operatively with Shrewsbury Catholic Cathedral which has seven beautiful windows made by Margaret Rope, including her first commission.

The Museum staff and Mark Stewart & Arthur Rope did a large amount of research and begged and borrowed exhibits from private collections all over the country, including photographs, original documents and letters. Rare glass panels made early in her career were on show, as were her sketches and designs, which gave a valuable insight into how stained glass artists work.
A local glass artist, Nathalie Hildegaard Liege, was also on hand to lead workshops.

Worcester visit

The Friends in Worcester, November 2016

This was the last of the three visits the Friends of Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery made in 2016.
Our guide and lecturer, as on many previous occasions, was Tim Bridges, an expert in the field of church history and architecture. He is advisor for the conservation of buildings to the Victorian Society in the West Midlands and is also support officer for church buildings for the Diocese of Hereford. He has under his care about 300 buildings many of which are Grade I or Grade II listed. So we were in excellent hands!Friends Visit to Worcester 2016In the course of a most interesting and rewarding day Tim took us first to two Georgian churches in Worcester, St. Nicholas (now a pub where we had coffee) and St. Swithun’s. We were then given a short tour of the Assembly rooms before continuing down the beautiful medieval Friary Street towards the cathedral.
After lunch, in what was formerly a pilgrims’ hostel but now a hotel, we spent the afternoon in the Cathedral.

You can read brief details about St. Swithun’s church and the Cathedral below.

St Swithun’s Church

St. Swithun’s is one of the two Georgian churches we visited. The tower is all that remains of the Tudor church, and the rest of the exterior is classical, executed probably by the Woodwards of Chipping Campden.
According to Pevsner the Georgian interior is marvellous with all the furnishings of the period, including the organ, the box pews and a beautiful wrought iron altar table. There is also an elegant three decker pulpit under a wonderful tester, surrounded by a pelican feeding her young. The workmanship is of the highest quality throughout and the unaltered Georgian architecture is probably the finest in Worcestershire.

Worcester Cathedral

Worcester has been the seat of a bishopric since the seventh century. The building was founded in 680 as a Priory and the historian Bede records that there were monks and nuns here from this date. The monastery became Benedictine in the tenth Century. After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, the monks were removed and replaced by secular canons. The cathedral has important parts representing every period of English architecture from Norman to Perpendicular Gothic.Worcester Cathedral, EnglandThe earliest remains today are to be found in the Norman crypt. Also from the Norman period is the circular chapter house, which was made octagonal on the outside in the fourteenth Century. From this period there are also fine misericords. The cathedral was extensively restored in the nineteenth century by W A Perkins and Sir George Scott. The most famous monument in the Cathedral is the tomb of King John and the finest piece of architecture is undoubtedly the central tower, described as ‘exquisite’ by the historian Sir Alec Clifton Taylor.

Margaret Thorpe
(Photo of Friends by Linda Clutterback; Worcester Cathedral credit: Wikipedia)

Fish Tales

The Fossils in Shropshire project (FiSH)

The Fossils In Shropshire project (FISH) aims to digitise and make publicly available the highly important geology collections held in Ludlow by Shropshire Museums.
An application for support, for a grant of £250,000, was made by the Friends of Ludlow Museum to the LIBOR fund – set up by the government to spend the fines levied on banks – and, with the support of Philip Dunne, Ludlow’s MP, they were successful.

FossilThe significance of the collection was the key to securing this funding and it is hoped that this will lead to a wider knowledge of what is in the collection and how it relates to other collections.
It will also provide accessibility to all those who will want to know details of what is one of the most significant geological collections in the country.
The funding, over a three-year period, pays for the costs of three staff members plus equipment costs. This work will extend beyond fish, indeed beyond fossils, to embrace the whole of the geology collection.

Work began in April 2016 by examining the collections, as well as testing out equipment and techniques to be used in the main part of the project. With an estimated 40,000 specimens stored in over 2,500 drawers and boxes, undertaking a full inventory of the geology collection stored at Ludlow is time consuming.
However, by doing a specimen by specimen check, information from existing labels about places and collectors has been harvested. The preliminary work has also identified the most important objects to concentrate on for digitisation and research.

You can keep in touch with developments by the project website http://fishproject2020.wix.com/news or through the twitter feed @FISHdigitise

Daniel Lockett  (extract from FSMAG 2016 Newsletter)

The Claverley Hoard

In March 2015, metal detectorists discovered a hoard of Iron Age gold coins in Claverley Parish near Bridgnorth.

The hoard has subsequently been declared Treasure and offered for purchase – it has only been since the introduction of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the revision of the Treasure Act in 2002 that significant finds have been reported and made available to the public. This was a unique hoard of coins and a priority for acquisition and The Friends were delighted to be able to help.

Claverley Hoard coinThese seven coins were the first recorded Iron Age coin hoard from Shropshire.
Single finds have been made before, but Iron Age coins are extremely rare within the County, and the local tribe, the Cornovii, did not produce their own coinage.
Some of the coins are associated with the Corieltavi tribe in the North-East and others with the Dubonnic tribe whose power base was in the Gloucestershire/Bristol area.
There was no monetary system active in Western Britain and coins acted more as a token of allegiance and identity and probably were used to strengthen bonds between areas and peoples.

The intention is to permanently display the hoard within the Late Prehistory displays in Shrewsbury Museum’s Roman Gallery.
A major exhibition of Iron Age material from Wales and the Marches, which would feature this find as a key artefact, is also to be jointly explored with the National Museum of Wales.

Based on information from Emma-Kate Lanyon, Curator SMAG

Friends’ Summer Party 2016

David and Verena Waterhouse very kindly hosted the party at their house. Friends Summer Party 2016This was a wonderful setting: the terrace was just the right size and we had lovely views of the garden and the river beyond. Add to this the good wines selected for us by Phil Johnston, plenty of tasty canapes, served by the attentive waiter of the day, David and Verena’s grandson, good friends and conversation, what more could we ask? Even the weather smiled on us.

It was a most enjoyable party and a good chance to catch up with a number of old friends and meet new ones. Even Boris the dog was happy!
Our huge thanks to David and Verena and to all those who helped in the organisation, and in producing the canapes.

E Newsletter February 2016

Date: February 2016
Welcome to our e-newsletter

Museum Funding

Many of you will already be aware that Shropshire Council has made public its provisional plans for its budget in 2017/18 and that these contain provision for withdrawing funding completely for the museum service in Shropshire from 1 April 2017. Along with this are similar proposals for the swimming pool, the leisure centres, community development and a range of rural activities. These proposals are a worst case option and  there is the possibility that the financial situation might improve or that government will rethink its position on support to local government

We are all alarmed at this possibility and we have already made representations to councillors expressing our concern and emphasising the contribution that the museum service makes not only to the community but also to tourism, the local economy and educational services in the county. We have also pointed out that the Council will have continuing responsibilities and obligations from which it cannot escape, and that a withdrawal of services would mean that they would have to pay back substantial grants received from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Arts Council and other donors.

There is little that the Friends can do directly to help with funding for the museum – the amounts needed are beyond our means.  Shropshire Council has now begun the task of looking for potential funding partners and we are engaged in discussions with museum staff to establish where we can make an impact. We are not writing to the press in a formal capacity – we feel that individual letters or ones from other organisations carry more weight and we encourage you to write if you so wish.

The current uncertainly means that there must also be uncertainty about our future. For next year we will only arrange a programme up until 31 March 2017 but we do hope that the way ahead will become clearer in the near future and that there will continue to be a role for the Friends. We will keep you informed.

Committee Members and Summer Garden Party

 Your Committee is urgently in need of new members. We are an ageing bunch and we need new blood – the involvement is not enormous but events and activities have to be organised and new ideas are always welcomed. If you are interested in finding out more please contact David Waterhouse (01743 343811) or Malcolm Potter (01743 235430) for more information. If we do not find people prepared to help with running the Friends the organisation will cease to exist!  It’s as bad as that!

The Committee is now looking at options for the Summer Garden Party, to take place probably I early July. There have been suggestions that we move to another venue.  If anybody knows of a suitable venue (preferably a substantial garden within easy reach of the town centre) could they let Malcolm or David know. We welcome any suggestions!

 Zip Wire Challenge Appeal 

This was SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED and raised £2,000 for the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery

Your Committee