Monthly Archives: June 2015

Blue Batman with a bad knee

Another varied week of variety at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, Yeovil.

One of the questions we are often asked is: “How much space do you have at the Centre?”

We answer in two ways: Firstly, we manage what we collect and secondly, we consider what we have in the existing collection.

This question was brought into clear focus this week, as staff made a presentation on “Rationalisation and Disposal in a Museum Context” at the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester.

The first point is often simpler to address. Our bench mark and guiding principle is our Collecting Policy of “Yeovil and South Somerset.” Therefore, if an object is offered, which is not from “Yeovil or South Somerset” we can suggest the donor can send the object or photograph to a more relevant museum (or we can arrange this for them). One recent example was a jigsaw puzzle of a Dorchester town crier, which we deposited with Dorset County Museum at Dorchester. However, there are difficulties and ‘shades of grey.’ For example, we recently received a large quantity of embroidery, fabric and costume. Significantly, only two or three items (out of 50!) had a direct provenance to the donor – as they actually made them or are notable examples of fashion from the 1920s. The other items were given to the donor and therefore the connection (in terms of our collecting policy) to Yeovil and South Somerset lies with the status of the donor as a collector and authority on costume design within the local area. The decision needs to be made, therefore, to either accession all the items in to the collection and therefore look after them for future generations to see and enjoy or alternatively, keep those with a direct provenance or notable design and ‘ethically dispose’ of the others, perhaps into our handling collection or even other museums with costume collections or local embroidery or theatre groups.

The second question, can be more difficult to address, especially as sometimes a significant amount of time has elapsed since the object was originally donated and the objects were donated by the public with the intention of public enjoyment or education and ‘form part of the collection.’ However, Museums are now becoming significantly strict with the items and photographs they collect; often simply because budgets are slimmer and therefore management have to consider funds available to conserve objects – and what is conserved.

Simply put, the course at Dorchester outlined a points system for objects – the higher the score, the less relevant an object to the Museum’s Collecting Policy. This may seem harsh, but does a blue plastic Batman with a bad knee really reflect Yeovil’s history. That is not to say, “ethical disposal” means simply ‘dispose or discard’ selected ‘non collecting policy’ items, but rather ‘transfer’ to other, more relevant collections; where they can often be better looked after, as they are alongside similar objects and because of this, enjoyed to a greater extent, as they are in a similar context.

One interesting example was while leading a guided tour of the Centre, a lady noticed our bound volumes of the local Western Gazette Newspaper – Jan-Jun 1969 and exclaimed: “My Wedding was in May 1969!” Checking inside, indeed there was a report and photograph of their ‘special day’ – but is this sufficient reason to keep the said item?

To answer the question, “How much space do you have at the Centre?”

After some interesting, perhaps difficult, ethical decisions – perhaps a little more than before!

Does a blue plastic Batman with a bad knee (on a blue shelf!) really reflect Yeovil’s history?

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The venerable bead – what to keep and what to ‘dispose of ethically’ particularly with a ‘slim’ provenance?

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A Friendly Flag

A busy and varied week at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, Yeovil.

Highlights included transferring a jigsaw puzzle of a Dorchester town crier (500 pieces) to Dorset County Museum (the lady on reception recognised the gentleman on the box lid as ‘Bruce’) and collecting a Friendly Society Flag and Flag Pole from Corton Denham Church, between Yeovil and Wincanton.

This was a particularly rare opportunity to receive a Village Friendly Society Flag together with the Flag Pole, as they often become separated or damaged. In this case, the flag was flown from the top of Corton Denham Church Tower and carried during the Friendly Society’s annual ‘Club Day.’

Before the advent of National Insurance around 1911, many villages had a Friendly Society. Villagers would contribute to a mutual fund to help fellow residents in time of need, want, sickness or even funeral costs; to avoid a pauper’s burial. Villages also had a Club Pole Emblem, which was placed on the top of long poles and carried, along with a flag, through the village on the annual Club Day. “The hospitality of the Landlord” was also partaken of although “temperance” Societies did exist.  The ‘friendly’ nature was often reflected in the flag itself with the symbol of ‘joined hands’ and also on tokens issued by the Society

Many of the Club Pole Emblems are elaborate designs like Ilchester with a star and a moon or more simple like an acorn and Friendly Societies live on today in familiar organisations like ‘Friends Provident.’  We were excited to have the chance to receive a flag and flag pole to reflect this intriguing time in our South Somerset and National heritage, by the generosity of Corton Denham Parish Council.

The only problem was scale and logistics. The Flag on its own – not a problem. The Flag and Flag Pole measured 15.5ft long or around 5 metres and the distance to Corton Denham around 11 miles. Various schemes were considered, but dismissed as we wanted to keep the Flag Pole in one piece! Fortunately and with great skill, our colleagues at South Somerset District Council Lufton Depot had the vehicle and the trailer and the expertise to not only collect the Flag Pole but to pack the flag pole securely and deliver it safely to CHAC within 1.5 hours of setting out. A good job all round!

Collecting the Corton Denham Friendly Society Flag on Thursday 5th June 2015 – with great skill and thought from our District Council Colleagues. Also pictured is one of the “Old True Blue Friendly Society Jugs” as used by Yeovil Old True Friendly Society – the original ceramic handles have been replaced by metal ones.

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Quite a Find!

A busy and intriguing week so far at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil.

As we write, we are in the middle of our quarterly Archaeological Finds Afternoon with the Somerset Finds Liaison Officer. A number of notable finds were brought in to be identified and a selection previously identified were returned. We have an image below of some of the finds brought in, found near Crewkerne, Somerset.

These are: an iron age coin; two Medieval coins; an 11th century buckle; a late Saxon hooked tag; Roman coins and a Roman brooch and a mystery item!

The Finds Afternoon is another use of CHAC, which helps a variety of people to access a thought-provoking and fascinating service and also emphasises responsible collecting – specifically recording the details of what an object is; where it was found and when and how – with the Finds Liaison Officer possibly able to provide an identification and a suggestion as to why the object ended up where it was found.

Image courtesy of The Somerset Finds Liaison Officer.

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