Hidden Treasures at the Museum Store

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					FoRM                                                                                                 Autumn 2003

 Hidden Treasures at the Museum Store
  Store Tour, Saturday 7th June 2003
  It was such a nice day on the day
  of the Store Tour that I wondered
  if I really should be spending the
  afternoon in a warehouse near
  the sewage works! But it was
  worth it.
  We were doing the Store Tour
  for two reasons. Firstly, it was
  a wonderful opportunity to see
  behind the scenes at the Museum
  and secondly, colleagues at the
  Museum are thinking of opening
  the store to the public on specific
  open days and it was a chance for                 From left to right, Ann Middleton, Chair of the Friends, David Pearson, museum manager,
  a dry run.                                        the Mayor of Reading Jeanette Skeates and her husband Alan.

  The 16 of us split into two groups and

                                                                                                                                                         Photos courtesy of Reading Evening Post
  I had the privilege of joining the Mayor
  of Reading for the Tour, only slightly
  disrupted by the Evening Post
  photographer. We couldn't believe
  how much stuff the Museum had and
  the variety of things it has in store.
  I'm more interested in local history than
  archaeology or art and I liked the simple
  things like old Reading street names and
  shop signs. I particularly liked a Thames
  Valley bus map showing all the old routes.        Above: Some of the many interesting objects that were explored during the tour.
  Another of the real highlights of the Tour
  was the chance to handle objects and we          some helpful suggestions about how it               Heritage Open Day in September 2004.
  were allowed to pick up a wonderful              could be improved. Most of us were                  I also wondered whether Friends would
  Bronze Age sword that had been dredged           surprised at the size of the store and the          be interested in doing a longer term
  from the Thames. The Tour was also               quantity of objects.                                appeal for a particular object, such as
  made much more interesting by a few                                                                  the Roman lead font found on Dean's
  short talks on specific items from the           It struck me during the Tour how many
                                                                                                       Farm, Caversham. Please get in touch
  collection. To my surprise I really enjoyed      things the Friends could do to help the
                                                                                                       if you would be interested in developing
  the talk given by David Notton on a              Museum. We could provide voluntary
                                                                                                       or supporting any of these ideas.
  beautifully stuffed fish - not a subject         stewards to assist Museum staff on the
                                                   public Store Tours; David Pearson and
  I thought I would be interested in.
                                                   his staff would make sure those involved            Ann Middleton
  At the end we completed questionnaires           were well briefed on their role. David is
  to give our feedback of the day.                 planning the opening programme at the
  Everyone enjoyed the Tour and made               moment and this could include the

    Reading: People & Place - '1,000 years history of the town'
    Curator Lecture, Thursday 18th September 2003. See inside for more details.

The Friends’ Patrons:      The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Reading   |   The Most Hon the Marquess of Reading   |   The Right Honourable the Lord Palmer
FoRM news                                                                                                  Autumn 2003

 Tour of Stores:                                          Friends’ Calendar for Autumn/Winter 2003
 The Mayor’s Favourite Object
 During my participation in the Friends                   Reading: People & Place - '1,000 years history of the town'
 tour of the Museum on 7 June,                            Curator Lecture for the Friends
 I particularly enjoyed seeing
 this beautiful plaster ceiling section,                  Matthew Williams – the Museum's Social History Curator – will be giving a talk
 thought to be from Caversham Court.                      to the Friends about the history of the town on Thursday 18th September at 6.30 pm.
                                                          This would take place in the Earley Charity Room. Join us for what should be an
 I am very interested in the history of                   interesting and informative evening. The talk is free of charge to attend, will
 this building as chair of the Caversham                  last approximately 45 minutes and there will be refreshments provided. Friends
 Court Gazeebo Trust and in my role in                    are also welcome to bring a guest.
 developing the funding bid for the
 restoration of the site.                                 Please confirm attendance by ringing the Museum 0118 9399800

                                                          Festive Celebration
                                                          Come and join in the celebrations on Thursday December 4th, 6-8pm. We’ll be
                                                          holding the party in the Art Gallery. The gallery will be showing the exhihibition “Homes
                                                          of Football” so our party will revolve around a football theme – you will be able to play
                                                          subutteo and table football!

                                                          FRIENDS VOLUNTEERS WANTED:
                                                          Social Secretary and Newsletter Editor
                                                          Do you enjoy organising social events, meeting new people and having
                                                          a good time? Do you have writing and editing skills?
                                                          If you have some spare time and would be interested in volunteering as our social
                                                          secretary or Newsletter editor please contact us and let us know. We would really
                                                          appreciate your help.
  Section of plaster ceiling probably from
  Caversham Court, demolished in 1933. The
  arms could be those of William Alexander who            email: info@friendsofreadingmuseums.co.uk
  owned the Rectory (later known as Caversham             write to: The membership secretary, John Hendy, 10 Field Road, Reading RG1 6AP.
  Court) in 1586.

Lady Palmer launches Huntley & Palmers Website

More than 200 invited guests filled the Madejski Art Gallery at the Museum
of Reading on 15 May to launch this unique venture.
This was a memorable evening. Lady Palmer spoke with great eloquence of her
memories of the great family biscuit company and the integral part it played in Reading's
                                         history. She added that she was proud to be
                                         associated with this website which enables us
                                         all to learn more about the fine collection of
                                         biscuit tins on display at the Museum. Lord
                                         Palmer and many members of the family were
                                         also present.
                                                 The evening was made even more memorable
                                                 by the attendance of 70 ex Huntley & Palmer
                                                 staff, some of whom had travelled long
                                                 distances and many had not met each other
                                                 for at least 30 years. Lord Palmer commented
                                                 that he met someone who remembered him
                                                 when he was taken round the factory by his
                                                 father at the age of 4!
                                                                                                    Two ex Huntley and Palmers employees enjoying
All Friends hope that they will come back again to the Museum of Reading soon and                   biscuits baked to an original recipe.
we assure them they will be as welcome as they were on 15 May.
Exhibitions                              Volunteer Focus: Chronicle Index Books
                                         Amanda Martin shares her experience as a volunteer with the Museum
Through Kaleidoscope Eyes                Since Autumn 2002 I have been working as a volunteer at the museum for a half day
Prints, Pots and Textiles 1968-74        a week putting entries from the Reading Chronicle Index Books on to a database.
3 July – 14 September 2003
                                         These three red-bound volumes list all the Chronicle's photographic negatives (held by
                                         the museum) covering the period 1938-1964, and my task is to put each entry on to the
Experience the vivid colour, textures    museum's database so that the material can be readily accessed by anyone who is
and sounds of the groovy era through     interested. Each entry has a database record number, the batch number and description
this exploration of original prints,     from the index book, and any further details I can supply as to (a) people, (b) corporate
weavings, embroideries and ceramics      bodies, (c) places and (d) category, ie type of event described. Unfortunately, some of the
from 1968 - 1974. The show includes      original entries are so cryptic that it is impossible to glean much information from them.
work by Alan Davie and Patrick
                                         I usually find that 3-4 hours is the maximum that I can work productively at a stretch.
Caulfield and runs until Sunday 13

                                         Some of the handwriting can be
September. The photo here shows          really difficult to interpret, in which
staff in 70s fancy dress having fun      case progress is painfully slow, and           Employers provided outings,
at the launch party.                     some of the people who made the entries        dinner dances, football and
                                         had problems with spelling - interesting that
                                         this is not a purely modern phenomemon.        cricket teams...they must
                                         'Restureant', 'lunchan' and 'parashoot' are    have played an important
                                         typical, and then there is the mysterious 'Mr

                                         Mahada' who turned out to be Ian Mikardo.      role in people's social as
                                         Over eight months I have covered 1938-45, well as their working lives.
                                         which feels like slow progress, but it does
                                         amount to nearly 5000 records.
                                         Many of the entries are weddings, so not of much interest except where one encounters
                                         a well-known Reading name (eg Pottinger). I was however surprised to find how many
                                         unusual surnames there were even in pre-multi-ethnic Reading (unless, of course,
                                         I have completely misread some bad handwriting).
                                         In the period I have covered to far, the wartime section is bound to be of the most general
Hand to Eye                              interest, with mentions of air raid precautions, digging for victory, rationing, scrap iron
Thursday, 31 July 2003 –                 and milk bottle top collections and, of course, the entry 'Air Raid on Rdg Feb 10th 1943'
Sunday, 21 September 2003                which gets a whole batch to itself. The evacuees get considerable coverage, and seem
                                         to have used the Olympia Ballroom as a base. It is also possible to trace the war through
Hand to Eye can now be seen in the       various activities, including a model allotment at the Museum, 84-year-old man 'digging
Exhibitions gallery and provides a       for victory', Land Girls on Berkshire farms, Spitfire Fund collection, War Weapons Week,
                                         Warship Week, Russia Week and Wings for Victory Weeks, right through to Home Guard
fascinating insight into the processes
                                         stand down parade. I was surprised at just how many mentions there are of bomb
craft makers use to produce their        damage in the area, given the strict censorship then in operation and the fact that
work. They use different materials but   the People's Pantry raid is normally the only one we hear about.
are similarly preoccupied with hand
processes that give their finished       The other interesting aspect has been the picture of pre-war life in and around Reading.
objects their beauty and uniqueness.     As this was then the Berkshire Chronicle rather than the Reading Chronicle, it covers a
                                         much larger area, not all of it in Berkshire, roughly bounded by Henley, Maidenhead,
Makers featured include Alice Kettle,    Ascot, Camberley, Silchester, Bucklebury and Streatley. Maidenhead seems to have
who trained at Reading University and    been particularly active during the thirties - entries for 1938 include Health and Beauty,
creates textile wall hangings, Alison    Housewives' Exhibition, Chamber of Commerce and Rotary dinners, garden parties,
Crowther who uses a chainsaw to          a dog show and a visit by Gracie Fields.
develop unusual wooden seating           In Reading itself, the picture which emerges is of a market and manufacturing town
solutions, and Victoria Brown. Other     where most people work for local firms which play a very important role in their lives.
makers include Margaret O'Rorke,         Not only do Huntley & Palmers, Simonds and Suttons Seeds get frequent mentions
Joanna Still and Ruth Dresman who        for activities laid on for their staff, but there are also similar mentions for Heelas,
displays glass bowls decorated by        Wellsteeds, McIlroys, the Co-op, Milwards and Parslows and big employers like the
sandblasting.                            Great Western Railway, the Post Office, the Gas Works and the Police. As these
                                         employers provided outings, dinner dances, football and cricket teams and so on,
The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation           they must have played an important role in people's social as well as their working lives.
and the Arts Council England have
supported Hand to Eye.                   The University (always referred to as 'Varsity' up to the war) and the local grammar
                                         and independent schools feature a lot, what with speech days, school plays and
This exhibition continues the craft      various sporting activities. Sport was obviously very popular during the thirties, with
theme at the Museum of Reading           several local bowls clubs being founded, and tennis clubs and rowing regattas getting
this summer.                             frequent mentions. Empire Day and May Day were celebrated and some activities like
                                         baby shows, Sunday School outings, Temperance Fetes and Bathing Beauty competitions
                                         seem very much of the past to us today. Several of these events took place in the local
                                         cinemas: the Vaudeville, Rex, Odeon, Pavilion, Granby and Caversham Regal. There are
                                         also two entries referring to the last tram and the trams being broken up.
                                         It will be interesting to see, as the work progresses, whether things are different in post-
                                         war Reading, or whether it is only in the last twenty or thirty years that the major changes
                                         have taken place.

                                         Amanda Martin
Contact Us                                             Visit your local Museum and
Members of the Council
                                                       win a weekend break for two
                                                       Win a luxury weekend break for two by visiting your local Museums between
Ann Middleton
                                                       12 April - 28 September 2003. Fourteen Thames Valley Museums have joined
0118 950 5548                                          forces in a new initiative designed to encourage people to discover the wealth
Membership Secretary                                   of their local heritage this spring and summer. Full details can be found on
John Hendy                                             www.readingmuseum.org.uk or you can call 0118 939 9800.
jl.hendy@ntlworld.com                                  Museum visitors have the unique opportunity to enter a competition to win a
Vice Chair                                             luxury weekend break simply by visiting two or more participating Museums.
                                                       The lucky winner will enjoy a luxurious two-night stay including dinner, bed and
John Steeds                                            breakfast at The Swan Hotel, Streatley on Thames, a picturesque 17th century
0118 983 1070                                          inn offering spectacular views from the banks of the River Thames.
Treasurer                                              Full list of museums: 1) Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. (2) Museum of Reading
Tricia Wiles                                           (3) River & Rowing Museum, Henley on Thames. (4) Bucks County Museum,
0118 935 3391                                          Aylesbury. (5) The Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock. (6) The Chiltern Open Air
                                                       Museum, Chalfont St Giles. (7) Abingdon Museum. (8) Didcot Railway Centre.
Newsletter & website editor                            (9) Wycombe Museum. (10) Banbury Museum. (11) Museum of English Rural
Victoria Buckett                                       Life, Reading. (12) Cogges Manor Farm Museum, Witney. (13) West Berkshire
0118 967 2478                                          Museum. (14) Vale and Downland Museum, Wantage.

Working Party
                                                          Museum Lectures
Marian Fallowfield
0118 954 6899
                                                          Join us for a little lunchtime learning this Autumn, with a talk by
                                                          Professor Brian Kemp on the newly re-hung Abbey Paintings on
Museum Rep                                                14 September at 2pm (free, book in advance 0118 939 9800) and a
David Pearson                                             series of talks by museum staff on different topics the first Wednesday
0118 939 9800                                             of every month (10 Sep, 8 Oct, 5 Nov, 10 Dec). And don't miss An
                                                          Evening with Zandra Rhodes in the Concert Hall on 19 September -
                                                          tickets are available at the special £8 concessionary rate for Friends -
                                                          book your place on 0118 960 60 60.

New Membership & Renewal                                                      Name/s

of Membership Form 2003

I/We wish to become a member of the Friends of
Reading Museums at £10 per person, per year.*

Membership runs from 1 January – 31 December.                                 Postcode

Please complete this form and return it with a cheque
to the Membership Secretary.**                                                email

John Hendy
10 Field Road                                                                 Telephone
RG1 6AP                                                                       Registered Charity Number 284398

* concessions are available for those unemployed,
under 25 or retired at £5 per year. Life membership
                                                                                  Please tick this box if you do not want your address
is also available for £100.
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