<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
12 ISSUES FOR £24 Subscribe to Derbyshire Life today click here

Derby Museums: The art of collecting

PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 February 2017

Derby porcelain dish, painted by John Brewer showing the hunting of Polar Bear in the Arctic, c.1800 Photo: Derby Museums

Derby porcelain dish, painted by John Brewer showing the hunting of Polar Bear in the Arctic, c.1800 Photo: Derby Museums

derby museums

Jonathan Wallis, Head of Museums at Derby Museums, explores the art of collecting

The inscription on the 19th century eight section telescope made by David of Derby Photo: Derby Museums The inscription on the 19th century eight section telescope made by David of Derby Photo: Derby Museums

Many of us have over the years formed our own collections. These personal collections can be diverse and very individual. Many people will collect stamps, coins, porcelain, autographs or memorabilia of various types, but individual collectors can put their own spin on the collection. This is where we see the very specialist collections of stamps with sheep on, matchboxes depicting ships, Derby porcelain decorated by a particular painter or any combination of things that you can think of. Many of us who work in museums start from the background of personal collecting. I used to collect all sorts of things from business cards and postcards to stamps and coins.

As collectors we also have our own different thoughts on how we record the background information about the objects that we collect. For some of us it is this information that makes it important. Who made something, used it or where precisely it came from might be reasons why something is important to us.

For those of us who work in museums and the heritage sector we have the responsibility to care for and develop collections for institutions that will hopefully outlive us. These are collections that meet the needs of that museum and the communities that it serves. For some this is easy: I’m thinking of some of the more specialist museums that have quite a restricted area of collecting. In my spare time I am one of the board members of the Charles Dickens Museum in London, based in the house that is the last remaining London home of the great novelist. The collections development policy of this organisation is relatively narrow, as they collect items that relate to the life and works of one of Britain’s most famous authors. There are of course still some grey areas that relate to modern adaptations of his work or the production of collectables relating to the stories or characters in the novels. Should the museum collect Mr Pickwick teapots made in the 1930s for example?

Museums like Derby Museum and Art Gallery, The Silk Mill and Pickford’s House have an added layer of complexity when the purpose of the museum is varied and has changed in the 140 or so years that the museum has existed. When the museum opened it was about broadening the minds of Derby’s working people. This had the benefit of keeping them out of trouble in their new leisure time and of making them more useful in work as they became more educated. This meant that the museum collected things from all over the world, including clubs from the Pacific Islands, pots from South America, flint tools from Africa, Dutch landscape paintings, Greek pots and almost anything that you can mention! Many of these items had the added benefit of showing the people of Derby the supremacy of the British Empire and how civilised Victorian society was when compared to other parts of the world.

Silver brandy pan formerly belonging to Sir Richard Arkwright, made by Henry Chawner in 1787 Photo: derby Museums Silver brandy pan formerly belonging to Sir Richard Arkwright, made by Henry Chawner in 1787 Photo: derby Museums

Over the years the Derby Museums’ collecting policy has changed depending on the interests and whims of various curators and councillors, government policy and the national curriculum as well as the public’s desire to preserve the memory of the place where they live as it rapidly changes.

Today museums are again at a point where they need to consider their purpose and look at their current collections to see what they should collect. For Derby this means a reassessment of who is the audience and who composes the community that the museum serves. Derby’s population has changed since the museum opened in 1879 and if the museum collections are to be representative of these changes the museum needs to consider the stories held in the objects that are currently in the museum and about what is collected in the future.

As some of those objects and their stories are exposed I see a number of differing threads that make up Derby’s story. As a simple list it would look like this:

Diversity, since the earliest times, Derby’s communities and industries have benefited from an influx of people from other places who have come to live here and have often come to call Derby their home.

19th century eight section telescope made by David of Derby Photo: Derby Museums 19th century eight section telescope made by David of Derby Photo: Derby Museums

Curiosity, the people of Derby (like people from many other places) have been curious about the world in which they have lived. This has resulted in lots of interesting studies and subsequent discoveries.

Creativity, using what they have discovered and learned from those people who have come to work here. Derby people (many of them recently arrived themselves) have invented, created and manufactured new things, some of which have changed the world.

I for one am unsure that we are telling this story. The Silk Mill, as Derby’s Museum of Making that is currently being created, will go some way towards beginning to tell this story. That project is being developed with Derby people, and they often know more than museum staff and other ‘experts’ do. Co-producing displays is relatively new and has been pioneered at Derby Museums. I look forward to developing what we have learned on projects like The Silk Mill redevelopment and the ‘notice nature feel joy’ gallery project in working with people to understand Derby’s stories, and developing the way we unlock the stories behind Derby’s civic collections.

You can be part of The Silk Mill project now. Go to www.derbymuseums.org/locations/silk-mill to find out how. Look out for details of how Derby Museums will further work with Derby’s communities to develop the collection to be representative of everyone.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Derbyshire Life and Countryside visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Derbyshire Life and Countryside staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Derbyshire Life and Countryside account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Peter Naldrett delves deep into the Peak District and discovers how an ill-judged 18th century business investment turned out fine in the end

Read more

The approach of summer means more traffic on the Peak’s roads, Nik Cook makes a heartfelt plea for greater consideration – from both cyclists and motorists

Read more

On a day out in South Derbyshire Mike Smith finds out the story behind intriguing Calke Abbey and its former estate village of Ticknall

Read more

Derbyshire Walk - Lea and Dethick

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A festival of wild flowers and the delight of far-reaching views are highlights of this walk led by Sally Mosley

Read more

Stunning displays and creativity are high on the list for the new RHS Chatsworth Flower Show, 7th-11th June 2017

Read more

Surely even mottephobics can’t fail to be converted by Paul Hobson’s fantastic photographs of our elegant and secretive flying friends

Read more

Recently the emphasis has been on the benefits of sport, whatever our age. Geoff Ford visits a local club that offers a welcome to all...

Read more

As worries about the effects of rising river levels come to the fore, Geoff Ford finds out about Derby’s new flood defence system

Read more

Because the Peak District is familiar to millions of visitors, it might be thought to contain few secrets, but this is far from true. 14 years of writing for Derbyshire Life has shown Mike Smith that the district contains many surprises, some of which are to be found well away from normal tourist routes. Here’s a selection from his recently-published book, Secret Peak District

Read more

Bakewell and Chatsworth House attract thousands of visitors to the Peak District every year. You can enhance your trip by taking a walk in the beautiful countryside that surrounds these two iconic locations.

Read more
Bakewell Chatsworth Peak District

Derbyshire Life finds the charming village of Sudbury a perfect combination of historic interest and modern-day living

Read more

Photographer Graham Dunn takes us on a local travelogue

Read more

Ashley Franklin finds the ‘Capital of the Peak’ not just a perfect ‘foodie haven’ but also a great place to spend a day

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Local Business Directory

Derbyshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area




Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search