The museum now has its name looking very smart on the stone slab at the front of the new glass entrance. The Gill Sans lettering is nice and large, so no-one should miss us. Inside, things are moving on. Alan and Ian from Armour Systems have been working really hard installing our amazing new showcases, each one purpose-made for the objects we’ll display. Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund for grant-aiding the museum fit-out. The showcases in the first floor gallery are almost complete, and the Terrace Gallery is getting there.
Yesterday a team from Conservation by Design moved in and set up a processing area in the temporary exhibition gallery, where they are photographing and measuring every object. This is to ensure that the mounts on which items will be displayed will fit each object exactly. Mounts to hold the lighter objects will be perspex, those for heavier items will be made of steel.
We also now have a new art store, ready for paintings from both museums. Kate, Gill and Brenda have almost finished carefully wrapping and labelling the pictures, which will be moved shortly
On the ground floor, our new technician Mark Hazelgrove has sorted out the workshop, and is now putting up racking for the stores.
The curators are busy checking and proof-reading the labels, re-checking, re-proofing, re-writing, finding illustrations and graphics at short notice. A huge amount of unseen work has gone into the labels for this museum, and I’ll give it a separate blog post. Finally, we welcome Sarah Burrows back to Hitchin Museum, to work with Sharon. Sarah is covering Lisa Ferridge’s secondment to the NHDC Finance Dept.
Our new Heritage Lottery Fund officer, Deborah Milligan, came over to Hitchin yesterday to see the new museum. She was amazed by the size of the whole site, and really impressed by the Mather & Co. designs for the museum. She also praised the way that the architects Buttress have blended the old and the new buildings together. It is thanks to the generous HLF grant that the museum has been able to afford top-of-the-range showcases, and we’re really grateful. Alan and Ian from Armour Systems have almost finished installing the showcases in the main first floor gallery, and once the external cladding is fitted, we’ll be able to start moving objects over from the old museums. Many of the pieces on display require purpose-made mounts, so these will be produced next; the mount-maker Roy Mandeville is coming over for the first time this Thursday. Meanwhile all our hundreds of carefully-written labels – each one no more than 30 well-chosen words – have been sent to local societies for fact-checking, then sent to the the graphic designer, back to us for proof-reading or occasional re-writing, back to James the designer, back to us for re-proofing, and at last are ready for production.
This summer we have taken the pop-up museum panels on the road to various events in Letchworth and Hitchin. Our reception has been overwhelmingly positive; the main question is always ‘When can we come and see the new museum?’. We spoke to around 200 people, and although some are still sad about losing the old museums, everyone said that they understood the reasons for change, and told us that in fact they are now looking forward to having a bright and modern new museum to visit. Parents were keen to hear about the new Learning Centre, which will be ideal for holiday and after-school activities, and family historians were interested to hear about the Local Studies Centre. Everyone was happy that there will be easy access, with a lift to all floors, lots of loos (it’s amazing to remember that Hitchin Museum didn’t even have one public WC) and a café. The fact that we are telling the stories of the District through objects which have been hidden in store for years adds to the sense of anticipation. The newest pop-up panel, showing images from some of next year’s exhibitions, caused the most interest, particularly next Spring’s Arts Council Matisse exhibition; next summer’s sci-fi extravaganza, ‘Invasion’, and next winter’s show of Nick Sharratt children’s illustrations. Nick is best known for illustrating the Jacqueline Wilson books, as well as many of his own. We hope to open the new museum at the same time as the beautifully restored Hitchin Town Hall; watch this space for updates.
Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and to SHARE Museums East for funding all the pop-up panels, and the matching free flyers.