Museum Redevelopment

I have been working in the new museum recently and it is looking fantastic – and it will get even better when the objects for display start appearing in the cases!

Some of these will be recognised from previous displays in Hitchin Museum and Letchworth Museum and others will be on view for the first time.

There will also be many objects in store but we can look forward to seeing some of these in special exhibitions and displays.

From time to time I reflect on some of the items I have worked with(cleaning/photographing/packing) and which I hope to see amongst the wonderful displays we will be treated to!

shepherds smock

This smock was worn by a shepherd in Wallington (Hertfordshire) and each side (front and back) is the same.

Smocks were worn as protective outer garments and were made from rectangles and squares of fabric. Some of these pieces were smocked to give the garment its shape but the smocking was also decorative.

I can imagine the shepherd out in the fields, wearing this comfortable smock, which as well as covering his clothes also hopefully gave him some protection from the elements.


The Heritage event at Hitchin Library

Heritage event at Hitchin Library

Letchworth Festival - rainy but busy!

Letchworth Festival – a rainy but busy day!

Hitchin Festival - in Church House

Part of our Hitchin Festival  stall in Church House

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.

Wonderful news – we have heard that the Council has been successful in its Stage 2 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid towards the new North Herts Museum. We will receive a grant of £914,400 from the HLF, to fund the fit-out of the new museum, ensuring that it tells the story of the District through bright modern displays.

View of the entrance to the new North Herts. Museum

View of the entrance to the new North Herts. Museum

Downstairs there will be an introductory gallery telling the history of the District in a chronological manner, from prehistory to the 21st century. There will also be an air-conditioned temporary exhibition gallery on the ground floor, where we will be able to display high-quality works borrowed from other museums. The galleries upstairs will be themed, looking at how we have lived and worked in North Hertfordshire over the years. Some favourite items from the old museums will be re-displayed, as well as many pieces we have never before been able to display. Thanks to the HLF, the new museum will have state-of-the-art display cases and lighting. Some of the grant will go towards materials to help the cleaning and packing of the hundreds of museum objects that the team – of staff, interns and volunteers – is currently processing, and there is also funding for a part-time Audience Development post for the first year of operation. This is excellent news, and we are extremely grateful to the HLF for all their support.

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