The Platinum Jubilee: a royal display
1 June to 31 July 2022
To celebrate 70 years of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, we are presenting a display of royal memorabilia, including paintings by Hitchin banner maker Herbert Sharpe of the Queen and Prince Philip commissioned for her coronation, photographs of royal visits to the area and other royal memorabilia.
Paddington™ comes to town!
19 March to 26 June 2022
The brilliant touring exhibition from the British Library, Paddington: The Story of a Bear, came to North Herts Museum. His trail of marmalade splats took visitors to explore his tales of adventures in this educational and fun exhibition.
Celebrate one of the world’s most beloved fictional characters over 60 years on from when he was first introduced in 1958. Featuring over 50 books, documents and original artworks, highlights include the first edition of A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond given to his parents, a selection of memorabilia owned by Michael Bond – including Bond’s typewriter used in the 1960s – and original illustrations of Paddington stories by artists including Peggy Fortnum, David McKee and R.W. Alley.
22 February – 20 March 2022 North Hertfordshire Museum
hosted this exhibition showcasing the work of three local artists. The displayed works by Sharon Freedman, Mary MacSweeney and Gill Kendall cover a range of media: watercolours, textiles and oils and many of the pieces are available for purchase. The exhibition was in The Arches, part of the Terrace Gallery.
15 January – 27 February 2022
The Hertfordshire Heritage Fund was launched in 1988 in response to grave concerns that historic treasures and artworks were leaving the county, and often the country. The aim of the Fund is to help museums and archives to purchase items for public museums and archives, for us all to enjoy. Over the years the Fund has helped many of the county’s museums buy hundreds of examples of art, archaeology and history, giving out over £86,000 in grants. In 2021, help from the Fund allowed North Hertfordshire Museum to acquire its latest work by the ‘Camden Town’ painter William Ratcliffe; The Red Curtain, an oil painting from 1916. The exhibition at North Herts Museum will display over 60 different objects and paintings, from museums right across the county. The oldest pieces on show are implements from a Bronze Age hoard lent by Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service; the most recent include two items from 1968; a small 3-dimensional painting by Richard Smith, entitled M3, from the collections of North Herts Museum, and a textile by master weaver Percy Sheldrick, lent by Ashwell Village Museum, and Edmund Miller’s evocative 1987 painting of the lost heritage of De Havilland. From Bushey to Dacorum, from Hertford to Royston, St Albans to Stevenage, Ware to Watford to Welwyn; there will be a wonderful array of loaned items to enjoy. The Hertfordshire Heritage Fund is run by a tiny number of highly committed volunteers, under the leadership of Miss Dorothy Abel Smith MBE. They have around 50 supporters and would welcome more.
A Commute through Time: History in the Station Underpass
11 January – 20 February 2022
Rail commuters will be familiar with the photo mural panels from Hitchin Railway Station’s underpass. In early 2021 staff at North Hertfordshire Museum were contacted by Groundwork East who were looking to decorate the underpass at the station. We decided that our large photograph collection was a perfect collection to use in the space. Working with Groundwork East and Govia Thameslink Railway we refined our plans to create the final station display. At the station you can see the panels on the themes of:
and town maps from the 1750s, 1818 and 1930. This exhibition brought seven of these panels out of the underpass and into our museum for a far less hurried look. Themed panels on display in this exhibition were:
My Covid Portraits by Nathalie Titterton
Nathalie says: ‘2018, I had just turned 52, the Summer was coming to an end, and then and there I decided to give myself a challenge: to draw a portrait a week for a year, 52 portraits in total of friends and family. Never done a portrait in my life, let alone 52. To draw a portrait is no mean feat. The one year project turned into a 2 year project, having achieved only about a dozen portraits at the end of 2019. Then March 2020 hit us all… So my little project that started as a simple drawing challenge suddenly took on another dimension. First of all it helped me to keep focused and sane, and most of all it gave me some sort of connection, during the pandemic, to my friends and family. So here they are, all 52 portraits. I hope you like them as much as I enjoyed making them.’
This exhibition was in The Arches.
Nature in Focus: photographs of wildlife and landscapes of North Herts by Brian Sawford
18 September 2021 – 2 January 2022
Brian Sawford (1940-2020) worked for North Hertfordshire Museums from the 1960s until his retirement in 2005, during which time he took countless photographs of the varied landscapes and wildlife of the district. He was a talented photographer and well-known naturalist, serving in various roles for the Letchworth Naturalists for many years. He spent much of his long career as Senior Keeper of Natural History at the former Letchworth Museum. Brian contributed much to the natural history of Hertfordshire through his talks, guided walks and publications. These included The Butterflies of Hertfordshire, Wildflower Habitats of Hertfordshire and Wildlife of the Letchworth Area, all illustrated with his own photographs. He sadly passed away in 2020 and this exhibition has been put together by the museum together with his widow Terri and the Letchworth Naturalists in his memory. It shows many of the rare and beautiful wildflowers and endangered birds we have on our doorstep and reminds us of the rich biodiversity of the district.
The Woman Inside: paintings by Katie Wilson
Katie is a well-known local trans woman, who has organised a Pride Picnic on Windmill Hill and coffee afternoons. She has long suffered from anxiety and as part of her therapy, she has taken to creative writing and painting. She has published a number of books of poetry and lyrics exploring issues around her identity as a trans woman. The paintings deal with darker issues of depression and she is keen for people to discuss mental health openly and candidly.
The exhibition looks at both mental health and trans identity. It straddles Transgender Awareness Week (13 to 19 November) and Transgender Day of Remembrance on 20 November. The Awareness Week draws attention to the disproportionate discrimination and violence faced by transgender people and the Day commemorates those who have lost their lives as a result of violence.
If you have been affected by any of the issues this exhibition raises, help is at hand!
For information about trans identity, call The Beaumont Society, telephone 01582 412220
For information about mental health, call Mind UK, telephone 0300 123 3393
For help with domestic violence, call Refuge, telephone 0808 2000 247
This exhibition was in The Arches.
5 to 31 October 2021
Although Black people have been living in North Herts for centuries – there is evidence for Africans living in Roman Baldock – we too often think of immigration as a recent phenomenon. Most famously, the shortage of workers after the Second World War led to recruiting people from Caribbean islands that were then part of the British Empire.
Those who crossed the Atlantic in the 1950s and 60s found themselves in a foreign and hostile land. They often worked in the dirtiest and most poorly paid jobs, found it hard to rent homes and had to face prejudice and discrimination. Many local factories, especially in Letchworth Garden City, employed large numbers of settlers.
In 2007, Hitchin Museum collaborated with Eric Blakely and Gurdev Delay in putting together an exhibition and book, North Herts African Caribbean Roots, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Using a mixture of archive photographs – some of which form the present exhibition – personal recollections and poetry, the book is on sale in the museum shop.
We have very little information about the people in the photographs. If you are in any of them, or know someone who is, please tell us!
This exhibition was in The Arches, part of the upstairs Terrace Gallery.
7 September to 3 October 2021
Doorstep Discoveries took place between October 2020 and March 2021 and spanned two national lockdowns.
The project, led by Open Art Box CIC artists Anji Archer and Christina Armstrong, brought North Hertfordshire Museum’s collection of artefacts directly to the homes of people living with early-stage dementia and their carers from across North Hertfordshire at a time when the museum was forced to close to visitors, due to Covid restrictions.
Each week participants received a hand delivered art box inspired by a different artefact and over the sixteen weeks, created an amazing collection of artwork in response to a wide range of fascinating artefacts including Neolithic pottery, 18th century fashion, 19th century watercolour painting, First World War painting, 20th century suffragette items, football memorabilia and many more!
The activities encouraged participants to explore the artefacts through their own personal, creative responses and invite them to reflect on how these objects linked to their own stories.
This exhibition documented the project in the form of a display of artwork and participant recollections, a film produced at the time of the project and photos taken at their doorsteps.
The exhibition was in The Arches, part of the upstairs Terrace Gallery.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea
7 July to 4 September 2021
An exhibition that explored the life and celebrated the work of one of Britain’s best known author–illustrators for children, Judith Kerr. It focused on the much-loved classic The Tiger Who Came to Tea and was created by Seven Stories – the National Centre for Children’s Books. It features high quality copies of Judith Kerr’s original illustrations from the Seven Stories collection and brought this delightful book to life for a new generation of family audiences. Judith Kerr’s first picture book began as a bedtime story for her own children and was first published in 1968. It soon became a classic and by the time it celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2008, it had been translated into 11 languages and sold over five million copies.
A play version of Sophie’s kitchen featuring a friendly 5-foot tiger offered children the opportunity to experience the story firsthand. Tiger themed craft activities, a reading corner and story sessions ran over the summer holidays, and there were special Tiger who Came to Tea themed afternoon teas, with stripy cakes and sandwiches.
The exhibition detailed Judith’s childhood and her experiences of having to escape Germany as Hitler came to power, how it felt to be a refugee in Switzerland, then France before finally settling in London in 1936.
Some Observations ‘About Now’ by Adrian Marden
29 June to 5 September 2021
The show celebrates the forms and detailing of everyday artefacts. However, each object is selected because it has a story to tell and it is the combination of the contemporary images and their, often unexpected, tales that make up this display.
When working in the design industry I became aware of the high levels of thought and ingenuity that go into even the simplest object. The work highlights commonplace artifacts, cataloguing what Jasper Johns called ‘things looked at but rarely seen’. Some of the accompanying texts may be amusing, some illuminating and others concerning but all offer key statistics and salient comments on many questions about contemporary living.
The prints are made using a digital drawing package which is part of the Pages software on a Mac laptop. Each image is constructed by observing and recording the subject and, at first sight, the work may appear photographic. However on closer inspection it can be seen that each rendering is created from a multiplicity of drawn shapes that are carefully coloured and positioned to give the illusion of a 3D form.
Frozen in Time: early photographs of North Herts
3 December 2020 to 27 June 2021
The Museum Service has an extensive collection of historic photographs covering all North Hertfordshire, which was home to some pioneering photographers. We chose a sample to give visitors a taste of local life more than a hundred years ago. See if you can spot familiar places and work out how much has changed as well as what has remained from Victorian and Edwardian times.
You can view the photographs that were on display here.
Various Guest Appearances: paintings by Beccy Cannon
13 October 2020 to 27 June 2021
Beccy creates a colourful world of characters who come to life on their canvases. They form themselves often just from one line, a dollop of colour and whatever emotion is fizzing through her thoughts at the time. She likes to play around with the creative process, closing her eyes, dipping fingers in the paint and seeing who emerges. There’s often an evocative face staring back from the canvas, asking for further evolution.
‘If you are looking for something truly original, sometimes wacky, often thought-provoking and always colourful, then Beccy’s artwork is for you. It will bring you joy for years to come.’ Jennie Bond
This exhibition was in The Arches, part of the Terrace Gallery.
In Our Time: triptych and other artworks by Sylvia Molloy (1914-2008)
22 August – 1 November 2020
Sylvia Molloy was an adventurous and well-known artist from England, who married in Burma (now Myanmar), escaped the Japanese invasion to live in South Africa before returning to England. After graduating from Durham with a degree in Art and English, she began teaching in St Asaph and met her husband-to-be in Cambridge. She joined him in Burma, where he was an Assistant District Officer, whose job took the newlyweds through the Shan States. Sylvia made sketches and paintings of local people. When the Japanese invaded in 1942, she left for India on the last RAF flight from the country and her husband joined her after an arduous trek. Their first son was born during the year they spent in India and their second when they came to the UK. After the war, they returned to newly-independent Burma only to flee again when terrorists assassinated the entire cabinet. Catching a ship to Durban they settled in Johannesburg, where they remained for sixteen years. Disgusted with Apartheid, the couple left South Africa and came to Letchworth Garden City in 1963. She exhibited at The Royal Academy, the Paris Salon, the Royal Australian Society of Arts as well as other galleries.
Gilli Austin – Escape to…
25 August – 11 October 2020 in The Arches
Acrylic painting has become a lifetime’s passion for Gilli. This is her fifth solo show and the first since 2005. She has exhibited at the former museum in 2003 and returns to this new museum with an eclectic mix of highly detailed and expressive abstract and realism acrylics.
She has been exploring and observing what the word “escape” really means. Whether it be the companionship of loved ones, meditation or a walk in long grass! Escapism is good for the soul, mindfulness, emotions and for physical well-being. Something we mustn’t take for granted in these testing times.
Four of the paintings on display today were created during lockdown.
Gilli is currently an active member of the Hitchin Art Hub, which showcases local artists in pop up art exhibitions, art market and charity fundraisers for the Hitchin community.
Rembrandt in Print
18 January – 2 August 2020
To launch Hertfordshire’s Year of Culture, we hosted an exhibition from the Ashmolean Museum of prints by Rembrandt van Rĳn, one of the greatest artists of all time. It consists of prints from their world-class collection of prints made by the artist, spanning much of his career from Leiden in the early 1630s to those made in Amsterdam in the 1650s. Many of the prints were given to the University of Oxford in 1855 by the collector Chambers Hall.
Born in Leiden in The Netherlands in 1606, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam about 1631, where he became the greatest Dutch artist of all time. His popularity derives from his exceptional observational skills. The works include not only revealing self-portraits but also sensitive landscapes and tender religious subjects shown as everyday scenes.