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.


Colin emptying the skulls case

Deer Skull

Technician Colin, removing an owl from its display case for freezing.

Emptying the cases

North Herts Museum staff have been busy down at Standalone Farm. If you haven’t already seen, there is a barn at the farm with some interesting nature displays, giving visitors a chance to get a close look at some creatures they may not normally see. These include some North Herts Museum cases with large creepy crawlies and an impressive seascape diorama with a huge variety of bird specimens. There is also a working beehive with live bees who you can watch as they work away busily. So its well worth popping in when you are next at the farm.

Anyway, a potential pest problem was spotted by staff at the farm so our team rushed in to take a look and save the museum specimens. Pests such as woodworm and carpet beetle can damage natural history specimens and their settings by eating through them. Natural Historian Volunteer Bob, Technician Colin and Assistant Curator Suzie worked on the cases and managed to dismantle the two where the problem had been spotted and safely pack all the specimens.

These have now been taken for safe keeping at the Burymead Resource Centre where they will be frozen. Freezing the mounted specimens wont harm them at all but it will destroy any pests and their larvae. Specialist pest staff at Standalone will treat the cases to make sure the specimens will be safe from further damage. Once done, they can all be returned back to their nice, clean display cases.

We’re part of the Hertfordshire Association of Museums and yesterday, several members met up in London for a study trip to the Museum of London. Our former regional conservator, Libby Finney invited the group to her new workplace to come and have a look behind the scenes.

We met at Mortimer Wheeler House, which is where the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC) and the Social History stores are based. Here we were shown around the stores by Jim Gledhill, Curator of Social and Working History. Some of the objects spotted in the store included this typesetting machine and other items relating to the ‘hot metal’ process of newspaper printing in London, this Ford Cortina Mark 1 and a boxed Star Wars Millennium Falcon.

Next we caught the bus to Moorgate and made our way to the main Museum of London building on London Wall. After a spot of lunch, we met in the entrance, and were taken into the depths of the museum by Libby to the Costume Store. Here we were met by Beatrice Behlen, Senior Curator of Fashion and Decorative Arts. Beatrice showed us around the costume store, and explained the variety of ways the museum has improved the storage of its costume collections over the years. There are images of the shoe collection storage here.

After all our behind the scenes tours, and the chance to ask questions and pick up ideas for our own museums, there was the opportunity to have a look around the museum itself, and for me this was a chance to have a look at different sorts of displays, and also watch visitors and their reactions to the displays.

There was an interesting exhibition that had been put together by the Museum’s Youth panel, and reinterprets what the Romans left behind. There were cases of objects set apart but next to the Roman displays, but there were also elements that were integrated with the existing displays.

samian bowl and iphone

comparative display

Modern objects were placed next to Roman objects to compare similarities or differences. So a Samian bowl and the iPhone were used to look at ‘Must-have imports’ in Roman times and now.





glass bottle and image of The Shard

The Roman glass maker’s workshop

In the main Roman displays, modern objects had been placed in the middle of the Roman objects, and small green labels asked questions to make you think about how some things change through time, and how some things are similar.

I saw lots of other good ideas in the displays:

shoe display

Shoes displayed in a case in the floor


walls covered in reproductions of adverts and bills from the period.

Flints that could be handled, placed in front of a video of someone demonstrating flint knapping

Flints that could be handled, placed in front of a video of someone demonstrating flint knapping

evacuee cases

evacuees cases piled up to make display cases

A telephone kiosk used as a display case

A telephone kiosk used as a display case

A timeline of significant events along a wall and along the rail below

A timeline of significant events along a wall and along the rail below

17th century room set

17th century Room Set

What do you think of these ideas? Perhaps you have been to other museums and saw something you particularly liked. As we think about our new museum, we want to gather as many good ideas as we can!

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