How many miles of wire netting does it take to control the wild rabbits of Australia?

This is one of many questions I never thought I’d have the answer to, but just so you know it turns out it’s 7,500 miles of netting.

I discovered this fact quite by chance whilst researching the Boulton and Paul P10 aircraft wing, which is housed at the Norfolk Collections Centre.

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The P10 aircraft wing made by Boulton and Paul

As part of my traineeship I designed the pop-up banners (6 foot tall information posters which can be folded away when not in use) which we use at the Norfolk Collections Centre during tours. It was during my research of our ‘star objects’ that I stumbled upon this glorious tit-bit about the Norwich-based aircraft and general manufacturer Boulton and Paul Ltd, the constructors of the P10 aircraft.

Boulton and Paul did not just produce aircrafts during the 20th century, they also made miles and miles of wire netting and were known internationally for the quality and efficiency of their Norwich workshops. At the time when the P10 aircraft was created in 1919, the galvanized wire netting department could produce up to 400 miles of netting per week. Thus, the company was chosen as the supplier of netting to Australia in order to ease their, apparently substantial, rabbit problem.

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One of the Boulton and Paul Ltd wire netting workshops in Norwich c.1929

I am now almost 6 months into my traineeship at the Norfolk Collections Centre and I have discovered and experienced more than I ever thought possible, the rabbit netting anecdote being one of the more hilarious finds during my banner research. Creating the banners was a really rewarding experience. I produced and edited the text after considerable research on our ‘star objects’ and tracked down and chose the images to be included in the designs to complement the artefacts and put them into context. I worked closely with our designer and had the final say on layout.

Eventually, after much hard work and battles with high resolution images my vision was realised. We were able to showcase the banners on their maiden voyage for Heritage Open Day on 14th September 2014 when we opened the Norfolk Collections Centre for our timed tours. It was a real thrill to see the banners in all their 6 foot magnificence with the text and images I worked on sitting proudly beside their respective objects for visitors to enjoy.

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The final display! The Boulton and Paul P10 aircraft wing alongside its banner ready for Heritage Open Day

In the next 6 months I am certain I will be exploring many more aspects of collections management and discovering many more unusual facts along the way.

 

Sophie Towne

Collections Management Trainee

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Ancient House Museum, Thetford, and Fenland Lives & Land Project.

A very blustery hello to everyone – I feel like I’ve been travelling around all over the place these last few months being very excitedly busy!
Since my last blog I’ve spent most of my time delivering the informal learning programme of the Fen Museums Partnership Lives & Land Project out in the Fens, which covers parts of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, and Lincolnshire. However I’ve still found time to continue projects at Ancient House as well as some training workshops, so it’s been rather hectic but great fun.

First of all, the end of the school term before summer saw me in charge of the Ancient House History Club for a four week slot. I decided on the subject of King Henry II and the rebellion of his sons (which I enjoyed studying at University), and in which time Thetford Castle was destroyed – a great link! It was a challenge to be able to fit such a complex subject into four, hour and a quarter sessions, but it was really successful, with the kids enjoying a trip to the castle mound and re-enacting a possible argument between Henry II and Hugh Bigod – very amusing! The challenge really gave me a great sense of the work and consideration that needs to go into any museum club for it to be an accomplishment. As well as the great children that are so happily engaged in a range of subjects delivered by the staff at Ancient House, and keep coming back for more!

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The beginning of the school holidays also saw the final preparations of Ancient House’s Thetford and the Great War part one exhibition, part of the Thetford Remembers HLF funded town partnership, which opened on the 1st August. Because of the popularity of our Toys and Games exhibition, it has been extended until November, when the Thetford and the Great War part two exhibition will take over. That means this initial exhibition offers a great introduction to how the war affected people and the town, and be continued later in the year. A main section of this exhibition is the Victorian kitchen, which has been updated to a 1914 Wartime kitchen. A key part of this was the transformation of our resident mannequin Mr Newton, into his son Leonard Newton, both of which were members of a family that lived in Ancient House. Leonard went to war in 1914 and unfortunately was killed in action, and it is his story that we wished to tell within the kitchen setting. As part of this Emily, the Teaching Museums Curatorial Trainee, and I began working on an interactive unit inside a suitcase, as if belonging to Leonard, which visitors could rummage though its contents. The whole process was a learning journey, from the design and objectives of the suitcase and sourcing the handling objects, to the creation and display of the information boards inside. It really gave me an insight into how much time and thought goes into each display case and interactive unit within the museum, with every detail needing to be taken into consideration before the final product. Before the exhibition opening it was all go in the museum with everyone ensuring that all was prepared and ready, and the event went smoothly with great success! I am really proud of our suitcase and what we have managed to create in such a short time, and I really hope that it will be a good accompaniment to a fantastic exhibition exploring the effect of the Great War on Thetford and its people.

Emily and I with our suitcase of handling objects associated to Leonard’s life.

Emily and I with our suitcase of handling objects associated to Leonard’s life.

 Dressed for World War One House Alive event at Ancient House making seed bombs!

Dressed for World War One House Alive event at Ancient House making seed bombs!

For the Fenland Project, the informal learning programme goes alongside the five exhibitions that have been touring some of the museums that are in partnership. Together with Ruth, the project support worker, we have traveled to a variety of museums during the school holidays to deliver the programme, as part of a larger event or as an addition to the museum’s event calendar. Activities range from creating your own Viking brooch, hearing about ice skating championships and making mini-skates, to a community art project decorating Fenland bygone animals that will be animated into a film in September. A vast range indeed!

 Some examples of the brilliant pattern work done by children over the summer.

Some examples of the brilliant pattern work done by children over the summer.

This August bank holiday Ruth and I were at Denny Abbey Farmland Museum, to be part of a medieval weekend creating stained glass windows, alongside a cider stand, other children’s activities, and talented re-enactors. Although rather wet and cold on the Monday it was a brilliant day enjoyed by everyone – even those in soaked cagoules and wellies! The windows that the visitors made were fantastic and looked really colourful inside the Abbey where our activity was based. I’m sure many will have been stuck straight onto bedroom windows as soon as arrived home! Travelling to the varied museums such as Denny Abbey, Prickwillow Pumping Engine Museum, Chatteris Museum, and Ely Museum, has been a great insight into how such diverse and individual museums operate, as well as how a partnership can really bring these museums together and benefit all within it.

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6 stained glass and reenactors

One of the other activities this summer, Fenland food!

One of the other activities this summer, Fenland food!

Amazingly, along with all the goings on at Ancient House and the Lives & Land project, I’ve managed to fit in some training too. Along with other Museum of East Anglian Life and Gressenhall Skills For The Future trainees, I attended a special two day course on Understanding Museums, lead by Nicola Johnson and Bridget Yates. The two days were crammed full of extremely valuable information, from the history of museums, to museum ethics, all of which were interesting and highly useful. As well as a chance for me to meet other SFTF trainees I hadn’t managed to before, it was fantastic to really understand the ins and outs of museums, and how and why they do what they do today. Nicola and Bridget really know their stuff – I thank them sincerely!
In addition to this, I was fortunate enough to attend a Kids in Museums Family Fortunes workshop at the Jewish Museum in London. The day was full of inspiring speakers as well as group discussions and sharing ideas on how to make your museum more family friendly. I particularly liked the principle of ‘grossology’ at Chiltern Open Air Museum, and poo dissecting – finding out what people of the past ate by poking around in fake poo, great fun and I’ve kept the recipe! Everyone who attended really got involved and the sharing around the room was unbelievable, with so many ideas of things that museums do or could do to bring in more families and engage with children and adults. I highly recommend the workshop to all in the museums sector, whether in learning specifically or not, as it really emphasises the reason why museums exist.

I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings, but they unfortunately will possibly be my last on this blog as my traineeship finishes in early November – I’m sure it will come around very quickly! I really am relishing all the experiences and possibilities that this traineeship has given me since March, as well as the people I’ve met along the way. It has also reassured me that my heart lies in museums and the brilliant work they do, so I must continue to pursue this with great vigour and excitement!

Bye for now!

Tabitha Runacres – Heritage Learning Trainee

A Gardening Double Bill

This week we have two connected blogs for you about our wonderful Gressenhall Gardens:

The Farmhouse Garden

A main focus of our work at Gressenhall as Heritage Gardening Trainees, so far, is the Farmhouse Garden. Following on from Scott’s hard work last year and a very mild winter, a new approach has been taken as we are limited by how much labour is available from our wonderful volunteers.  The volunteers at Gressenhall do an amazing job of looking after the gardens. Not only do they keep the weeds down but they bring armfuls of plants to enhance and develop the gardens.

Last year under Scott’s care the Farmhouse Garden had been mainly laid to annual vegetables and fruit.  We quickly realised that we would not be able to continue to do this on a part time basis. So work began to try and create the feel of a working Farmhouse Garden, but aiming to keep down the amount of labour that was needed to maintain it. With this in mind we have converted one of the vegetable patches with a mixture of soft fruit and perennial vegetables. 

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 We have planted raspberry canes, gooseberries and currants alongside asparagus, cardoons, fennel, Jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb, French sorrel and chives. Some nasturtium and marigold seedlings, self sown from last year have appeared along the edge of the bed to provide some colour. Plants found around the garden have been replanted in larger groups to provide a bigger impact of colour through the year and to cover more ground giving less space to weeds. A big challenge has been to keep the weeds down on the path, but hopefully doing the PA1 and PA6 spraying certificate will end their reign.  A decision has been made to return to grass some areas in the garden – the area under the apple trees and a large bed in the centre.

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The garden has been improved immensely by the hard work of the landscape trainees who laid the hedges all the way round.  This has opened up the garden to more light but also made it quite a windy site.  This has meant that during a dry spring the plants have struggled with drying out after being moved. Luckily after a few downpours they have recovered and we have enjoyed seeing the garden in full flower during the summer.

Sam Kemp
Heritage Gardening Trainee

 

Guest Blog From Former Heritage Gardening Trainee, Kay Davis

When I was asked to help mentor the new Skills for the Future Trainees I leapt at the opportunity. I hoped I would be able to pass on some of the enthusiasm and knowledge I gained when I first started my training several years ago.

The two trainees Sam and Sonny were and still are keen to gain as much information as possible. We set up a few tasks and soon had a diary list for them. So far we have achieved a small survey and re-design of part of the farmhouse garden. This is on going and both Sam and Sonny have made great progress. Sonny created a bug/fernery in the wildlife garden and already more insects have been spotted. Sam has been busy propagating, dividing and splitting plants from different areas of the site and re-using them where needed. They have also identified and listed existing plants from the different gardens.

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Sonny and Sam are also undertaking the RHS level 2 Certificate in Horticulture. It is challenging in different ways for both of them and is definitely keeping me on my toes; I’ve never done so much revision!

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I hope everyone can see the changes and is enjoying having Sonny and Sam on site. I know I am enjoying being a mentor at Gressenhall.

Kay