This week I have mostly been playing with toys. Finalising the layouts on our toy section has been a lot of fun! It has also really inspired lots of our visitors who have encountered us in the galleries this week and who have shared stories of their favourite toys and asked lots of questions about what is on display. One of the toys have been busy constructing is called Bayko. This is an English building model construction toy that was invented by Charles Plimpton, an early plastics engineer and entrepreneur in Liverpool. First marketed in Britain it was soon exported throughout the British Commonwealth and became a worldwide brand between 1934 and 1967. The name derived from Bakelite, one of the world’s first commercial plastics that was originally used to manufacture many of the parts. Bayko was one of the world’s earliest plastic toys to be marketed.
Our Bayko sets were donated to the museum in 2015. They had been used and played with by 6 children during the 1950s. Each Christmas they were given another set which enabled them to build bigger and better models. One of the now grown-up children recently re-found the sets and enjoyed playing with them during his treatment for cancer. It has been a challenge to get to grips with this unusual construction toy that uses steel rods and interconnecting bricks to create realistic looking architectural models. Pop along to the curatorial office if you fancy a go yourself.
Lauren has been working hard on our school themed cabinets which are now looking fantastic. They include the COMMIT NO NUISANCE sign which was such a favourite of our visitors in the school room, but which was suffering from being on open display. It is good to see it back out where visitors can see it, but where it is protected inside a case.
Our volunteers are continuing to clean objects as we get them out of store and make sure they look wonderful before we put them in the gallery.
Apart from playing around we have also now installed the majority of the large vinyls in the Collections Gallery. Over 80% of the objects are installed and next week we are looking forward moving plan chests and large objects back into the gallery.
Work has slowed down a little bit. Two reasons – we are now working with the gallery open and we are down to just two of us.
Nevertheless we have made really good progress this week. We are trying to balance our Collections Gallery work with our day jobs which means we are spending about half the week actually in the gallery.
This week we managed to make progress with the colours theme – which is now looking fuller and has a beautiful vinyl panel. A young visitor at the weekend enjoyed standing in front of the case and singing the rainbow song whilst pointing to all the colours in the case – so we know that this new type of theme is really working and helping our visitors to engage with the collections in new ways.
We also added vinyls to the models section which now works really well – telling the story of several of the models in the cases, including a Norfolk County Council library van which was given as a retirement gift to Wendy Ward who had driven a similar van in the 1950s.
We’ve also added the animals vinyl and we are working through the cases making lists of extra objects where needed and new mounts and conservation work required. it is slow work – but needed to make sure the cases and objects look as good as possible. We’ll get there in the end even if it feels pretty arduous in all this heat at the moment. In the meantime every time you go into the gallery you should see something new to explore.
Phew – what an interesting week (and I am not talking about politics!!)
Exciting times here at Gressenhall as we welcomed Sinfonia Viva, a giant purple stage and lots of school children and a community choir to perform “Together to the Workhouse Door” on Wednesday evening and during Thursday. Although at times it seemed as if the stage was going to take flight we managed to find ballast for it and the weather stayed, mainly, fine. The project has been a new adventure for Gressenhall and one which has been very well received. It has been exciting to explore new ways to work as a museum.
The clock is back. Having been silenced for the last few months whilst work went on to place a protective case around it the clock is now back up and running. It even made an atmospheric appearance in Thursday’s performance ringing twelve o-clock dolefully as the young boy was sent to the dungeon. With the assistance of Barry, site technician. and our clock specialist Colin Walton we look forward to many more years of timekeeping.
The first results from the sterling work of our wonderful research volunteers are online. They have been cataloguing volumes of correspondence between the workhouse and the Poor Law Board in London ready for publication on the web. The first volume has now been completed and is ready for the public to view free of charge. Check out a workhouse inspection report here:
Work in the Collections Gallery is continuing with more objects put in this week. We are working towards getting as much finished by the Summer Holidays as possible.