Exploring Wonderland

This week has made me feel a bit like Alice when she first discovers Wonderland. I’ve explored a house with shrinking doors, spent hours with giant flowers and been through many store rooms that feel as if I’ve stepped into a different world because I found myself surrounded by litres of fluid or in a giant cave of birds. I was able to hold a narwhal tusk as well as study the insides of a dog fish.

Bolton Museum certainly has a wide range of attractions for their visitors, most of which are not on display. There are hundreds of thousands of items in the between the stores. So many, in fact, that they cannot all fit into the one central building. There is another location, Chadwick, which houses the stores for geology, local history, fluid specimens, Egyptology, textile, fossil, and art. The central location, which is the same building as the museum, houses botany, entomology, osteo-archaeological specimens, zoology, and more art stores. As exhibits rotate, the objects on display will rotate as well, allowing those in the stores to be seen and have their time in the spotlight.

Just because all of the collections are not on display does not mean that they are not being used. Quite often there are PhD students and researchers accessing the collections to further their own research. The museum and library works with the public and people from around the world, allowing them to do many things such as study artifacts that are pertinent to their field of study or research their family history and records. And for those who cannot make it to the museum itself, there is an online view of the collections. Everyone that has spoken to me has shown a deep passion, not just for their job, but for helping others reach their goals and learn new things. The Bolton Museum and Library really places a heavy focus on supporting one another as well as the public. It truly is an excellent example of the phrase ‘by raising others, you raise yourself.’

So, beyond wandering about in awe as things became curiouser and curiouser, what have I been up to this first week? As mentioned in the previous post, I have been assisting the crew with the Manchester Attack Victim’s Memorial Exhibit. We ended up changing the bee heart and I like it so much more now! We removed the Bombus bee outline of the heart, put a red cover on the Plastazote heart, took off the 22 Melanobombus bees, and reapplied 22 Bombus bees, which are more like the symbol of Manchester, representing the victims. Now there is nothing to detract from the focus on those lost. I had also mentioned that the plan was to begin putting up the memorial by the end of the week but that as well was changed. We will now be setting up the memorial exhibit on Monday so that all those who want to be apart are able to be. Tuesday will be the ‘official’ first day of the exhibit with a few of the members of Bolton Council coming over for a look. I am very excited to share the finished project with you all next week and only wish we had more room to display all of the items that were left on the steps of Bolton Town Hall as a memorial.

Beyond the memorial, I have been assisting Teri and Laura with working in the zoology store room. Work will be done soon on the center of the ceiling and all of the animals need to be moved to the far walls, be covered in bags, and ensure that all the animals in cabinets that are not being moved are bagged as well. Currently we are still in the process of bagging the collection. I have never seen so many birds in one place in my life! There is a single large cabinet with nothing but different types of seagulls. We managed to make our way through all of the cabinets along the walls and ensure that everyone inside has been wrapped and covered so that, should any dust make it into the cabinet, none lands on the animals directly. From there we have been moving on to the open shelves. I found myself bagging everything from geese, to porcupines, to horned lizards. While there is still so much to do, it is satisfying to know we have finished the cabinets along the outer walls.

I was also able to visit one of the two historic houses that Bolton Council owns and operates. Smithills Hall is an adorable house with a fascinating history. While Ian was there for a meeting, I tagged along and gave myself a bit of a tour. It is very clear where the original, medieval building was as there is a lot of timber and stone architecture as well as doorways of varying heights.. As you move on to the Tudor and Victorian additions to the home, the building is made of more refined stones and the floors become carpeted as well as nice wooden floors. The building becomes more structured in height and standardization. Once Ian had finished his meeting he took on a tour of the upstairs (past the velvet ropes!) which are not yet finished. The floor squeaks and the wall paper is peeling but it was an endless maze of stairs, doors and hallways that had me all turned around and unable to match the upstairs location to where we would be over the downstairs rooms. The building was also re-purposed as a nursing home before it came to the Council and, as such, there were more modern accommodations and multi stall restrooms. Quite often the upstairs of the building is used for filming and I absolutely understand why. There is an aura of the unknown, the history flickering past you, and I would not dare to stay upstairs over night! At least not until it is restored to it’s original glory.

Another project that was broached to me was my first conservation project! There are large botany models of flora and fungi that will be put on display once the museum reopens. They need to be cleaned and, in some cases, conserved. There are a couple that need to have some pieces reapplied and a large wax cabbage that has a leaf that needs some TLC. While I did spend all day working on those I will go more in depth about the process in another post soon as there is plenty to discuss! I will also be making another post regarding the second home, Hall I’ Th’ Woods, once I make my way out there so I can share with you its personality and compare the two homes.

Signing out from week one of eight! I hope you are enjoying these posts thus far. Once I have more work I will posting more project based blogs here as well.

Happy Weekend!


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