December 11 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Collecting dust in a museum store-room lies a random miscellany from Norfolk’s social history, never likely to see the light of day.
So hundreds of relics from the county’s rural heritage – including a 100-year-old breast pump, a leaky bottle of Worcestershire sauce, and countless old seed packets – have been earmarked for disposal.
Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse museum, near Dereham, is undergoing a review of objects which are taking up storage space, but add no value to the collection.
A few of the 350 types of item identified have been broken or damaged beyond economic repair, and so have been recommended for disposal, to make room for more valuable exhibits.
But most are unnecessary duplicates of exhibits, such as seed packets, flower pots, signs and sticky labels for fertilisers and poisons.
These will be offered to other museums and schools where they can be put on show to help build the understanding of the county’s agricultural history.
A large number of the duplicates came from a bulk acquisition from the King’s Lynn stores of seed merchant R&A Taylor when it closed in 1982, having operated from Norfolk Street for several generations.
They include 50 packs of labels for Taylor’s Manure and Fertiliser, printed with colourful flowers, fruit and vegetables.
Megan Dennis, curator at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse museum, said: “We will be keeping about 10 of them and the other 40 will go to other museums and local schools – places where they can be seen and appreciated by the public. That is the idea. They are not doing anyone any good in the store.
“Taylor’s is a fantastic example of a local company that has now disappeared. We know the manure and fertiliser was there, and these items are beautiful, but we gain no further information by having 50 examples of them.”
The broken items include a cucumber glass – a tube designed to help the vegetables grow straight – and a leaking bottle of Superior Quality Worcestershire Sauce.
There is also the front cover of a music score named A Beam from Heaven, by William Lane Frost, which would have been used for parlour singing in the early 20th century. The inside pages containing the music itself went missing from the museum’s Cherry Tree Cottage.
“The public love open displays because it feels more real, but then you run the risk of things being broken or stolen,” said Ms Dennis.
“When something falls off the windowsill you cannot just chuck it in the bin because someone has donated it to the museum. So we have to go through the process of demonstrating that it has been broken and that there is no point in keeping it any more. If you are the owner, you would want to know that.”
Before any museum item can be thrown away, it must be agreed by district and county museums committees that disposal is justified, and then it must be advertised to the public.
One of the most intriguing objects scheduled for disposal is a broken breast pump, at least 100 years old.
It is described on the museum’s listing as: “Lactation device for nursing mothers... contained in a box inscribed Mrs E Whitehead, Beeston, King’s Lynn, Norfolk.”
Ms Dennis said: “It is that kind of object that gives you a spark of interest in the past. It fascinates.”