Mermaid mystery helps win top prize

nbua-02-08-12-buxtonmuseummermaid - Assistant Museums Director Martha Lawrence with the mythical pair reunited at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery after 30 years apart. Photo contributed.
nbua-02-08-12-buxtonmuseummermaid - Assistant Museums Director Martha Lawrence with the mythical pair reunited at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery after 30 years apart. Photo contributed.

TAKING good care of one of Derbyshire County Council’s most unusual artefacts has scooped staff at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery a top award – as well as international attention.

The team at the Terrace Road museum won first prize in the Derbyshire Heritage Awards’ collections care and development category for looking after the Buxton Mermaid.

The mermaid – a Victorian hoax discovered to have been crafted from wood, wire and hair – went on display at the museum and gallery along with her long-lost mate, a merman, earlier this year.

She gained international notoriety following the revelations about her origins, appearing in The Huffington Post and on Russian TV.

But it was how museum staff worked with the merman’s owners the Horniman Museum and with Lincoln University student Anita Hollinshead that most impressed judges in the annual awards.

An MA student, Anita became fascinated with the mermaid while working at the museum as a development officer.

The mermaid was thought to be part-monkey, part-fish, but Anita disproved the theory using x-rays and analysis.

Derbyshire County Council museums manager Ros Westwood said she was delighted to have won the award.

“We couldn’t have done it without Anita’s work,” said Ros.

“I’d also like to congratulate the whole team for their hard work in putting on the exhibition which was very well attended.”

This is the third year museum staff have won the care of collections category in the annual awards, which were held at Crich Tramway Museum on July 20.