End of an era as Buxton museum changes exhibitions

Museum curator Ros Westwood in the Wonders of the Peak Gallery
Museum curator Ros Westwood in the Wonders of the Peak Gallery

Anyone who has been to on a school trip in the last 25 years would have seen the bear at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, but now a £1.5m project is shaking up the exhibitions to give visitors a much more interactive experience.

Curator Ros Westwood is excited for the new items to be showcased and how the museum is moving forward into the digital age.

Museum curator Ros Westwood outside the now closed Wonders of the Peak Gallery

Museum curator Ros Westwood outside the now closed Wonders of the Peak Gallery

She said: “Since I started here 17 years ago I have changed my carpets at home three times, so the museum is long overdue a revamp!”

The Heritage Lottery Fund has donated £869,100 to the new display which will still focus on the Wonders of the Peak, but from different angles.

Ros said: “So much has changed in 25 years, people didn’t have computers at work and mobile phones weren’t a thing; now everyone has one and we need to embrace this change.

“Now there will be interactive levels of the museum - people can use their smart phones to plan a walking route that will take them around the area where some of the items on display were found, or they can just read up about the artefacts at home.”

Museum curator Ros Westwood in the Wonders of the Peak Gallery

Museum curator Ros Westwood in the Wonders of the Peak Gallery

The project is expected to be finished by Easter 2017 and staff have now started removing items before the redesign.

She explained: “Not everything is going to disappear, there will still be old favourites and new pieces to entice visitors, but it will be much more user-friendly - things will be lower for our younger guests and the rooms will have less text to read which will be replaced by videos and audio.”
The museum will not be closing until September this year and up until then staff will be in the main gallery room talking to visitors, finding out there preferences on what the new exhibition should look like, as well as being on hand to answer any questions.

“Our exhibitions only go up to the early 1900s, so there is a whole town, as we know, that has no reference points in this museum and we want to address this,” Ros said. “We are also going to be focusing more on the people of Buxton and the stories they have to tell of the artefacts they found or how they shaped this wonderful place to live.”

Derbyshire county councillor Dave Allen said: “This is an exciting time at our museum in Buxton. With the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund we are revitalising the building and its displays so that they can be enjoyed well into the future.”

Museum staff emptying the first of the display cabinets

Museum staff emptying the first of the display cabinets

Ros always knew she wanted to be a curator since the age of five when she was looking at a doll her grandma had, but wasn’t allowed to touch it and only wrap and unwrap it.

“I want this new exhibition to inspire the next generation of curators,” she added. “When little ones come in I want them to be wowed and want them to feel part of something so they can look back on their trip with fond memories and go on to great things in the world. They will grow up with the new collection as so many people have with this one, this is the start of something new and better and we are all delighted to be a part of it.”

The new collection, which is being supported by Arts Council England, is hoping to loan important historical pieces from the British History Museum, as well as returning items which were loaned out to make the Wonders of the Peak the best it can be.

n Find out more at www.derbyshire.gov.uk/buxtonmuseum or phone 01629 533540.

Closure of the Wonders of the Peak gallery, items carved from Ashford Black Marble

Closure of the Wonders of the Peak gallery, items carved from Ashford Black Marble

Closure of the Wonders of the Peak gallery, some of the large collection of objects created from Blue John and Ashford Black Marble

Closure of the Wonders of the Peak gallery, some of the large collection of objects created from Blue John and Ashford Black Marble

Closure of the Wonders of the Peak gallery, the famous bear which has become a favourite of visiting children and the best known exhibit

Closure of the Wonders of the Peak gallery, the famous bear which has become a favourite of visiting children and the best known exhibit

Closure of the Wonders of the Peak gallery,

Closure of the Wonders of the Peak gallery,

Closure of the Wonders of the Peak gallery, roman room with recreated temple

Closure of the Wonders of the Peak gallery, roman room with recreated temple

Closure of the Wonders of the Peak gallery, a roman soldier

Closure of the Wonders of the Peak gallery, a roman soldier