Z goes to Norwich again

We went to Norwich Castle, which houses the city’s museum.  And, when buying an annual pass, I was gratified to find that they have kept the concession age at 60 rather than raise it to the current retirement age.  It would have been nice if the assistant had looked astonished when I claimed it, but there we go.

They have done some rearranging since I was last there and the Royal Anglian Regiment display is where the Lowestoft china used to be, though the latter is only moved to another area of the same landing.  In view of the centenary of the start of the Great War, it’s understandable that they are giving it such prominence.  But the Lowestoft, oh dear.  There is a fabulous collection there and now it’s nearly all archived.  When they had a major revamp some years ago, the decision was made to put a lot of items in store and to give those on display more space.  I can’t say I agree with that, but it’s a valid argument – however, this meant that some beautiful and valuable items, bought with donated money or public finance, or given  by generous benefactors, which have great local historical interest, have never been seen since except by the few who make private appointments to see them.  And now, it’s far worse because even more have been stashed away.  I do understand the problems of space and that nowadays museums are presented quite differently than in the past, but if one area of the cabinet was given over to temporary exhibits, so that there was a regular changeover of some of the pieces, it would be much more satisfying.  I haven’t seen my favourite piece, a lovely early two-handled loving cup, for years.

I didn’t go over the whole museum, I prefer to look at a few items at a time if I’m going to be able to visit regularly, but I looked at the Norwich school paintings and the Norwich silver and then went to see the Lowestoft cat too.  This room contains various collections left to the museum and has been given a makeover too.  The cat collection is still there (labelled with the former owner’s name) but laid out rather better, having been given more space.  However, no attempt is made to say how old each item is nor which factory it came from and the same can be said for other displays.  The children will be disappointed to find that one of the odder curios has been removed (I suppose it might have been put in another room, but suspect not).  This is a mummified hand, which was cut off in a duel a couple of hundred years ago.  It is remarkably small, for a grown man’s hand.

I promised some reminiscences in the new year and, now my life is back to the usual round of school stuff, I think the time has come.  Or it will have by tomorrow, at any rate.



5 comments on “Z goes to Norwich again

  1. 63mago

    Ah, magazines are stuffed ! Every now and then the discussion of a kind of “rotary system” starts again.
    The arguments against such an idea are (as far as I know) always the same: Bad for the objects (what is at least questionable !); not enough people / qualified personal to move things regularly; disturbs the “narration” of the museum / the collection, that is the oh so intellectual order of the presentation, the brainchild of the actual director.
    If they at least would take some of the area for changing exhibitions (“Wechselausstellungen”) and present the hidden things out of the magazines … Some very large houses allow the visitors to go into the storage facilities, making the best out of this unhappy situation.
    One should not forget that a new director / Custos / Curator ( how the person responsible for a collection and an exhibition is ever called ) needs some time to really “get” his collection, to know what is in his house.
    WHen a colleague here researched for an exhibition about painters of the ’30s, a directrice flatly denied to have a certain piece in her house.
    It hung opposite the entrance door of the magazine: She never had gone to this place – that’s for minor minions …

    1. Z Post author

      I can understand the problems of a shortage of trained staff, but I really think that would be an excuse in this instance. As long as it’s handled with care, there is no damage done by touching the china. There isn’t any actual ‘narration’ of the exhibition, it’s not in chronological order (the factory was only in existence for a little over 40 years but there is certainly scope for a timeline and an explanation of the different styles of painting and types of object. There is another room where there’s a chronological order of household items and a few more pieces of Lowestoft (and other porcelain of that and other periods) are in their places, though. Russell has, by appointment, been into the back rooms and seen some of the archived china a few times and the curator of the china has been to some of our auctions. The museum has the best collection in the country. Well, best collection anywhere. Lovely items are on display, I just would like to see more of them.

    1. Z Post author

      Yes, it’s very dry and shrunken, but surely the bones wouldn’t shrink! I don’t think it’s correctness, because in the small Egyptian room, there is the head and right hand of a mummified woman on show, carefully displayed to look as if the rest of the body is there. The sign explains that it’s all that has been found of her and she’s not in her own coffin… now, that is macabre! Another wrapped mummy has his x-ray on display.

  2. Mike Horner

    I think museums have rather lost their way.The only East Anglian one I know of that is still invariably helpful and obliging is the FitzWilliam in Cambridge. At a museum in Leicester there is a good collection of locally made silver watches. Some years ago, and as the cases are hallmarked, ALL of them were properly catalogued with the exact year of their manufacture (from the hallmarks), and the working dates of their makers from local records. The last time I was in that museum a few years ago, they were all in one case with one notice stating that they were a collection of locally made watches dating from around 1730 to about 1820.!!! And what good that was to the serious student, I’ve yet to work out. I ‘phoned, but in another sense ‘couldn’t get through to’ the curator – he told me that the notice was there to give a general idea of the town’s products during the eighteenth century, to ‘present day schoolchildren’.


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