This week has involved more selection of documents from archives. It’s interesting to see how museums started, often almost accidentally. In the early days of the Museum of English Rural Life in 1951 the policy was to collect ‘ anything and everything that might prove useful ‘ during the pilot period. In a letter to Hugh Massingham, the author and celebrator of the English countryside, thanking him for donating his collection, museum staff said ‘ precisely where this notion of ours will end we cannot as yet foresee ‘.
I’ve also been transcribing an interview with Amy Smith, the creator of the Ure Museum of Classical Archaeology. She talked about all the work which has gone into the symposium display in the museum (the symposium being a Greek party). This Museum also had humble beginnings, and owes its existence to the first Professor of Classics at Reading, Percy Ure, and his wife Dr Anne Ure. Memorable quote from a 1938 letter written by one of the Ures replying to someone who had written offering some vases for sale: ‘our collection is largely junk picked up cheaply in Shoe Lane and the prices have generally been in shillings rather than in pounds’.