Our On Display! grant programme for 2023/24 is coming to a close, and in celebration we wanted to share some of the amazing projects which have been funded by these grants and showcase the array of beloved objects which are now out of storage. There are many stories to tell, but in this blog we highlight the great work of Liskeard MuseumTiverton Museum and Beckford’s Tower 

An Edwardian coat and hat behind a velvet ropeThe objective of Liskeard Museum’s On Display! project was to display examples of Edwardian clothing and choose suitable artefacts from the collection to support their story, in a new major exhibition, ‘Threads’, which opened to the public on 8 January 2024. 

For the exhibition, the team focused on the art of ‘hand-made’, long-standing traditions of ‘reusing and recycling’, and unveiling the stories clothing can carry. Alongside the exhibition they launched an outreach project called ‘Yarns’, which involved collecting the stories of treasured garments from the local community.      

Having seen the completed ‘Threads’ exhibition, one volunteer said they felt “proud to be a part of the team”. Visitors commented that they “loved the stories’ and another said that it was “most informative.” Encouraged by the positive feedback, Liskeard Museum are looking to improve other displays. 

A woman wearing latex gloves is placing a wide wooden bowl on a transparent plastic stand Tiverton Museum used their grant to conserve and display a 17th century wooden bowl to tell the story of the women who were involved in Mid Devon’s post-medieval woollen cloth trade. Previously, the only figures who had been discussed in this historical context were wealthy merchants, so new interpretation was written, produced and installed to accompany the bowl.  

Alongside the bowl, the museum created a new talk called ‘Women in Mid Devon’s Wool Trade’. The talk was included in their December programme and sold out quickly. It is now being offered to women’s organisations and will be repeated in future programmes. They have also levered additional funding in the form of a grant from the Girdlers’ Company, which will in part go towards the purchase of learning and participation resources for the gallery where the bowl is displayed.  

Not only have the museum conserved one of their favourite items, but they have also proudly told the story of women and poor women in Mid Devon. They have gained good publicity through press articles and social media and will develop future fundraising campaigns around conservation for specific items, to replicate the success of the wooden bowl.  

Two men stand either side of a table, on that table is a large wooden cornice which is colourfully decoratedWith their On Display! grant, Beckford’s Tower in Bath conserved a rare piece of plasterwork cornice from Fonthill House, made for William Beckford between 1782 and 1796. Following exemplary conservation, it was successfully installed in the Tower museum on 8 January 2024. When Beckford’s Tower reopens after significant renovations this spring, the cornice will be publicly accessible for the first time.  

The project has given the team the knowledge and experience of what is involved, not just in conserving, but also installing and displaying large pieces of architectural features. It has encouraged them to think more proactively about getting large objects conserved, and to factor it into future planning. 

The cornice will feature in the family activities which are currently being developed for the reopening around ideas of heraldry and identity. Using the same theme, the cornice will be central to outreach and guided tours that explore the Beckford family’s complicity with the transatlantic slave trade.  

Have these projects given you food for thought? We will be reopening our On Display! grants for 2024/25 later this spring, so start planning how your museum could bring an object back to life now.