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Newbury Branch meeting held via Zoom on 10th March 2021
Speaker: Janine Fox

West Berkshire Museum maintains collections, organises events, research and community projects. Janine Fox has been curator since 2018. She has a team of four staff, and support from about 40 volunteers. The Museum is also responsible for Shaw House and the WBC archaeological service. Since 2018 the museum has been accredited with the Arts Council.
The collections number 35,000 items, including archaeological finds, historical objects, costume, coins, medals, natural history and craftwork. Most are local, and most were donated. Only four per cent is actually on display. The top floor of the Granary houses a rotating display.
Maintenance of the collection involves documentation, cataloguing, photography, cleaning, research, packaging and storage, each process being specialised according to the nature of the object.
The museum is housed in the Cloth Hall and Granary, on the Wharf, where it opened in 1904 with the collection of Newbury’s Literary and Scientific Institution (founded 1843 in Bartholomew Street). It was created as a memorial to Queen Victoria, and the early curators were honorary.
The curator from 1908 to 1946 was Harold Peake, a social and archaeological anthropologist of Boxford. His development of the collections reflected these interests, and included coins, natural history, a corn measure from 1825. The earliest accession were Bronze Age tools from Inkpen. There are also Saxon grave artefacts from East Shefford and Roman finds.
H H Coghlan was curator from 1946 to 1978. He was a mechanical engineer who became an expert on prehistoric metal analysis, and organised displays with a strong academic focus. The 57 bronze objects known as the Yattendon Hoard were found in his time.
Local council changes in 1974 led to a change of name and a big increase in donated objects.
Tony Higgott was the museum’s first professional curator, in post from 1978 until 1998. Between 500 and 600 items were added per year. Examples were: a stoneware bottle, silver comb, an album from Hovis’ time at West Mills, uniforms and instruments from Newbury Hospital from 1884, and the WWI service diary of Pte Herbert Garlick.
Since then the museum has widened its focus from Newbury to West Berkshire, and the collection has diversified. Art exhibitions are held. With many photos and ephemera of the twentieth century the museum is a great resource for family historians.

Penny Stokes

Penny Stokes

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