Saturday 21 April 2018

Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth by Imogen Robertson

The weather today in London is so blissful, it seems odd to remember the Easter Bank Holiday was chilled and windswept. It was. So obviously Ned and I thought it was the ideal day to take our nephew to Great Yarmouth. Obviously we hit the pier (see above) and the arcades and I won a spectacular keyring on the tuppence cascades - only cost me a tenner - but it wasn't exactly hanging out on the beach weather. In a way I'm glad it wasn't, because the rain drove us into the Time and Tide Museum and what a particularly brilliant museum it is. 

There's a nice 30 second video to give you a flavour here:

The kids in the video are obviously having fun, but there is a great deal for middle-aged history enthusiasts like myself too.

The museum gives a full sense of the town and the deep history of the area, entertains while it informs and is packed with those small, evocative treasures you only find in local museums. I mean those artefacts which seem to give a concrete sense of a person, a place and a time. The museum used to be a smoke house, and they’ve hung little cardboard herring up among the blackened beams in one section. The wood still gives off the smell of smoke. You can also wander down a narrow Victorian street, see the old posters and knick-knacks of the peak tourist trade times of the fifties, and see what the local Romans had for their dinner. Unsurprisingly, there is also a lot about herring.

My favourite display though was one they have put together to celebrate the earliest known museum in Great Yarmouth, the Museum Boulterianum, the collection of Daniel Boulter (1740-1802), a collection, as the signage says designed to educate and intrigue. 

The collection which made up the museum were sold off, but I think Time and Tide have done a brilliant job of reimagining what might have been in it. They do have one of the original tickets to the museum though, look at these wonderful Georgians being intrigued and educated: 

My squiffy shot of the ticket on display...

The Museum Boulterianum opened in 1778, and you can read some more details about the original collection on the Norfolk Museums Facebook page. That page does say, at time of writing, that Daniel Defoe gave the museum a puff in his Tour of Norfolk of 1795, which does seem a bit dubious given Defoe died in 1731. I think they are referring to The Norfolk Tour 

The book also contains an excellent description of the herring being landed. 

Visiting reminded me of a similar museum which turns up in one of my books, Island of Bones, which was opened by Peter Crosthwaite in Keswick around the same time. The Keswick Museum still holds some of his original collection. Does anyone know if someone has done a general history of this sort of museum? The Cabinets of Curiosity put together by middle-class business men for public display rather than private study? Where they got their artefacts, their reception, influence and what happened to them? I am quite sure they have a great deal to teach us. Any one got any leads for me?

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