Sunday, February 17, 2013

Small museums and broken windows

click photo to enlarge
I enjoy visiting the large, national and regional museums of Britain. Places such as the Natural History Museum, the National Maritime Museum, the Imperial War Museum (Duxford), the Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge) or the Harris Museum (Preston) hold rare and important treasures of great interest, often displaying them in beautiful spaces to great effect. However, the smaller museums of our country, the places that document towns and villages, that were often established in the eighteenth, nineteenth or early twentieth centuries by philanthropic donation, enthusiastic individuals or a motivated group of citizens, can also offer interest and delight. Such places are frequently run on a very modest budget and few staff, or rely on the support of a small and dedicated band of volunteers. The Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Lynn Museum (King's Lynn) and Newark Air Museum are examples of such places that I've visited recently.

The other day we visited another example, the Baysgarth House Museum in Barton upon Humber, Lincolnshire. This  mid-eighteenth century house was given to the town in 1930. Since that time it has had various uses including housing a school. It continues to be the place where the town council meets, but today the buildings and the historic collections it now holds are managed by a charity supported by volunteers. Displays about the history of the house, Georgian and Victorian rooms, collections of pottery, artefacts and displays about the industries of Barton upon Humber, as well as much else, can be found there, all well-presented and cared for by enthusiasts. It is a good example of the sort of museum that a small town can offer, given a little funding, local support and dedicated volunteers.

The house has a fine main staircase, typical of the period, in which are hung three large oil paintings. The window that lights the stairwell is south facing and therefore has a blind to protect the paintings. I took a photograph of this space and its lighting (small photograph) before ascending the stairs. On the landing I looked across at the window and noticed a broken pane in the top corner casting its fractured shadow on the blind. This blemish was all the more eye-catching being set against the carefully managed and well-decorated stairwell. And, with my photographer's hat on I took a shot (main photograph in black and white) of the imperfection, quite liking the way it interfered with the regularity of the glazing and its shadows.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 209mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/640
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On