Town Crier Frank Beer gets things started at Liskeard and District Museum's Fabulous Finds Day. Photo: Rob Frost.
24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Journalist Rory Trust got the lowdown on Cornwall's hidden treasures at Liskeard and District Museum.
What do a 400 million year old fossil of a shark spine, an old map of Africa and a small blue ornamental shoe all have in common? Give up? They were just some of the objects brought in to the Fabulous Finds Day at Liskeard and District Museum in Cornwall on Saturday 30 April.
The day called for people all over the South West to bring in their own ‘objects of desire’ and have them assessed by a panel of experts.
The event was opened with the Town Crier’s announcement of the Mayor and during the course of the day over 150 people, young and old, visited the museum to learn more about their finds.
A team of six experts from around the region were on hand to examine and explain the wide variety of weird and wonderful objects. Items ranged from coins to coat racks, medals, maps, and fine art to fossils.
Jane Marley, curator at the Royal Cornwall Museum, explained, “people have brought in a lot of different objects that they want to know more about. Many of them have a local connection or personal story behind them.”
Young Charlie Whitehair with a Queen Victoria Golden Jubilee Medal from 1887. Photo: Rob Frost.
Jeremy Pearson, another of the visiting experts, from the National Trust said: “I have seen lots of miniatures, jewellery, medals and coins including some really splendid items.”
One such piece was a large silver plated medal issued to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. Charlie Whitehair, aged five (and a half!), had brought in the medal with his grandfather Mr Sharp.
“I just found it digging around in a cupboard,” said Charlie. The medal was beautifully displayed in its original box and, according to Jeremy Pearson: “These weren’t just handed out, it was probably presented to a member of the Royal Household, perhaps a butler or gardener.”
Whilst Charlie and his grandfather could not think of anyone on the spot, they went home to find out if they really did have such Royal connections!
The Natural History section, unsurprisingly perhaps, won the competition for the oldest fabulous find. Helen Fothergill, keeper of Natural History at Plymouth City Museum, saw “some really nice Cornish fossils, all from tropical seas, fossil coral, modern coral and tropical shells.”
Sue Pike of Liskeard brought in a map bearing the coat of arms of William, Duke of Gloucester (1689-1700), son of Queen Anne. Photo: Rob Frost.
Local man Richard Holmes discovered the most ancient fossil of the day on the north coast of Cornwall. He was amazed to discover that it was a 400 million year old spine of an early shark.
Other good examples were a belemnite fossil from the Jurassic period (150 million years ago) and an 80 million year old fossil of a sea urchin, both found by Rueben Johnson of Buckfastleigh, Devon.
Fabulous Finds days were held across the country as part of the annual Museums and Galleries Month. Liskeard and District Museum was selected to host the event in the South West despite being a relatively small volunteer run organisation.
“It is such a big event for a small museum,” said Heather Medlen, honorary curator. “It has been a huge success and everybody has been very interested.”
Gareth Evans and his son Euan, aged eight, brought in a selection of finds one of which excited the experts so much it is now on display at the museum.
When building an extension to their house in St. Cleer five years ago, Gareth found an unusual looking stone and a few days later another which seemed identical. After some brief deliberation it was decided that they were a hand made stone mould, probably used for casting lead plumb bobs.
Town Clerk Brenda Furse with Jeremy Pearson of the National Trust looking at coloured prints of Paris from the 1950s. Photo: Rob Frost.
Jo Mattingly, curatorial adviser, thought they were local and pre-1840: “I love the fact you have both halves and we would certainly like to put them on display,” she said
Other objects deemed to have significant historical interest were a short spear and javelin tip brought in by Alan and Mary Parsley of Callington in south east Cornwall.
Alan explained he had found the remains in the seemingly unlikely location of his mother-in-law’s loft and thought they were Roman. It was not possible to identify the remains precisely on the day so they are being transported to another museum for more specialist investigation.
Fabulous Finds Day attracted an amazing mix of people and consequently an interesting array of objects. Items collected from car boot sales, antique shops, family heirlooms or simply found in gardens and on beaches helped to give the experts a thorough test of their knowledge, and the many visitors some interesting surprises.
You can check out the Museum and Galleries Month website www.mgm.org.uk for other events in you area.
Rory Trust is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer in the South West region. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.