Sunday, 10 April 2016

boxes of delights

House of Wonders, 
boxes of delights

Between 1926 and 1978, the Douglas House of Wonders in Castleton offered visitors a wonderful collection of curiosities from a motor that could fit into a thimble to the Lords’ Prayer written on a thread thin enough to pass through the eye of a needle. There were minerals, native spears, and a selection of locks and keys that were featured in the BBC’s A History of the World in 100 Objects. Randolph Douglas was also an accomplished escapologist who worked with Houdini but we’re not going to ask you to go down that path on this workshop!

an Insect Cabinet
Inspired by the original Douglas House of Wonders, we invited visitors to the Castleton Visitor Centre on Wednesday 6th April to make their own Cabinets of Curiosity. Part of Buxton Museum’s Collections in the Landscape project, with events like these we aim to inform people about the links between the Museum Collection and the places in the Peaks where that collection comes from

Next event in this series: Up your street on June 2nd: looking at old panoramic photos of Buxton streets and making our own streets (or other places) as pop-up landscapes: more details here  and on this blog soon

Victorian and Edwardian Cabinets of Curiosity were personal museums with collections that ranged from local fossils and shells to exotic trade beads and even shrunken heads from distant travels. In size, these Cabinets could be free standing glass display units or small glass-fronted cupboards mounted on a wall. In effect anything could become a “Cabinet” if it offered a space that could hold a selection of items. While at one level being simply collections of odd bits and pieces, Cabinets are also reflections of an individual’s interests and travels, offering glimpses into the interests and fascinations of Victorian society and the personal lives of their owners.

Starting with flat-pack cardboard boxes, we cut windows, added pictures (old copies of wildlife magazines mostly), chose compartments and generally got carried away. Some people pursued themes: there were a couple of seasonal Spring boxes, an insect cabinet an owl box and someone wanted one for his collection of teeth*.

Searching for Pizza, Pirates sailed the Seven Seas braving storms, giant waves and even the legendary Kraken. From Tortuga to the wild Malagasy shores, their pizza search carried the pirates to far, strange lands and in the end there was no pizza. Shipwrecked on Candy Island, they stayed there until their teeth fell out and they were rescued by some children on a school trip in a Boat-bus
 …and all that evolved during the making of a Pirate Cabinet

Find out more:
About Randolf Douglas and the Douglas Collection:
“Randini, the man who helped Houdini” by Ann Beedham, Youbooks, 2009
ISBN 9781905278299

About Cabinets of Curiosity: "Cabinet of Curiosities: collecting and understanding the wonders of the natural world" by Gordon Grice , Workman 2015 ISBN 978-0-7611-6927-7

* We did not enquire too deeply about just whose teeth these originally were

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Creative Giants

The Giants of the Peaks
Get Creative Day, Derbyshire

2nd April 2016

 Chesterfield and Bolsover libraries

elk antler adjustments

giants and creatures started as card sculpture
“Are all the giants dead” starts the poem in Mary Norton’s book of the same name. Well, the answer we can reliably inform everyone is, “No!”. Today we met…

Inkersoll who has slept for a thousand years, breathing only once every year. She has lain there across the hills so long and so deeply asleep that she has grown a skin of grass and hair of twig. An outcrop of rock has become her forehead and her lip has become a grassy bank, sprinkled with flowers.

Inkersoll sleeps there, just outside Chesterfield, forgotten by everyone. There are no stories about her. No histories, no hysterical references in the ancient Chronicles of the Brigantes. But this spring, just last weekend, on that one and only sunny day of the holiday weekend, some children went out for a picnic.

They scrambled up the hill behind the houses, through the trees, splashing in puddles, climbing until they came out on a beautiful sunny bank where they settled down beside a craggy, pointed nose of a rock. When she heard an odd grating sound, one of the girls turned round and said, “O, look! There’s a cave! I didn’t notice that before.” Investigating, she felt a breeze blowing past her and into the cave. She stepped into the darkness but stumbled and fell forward into the darkness. Tickled up her nose, for the first time in a thousand year, Inkersoll sneezed. And woke up.

sabre-tooth eye
We also met the last of the tigers of Stony Middleton and sabre tooth cats from the Hindlow Bonepits.  This was a day for giants and creatures, drawing inspiration from the landscape of the Peaks: rabbits and foxes, wolves, dogs and horses, a leopard, a magnificent elk, a scuttle of spiders on fingers, a couple of finger-mice and a landscape full of life unfolded itself….and you never know what you're going to find in the backstreets of Derbyshire.

"With blood-red teeth
And blood-red claws, 
There's a tiger
In the old shed
At the bottom of the garden..."

Hidden in the woods, 
Gnarly as an old tree,
The green of the grass.
The brightness of moss,
The purple of heather,
And violets in the spring,
A nose running red in summer,
Dripping icicles in winter,
The ripple of water,
Over skin slippery as stone in a stream,
The glitter of crystal in a dark cave.
A giant

“Are all the giants dead,

Are all the witches fled,

Am I quite safe in bed?

Giants and witches all are fled,
My child, thou art quite safe in bed."*

the story of Pink Rabbit has yet to be told
 With many thanks to all our mask-makers and giant-shapers 
and the staff of Chesterfield and Bolsover Libraries

“Are all the giants dead?” by Mary Norton, JM Dent and Sons, 1975