Celebrating 200 Years: the Royal Cornwall Museum comes to life!

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It is damp and dreary but I have been looking forward to today for months so I was going to be put off. Walking up the granite steps into the museum I was immediately stuck by how bright everything looks. And how busy, my favourite little museum had really come alive!

I have been going to the Royal Cornwall Museum since the 1980s. I think every person I know who went to school in Cornwall has been taken to see the Egyptian mummy at some point. Since those school trips I have continued to visit regularly, to use the library, to hunt down an object I have read about or to attend a talk. But today really felt like a new chapter.

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The hard work of the past few months has paid off. All the familiar displays have been rejigged and reanimated somehow. They are better lit and there’s now plenty of fascinating interactive displays, things to handle, to get the mine racing – young or old. But by far the highlight for me was the new World Wide Wonders Exhibition in the quiet Treffry Gallery.

This room, usually reserved for functions, was an absolute joy. The room is filled with objects that the museum has had for hundreds of years in some cases and have never been put on display to the public before. Objects from every corner of the globe, brought back by adventurous Cornish men and women who made dangerous or ground-breaking journeys in to the unknown.

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There were objects from China and Tonga, India and Africa. A huge leg bone from the extinct Giant Moa bird of New Zealand, a tribal mask from Sierra Leone, a golden wedding coat from Albania and a magnificent wooden battle club from Fiji. Glass cabinets display collections from Papua New Guinea, China and the Navajo tribes of the US. Each object has a fascinating story to tell, of its origins, how it arrived where it is and the collector who brought it there.

Another highlight for me was the new Spotlight Gallery where you can discover the secret life of some of the objects in the museum’s care. With an estimated 321,000 items to look after only a tiny percentage are able to be seen at any one time and it is a huge task restoring, documenting and safely storing so many precious items of history.

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The founders of the museum wanted to inspire a passion for discovery and invention in us all and with these new exciting exhibitions and the reimagining of the original collections I really feel that the museum is embracing that ethos with a new found energy. I for one am looking forward to the year long calendar of events to celebrate this special anniversary of a very special place!

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If you enjoyed this you might also like: Falmouth Art Gallery: Andrew Lanyon and Nature’s Laboratory  and The Gibson Dynasty – Pioneers of Photography

 

 

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Walking on Bodmin Moor – some of my personal highlights!

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I read recently that Bodmin Moor is less popular with visitors than Dartmoor because it has so few marked footpaths. There are numerous ‘routes’ across the moor but they are far less worn by foot traffic and in most cases not marked at all. But this is one of the reasons I and many others find this place so alluring. Continue reading

Gribbin Head Daymark – Open for a Bird’s Eye View!

Every Sunday this summer you can enjoy what has to be one of the most outstanding views on the Cornish coast.

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The Gribbin Head Daymark is very striking. Its outline can be seen for literally miles, both inland and of course out to sea. That is after all the whole point. Continue reading

Survival Guide to the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Yes I am aware that Stonehenge is not in Cornwall. However firstly I had such a wonderful experience that I wanted to share it and secondly I could find out very little information about the proceedings before I went so I thought that anyone thinking of going another year might like to read my top tips!

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So this is it – the season has rolled round again and we are now heading towards Autumn and ultimately Winter. Not the best thought when we are all just getting used to the sun on our shoulders and the sand between our Cornish toes. Continue reading

Tornado in Bodmin

There is nothing quite like a steam train! And there is no steam train quite like the Tornado! So when I had the chance to climb abroad I didn’t need to be asked twice.

The Tornado is the first steam train to be built in the UK since the 1960s, it was completed in 2009 with all new parts (apart from 3 bits) and so it actually testament to some really awesome old school British engineering. Continue reading

To the Stripple Stones

Whatever the time of year I love the moors. Whether it is in the depths of winter when the air is sharp with cold, one of those days the wind tugs at you and takes your breath away or at the height of a bright blue-skied summers day. Then its a very different place, you can hear the heat coming from the stones and the grass cracks under your feet.

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Watching the cloud shadows moving across those wide empty spaces, that is where I feel really at peace.  But of course these are not really empty spaces and each time I visit I find another new reason to go back.

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Cornish Saffron

For most people Saffron is a captivating and expensive spice which conjures up images of mysterious distant lands but for hundreds of years to the Cornish it has been a more homely than exotic ingredient.

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It is a story of much conjecture and hot debate as to when saffron first arrived in Cornwall.  There are stories of Phoenician and Roman traders from more than 2000 years ago but the more likely answer is a little later than that.  In the 14th century Cornwall had a healthy trade in tin with its Spanish neighbours, who in turn had trade routes across the globe, one theory is that saffron first arrived through them.

And this fantastic aromatic spice made its way into our Cornish cooking.  Saffron buns and saffron cake are an integral part of any cakey tea (well they always have been in my house anyway!) just as much as clotted cream.  And there is even evidence that saffron was cultivated in a few select places in Cornwall for a while – there are records of saffron fields in Launcells near Bude, Fowey, Penryn, Feock and Gerrans. Continue reading

The Propped Stone of Leskernick Hill

The connections between ancient man, the stones structures they built and the natural rulers of the skies – the sun and the moon – are overwhelming.  It seems to me impossible to understand what mattered to our ancestors without taking into account the struggle they faced with the elements and their battle to understand their often hostile world.

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On the top of Leskernick hill hidden in a little visited part of Bodmin Moor lies a simple yet wonderfully intriguing pile of stones.  This stone construction pre-dates all the others that surrounded it and there are many!   Close by you can find the remains of numerous hut circles, a stone row and 2 stone circles. Continue reading