Seahouses Rotary Club

MUSEUM HAZARDS: Virginia Mayes-Wright, the newly-appointed manager of the RNLI Grace Darling Museum in Bamburgh, began her talk to Seahouses Rotary Club by describing how her interest in museums began.

Often, as a young child, she was taken by her father to the British Museum where her fascination with things from the past developed.

Having graduated from Durham University she studied at UCL where she qualified in museum studies before taking up a post as museum development officer for Herefordshire. She then went on to run the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire before coming to Bamburgh, where she feels ‘honoured to have been appointed to run such a wonderful museum.’

Virginia then listed and described in fascinating detail the many hazards which might be encountered in the safe keeping of valuable artefacts – shocks, from earthquakes to careless handling, fire, witness Windsor Castle and the Cutty Sark, flooding from rising water levels to holes in roofs, light and its effect on colour change, showing a slide of a lock of Grace Darling’s hair, now blonde but originally quite dark, pests such as moths eager to eat clothing, and so on including sweaty hands leaving imprints on metals.

She then gave members 10 pieces of advice to observe on our return home to guard against damage to valuable belongings, including ‘put your most precious objects to the back of a high shelf,’ and ‘always write in pencil on the back of photographs something that will identify the occasion in the future.’

In question time following her talk, Virginia explained how important it was, taking into account all the problems of preserving valuable objects, that access to them for the public was of paramount importance. Balancing both needed ‘nice’ decisions and good judgement.

In his vote of thanks, past president Chris Turner said how interesting and informative her talk had been. He added that on his return home, he would be sure to take his wife Pat, properly dressed, and put her to the back of the highest shelf he could find in the house.