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Stitches Is Fine But Alice Needs Time At Guildford Museum

By Gavin Morgan
Guildford Heritage Forum

Focus On Heritage

Don’t miss the latest temporary exhibition at Guildford Museum titled Stories in Stitch – textiles with stories to tell from the Heritage Services Collections.

It is bright, cheerful, and uplifting and features items from the museum’s own needlework collection.

The collection was started in 1928 when Joan Drew and her friends donated items to the museum. It is very popular among embroidery enthusiasts and great to see it featured in an exhibition. I am not a natural enthusiastic of this sort of thing but I found it fascinating from the 19thcentury samplers by small children to the more recent patchwork by the Wey River Embroiders.

Stories in Stitch – textiles with stories to tell from the Heritage Services Collections is on display at Guildford Museum until May 6. Don’t miss it!

This exhibition gives the museum a lift. Compared with the slick exhibitions at the Guildford House the museum has often seemed like the poor relation.

With outdated displays it has been on a downward spiral and was almost closed a couple of years ago. Now there are plans to add an extension and café.

This will give the museum a boost in a few years’ time but things need to start happening now. Last year’s exhibitions, on the Postal Service and Great Train Robbery, were hired in so it is great that the museum is showing off our collections.

One of the displays featuring needlework.

Due to the fragile nature of the material, Stories in Stitch is only on for three weeks until May 6, so don’t miss it.

What is also good about this exhibition is that it creates a great impression. I have seen some very tired and neglected local museums and it colours one’s view even if there are some very interesting exhibits.

Conversely, if visitors see enthusiasm and love for the place the moment they arrive then they will overlook the age of some of the older cases and enjoy their visit. Not only did I enjoy Stories in Stitch but I was delighted to see effort and gone into other areas.

As I approached there was an Easter tree in the window, plus there was a very nice recent acquisitions display of tape measures.

Banner promoting Guildford Museum’s Your Stories Your Museum consultation project.

The woman at the desk was very welcoming. She explained what the exhibition was about, said a bit about a public consultation called Your Stories, Your Museum, and pointed out the trail which my daughter keenly picked up.

The other exhibition is Alice in Wonderland: Themes and Variations. I cannot review it properly because it is obviously still under development. There are currently just a couple of lonely cases.

Just two cases displaying the Alice exhibition at present. More to come.

But what an opportunity the town has here. Visitors to the fashion store White Stuff in the High Street may be familiar with the giant Alice in Wonderland book in the corner upstairs where children can climb through a hole to discover a tea set. This is the sort of creative idea we need when celebrating one of the most imaginative writers who ever lived. It is a brilliant use of a small space.

The Alice room (or “Rabbit Hole” as the museum is calling it) is right at the back of the museum. However, as you climb the stairs from the main exhibition hall there is a shortcut through the darkened costume displays. This has the feel of a tunnel.

Items on currently on display about the Alice books and author Lewis Carroll.

It would be really easy to commission a local artist or scene painter to create an entrance to the “tunnel” here without interfering with the costume gallery. The “Rabbit hole” room could also be decorated or perhaps school children could create a giant “Alice” as a project.

There could be a table for children to create their own advert.

Another of the Alice items on display until July.

As I looked around the museum I was delighted to see a number of fascinating items that could be brought together. There was a large image of the Duchess and the rabbit which could help decorate the room. There were some Alice in Wonderland tiles, an Alice puzzle and a postage stamp holder designed by Lewis Carroll himself featuring characters from his books. This exhibition runs until July and I look forward to seeing it develop.

I pop into Guildford Museum quite a lot, but last Saturday for the first time in ages I enjoyed my visit and noticed things I had not seen before – full marks.

Entry to Guildford Museum is free. For more details, click here on Guildford Borough Council’s website.

Click here for details of the Guildford Heritage Forum that has been set up to discuss and support the future of Guildford Museum and other local heritage issues.

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