It pays to ask

Visiting museums and historical sites I always allow double the amount of time estimated for a visit. Often hidden in the detail on those information boards there is a spark of an idea for an article or an interesting fact that can help bring a story to life. However, one resource often overlooked is the room steward, guide or other expert on hand to answer questions.

Visiting a church in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust a comment on the tiling brought forth a whole mass of information about how there came to be quite so much used throughout the church and the guide was also happy to expand on the information on a curiously worded memorial on the church.

Nineteenth century sampler

At a museum a fascinating discussion on samplers followed a remark about a small detail shown on the info board. The board drew attention to the alphabet as depicted on some samplers from the seventeenth century and posed an interesting question. Were there errors on the samplers or simply a lack of standardisation at the time? More examples were shown by the guide and suggestions as to other places to visit for more detail supplied.

A look beyond the obvious can prove useful on many counts and most people manning these sites are a mine of information if only people took the time to dig deeper and pay them some attention. Sometimes room stewards must feel themselves invisible.

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4 Responses to It pays to ask

  1. Patsy says:

    I used to be a tour guide so I know it’s a good idea to ask the staff. These people will have a real interest in where they work and will have researched the most fascinating details and characters.

  2. Ann Williams says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Patsy. I have learned an awful lot from talking to room stewards and guides and it must be soul-destroying for them to spend their time watching people drift past as if they are invisible. More than once I have been offered the chance to see more examples of material or had small details pointed out that I might otherwise have overlooked and it is those details which bring both stories and articles alive I think.

  3. jeannemx says:

    I have one of these samplers, Ann, unfortunately the colour red in it has run a little. I am wondering if it can be restored – not sure where to ask about this.

  4. Ann Williams says:

    How interesting, Jeanne. Is it a family piece? If the colour has run I imagine it is more likely a Victorian sampler and possible worked in wool but I’m no expert. The boards at the museum suggested checking the order of the alphabet for “errors” as apparently this was no more standardised than spelling until more recently.
    I know the National Trust and other heritage bodies have their own conservators for fabrics and so on. Perhaps you could ask when on a visit if anyone could suggest anything. Alternatively maybe one of the larger museums or even an auction house might have experts who could advise. You can but ask!

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