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Archive for the ‘Museums and Collections’ Category

Museums & Collections - NAM and Delapre 01

A couple of visits worthy of mention over the last few months …

Just before Christmas I was down at the National Army Museum in Chelsea – worthy of a blog entry in itself.

It’s a mixture of traditional exhibits from almost anywhere and anytime with more up-to-date and politically correct meditations on the nature and impact of conflict.

Museums & Collections - NAM and Delapre 02

And a timeline of the British Army, of course …

Museums & Collections - NAM and Delapre 03

Museums & Collections - NAM and Delapre 04

Museums & Collections - NAM and Delapre 05

Whilst I was there, in addition to the permanent collection, there was an fascinating exhibition of military art … tracking the history and themes through time.  Very much what I have been doing though much of it more modern than my current topics.

Museums & Collections - NAM and Delapre 06

Museums & Collections - NAM and Delapre 07

Here’s a look at the detail in this massive and meticulous scene from the Raj …

Museums & Collections - NAM and Delapre 08

… and a classic example of lost commander pathos …

Museums & Collections - NAM and Delapre 09a

These are scenes intended to convey the meaning and emotion of the event – not to be taken as a ‘photographic’ record of the event.

Waterloo Uncovered

For the toy soldier enthusiast, of course, one of the prime exhibits will always be Siborne’s Waterloo.

Museums & Collections - NAM and Delapre 10

… and, indeed, Waterloo was the purpose of my visit: TV’s Dr Tony Pollard (2 Men in a Trench; Nazi Megastructures etc.) is closely involved in Waterloo Uncovered – the archaeological project for combat veterans (follow the link) and had organised a meeting to launch/trial an idea for a massive wargame.

Museums & Collections - NAM and Delapre 11

Here’s me. the Perrys and a few others from the team trying out a conventionally sized wargame.

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… with obvious exceptions, most were not wargamers, so this was to see if reconstructing the battle with model soldiers would actually work for them as well as to kick off Tony’s dream of an impossibly big version.

You may well have read about this in WSS, but the plan is to recreate the battle as a Guinness Book of Records attempt at Glasgow University on the anniversary next year …

Delapre Abbey

Museums & Collections - NAM and Delapre 14(a scene from the opening festivities at Delapre Abbey)

Finally a brief word on the progress at Delapre Abbey in Northampton.   It is mostly out of the P.B.Eye-Candy period but will go nicely with my Museums thread and is now open to the public.

Museums & Collections - NAM and Delapre 15

It is an immaculately refurbished country house on the original site of the nunnery beside which the battle of Northampton was fought – and features Battlefield Rooms in which I and colleagues at Northampton Battlefields Society were able to make an input.

Although there will inevitably be disappointments, a new battlefield interpretation facility is something to praise to the rafters – so here’s a brief look …

Delapre Opens 07

Delapre Opens 11

The best book on the battle remains Mike’s volume published by the battlefields society.  You can get it from us at an event or at Amazon (perversely not from the Museum shop – which is a whole other story) …

Delapre Opens 12

Apologies if WordPress mailed out the link before I completed the revisions – that happens sometimes.

Links:

The National Army Museum

Waterloo Uncovered

Delapre Abbey

Northampton Battlefields Society

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Collectors Day 01

Readers of this blog will probably prefer Abington Park to Northampton’s main municipal museum … the latter is full of shoes, the former houses the Northamptonshire Regiment and Yeomanry collections (and more leather collections but not shoes) … so it has plenty of military exhibits and dioramas.

I was invited to put on a display of model soldiers and a battlefield model for Northampton Battlefields Society for the museum’s Collectors Day

Collectors Day 02

Collectors Day 03

So the display was necessarily medieval in theme, with an array of Bosworth figures as the centrepiece in addition to the 1460 battle.

But I also included all the common scales from 2mm to 90mm and historical figures from Ancient Egypt to World War Two … planes, boats and ships as well as figures … and of course plenty of flats.

Collectors Day 04(a sample of Yesthatphil’s collection displayed at Abington Park Museum’s Collectors Day)

… indeed the display included a good many pieces that have been featured on P.B.Eye-Candy …

Collectors Day 05

My partially scratchbuilt model of Antonov’s flying tank (featured here) was a source of fascination to many of the hundreds of visitors who came by during the day … (I’m very glad I took it along) …

The knowledge of many of the visitors was quite a surprise … (some recognised the big TB2 bomber … one even mentioned to me Christie’s light tank and his idea of adding wings to it … ) … Others, of course, were amazed the glider wasn’t something out of an H.G.Wells story.

Collectors Day 06(Antonov’s Flying tank)

Collectors Day 07(scene from the battle of Northampton)

The Collectors Day was a ‘one off’ (although the feedback was very positive so the museum are thinking of doing it all again next year).   The regimental displays are there all year and are well worth a visit in their own right – especially if you have relatives and/or ancestors who served with Northamptonshire’s local units …

Here’s a quick look at some of the permanent displays which include lots of WWII and 20th century material …

Collectors Day 08

Collectors Day 09

Collectors Day 10

… and a series of (mostly 1:72) pretty good dioramas …

Collectors Day 11

Collectors Day 12

Abington Park Museum is a traditional style museum which focusses on exhibits in glass cases more than on electronic gizmos and interactive interpretation …

Collectors Day 13

Collectors Day 14

… and it has plenty of interesting stuff on display.  Check the link above if you are in Northampton with a free afternoon.

Meanwhile, my thanks to the management and staff for being accommodating hosts and to the visitors who supported the event and stopped for a chat …

Collectors Day 16

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Collectors Exhib 01a

Just closing at Kettering Museum, Kettering Collects is an exhibition looking at the history and potential of collecting –  from the philanthropic amateurs whose collections have passed into public ownership as today’s Museums and Galleries … to how museums work and what motivates today’s collectors.

One of the rooms showcases 4 sample exhibits from the collections of  local enthusiasts … pop-up books, Jack Daniels souvenirs and memorabilia, die-cast cars and, of course, toy soldiers.

I was delighted that my collection made the cut and so had to work out how to fill the cabinet I had been allocated.

Collectors Exhib 02a(Kettering Collects at the Manor House Museum)

The challenge, of course, was to distill what I have so it shows toy soldier collecting to best advantage, demonstrates the full breadth of military interests and, of course, reflects what I like (in the end, it is my story to tell).

Collectors Exhib 02

Fortunately, my collection is very diverse and covers many of the important periods of history in most of the popular collector/wargame scales.   So even if it was only to be a few figures, I wanted to get something of everything in.

But I think, all along, 3 components struck me as essential … some old Britains plastics (because my wargaming story starts with them); my Bosworth Wars of the Roses 54mm figures (as they are local and topical as well as quite eye-catching) … and some of  the former Deryck Guyler 30mm flats collection (as they are so collectible – and these are the figures that put the Society of Ancients in my mind when I saw them on Blue Peter as a youngster) …

Collectors Exhib 06(Britains/Herald Gordon Highlanders – my first wargame soldiers – and still looking good after nearly 50 years service)

Collectors Exhib 04a(in  front of the obelisk and Sphinx … Egyptian War Chariots – 30mm flats originally part of Deryck Guyler’s collection)

Collectors Exhib 05a(more flats in the background, Bosworth 54s to the left – Henry Tudor and William Stanley – 15mm Goths in front)

I managed to include, from the ancient world Egyptians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans and Goths;  HYW  and WotR medievals; the New Model at Naseby; some sample Marlburian, Napoleonic and Colonial figures … plus a Tiger, a T55 and a Humvee to bring us almost up to date.

The figures I chose included 2mm, 6mm, 10mm, 15mm, 20mm, 28mm, 30mm flats, 54mm and 90mm.   Inevitably, me being the exhibitor, the majority were 10s, 15s, flats and 54s.

Collectors Exhib 04b(6mm Colonial and Marlburians figures between – Left – 2mm Romans – and – Right – 10mm Sarmatians)

Collectors Exhib 05(10mm Carthaginians between 15mm ECW and 30mm Ancient Egyptian flats)

Collectors Exhib 05b(15mm 20th Cent vehicles in front of ancients and a stand of 20mm Napoleonics)

Collectors Exhib 03(Centre picture, some of the 90mm plastic figures I used in the show version of my Anno Domino game ‘Greyhounds in the Slips’)

This is the last weekend before I get my toys back after 3 months on show.   Although I had had plenty of positive feedback, I dropped by the Museum, yesterday, just  to reassure myself  that everything was still looking good – and arrange for the reboxing.

*******

Yes, I was pleased.

We went for the ‘more is more’ approach because of the space available and the style of the exhibition, and I really do hope that some of the constant flow of youngsters they take through the Museum will find in it the sort of bug that I got from seeing Deryck’s figures and discovering Charge! all those years ago.

For those who like to worry over the supposed greying of their hobby, all I can say is you cannot make people play wargames or collect toy soldiers (and nobody made us do it all those years ago) … what you can do is get your collections out there at shows, fairs, Museum exhibitions and the like, so today’s youngsters can see them and be inspired by them.

Remember, the purveyors of cheap thrills, mind addling video games and junk hobbies will always ensure that their wares are shown to the market and with as much razzmatazz and gloss as the advertising buck can deliver – so if wargaming and toy soldier collecting are to have a chance, we have to get them on show too.

Many thanks to Ellie and the team at the Manor House Museum for giving me the chance  to put mine on show.

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Plassenburg Collection 02a

Perched above the brewing town of Kulmbach,  Plassenburg castle houses the biggest tin soldier museum in the world, with a claimed 300,000 or so figures in the collection.  The 4 floors cover most periods of history from ancients to the mid 20th Century, and there are plenty of examples of early toy soldiers.

(More info)

Plassenburg Collection 00

Take the bus from the Stadthalle – it takes barely 5 minutes to get up to the top and only costs a few Euros.

Plassenburg Collection 02

Although the collection tells its story mostly with traditional German 30mm flats, round figures and other scales and styles are represented.

The big collections are from the 18th Century and Napoleonics, but much more is mixed in – including a room devoted to early North America.

A few photos can never do such a vast collection justice – but I will attempt to give pictorial impression by way of a review/taste:

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(the museum was obviously busy all day – zinnfiguren clearly appeal to a big audience)

Plassenburg Collection 11

(early figures of different styles)

Plassenburg Collection 14

(do click on the pictures for a closer look)

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(wartime German toy soldiers)

Plassenburg Collection 13

(Hyde figures camel corps)

Some of the figures are individual items on their glass shelves, or lined up in imaginary units, some are displayed as composed vignetes either on plinths or in light boxes …

Plassenburg Collection 22

… whilst most of the rooms have vast dioramas featuring thousands of figures recreating famous battles from military history.

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(Prussian infantry drills modelled one-to-one)

The Age of Napoleon

Plassenburg Collection 09

Plassenburg Collection 06

Plassenburg Collection 05

(Crossing the Berezina)

The Age of Der Alte Fritz

Plassenburg Collection 03

Plassenburg Collection 21

… including the famous Battle of Leuthen diorama

Plassenburg Collection 17Plassenburg Collection 15Plassenburg Collection 16

A few other items

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(North Eastern Indians)

Plassenburg Collection 08

Plassenburg Collection 08a

Plassenburg Collection 18

(The Battle of Pavia 1525)

Plassenburg Collection 19

(a scene from the Niebelungenleid)

Plassenburg Collection 20

(a cleverly posed boxed Pirate scene)

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(Aztecs and Conquistadors)

Of course, the military collection includes airplanes, tanks, vehicles, balloons and ships …

Plassenburg Collection 24

I cannot recommend the Plassenburg soldier museum highly enough.  The were several other exhibitions in the castle when we visited, from regional history, the story of the castle in the Peasants uprisings, an art show, and the ‘Army of Frederick the Great’ (which boasted a splendid collection of flags and weapons), all of them would generally be worth an hour or so – but (if you share my tastes) the soldier museum is simply without parallel.   Entry to the soldier museum was a modest €4.00 (or available packaged with other exhibitions)

ZFB 2013 15

(central courtyard at Plassenburg – the shop and ticket office is in the far corner, the Zinnfiguren Museum opposite on the right)

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TCHL 2013 01

This is an addendum to my general report on the event (Ancients on the Move/History Live!)

If you are like me, you will like pictures of military vehicles and Kit!   And I wouldn’t want to disappoint!

TCHL 2013 02

TCHL 2013 03(this old Citroen truck was being pressed into service towing a Nebelwerfer rocket mortar)

TCHL 2013 04(Gulaschkanone: I’m building a 15mm one as an admin/log stand for some German infantry, so a chance to get a look was welcome)

TCHL 2013 04a(some useful details, perhaps)

TCHL 2013 05(happily, this young lad does not seem bothered by issues of political correctness)

TCHL 2013 06(OK … I like pictures of nurses …) …

TCHL 2013 07(… and motorcycles …)

TCHL 2013 08(… and jeeps with guns …)

There was, of course, a full range of displays and enthusiasts to explain them …

TCHL 2013 09

… and there was a Bolt Action game in the wargames tent … OK, 28mm, skirmish-type, warlord-type but that’s what they do … and the Russians seemed to like it almost as much as icecream …

TCHL 2013 10

TCHL 2013 10a

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War Games 01

I wasn’t sure which blog best suited this post, but as much of the exhibition content relates to 20th Century experience, I’m putting it here.

Some P.B.Eye-Candy regulars will have seen that the V&A/Museum of Childhood has just opened an exhibition on War Games – and that there was also lecture scheduled at the South Ken end of the organisation …

Well, a prior engagement meant I would be in town, so I went along.

War Games 02

My visit started at the Victoria & Albert Museum for the lunchtime talk by curators Sarah Wood and Ieuan Hopkins who looked at how toy manufacturers have responded to changing attitudes towards war, and the impact war can have on children’s play.  On what was a beautiful summer’s day in London, the majority were outside, enjoying the sun …

War Games 03

(early June … and a rare beautiful day at the V&A)

… but for the few braving the indoors, there was a fascinating explanation about how the exhibition was put together and some highlights of what was there.    The curators were candid about society’s underlying concerns over war toys and their influence on young minds … but clear that the evidence is at best equivocal: children explore what they see in the adult world around them, and that has always included war.

Children denied toy guns use conveniently shaped sticks instead (whether they grow up pacifists it is perhaps too early to say) …

Then again, there is no doubt that governments like to influence everyone, children included, in times of war – and the exhibition promised some great examples.

'El Teb' flats play set

‘El Teb’ flats play set

There was a fascinating section on how quickly (cynically?) war toys follow real military events and technical developments … OK, I was aware of growing up with Cold War toys in the 60s (Dinky toy missile transporters and the like) but hadn’t realised that toy tanks were already on the market in 1916 (no sooner had you read about them in the papers, than the manufacturers had the toys in the shops!).   That wondeful EL Teb flats set was in production before all the troops came home.

I am also grateful to Sarah and Ieuan for taking the time to chat afterwards and share some of their ‘insider’ tips on looking after toy collections (and how they balance display and conservation) …

War Games 04

… and so, suitably briefed, it was off to Bethnal Green …

Now I have to own up that this was my first visit to the Museum of Childhood – and I have to say I was very impressed.   They have got a lot of stuff … and I like museums that have got a lot of stuff.  In a kind of old fashioned way, it is high on things to look at and low on telling you what to make of them.

toys old and new, sublime and ridiculous ...

toys old and new, sublime and ridiculous …

Now I should say that the exhibition itself is not a wargames expo, nor is it a history of the wargames figure (so I should not mislead you – if you want that, you want a show like Partizan or a Museum like the Cumbria venture …), but it is a well considered and well-researched look at how war is represented in toys and models and how playing at war has been a constant part of childhood.

War Games 06

The selection of games and toy soldiers and military models is well judged and includes both gems and old favourites … The Napoleonic period ‘Game of Besieging’ is a new one on me … yes, another form of ‘fox and geese’, but a great find …

The game of Besieging 1800-1825

The game of Besieging 1800-1825

… and I did not know that round the world yachtsman Sir Francis Chichester designed a navigational game ‘Pin Point the Bomber’ in 1942 (‘… the players are given clues as to their location and must combine these with using a compass and other navigational tools to pinpoint the the location of the bomber on the map’)

War Games 09(early tank toy; ‘Little Wars’; Escape from Colditz; Pin Point the Bomber)

There were Action Men (GI Joe), Airfix kits and the Johnny 7 ‘one man army’ plastic toy gun ….

I thought the portrait dolls of Roberts and of Kitchener were great exhibits, so too the familiar Hitler puppet, and I really enjoyed the playful main captions built as giant aircraft model sprues.  All in all, a well judged appreciation of games of war, war toys and playing soldiers.

It is not a big exhibition, and would suit a lunchtime, I think.   Well worth visiting if you are in London (it runs until March 2014).

I might finish with a quote from one of the information boards (Playing at War) …

‘War play is controversial.  It is actively discouraged by many parents and teachers as it is thought to encourage aggression.  But aggressive play, a type of active play, is not the same as real aggression, in which a child intends to harm.

Research questioning whether war play and aggression are linked is inconclusive.  fears that they are may come from personal beliefs and assumptions influenced by the pacifist and feminist movements of the last fifty years.   Arguably war play can also bring benefits.  It can also help them distinguish good from bad and right from wrong.  It can help them to explore their feelings and understanding of an often violent adult world.’

*******

Society, of course, does not always encourage us to respect our enemies.  That’s an entirely different topic.  Get those Japs was a darts game.

War Games 10

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A-bt-S D Day Mus 01

The first weekend of March saw the Society of Ancients‘s annual Armati-by-the-Sea wargames tournament in Bournemouth … after which it has become a tradition to make a group visit to a south coast military museum or heritage attraction.   Some travel for the event from overseas (so not everyone’s transport arrangements are completed on the Sunday evening) …

This year, we drove round to Portsmouth, and the D-Day Museum (link)

Children playing on the 3.7" AA gun

Children playing on the 3.7″ AA gun

Signposting to the Museum isn’t that great – but it is on Southsea seafront, so you genuinely can’t miss it (drive along the seafront and take the entrance by the AA gun and the Churchill Crocodile).    There is a pay-and-display carpark (and, as at Spring 2013, 3hrs cost £3.50, adult entrance to the Museum £6.50 each).

Overlord: the battle for Caen

Overlord: the battle for Caen

The Museum is not that big, but has a fair number of exhibits, and as a unique attraction, houses the famous Overlord Tapestry (actually patchwork embroidery) created as a memorial celebration in imitation of the Bayeux Tapestry from 1,000 years earlier.

I include a picture of the superb panel depicting the battle for Caen (my favourite).    Click it for a bigger image.  The Overlord Tapestry has a special place for my family as it was rescued from mothballing by Whitbreads, who put on display at their then headquarters in Chiswell Street.    Although no more than a curiosity, military buffs with needlecraft enthusiasts in their households may find it makes the D-Day Museum an outing that will be of interest for all the family.

D-Day Museum ... bigger stuff

D-Day Museum … bigger stuff

By mixing the bigger D-Day story (explaining the war itself) with the history of Portsmouth at war, the museum finds quite a bit to say for itself, and follows that style where you wind through corridors of exhibition cases and display panels which guide you through the topic.   I thought most of them were pretty good, the panel information was useful, and the cases were fascinatingly full of objects.

The Map Room at Southwick House

The Map Room at Southwick House

My favourite of the life-size reconstructions is the Map Room at Southwick House (Southwick House) … it’s pretty convincing, yes, but it also begs to be put into action as the control board for the D-Day megagame (or is that just me?) …

Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach

There are a large number of smaller cases displaying models, sometimes built to illustrate parts of the story (so, e.g. a fascinating model of one of the Mulberry components), sometimes displaying donated collections of variable interest.    Amongst these was a small Omaha Beach diorama built as a project by servicemen at Headley Court (good on them) …

Model displays

Model displays

A lot of this was around the same quality you would see at your local wargames show, but I quite liked the some of the aircraft (it gets you thinking …):

A-bt-S D Day Mus 07

Of course, it is the big stuff that is a real attraction with these places, and you’d have to say that D-Day, Portsmouth, could do with a bit more of it … they have a Churchill, Sherman and a 3.7 outside, and (notably) some jeeps, a Dingo, a DUKW, a Sherman BARV and a Higgins Boat inside.   That’s about it (The Tank Museum it isn’t!).

Churchill Crocodile

Churchill Crocodile

I did enjoy being able to walk into the Higgins boat.   Having spoken at length to one of the many who were delivered to Normandy that way many years ago, I shouldn’t have been surprised.   Even so, they’re not big, and they don’t feel very secure.    It is almost impossible to imagine being in one pitching and rolling in a rough sea, waiting for the machine guns to open up.   Sobering.

Disappointingly, the book shop was a bit short on related military books (I do like to bump museum revenues by spending money in their shops, but, even with a will, it was hard to find anything here*), and we had intended to have lunch if they had a cafe (which they didn’t) … We’d have been happier with a better ‘retail end’, and would probably have increased our spending by around £20/head had they given us the opportunity.

That said, I have to add that I enjoyed visiting the D-Day Museum and am glad I stayed over ‘the extra day’.   I would certainly recommend it to anyone already visiting the south coast, or who wants to see the Overlord Tapestry anyway.    Those considering a trip from further afield … yes, it’s worth a visit – just bear in mind it isn’t a big one (it took us around 2 hrs at a leisurely pace).

I’d also add that it seems to do a good job with Schools … there was a school party in when we walked around, and another de-bussing as we were leaving (so it felt quite busy, for a Monday morning in March!)…

Positives: good informative displays and well thought-out exhibits; easy to find (if poorly sign-posted); first time I’ve stood in a Higgins boat; clearly gets plenty of youngsters in (who seemed to be having fun).   Negatives: could be bigger; you have to pay to park; book shop hasn’t got much military history stock; no cafe …

more big stuff: Canadian built Sherman

more big stuff: Canadian built Sherman

*I did get a small book on the Mulberry system, which was ‘on message’, at least …

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