Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Exmouth Museum - small but perfectly formed

Pardon the lack of posts lately. It's nothing sinister; I've just been massively busy practising for next week's The Mysteries production (see left sidebar). But last week I took myself out for the morning, and paid a long-overdue visit to Exmouth Museum.

From the outside, it's not very promising: a rather nondescript building - once Exmouth's council stables and the adjacent foreman's cottage - down a side street next to Exmouth waterworks pumping station (here). However, inside it makes very good use of the limited space (three rooms plus foyer, stairs, and a passageway) to put on a highly varied exhibition.

The contents are subdivided into compactly-arranged thematic exhibits. Areas covered - mostly Exmouth-specific - include railways, brickworks, geology, archaeology, tourism, schools, firefighting, lace making, toys, maritime, famous residents (notably Nancy Perriam, Frances Viscountess Nelson, Anna Isabella Byron, and Mary Anne Clarke), the post office, china souvenirs, docks, and shipping. The adjacent cottage was given over to a themed display of material relating to the 1953 coronation, and the lifestyle in 1953 in general.

The museum maintainers have clearly gone to a great of effort to put the historical material in context - there are many comparisons of old images with modern photos of the same locations - and to make the contents interesting, even if you're not from Exmouth. It's a gripe I have about regional museums: that they can obsess about highly local topics, or people who were only celebrities locally, and lose sight of the fact that these are often completely uninteresting to outsiders. Exmouth Museum doesn't make this mistake, and maintains a strong thread of human interest throughout its collections.

Apart from the main collection, the foyer has several shelves of folders of research materials organised by subject. I didn't look in any detail, but I rapidly found a good selection of contemporary photos and news clippings on the previously-mentioned wreck of the Tehwija at Orcombe Point.

I very much recommend this as a small, friendly and interesting museum of a traditional style. See the Exmouth Museum website for opening times and other details.

- Ray

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