Fifty Favourite Finds exhibition marks end of an era at Malton Museum

Malton Museum bows out in style with a memorable exhibition, as Jo Haywood reports

The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012  issue of Yorkshire Life 

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A small rural museum is hosting a very special exhibition to mark its final weeks in its current venue. Fifty Favourite Finds at Malton Museum, which runs until March 31st, has a very personal touch, with every exhibit specially selected by people from the local community, ranging from friends of the museum, to local business people and school children.

Finds range from the poignant to the practical. Students from nearby Malton School have chosen a Roman infant skeleton found buried with a tiny jet bear and ring which people at the time believed would give the child protection on its journey into the underworld.

The youngsters said they chose the figure ‘because it’s really interesting, all the pieces are there and the jet bear is pretty.’ It is in fact one of only seven jet bears that have been found in England, mainly in children’s burials in Malton, York and Colchester.

Christine Barnard, from Malton Tourist Information Centre, which is currently located in the museum, has selected a slightly more contemporary find, a jockey weigh scale with a saddle and boots that belonged to Sir Guy Cunard, from the famous shipping family. As if that wasn’t interesting enough, it is believed that George Formby – of lamppost leaning fame – might have sat on the scale when he was an apprentice jockey in the 1930s.

‘I’m keen to highlight this part of our collection because racing represents an important part of Malton and Norton’s heritage and continues to benefit the area,’ she said.

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Margaret Shaw who, along with her husband, has baked bread in Norton and Malton for the past 30 years, has opted, rather appropriately, for a Russell and Wrangham flour bag in tribute to the company that started producing flour in the 1830s.

She said: ‘Throughout our 30 years here we have felt an important part of the local community, as do most bakers in communities past and present. Interestingly, the process of milling flour and turning it into bread has not changed significantly in the past 2,000 years. It is still a staple food now as it would have been in Roman times.’

Among the favourite finds on display are, inevitably, some items from the museum’s Roman collection, most of which were discovered locally. But it is the Tudor period that most appealed to volunteer Sandy Jeffries, who chose a candlestick from this important historical time.

‘It appealed to me the minute it arrived at the museum,’ she said. ‘It is so beautifully made and I can imagine how it must have looked when it was bright and shiny. It’s so old and yet so modern in design, placed among all the wonderful Roman artefacts that have been discovered. It’s something different to admire.’

Although the exhibition marks the end of Malton Museum at the Old Town Hall, it doesn’t mean its extensive collections will be mothballed for good. The trustees are planning to bring the museum to life again in the community through exhibitions, workshops and events at a variety of venues.

In the meantime, entry to Fifty Favourite Finds is free and Malton Museum is open from Monday to Saturday between 9.30am and 4.30pm. For more information, call 01653 695136 or visit maltonmuseum.co.uk.

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