28 March 2020
Posted by Adrian Harris
Day eight of self-isolation, or is it day thirty? D’you know, I’m not counting. As a writer, I spend most days alone with my thoughts and a computer screen so there’s not much change there, apart from the 6 year-old who needs home schooling. But I’m not going to blog about the coronavirus because we are all in this together and all of our lives have been turned on their heads in many different ways, therefore on that subject I wish you all well and stay healthy.
However, March has seen some unexpected hiccups due to the pandemic. Sadly, the two community workshops scheduled to take place this month at the museum, one with a primary school and the other with a local readers’ group have had to postponed for the foreseeable. I was hoping to share some time with these groups where they would be free to wander the museum and seek out hidden gems that they may have missed on previous visits, or to discover something new that piques their interest and propels them on to learn more about that particular object. Still, I’m sure that this present emergency won’t go on forever and we will reschedule some fun time to share among the collection at Poole museum.
Meanwhile, I have been delving among the records provided by the wonderful Dai, from the excellent Poole History Centre housed in the Town Cellars, a medieval wool warehouse dating from the 1300s. As well as being one of the most important ancient surviving structures in northern Europe, Dai is a lovely man full of interesting knowledge and an accomplished author of many historical papers and books – I’m kidding, he’s not ancient. But the beautiful building at the rear of the museum is, and well worth a visit where the staff are friendly and happy to assist you.
Back to the museum and a particular object that I fell for on my first visit. As visitors may have noticed when entering Poole Museum, there is a magnificent 8.4m (28ft) tall rudder from a 17thCentury Dutch merchant vessel that was shipwrecked in the Swash Channel some three hundred and ninety odd years ago. On the top of this remarkable timber is a glorious carved head of a merman, an incredibly rare example of such from a merchant ship. Therefore, who better to tell the tale of how the remains of the ship called The Fame came to rest in Poole Museum, but the merman himself. So I have undertaken the challenge of creating a script and recording the voice of this ancient mariner’s friend, where he may tell visitors to the museum how he was not only wrecked in the bay but plundered by the residents of Poole when he was barely submerged below the tide. This recording will hopefully be part of a computer animation that will engage, inform and entertain visitors young and old to the museum as an interactive digital addition to the collection.
Fortunately, in these unprecedented times of mass isolation, a great deal of this project may be carried out remotely using digital communication technology, but let us not forget that the foundation of this piece, the detailed research, the story and history of the wreck is in still to be found in good old fashioned books, and further discovery of this and many objects are made possible by the knowledgeable and friendly staff of the Poole History Centre. So, when this is all over, pop in and embrace the history.