Latest News - Saffron Walden Museum (February 2021)

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Saffron Walden Museum Summer

Museum News for February

We remain temporarily closed to the public until further notice due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  We continue to work behind the scenes and from home, keeping in touch with you all online through our social media, website and blogging.

fantastic beasts

Click & Collect

Activity Packs:

Fantastic Beasts

Our next click and collect activity pack is “Fantastic Beasts”. Inspired by our current exhibition “Man and Beast” the pack includes  the materials you need to design your own chimera mask and transform it into your own movie mask. You can also design and make your own clay model.

Your pack will include an A4 activity booklet, collections cards to collect and keep, a chimera college kit, clay model kit, and movie mask kit.

The pack will be available to order via our art tickets page from Tuesday 2nd of February, for collection on either the 9th  or the 16th of February.

Please note you will need some basic craft materials such as masking tape, glue and paint.

water vole

Object of the Month

The Museum’s ‘Object of the Month’ provides an opportunity to explore interesting and unusual objects from our stores. 

February's Object of the Month has been chosen by James Lumbard (one of our Natural Sciences Officers) and is a water vole.

Described as “Britain’s fastest-declining mammal”, the water vole disappeared from over 90% of its range between the 1950s and 1990s.

This may have been down to the release of American mink from former fur farms. These animals hunt water voles in their burrows and in water.  A female can destroy a water vole colony in one breeding season. Water vole introductions near Bishop’s Stortford, and schemes to monitor and control American mink numbers have allowed water voles to spread again. The return of the polecat across the country may also help water voles by reducing mink numbers. Polecats compete with mink for territory and food, and may even hunt and eat them.

Water voles can now be seen at Thaxted, and at Thorley Wash and Sawbridgeworth Marsh along the River Stort.

To find out more you can check out the Object of the Month post on our website


Learning & Outreach

Saffron Walden Museum is committed to continuing to share stories from its collections through its learning and outreach services.

With the new national lockdown unfortunately we can’t welcome schools or groups to the Museum or offer Outreach sessions.

However our loan boxes are still available for hire, £18 for 6 weeks, and will be quarantined in between hires to ensure they are Covid 19 secure.

We are also developing virtual learning sessions for the lockdown period and offering a bespoke "click and collect" learning packs to schools and groups.

To find out about any of these services or for a list of loan boxes contact our Learning & Outreach Officer Charlotte Pratt via email at



project update

All of the bird taxidermy that was identified last year as needing pest management has now been fumigated or frozen, and plans are taking shape for an exciting project to conserve the bird taxidermy for display and use in outreach projects.

We’re hoping to secure some funding for the conservation work and to plan and help implement the outreach side, so James and the team are working together to decide on the best approach.


Environmental Monitoring 

last phase & report writing 

The digital data logger began its final trial, in the Special Exhibitions gallery, on 12 January, totaling seven test locations across the Museum and Shirehill measuring temperature and relative humidity. James will be writing a truly fascinating(!) but important report on the information gathered by the data logger and assessing the reliability of the readings currently taken by spot-checks and the mechanical thermohygrographs. Picture: comparison of two charts – left, THG readout, right, data logger readout.


Geology Documentation

Project update

James’ work to verify and update the documentation for the objects on display in the geology gallery is now complete, with the final photos uploaded and attached to the digital object records. In total, 250 items were checked against existing documentation, resulting in 172 new entries in our hard-copy register, and 192 individual new digital records to match or exceed the basic Inventory requirements from the Spectrum collections standard. 58 existing digital records were updated to match at least these requirements. All digital records have images attached, totaling over 1000 images.

Picture: a fossilized internal mould of a sea urchin embedded in a flint nodule.

natural history paper


Archive Audit

Jenny Oxley, Collections Officer (Human History) is continuing to catalogue the document archive collection during the current lockdown. 

It's important to know what we hold and where it is stored, so that we can provide the information quickly for research enquiries, publications, exhibitions, events and learning. 

Hundreds of boxes have now been catalogued (usually with additional help from our volunteers), and there are now just 10 boxes left to catalogue.  The next stage will be digitising the documents. 

Here's one of the items from the document archive....19th century headed paper from the Saffron Walden Natural History Society....which formed the basis of the Museum. 


CV Walden

We are continuing to collect people's experiences of the current Covid-19 outbreak and how it has affected day-to-day life in the district for future generations to understand. 

If you are interested in compiling a diary now that we could archive at a later date that would be really beneficial.

We're also interested in audio and video clips, as well as artistic responses to the current situation, such as artwork, poetry and music, etc. If you are part of a community group or organisation - consider asking your members and contacts to take part in this project. 

These may be compiled to form an online or physical exhibition in due course.

Contact Jenny Oxley, Collections Officer (Human History) about this project at and title your email "CV Walden"

leanring hub2

Learning Site

Museum launches

online Learning Hub


Saffron Walden Museum is launching a new website “Saffron Walden Museum Learning Hub”; full of digital learning resources to help people explore the Museum’s learning and outreach services on-line.


The aim is to make the Museum’s wide-ranging collections available to support home learning during the pandemic and beyond, as well as blended learning for schools and informal groups of all ages from badged groups to the WEA and care homes.


learning hub

The Learning Hub can be accessed from the Museum website’s home page . Initially three sessions will be available - Prehistory Hunters, Fantastic Fossils and Adaptions - with more being added each week.


Our Valued Volunteers

Due to the Covid 19 situation, the majority of our volunteers remain at home.  We envisage volunteers returning to the Museum when it fully re-opens to the public later in 2021. 

Welcome Desk Volunteers

Whilst the Museum has been closed to the public we have been grateful for the support of our Welcome Desk volunteers who have assisted with preparation of the Museum Shop, tested the Welcome Desk Covid procedures and contributed to the production of the new till user guide.

Natural Sciences Volunteers

Verge volunteers helped check 46 special roadside verges to check they had full width cuts in October and November and record problems with posts.  They also assisted with a public enquiry regarding ammonite.

Volunteering Opportunities

Our Welcome Desk is run entirely by dedicated volunteers. They provide a friendly welcome for visitors, sell tickets and merchandise, provide information about the museum, and direct enquiries to members of staff. They usually volunteer for a 2.5 hour shift, every day except Monday and Saturday.  We are currently looking for new Welcome Desk volunteers – if you are interested, please contact the Museum on 01799 510333 or email


Shop Focus:


Cashless Payments

Whilst the Museum has been closed to the public we have been busy installing an electronic till and card payment facilities. 

Thank you to those Annual Season Ticket Holders and members of the Museum Society who tested the system by purchasing souvenirs during the exclusive preview event in December 2020.



New Product Line


We have introduced a range of greeting cards, designed by award winning illustrator Daniel Mackie, with images of animals with their natural environment depicted within them.  They have already proved popular with Museum staff and Volunteers.




Online Collaboration

During lock down we worked with the Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre to sell our bespoke museum jigsaws and stationery packs via their e- shop.


Stationery Pack:

Thank you to all our friends, supporters and volunteers for your ongoing support for the Museum.

The museum is closed for the time being, but remains active online...




Phone: 01799 510333