Latest News - Saffron Walden Museum (April 2021)

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Saffron Walden Museum Summer

Museum News for April

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.


Click & Collect Activity Pack : Burst into Spring

Spring is in the air and so is our next click and collect activity pack “Burst into Spring”  which has been available to order via our art tickets page  

With this pack you can learn all about the creatures who are emerging from hibernation during spring time.  Try to identify some of the visitors to your outside space with a footprint trap.


Object of the Month

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

April’s Object of the Month has been chosen by Jenny Oxley, Collections Officer (Human History) and is not strictly one object but a collection, in this case, items made from barkcloth, which form part of the museum’s world cultures collections.

The museum holds around 80 barkcloth items, originating from all around the world, but largely from the Pacific region. Over the last year the museum has been involved in an international project: “A Living Tradition: Expanding engagement with Pacific barkcloth” being led by Glasgow University, which has provided us a great opportunity to shed more light on the cultural traditions surrounding their production, design and use.

Barkcloth is made from the inner bark of paper mulberry, breadfruit or banyan trees, which is soaked and stretched, then naturally dyed and hand-painted, printed or stencilled, to create often highly decorative barkcloths (sometimes referred to as Tapa). It is believed there are over 90 different pattern variations in existence. The barkcloths are used for utilitarian items as well as for ceremonial purposes.

In addition to large textile rolls and flat sections of barkcloth, the museum also holds clothing made from barkcloth. Notable examples include a barkcloth poncho believed to have originated from Samoa, as well as a lace-bark dress and matching bonnet from Jamaica, which were donated to the museum in 1833 by the Marchioness Cornwallis.

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


Old but New on Display

There will be a few new exhibits to spot in the Early History gallery when the Museum re-opens later in the spring.

Flint tools from Wicken Bonhunt show how life and the environment changed for humans and the environment at the end of the last ice age. They include this flint blade from the final phase of the Old Stone Age, about 16,000 to 10,000 years ago, when the ice was receding and Britain was becoming inhabitable again. The tang (narrow shaped end) of the blade would have fitted into a wood or bone handle. It could have been lost by someone in a hunting party, tracking herds of large grazing animals such as horses, wild oxen or deer.

adze head

By the Middle Stone Age around 10,000 to 6,000 years ago (8,000 to 4,000 BC) the climate had warmed. People used tools with tiny and delicate flint blades, like arrows and harpoons, to hunt smaller animals, birds and fish along the margins of an inland lake at Wicken Bonhunt. They felled and worked timber using flint axes and adzes, like this adze head, which would have been mounted in a wooden handle.

This flint dagger is a fine example of flint-working from the very end of the New Stone Age around 4,000 – 4,500 years ago (2,500 – 2,000 BC). It was found in 1863 on Windmill Hill, north of Saffron Walden. Such daggers were prestige items and it probably came form a burial or a place of significance to the community.


Learning & Outreach

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

With the national lockdown still in place 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

good to go

We're Good to Go

The museum has been successful in applying for the Visit England, "We're Good to Go" scheme which is being run in partnership with the national tourist organisations to provide a ‘ring of confidence’ for all sectors of the tourism industry, as well as reassurance to visitors that businesses have clear processes in place and are following industry and Government COVID-19 guidance on cleanliness and social distancing. 

sts project logo

Snapping the Stiletto Project:

LGBTQ+ Archive

Queer Reflections: revisiting our collections

This new online archive of LGBTQ+ relevant objects from Saffron Walden Museum and Southend Museums explores sexuality, gender, and identity. Jenny Oxley, Collections Officer (Human History) at Saffron Walden Museum, and Vittorio Ricchetti, Assistant Curator (Material Culture) at Southend Museums, with suggestions from their colleagues, have delved into their collections to highlight objects that have connections to LGBTQ+ histories. In doing so they have identified a range of items that demonstrate that non-binary gender identity, queer relationships, and fluidity in its many forms are represented in our museum collections.

We cannot define or label people or movements retrospectively, if queer histories are not identified and recorded at the time an object is collected that connection is at risk of being silenced. This project seeks to revisit areas of our collections where stories may have previously been overlooked or unexplored in order to hear from people living in Essex today. We have identified objects with different degrees of connections to LGBTQ+ history in order to begin a discussion.

We want you to submit your reactions and reflections to these objects, and research other objects in our collections. Help us collect your stories and document your experiences in order to preserve them for the future and celebrate them in the present. Is one of these objects significant to you and your experience? Do you have a story connected to it?

Get involved:

React to the objects by sending in comments for us to upload on the website

Share your stories and experiences of LGBTQ+ Essex

Research relevant objects from our collections

We will be adding new objects every month so don’t forget to check back.


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

Online Learning Hub


Saffron Walden Museum has launched 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.

store clear up

Behind the Scenes at the Museum Store


Sarah and Fiona are working regularly at the Museum store during the latest Covid 19 lockdown. It is time for spring cleaning again. We’re surprised at how dusty the store becomes when it is occupied by more people for longer periods of time over the last year. Here you can see some rocks from the bed of a deep tropical sea which covered most of Britain during the Cretaceous period, 66 to 145 million years ago. Chalk rock was laid down under the sea and flint nodules formed in the chalk rock. This piece of chalk show ripples made by waves and these barrel-shaped flint nodules are called paramoudra.



Another project at the store is to record details of the British birds’ eggs stored in historic wooden cabinets. The largest collection was donated by William Tuke, the brother in law of George Stacey Gibson of Saffron Walden. The species of birds and number of eggs present in each drawer are being listed so the object records can be updated on the Modes database. The largest eggs in this drawer were laid by a Canada goose and two swans, show with a 50p for scale.


 Natural Sciences

Research Enquiries

The Museum is still open for (remote) research, even as we’re starting to think about re-opening to visitors again. The items in museum collections are a vital source of information for researchers looking at the history of science, or to help modern understanding of wildlife conservation efforts. This month, the information from seven butterfly specimens collected over the last 150 years has been shared with a Butterfly Conservation project, which is working on reintroducing the chequered skipper butterfly in England. This butterfly had been extinct in England for over 40 years before Butterfly Conservation began their reintroduction project. You can read more here:


Natural Sciences Talk

Join Saffron Walden Museum and Epping Forest District Museum on Thursday 15th April for an online talk on the life and photography of local wildlife enthusiast Barry Kaufmann-Wright. Barry was a lifelong wildlife lover and keen photographer who made his home in rural Essex as a local bobby and wildlife crime officer. Saffron Walden Museum is proud to care for some 70,000 prints and slides of wildlife and landscape photography taken throughout Barry’s life and across the world. More information and virtual tickets are available here:


Welcome Volunteers

Welcome Volunteers provide a friendly greeting for visitors; sell tickets and merchandise; provide information about the museum and direct enquiries to members of staff. We currently have a regular vacancy on alternate Wednesdays for the first and second shifts, being 10.00am-12.30pm and 12.30-2.30pm and, alternate Sunday afternoons 2.00-4.30pm. We would also be delighted to hear from volunteers who are able to provide ad hoc ‘cover’ for our regular shift volunteers when they have planned absences such as holiday, hospital appointments etc.  To find out more about these opportunities please call us on: 01799 510333 or email  


Shop Focus

We stock a full range of gifts in the Museum shop all year round, and there are always seasonal special offers and themed products linked to our collections..... 

For Easter we have cute, soft, mini plush Easter bunnies and Lambs priced at just £3.50.   


We also stock luxury, moisturising soap bars, enriched with shea butter and made with pure vegetable oils, using traditional triple-milled methods, which create a rich and sumptuous lather.  The paper wrappers are printed with beautiful vintage inspired illustrations. 

The soaps are made in the UK and are vegan friendly, cruelty-free, free from parabens, SLES & SLS.  Plastic-free with fully recyclable packaging.  Priced at just £4.99 each


Online Collaboration

During lockdown we have 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.  We wish you all a happy and healthy Easter break. 

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




Phone: 01799 510333