When I first arrived at the Museum over six months ago, I spent a week familiarising myself with the collection. This was a magical time for me as wandering around museums is what I choose to do in my spare time so getting to explore an entire collection was akin to letting a child loose in a sweet shop. I spent time researching the collection that was on display but also investigating the vast amount of objects that the Museum has in storage, from huge pit klaxons to fragile documents and everything in between. It is tough to choose a favourite artefact that I discovered that week but the one that instantly springs to mind is the Vernon Hartshorn Collection.
First, a bit of context on the man himself, Vernon Hartshorn was an MP for Ogmore Vale from 1918 until his death in 1931. Hartshorn rose from being a miner himself to President of the South Wales Miners’ Federation as his co-workers quickly recognised in him an ability to lead and eloquently relate the concerns of miners to people who had the power to change things. He would go on to serve as Postmaster-General and Lord Privy Seal and was widely liked in both Parliament and his constituency.
The collection that we are lucky to have in the Museum is composed of a large collection of letters, to and from Hartshorn, and his ministerial dispatches box. I can distinctly remember opening the cabinet in which the collection is held and seeing the distinctive red colour of the dispatches box and shrieking with excitement (Eamonn, the Heritage Officer, thought I was going to pass out of excitement). Then whilst reading the series of letters I saw that many were beautifully written correspondents between Hartshorn and his family but also hugely important correspondents between other politicians, most notably Clement Attlee. The Museum will be exhibiting these exhibits soon so I won’t spoil all of the surprises!
As part of the exhibition the Museum has been lucky enough to receive three new cabinets that mean we can display the artefacts in a setting that befits their significance. Paper is tricky material for museums to store due to its fragility and sensitivity to light (paper exposed to light for long periods of time can fade dramatically). Thanks to a grant from the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales the papers have been treated by an expert Paper Conservator to ensure that they are in perfect condition and last long into the future.
Keep an eye on our website for updates about upcoming exhibitions!