Littlehampton Museum has recently opened a new exhibition titled ‘The Collectors,’ which focuses on the museum’s extensive collection which has been growing ever since our opening in 1928. The museum has acquired many objects since then and to this day it continues to receive donations and loans. Currently there are several local collectors who have contributed to the collections and current exhibition, providing numerous objects which they discovered.
On display is a variety of artefacts, which demonstrates the Museum’s once very diverse collecting habit; from household items including a cheese grater to a World War Two helmet. You can visit the exhibition in the Hearne Gallery until Friday 15th September.
Included in our exhibition is a collection of taxidermy birds, which can be found in our large glass display case.
The taxidermy of animals was a popular activity during the late 19th and early 20th Century and were very useful when studying natural history. These birds were owned by renowned local naturalist, H. L. F. Guermonprez, who lived from 1858 to 1924, residing in Bognor Regis during the last thirty years of his life. Guermonprez was a self-taught naturalist who studied birds, fauna and flora, insects and seaweeds. He took a scientific interest in local wildlife with many of these birds having been shot locally.
The collection displays two Coots, a female which was shot at Pagham and a male which was caught in Felpham, both in 1895. These birds are all black with a white beak and have distinctive lobed flaps of skin on their toes instead of webs. This distinct feature may have encouraged Guermonprez’s interest in the species.
Other birds also displayed includes a Moorhen which was caught at Felpham in 1891, as well as a male Chaffinch caught in 1894. The drift cork used for mounting the birds arose from Guermonprez’s desire to use only ‘natural’ material. Despite Guermonprez’s collection including both fish and mammals, very few have survived, his collection of birds, however, has survived with little damage, with Littlehampton Museum holding several birds from his collection.
The collection is also home to a variety of less traditional artefacts. Currently on display in the Collectors Exhibition are some objects sold in shops across the nation during the Millennium. These include some celebratory masks as well as confectionary items that were rebranded as a clever marketing tactic. These items may seem strange to have in a museum, however, despite being disposable items they mark a very significant piece of history.
Littlehampton museum does not hold a recorded history of these items, which is not unusual for museums, however, it is possible that these items were used during the evening celebrations of the Millennium. According to the BBC, Westminster City Council reported more than 150 tons of rubbish after the Millennium celebrations, of which around 15% of the rubbish was made up of champagne bottles. It is therefore a surprise that these household items have survived and reside in the museum.
The current exhibition displays just a small number of artefacts held and cared for by the museum. You can visit the exhibition and see on display the wide variety of objects held by the museum until Friday 15th September.
Written by Emma Hill (Museum Intern)