Staff and volunteers enjoy gallery space preview

Last week staff and volunteers were treated to an early preview of the huge new gallery space opening up in Eastern House.
Site manager Ben Jefferies, of Symons construction, gave a guided tour of the first floor, where the main exhibition gallery space has been considerably extended by knocking into the old learning space and object store. Both functions have been moved to the brand new archive and Clore Learning Space, officially opened in September by Lord Pender of Porthcurno.
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A huge aperture has been cut into the floor to accommodate a new stairway from the cafe area on the ground floor, to the gallery space on the first floor. The beautiful original hardwood parquet flooring has been removed, carefully cleaned and set aside for re-use.
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Front of House staff Mary, Sue and Rudy were especially keen to see where the new demonstration space will be; at the far end of the gallery flanked by large object cases. The space will allow more visitors to enjoy the perennially popular live demos, and will be sited next to a viewing point looking towards Porthcurno beach.Image
The work is scheduled to continue for some time to come, with installation of exhibitions expected to begin in the spring, for a summer 2014 re-opening.
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Is this Cornwall’s best heritage attraction?

Visitor climbing the escape steps in Porthcurno's World War 2 tunnels

A visitor climbs the escape steps from Porthcurno’s unique underground telegraph station. The WW2 tunnels and escape steps, which are Grade II listed, are a highlight for thousands of visitors to the museum.

Porthcurno Telegraph Museum is delighted to have been nominated in the Best Heritage Attraction category in the new Cornwall Today Awards. Cornwall Today magazine, which has developed the awards to celebrate all aspects of life in Cornwall, has invited people to cast their votes online now.

The nomination comes shortly after the museum won Gold in the Small Visitor Attraction of the Year category at the Cornwall Tourism Awards in late 2012, and then scooped Bronze Small Visitor Attraction at the South West Tourism Excellence Awards in February 2013.

“We are very grateful to be nominated for this award alongside some of Cornwall’s best known and loved heritage attractions. These awards are a celebration of the very best of Cornwall and we are extremely proud to be recognised as a part of that.” Rachel Webster, Communications Officer, Porthcurno Telegraph Museum.

Cornwall Today Awards 2013 Best Heritage Attraction

Anyone can vote online across the 15 award categories, including Best Heritage Attraction.

People are being invited now to vote online across the 15 award categories. The results of the voting will be announced at an awards ceremony on Thursday 26th September 2013 at the Headland Hotel, Newquay.

Click here to vote now for Porthcurno Telegraph Museum >

Porthcurno archive moves to new £1m home

Preparation for the move has taken two years, during which time the museum’s Collections Team and volunteers have used over 700 acid-free boxes and 5,600 archival envelopes to package 595 shelves of historic volumes, documents, glass slides, maps, flags and photographs. The collection will share its new home with the Clore Learning Space; a flexible space for visiting schools, colleges, special interest groups and community groups.

Photograph of Collections Assistant Eleanor Mills checking off items as they arrive in new archive facility. Rows of roller racking containing archival boxes can be seen in the background.

Collections Management Assistant Eleanor Mills checks off boxes as they arrive in the new archive facility. The high-spec space is temperature and humidity controlled.

“The collection contains objects and documents that form the business archive of Cable & Wireless. This tells the story of Porthcurno, the telegraph and early wireless. That doesn’t just mean the ins and outs of the communication technology that shaped the world, but personal stories of the people involved. During its time as a training college, thousands of people have been through these doors and called Porthcurno home for a time. Many of them went on to be stationed all over the world, and this unique collection brings their stories to life.” Charlotte Dando, Collections Manager, Porthcurno Telegraph Museum.

Photograph of seven Porthcurno cable station students dressed in costume for an amateur theatrical production ot the Minack Theatre.

Archive records often illustrate the social life of students and staff at Porthcurno cable station. This photograph from 1968/1969 shows staff and students performing ‘Tobias and the Angel’ at the neighbouring Minack Theatre.

Moving such an archive is a painstaking process. 7255 brand new records have been added to the archive database with a further 12,426 database records being modified and improved. Over 2,300 items which were previously un-located in the archive have also been recorded. All of this means that, once the archive re-opens again later this summer, the academics, family researchers and local historians who visit the archive will have much improved access to a collection which is recognised as being of national and international importance.

“It is an extraordinary rarity to have an archive which is one hundred percent catalogued, because most archives, like ours, are acquiring new items and updating records as they learn more about the collection. There will still be a great deal of work to do once the archive has relocated, which means there will be volunteering opportunities for people who want to get hands on with a fascinating collection.” Charlotte Dando.

The task of physically moving the archive into its new home is a joint effort for staff and volunteers. A special behind-the-scenes events will take place on Sunday the 15th of September, coinciding with the national Heritage Open Days campaign. Collections Management Assistant Eleanor Mills describes what she hopes will be achieved;

“Archives can be a bit misunderstood. They are often seen as off-limits, or a bit scary for anyone who has never been to one before. But they are treasure troves for anyone interested in their local history or family history. The September open day will give people the opportunity to get closer to the collection, and find out how they can access the archive. I hope we can make more people aware of Porthcurno’s heritage and excited about archives in general.” Eleanor Mills.

The Porthcurno archive remains closed for visits and enquiries whilst it relocates. Normal access is expected to resume in August 2013. For more information about the September open day and other events, sign-up to the museum’s email newsletter: http://www.porthcurno.org.uk/page.php?id=296

Latest photos from site

The new archive and Clore Learning Space is evolving at a rapid pace, and a recent site tour on a cold but bright day revealed the light and airy nature of the new space. With rows and rows of roller racking now in place, the archive appears hungry for the many thousands of documents, photographs and objects that will soon be at home here. With around 27 trades people currently on site, the building is already buzzing with activity and museum staff and volunteers can begin to get a sense of how the building will perform for visiting schools, community groups and researchers.

A behind-the-scenes event is currently being planned to coincide with national Heritage Open Weekend in September. Details of that event will appear on this blog as soon as they are available.

Got a question about the project? Here’s how to get in touch:
Media enquiries: Rachel Webster, Communications Officer
T: 01736 811915 E: rachel.webster@porthcurno.org.uk

Project enquiries: Henrietta Boex, Development Project Manager
T: 01736 810966 E: henrietta.boex@porthcurno.org.uk

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Looking back towards the main museum building, Eastern House. Photographed 14 March 2013.

Roller racking in the new archive space

Our Collections Team has been working for several months to prepare thousands of documents, photographs and objects for relocation. This space will be handed over to them in the coming months.

Search room and digitisation suite

The search room is where visiting family historians and academic researchers will be able to access archive documents. The space is also expected to be used frequently by the Local History Group.

Linking glass-fronted corridor from search room to Clore Learning Space

This linking area connects the search room and archive facilities to the Clore Learning Space. With one side of the building tucked into the landscape, the glass front makes the most of Porthcurno’s beautiful natural light.

The Clore Learning Space with v-shape roof and high-level windows

The flexible new learning space is filled with natural light, thanks to windows on both sides. The beautiful, heavy wooden beams of the distinctive V-shaped roof add warmth.

 

V-shape roof as viewed from main museum building with sea view in background

Stood outside the existing archive in Eastern House, looking down towards the new building. The distinctive roof design echoes the natural landscape of Porthcurno valley.