THE BROADS MUSEUM
WHAT STARTED as a handful of borrowed exhibits in a small rented boatshed is now a thriving museum bursting at the seams with fascinating artefacts charting the rich heritage of our magical waterways.
This year marks the 21st birthday of The Museum of the Broads and it will celebrate with a host of events throughout the summer – leading with the Broadland in Pictures exhibition.
The museum, which is nestled on the waterside on Stalham Staithe, looks at all aspects of life on the Broads, from the vital role they played in agriculture and industry to the booming tourism industry; from boating paradise to conservation wonderland.
“When the museum opened in 1996 at Potter Heigham, we only had a few displays and we were lent the majority of the objects because no-one thought it would last,” says curator Nicola Hems.
“Now we have 5,000 objects, almost all of which we own. We have a lovely collection of large boats, but also I love the memories of people’s holidays; the postcards, the souvenirs, the snapshots, and then of course we have the history of life on the Norfolk Broads. But such is the size of collection we can’t exhibit everything all the time – which is why putting on special exhibitions, such as Broadland in
Pictures, is so fantastic.” The theme of the exhibition is how the Broads landscape creates memories through art – from 18th century paintings, to early photographs and advertising images. A key part of it is the work of acclaimed artist Philippa Miller, who died in 2010 aged 101.
“We have a lot of her paintings here but we have never been able to display them properly before, so it has been wonderful to see them all together, to acknowledge the place that she has in our history,” says Nicola.
“She was painting before and after world war two and was a teacher in Norwich, living through the bombings in the city. She had the most fascinating life. We have some beautiful scenes painted by her of families enjoying holidays on the water, as well as her stunning landscapes.”
As part of the anniversary exhibition, Nicola has also included the work of contemporary artists, including Neil Smalley, Suzanne Chisnell, Linda Purdy and textile artist Johanne Couldrey, some of whom have created pieces specially for the exhibition.
Another key part of the exhibition is the impact of tourism on the Broads and the way in which the development of the railways led to a boom in visitors.
“Towards the end of the 19th century, the railway companies actually employed photographers to travel to areas such as the Broads to take photographs. Surrey photographer John Payne Jennings spent a year here travelling around and producing photographs which were then used to promote the area to visitors via train. It was very early primitive tourism advertising.
“Then, as the industry began to develop, the holiday brochures came, then postcards, then souvenirs. The collection very much reflects the way visitors remember the Broads through the last 100 years.”
Throughout the summer, there will be a programme of family art workshops, funded by the Norfolk County Council Arts Project fund. There is also a Boat Jumble on May 7, and the popular jazz and beer festival on June 24.
A photograph of Stalham Dyke taken by Victorian photograher JP Jennings, whose work is part of the Broadland in pictures exhibition at the Museum of the Broads
Below: A broadland scene depicted by Norwich artist Philippa Miller
Above: A headdress designed by Johanne Couldrey as part of a new exhibition at the Museum of the Broads