Samantha Jenkins and Michael Place, Master’s students from the University of Leicester, have spent their summers working in Collections and Educational Resources at West Stow to expand upon what the site has to offer to the public and enhance accessibility to the multi-period history held in its collections.
The collections store has seen some much needed reorganisation in order to better support the stability of its abundant artefacts and works of fine art. This has also allowed for reinvestigation of some previously misplaced archaeology and social history specimens which may, in the future, be worked into the displays at West Stow and Moyse’s Hall. Among these, many of the archaeological samples collected during the excavation of the site over 50 years ago have now started to be properly labelled and preserved for long term, but visible and accessible, storage. Removed from their deteriorating field bags, these objects have now been nestled into cut to measure foam beds in clear plastic containers.
Presently visible museum collections have also been carefully attended. The objects and display cases in the changing fashion gallery have undergone a thorough conservation cleaning to ensure that they look their best – and will continue to do so for the benefit of future generations. The Long Store, too, has seen extensive cleaning of the dust and pests brought in from outside, and a new system has been put in place to carefully monitor and address potential influxes of unwanted insects. If you have a keen eye, you will be able to spot some of the new traps that have been set up and analysed.
New activities for children are also now available, both for use both in the Village and in exploring the museum. The Village Trail asks you too look closely at some of the details present in and around the houses to better understand how the Anglo-Saxons lived. You could also join a member of staff on one of the newly developed tours. In the museum, go on a hunt for Anglo-Saxon treasures and think about how they fit into the lives of the people who used them in the past. For a different challenge, learn to read and write Anglo-Saxon runes and use your newfound knowledge to answer puzzling riddles.
School visits in the upcoming year will also have access to two newly designed activity boxes. The first explores Anglo-Saxon law and order with an activity which hones your sense of Anglo-Saxon justice by asking you to match a number of crimes with their legal consequences. How should Æthelred be punished for stealing that cloak? The second box offers the chance to play Tafl, a popular game for the Anglo-Saxons and across Northern Europe, and looks into the ways that such games lost to the ages can be reconstructed.
West Stow is positively buzzing with new activity, with the hope that it will continue to do so for years to come, but there is still no time like the present to stop by and see us for yourself!