Wessex Museums Exhibition Features Star Artifacts
Prized Pieces from Prestigious National Collections to go on Display!
Prized artefacts from prestigious national collections are to go on display for the first time at four museums in Dorset and Wiltshire.
Hardy’s Wessex, which opens on 28 May, is a partnership exhibition that spans Dorset, Poole, Salisbury and Wiltshire Museums. It tells the story of Victorian novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy, amidst the Wessex landscapes that shaped his view of the world. The exhibition will be the largest collection of Hardy objects ever displayed at one time.
Image © Wessex Museums
Thanks to support from the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund, each museum will have a ‘star’ loan object:
Wiltshire Museum (Devizes) – Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles manuscript, on loan from The British Library.
The Salisbury Museum – Hardy’s Jude the Obscure manuscript, on loan from the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Dorset Museum (Dorchester) – Oil painting A Village Choir by Thomas Webster, on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Poole Museum – Oil painting Weymouth Bay by John Constable, on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
A Village Choir by Thomas Webster, © The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Image no: 2006al3887
Created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund, the Weston Loan Programme is the first ever UK-wide funding scheme to enable smaller and local authority museums to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles manuscript, © The British Library. Image no: add_ms_38182_f001r
Sophia Weston, Trustee of the Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “This exhibition on one of our most celebrated Victorian writers is a wonderful example of what the Weston Loan Programme sets out to do - we are so pleased to be able to support the display of such special objects in the places that inspired, and were reflected in, Hardy’s work.”
Weymouth Bay by John Constable, @ The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Image no: 2014ha9997
Harriet Still, curator of the exhibition for Wessex Museums, said:
“We are hugely grateful for this funding which is enabling us to display such significant objects. It’s a major coup for us to obtain the handwritten Tess and Jude manuscripts – the scribbles and amendments showing that even Hardy struggled to find the right words! The two oil paintings beautifully evoke life in Hardy’s times. A Village Choir is a snapshot of rural life, capturing the typical local ‘characters’ found in Hardy’s writing. The romantic and atmospheric Weymouth Beach could be a love scene from one of Hardy’s novels."
Jude the Obscure manuscript, © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Image no: Ms 1-1911_82_202108_mfj22_dc1
“Together with the extensive collections from our partner museums, all these objects will combine to make an immersive, thought-provoking and memorable Hardy experience.”
Wessex Museums is a partnership of the principal museums of Dorset and Wiltshire – Dorset Museum, Poole Museum, The Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum – and supports museums to connect, inspire and add value to people’s lives. The partnership exists to build the resilience and relevance of the partner museums and others across the region, and is guided by a shared vision of museums thriving through collaboration. Wessex Museums is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation (2018-2023) and a registered charity (Wessex Museums Trust, registration number: 1171104).