Cultural treasure Keith Skipper opens Swaffham museum

ONE Norfolk cultural treasure celebrated the restoration of another as Keith Skipper helped launch a new season at Swaffham Museum.

ONE Norfolk cultural treasure celebrated the restoration of another as Keith Skipper helped launch a new season at Swaffham Museum.

The museum reopened on Saturday and unveiled its Collectors and Collecting special exhibition for 2010, which features eclectic assortments of everything from typewriters to baked bean tin labels.

And among the permanent displays is the return of the town's 17th-century pikeman's armour after conservation work which has uncovered some intriguing detail on its colourful past.

Writer and broadcaster Mr Skipper, a former pupil of the old Hamond's Grammar School in Swaffham who was recently included in the EDP's Virtual Reality Museum of Norfolk, said he was proud to formally open the exhibitions.

'Apparently, I am a cultural artefact now - which just proves that from little icons mighty oiks grow,' he said. 'But it is nice to be in the museum again, and play a part in these places which keep the wonderful ways of Norfolk alive and vibrant.'

The Norfolk dialect enthusiast presented the museum with a copy of his Bumper Book of Norfolk Squit as his contribution to the collection.

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The Swaffham armour, made during the reign of Charles I in the 1630s, was sent for restoration with the help of a �3,600 grant from the Pilgrim Trust. During the work, Ipswich-based conservator George Monger found traces of blue and white pigment on the chest plate and helmet.

Sian Hogarth, learning and access officer at the museum, said: 'We are ever so excited because it changes our perspective.

'You always think of Civil War armour as being shiny metal, but this was painted. Now we need to find out if the colours were significant. Was it for recognition, so you didn't kill someone on your own side? Or was it the town colours? It is very intriguing.'

Miss Hogarth welcomed visitors to the museum dressed as Margaret Fountaine, the intrepid Victorian traveller who hoarded exotic butterflies - some of which are included in the new collections exhibition.

'I think she was an incredible character,' she said. 'What she achieved in those days - especially given her background - was remarkable, and her butterflies are exquisite.'

The museum also houses local history exhibits and a collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts as part of display explaining how Swaffham man Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.

Swaffham Museum, on London Street, is open from Tuesday to Saturday between 10am until 4pm.

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