Collecting is something that goes way back to the early edges of the modern human psychology, a motivation to draw objects together that have a sense of meaning for the collector, that can illustrate aspects of an identity through representations of places and times past. Pretty much everyone has succumbed to the urge to collect at some stage in their life, be it stamps, stickers, shells, postcards, geology, fine art, sculpture and even aeroplane sick bags and My Little Pony. Beyond individuals, other groups create collections too, from small groups and trusts through to councils and right up to nation states. Portsmouth, like many other cities all over the UK and the World has its own collection of objects that represent its past, its culture and the people who have called it home.
The Portsmouth Collection began with the foundation of the Portsmouth museum service, established by order of the council back in 1892. The Victorians had a strong tradition of philanthropy which allowed the collection to grow from inception with people donating objects and art, the collection in essence owned by the then town (we became a city in 1927) and its people.
The collection was homed at The Market House & Guildhall on High Street in what is now Old Portsmouth, designed by Benjamin Bramble and opened on June 28th 1838. The building was the civic centre with council chambers plus an open market and even an early police station too. The building quickly ran out of space for city officials so the new Guildhall in Guildhall Square was opened in 1879. With this move the building became the city’s museum and home to the collection.
Market House and Guildhall by Calcott, published by Charpentier.
During the blitz in 1941, the city suffered with a huge loss of life and much of the city damaged and broken. On one air raid on the city the museum was bombed, with much of the city collection destroyed. Around 750 objects were saved from the destruction but it is impossible to know how much of the collection was lost as well as what these objects were specifically because all records were destroyed too. Only a handful of paintings were saved and some still show signs of burn damage. These objects that survived (to this day cataloged with ’S’ numbers to signify salvage) were the basis for a new museum service in 1945 with the end of the war.
Market House and Guildhall after the bombing.
From 1945 the museum service looked to acquire material relating to the history of Portsmouth and the natural history of the local area but also aimed to collect decorative art and modern British art. Under the theme of ‘The History of British Taste’ a national appeal was launched for donations to the collection from both individuals and organisations.
‘Outskirts of Portsmouth Dockyard’ charcoal drawing by W.H. Clarkson.
The Portsmouth City Collection 70 years later is now both vast in size and scope. The collection contains archaeology, art, literary history, local history, military history and natural science with many of the objects donated or bequeathed to the city. The collection can be viewed at the city’s different museums including: Portsmouth City Museum, Charles Dickens’ Birthplace, The D-Day Museum, Southsea Castle, Cumberland House Natural History Museum & Eastney Beam Engine House. Even with all of these museums and exhibition spaces no more than approximately 15% of the City Collection is on display at any one time.
With our next article we’ll be exploring the role of a curator for the museum service. If you want to see some of the finest items on the collection be sure to visit the A Hard Choice exhibition at Portsmouth City Museum. Many items on show in this exhibition were acquired by Rosalinda Hardiman over the last 35 years during her curatorship.
This Sunday there is a free guided tour around the exhibition by Rosalinda from 3pm to 4pm. Find out about some of the stories behind the objects on show and Rosalinda’s reasons for choosing them. Pre-booking is advised.
Throughout this year you can find out more about the Portsmouth City Collection and the many works of art and objects in contains with a Twitter account, simply follow: @PortsCityCollec
We’re pleased to announce that this years’ Strong Island calendar is now completely sold out. In total, you’ve helped us raise £500 for our chosen charity this year, the Alzheimer’s Society, which will help fund the invaluable work they do supporting those with dementia alongside their families and carers. If you would like to make a personal donation to the Society, you can do so here and find out exactly how your donation will make a difference.
Massive thanks to all the photographers that submitted imagery; we received a record number of entries this year and the quality of submissions made for a difficult selection process. We couldn’t raise this money without your contributions.
Work on the 2016 calendar is already underway and if you’d like to enter images don’t forget to hashtag your Instagram and Twitter photographs with #sic2016 or email any high-resolution copies to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last year we worked with Ben Ainslie Racing on a community arts project to create a mural on their Portsmouth Harbour facing wall of the site of the new BAR headquarters. The project involved 6 schools from Ryde, Portsmouth & Leigh Park with over 80 pupils taking part painting ships, yachts and more on a sea mural over 100 feet wide. As well as the help of three local street artists the young people also had sailors from the BAR crew, trustees of the 1851 Trust plus the Minister of Portsmouth help out.
The event was to celebrate the launch of the 1851 Trust and tomorrow, as part of a longer visit to Portsmouth, the Duchess of Cambridge as head of the trust will visit the mural, meet many of the young artists and staff involved and may also add to the mural with Sir Ben Ainslie.
We’ll be there from 11am tomorrow, fingers crossed for painting weather…
Below are some photos from the past event plus a video made by BAR too.
Portsmouth City Museum has been home to some fantastic exhibitions recently, with the temporary city residency of a mummy for the Secret Egypt exhibition, the engaging Tricorn: Controversy in Concrete bringing the brutalist structure back to life in a community context plus the most recent Lest We Forget bringing the lives of Portsmouth people from the Great War back in clear focus. The upcoming exhibition A Hard Choice, which starts on 14 February will feature around 120 favourite objects from the city’s museum collection, chosen by collections manager Rosalinda Hardiman. The exhibition will reveal many of the treasures that form the Portsmouth City Collection and help detail the role of a curator who works with such a huge collection.
Local collectors (curators!) are being given a chance to show their most prized treasures to the wider world by getting involved with A Hard Choice. To take part you can apply to Portsmouth Museum for a chance to have highlights from your personal collection put on public show alongside the main exhibition. Judges will pick their favourite three collections, and a selection from each one will be displayed for two months, between March and September.
Cllr Linda Symes, Portsmouth City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, said: “We’re very lucky to have some wonderful treasures on view in our museums, which belong to the city’s collection…but it’s not often that ordinary people get a chance to show the world their collections – the treasures they’re passionate about.
We’re calling this project the Community Collections Showcase, because a selection from each collection will be in its own showcase in the exhibition. Anyone who lives in Portsmouth can apply to have their collection considered. We want to hear why they collect what they do, and what makes the objects so fascinating.”
You can find out how to apply HERE. The closing date is 15th February.
Strong Island will be helping to celebrate and share the Portsmouth City Collection throughout the A Hard Choice exhibition, revealing the collection’s past, present & future plus the many different aspects of a collection forming 100s of thousands of objects, paintings, photographs and much more.
‘Portsmouth Harbour’ by Edmund T. Crawford, a fine art oil painting and part of the the Portsmouth City Collection.
You may remember that last year boutique craft store Make which was based on Albert Road moved home to a bigger and better premises in Fratton. Due to high demand for classes and a serious lack of space, owner Nicky decided to start searching for a larger shop. On an island city such as ours space really is at a premium and the hope of finding such a place in Southsea proved fruitless.
Fortunately, a retail space became available in Fratton which had a history of textile retail and plenty of room for learning, crafting and socialising. By this time Nicky had decided to join forces with Hesta who dreamed of having a cafe and functional kitchen which would allow her to teach baking and cooking skills. After much waiting, and some serious hard work refurbishing the building, Make and The Craft Kitchen opened its doors late last year.
The space is large, inviting and multi-purpose. With an excellent retail selection of fabric, yarn, paper crafts and haberdashery alongside a cafe serving breakfasts, lunches and homemade cakes. There is also a young children’s play area where babies and toddlers can play safely whilst parents and carers sit with a tea and maybe a craft project.
I feel that Make is more than a shop; it is a social community space which is already being accessed by various local groups and benefiting the people around it.
I spoke to Nicky and Hesta and asked them how they’re settling into the local area. They said that the Fratton Traders Association are working together to attract more visitors to the area which recently benefitted from a National Lottery grant. Nicky mentioned that in many cases businesses and individuals from the creative industries have moved into struggling areas and really helped to improve things (projects that may be of interest such as New York’s High Line or areas of London like Peckham and its Bussey Building). The statistics do support that these changes do indeed occur, take a look at this Financial Times article for proof.
Another benefit is that the mezzanine floor of the building offers an affordable studio space for artists, designers and makers. The studio is currently my home (Ooh la Lapin) and also that of illustrator Roma-May Daly of Roma May Design. There is currently space available to rent so get in touch if you are looking for a creative studio space.
It is hoped that Make and The Craft Kitchen will encourage other creatives and businesses to make Fratton their home. There are lots of events to look forward to this year including a Spring Make Off competition, exhibitions, talks, workshops and much more.
The next meeting of Portsmouth Cycle Forum will be at 7pm on Thursday 12th February 2015 in Park Building, University of Portsmouth on King Henry I Street. The meeting will take the form of a debate, discussing how to make the main routes in Portsmouth safe and welcoming for cyclists. Portsmouth has an exceptionally high rate of cycle casualties and most of these casualties occur on major roads which have 30mph speed limits.
Portsmouth Cycle Forum recently launched their cycle strategy, A City to Share, which proposes that road space be reallocated from motor vehicles to bicycles to enable a step-change improvement in cycle casualty rates and the number of people getting around by bike. Exactly what changes need to be made to find and repurpose that road space were not specified.
For this meeting Portsmouth Cycle Forum have invited their members to propose ideas for how these 30mph roads can be changed to make them safer and more attractive for cyclists, whilst still offering good motor vehicle access to the city. 3 or 4 ideas will be selected for short presentations on how to eliminate conflict between cyclists and motor vehicles on Portsmouth’s 30mph routes – each idea will then be opened to debate.
“The South Parade Trust would like to invite all interested locals and supporters to attend a public consultation event where YOU will be able to give your thoughts on how South Parade Pier could be re-developed. In partnership with the University of Portsmouth School of Architecture and overseen and planned by Catherine Teeling, a senior lecturer at the school, Masters students from the School of Architecture have begun a project that will explore creative ideas and strategies for the regeneration of South Parade Pier.
The project will develop solutions for reuse of the pier that respond to the community’s desires and interests and supports the SPT vision that the pier can once again become both a hub for the local community, a functioning business and an asset for the City.
Students bring a range of expertise to the project from Sustainable Architecture, Historic Building Conservation, Urban Design and Interior Design, however for the ideas to truly represent the future vision as the ‘Peoples Pier’ this live event has been organised for the community to ‘Have Your Say’ on its potential future, to get your thoughts and ideas on what this could be.
Catherine Teeling, Senior Lecturer at the Portsmouth School of Architecture, had this to say:
“This is an exciting project, we try to use local structures for the students and what better than an iconic structure such as the pier. We are also very proud to partner with the Trust on this event, it will be of huge value for the students to speak to the local public and hear their thoughts on how South Parade Pier can be re-imagined for the 21st century”
Vanessa Cooter, travel and tourism lecturer at Highbury College, added: “This is a great example of how the Trust can engage directly with local organisations such as the University and use their skills to collate and quantify local opinion on their pier. We all have an interest in how it is rebuilt in the future, this project will deliver bold and exciting plans which may one day be implemented or at least demonstrate what would be possible with imagination, innovation and drive.”
We hope that as many of you as are able to will visit us during the day at the Royal Beach Hotel opposite the pier and contribute to the Students projects which will, we very much hope, deliver exciting visions for the future use of South Parade Pier. More details will be announced in the coming weeks in the lead up to the event. We hope you will be able to come along! We want to hear from YOU!”
This public engagement event will be held on the 21st of February 2015 at the Royal Beach Hotel, from 9am to 4pm.
The last year had been a roller-coaster for Community Fusion, their project Made with Hartt was launched in December 2013 making history in Cascades Shopping Centre as the first charity shop and ‘Empty shop scheme’ shop. The shop quickly became recognised as a great place to launch creative work in the city centre plus a cut of all sales came in directly to support the charity and boost volunteering opportunities for primarily young adults aged 14-25.
Made with Hartt distributed an estimated 1 tonne of free books to the community and free story time was offered to children on Saturdays. Over 25 volunteers came through the Made with Hartt project learning new skills, gaining qualifications and attending training days. Many of the volunteers moved on into paid employment after spending time in the shop.
Phase 2 of the project was launched in May 2014 in form of a market held once a month in the Wedgewood Rooms. Table fees from local artist, crafters and designers were all contributions for Community Fusion. The Wedgewood Rooms donate the space free of charge in support. All these efforts were rewarded with winning the title of Green Business of the year from the Venus Awards and the national finals are later this month.
In late November 2014 Community Fusion lost the shop in Cascades to a new tenant and sadly after a 2nd shop fell through Community Fusion have been left without a base to trade from. Recently an opportunity came about to be based on Albert Road on a long term lease but funds are needed. The charity needs to raise £5000 to make this dream possible. The new shop promises to continue its great work and also launch creative workshops and have meeting/creative/workshop space available for the community to use.
If you are interested in donating to this cause please contact Jenna Boyson via EMAIL or donate directly HERE.
The next Made with Hartt Market is on Saturday 24th January from 11am to 4pm at The Wedgewood Rooms. This is a monthly market usually on the last day of each month but January sees it one week early. Local artists, crafters and designers come together to showcase their work, take custom orders and raise awareness of their talents.
Find out more about the Community Fusion events HERE.
For the 2014 Portsmouth City Museum exhibition, Tricorn: Controversy in Concrete, marking the 10 years since the demolition of the Portsmouth Tricorn Centre we asked the people of Portsmouth to submit their photos of the city’s iconic Brutalist structure. Over 500 images were submitted by more than 30 photographers, of these 100 were put together in to a community photography panel that went in to the exhibition.
From the outset the Tricorn was considered a likely source of creative inspiration for photographers throughout its history and the submitted photography for us proved this opinion. The light and shadow, the lines and corners of the building, all were captured in creative ways by photographers both from Portsmouth and the rest of the UK. Many of the images were shot with 35mm and medium format film.
We wanted to, for the first time, bring all of this beautiful imagery together online with a new website, we’re happy to say that the website is now complete and live. This website is home to an ever growing selection of the best imagery of the much loved & hated building that dominated the city skyline from 1966 to 2004.
A huge thank you to everyone who contributed their photography. If you would like to submit your own images please EMAIL us. The website can be found at:
This weekend see’s the return of The Southsea Alternative Choir. If you are not already aware, the choir are a group of friends who all share a love of music and get to together to sing some classic songs that we all love. This is all with a view to raise money for SamuelsFund, supporting a local child with Cerebral Palsy.
The choir will be in the RMA Tavern this Friday evening, however it has now sold out. Details of the other events can be found on the poster below or for more information visit the choir’s Facebook page.
Steve Bomford gave us the heads up on this wonderful short film made up of old film footage, from the 50s to the 70s, filmed around Portsmouth and Southsea. If you like looking at some vintage Portsmouth and Southsea you will love this (really interesting to see the Guildhall before it was pedestrianised and the buildings were demolished for the council offices).
A new reader of Strong Island recently sent us this email. Glad to hear we’re doing things right and feedback of all kinds is always welcome, as is beer. Of course.
“Hi all at Strong Island
I just wanted to email to say as a recent visitor to your site how great it is to see something that celebrates the creative, cultural and positive life of Portsmouth and Southsea (and I don’t even skate or cycle!). ‘Strong Island’ sums up the spirit of this place so well. Keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing the site go from strength to strength and maybe impacting on some of the decision making that goes on.”
The Hiscock Gallery on Stanley Street behind Waitrose has some interesting new vintage style prints in stock by local artist David Thompson. They are a series of digitally drawn images reflecting upon 1930 – 1950s style advertising posters, enhanced with modern techniques. A really nice simplistic approach highlighting the main features of the subject, yet still very technical and intricate in places. The front of The Victory is awesome.
All reproductions are genuine giclée prints, printed with pigment based inks on 180gms Canon Matte paper, fade resistant for 100+ years. These “Poster” Prints are all personally signed by the artist. Head on over to Davids Gallery and take a look for yourself. Nice stuff for sure.
I love fog, even more so at night time because all the street lights are on and it’s like this weird eerie zombie town. People appear out of no where and even cars creep up on you before you notice them in the deathly silence of the fog. I watched, or should I say waited, as the the Hovercraft came over from The Isle of Wight. I could hear the roar of the engines for five minutes till I could actually see the craft as it pulled on to shore. Spooky.
My little point and shoot isn’t much cop in low light fog but there are a few more over on my Flickr
If you love a bit of not often seen Portsmouth history, Eastney Beam Engine House is open to the public for free from 1pm to 5pm on every last weekend of the month. Hidden just off of Henderson Road in Eastney, the Victorian building contains two restored and working 150 horsepower ‘James Watt & Co’ Beam Engines powered by steam which were installed to operate water pumps in 1887. This new system proved very successful and is still the basis for today’s underground drainage system on Portsea Island.
Sadly due to essential building work you won’t be able to go inside the buildings this weekend, but there will be talks with staff and photos and artefacts.