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The Story of Hastings in 66 Objects for the Root 1066 Festival

How do you tell the story of a town, spanning nearly a thousand years of fascinating history, with just 66 objects? That’s the challenge facing the curator and staff of Hastings Museum and Art Gallery as part of this year’s Root 1066 Festival.

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Inspired by the 2010 BBC Radio 4 series ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’, Cathy Walling  and her team at the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery have undertaken their own landmark project to explore and explain the town’s history – since the Norman Invasion – with artefacts from the collection.

It is quite a big job as the museum holds over 100,000 objects; from a beetle to the Durbar Hall, an entire, elaborately carved wood-panelled room.

Describing the selection process as a “two-way conversation with the public”, the museum has an interactive survey on its Facebook page (HBC Hastings Museum & Art Gallery). Here, people can vote for key events, eras and people who contributed to the developing story of the town, and also look through photos of artefacts from different eras.

Cathy says “We also want respondents to tell us which objects best illustrate those stories. For example to tell the story of John Logie Baird we have four objects to choose from; a scanning disc, neon lamp, a Maltese Cross medal and the first television sold in the UK. So far, over 1,000 have responded but we’d like many more ideas and opinions to come in. Whether you’re looking at our Facebook page or actually in the museum and gallery, please do tell us what you think. I’d like to encourage visitors to tell a member of staff which objects they’d pick.”

Using her prerogative as Curator, Cathy admits that she has already earmarked several pieces that are her personal favourites. Not least, a rather unusual ship’s figurehead: “It’s carved in the shape of a pelican and came from a brig  of the same name. It tells a story of trade in the mid 19th Century, which connects Hastings not just with the sea but also with the rest of the world.”

Albums of objects will be added to the Facebook page over the next month for people to ‘Like’ and help narrow down the choice of the final display.

For more information visit www.hmag.org.uk or go to HBC Hastings Museum & Art Gallery on Facebook.

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