On Tuesday 8th March 2011 a group of our House Detectives visited the Mill Green Museum to see the archive material held there relating to Welwyn Garden City and to take in the current exhibitions such as the Brave New Vision: 90 years birthday of Welwyn Garden City and Open all Hours; Shopping in Welwyn Hatfield. This was part of a series of talks and other events that the Trust has been running for the Where Do You Think You Live? project with help from HALS, WGC Library local studies & Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service. If you are interested in finding out more about the history of your WGC home or would like to volunteer to help with someone else's research please do get in touch.
Below is a report by Dave Bull, one of our House Detectives.
Firstly an appreciative thank you to Vanessa and Jenny Oxley, the museum’s curator for the visit to Mill Green museum. Jenny provided a warm welcome and introduction and then took us off to the main storeroom.
We were first told about the filing, indexing and referencing system which is in fact used across the country at similar venues. I recall that there are five categories; Community,Home,Work and two others that I will have to be reminded of. Various artefacts and ephemera can be found within the mobile racking system with the latest addition being a silver plated cigar box, signed (engraved) by the ‘founding fathers’ of the Garden City and it did actually contain one large cigar. Certainly a diverse and eclectic array of items was unfolded including local industry from DeHaviland’s, Lone Star and Welwyn film industry all now confined to history.
For myself a simple item, a pipe set and rack, brought memories of a similar rack owned by my father and as kids we secretly pretended to puff away, my father had given up smoking I hasten to add. The jockey’s weighing chair was hard to place as a local item, but then we realised it was used to weigh children, probably at a local clinic or school and I'm sure the kids thought it was great fun.I can see a dragons den moment here, re-inventing it as a modern Mothercare high chair, any takers?. I would have liked to have seen what the clothing items were under their brown covers, but perhaps on a later visit or exhibition. The insect traps and temperature controls brought home the ongoing work that has to done to maintain this museum and I'm sure Jenny needs all the help of the 50-60 volunteers she mentioned.
Moving onwards through the Victorian shop display with its play-doh butter patting, tempting but we'll leave that one to the kids. Jenny's comment here was that the room and display was 'Small but perfectly formed' a comment which you could apply to the whole museum .The Herts and Middlesex Wildlife section included a wasp nest and a 'pinned' down bug and insect display ….who would of thought that replacing rusty pins was one of the chores undertaken by staff.
We were then taken across to the Resources room next to the cafe. Here there is an obvious large collection of photographs currently being scanned into digital format. Like a small library there are also published works, local in origin, all catalogued. I found a folder with material relating to the Lone Star toy company in Hatfield and clearly you can link material here back to items in the main store. The message here was that the collection of books and photographs are accessible, with the prime visiting time being Thursdays 1000-1200 and I certainly intend to re-visit and research my interest in the DeHavilland company.
From here we moved onto the Mill itself ,which was fully working .I have seen this before with my children but its always good to see that it is still maintained to this working standard. I sincerely hope the £70,000 shortfall in the museums budget does not affect this.
Unfortunately, I could not stay for the Tea and Buns, but I hope the above summarises our short visit.
Although I missed the initial Campus West event, my interest in the group activity stems from requesting from the local council the original drawings and plans of our current house in Welwyn Garden. I hope we can move on to other events and visits which opens up our local history.