The Grand Tour (Part 3): Derby Museums

The Grand Tour originally took place in the 17th – 19th centuries for rich travellers so they could become ‘cultured’. The tour took them across the globe, from England to Italy and Greece. For the modern day traveller however, this has been narrowed down to the much more accessible local region. The tour now utilises four popular arts venues in the East Midlands: The Nottingham Contemporary, The Harley Gallery (Nottinghamshire), Derby Museums, and Chatsworth House (Derbyshire) to showcase the best of culture and arts our region has to offer. It will be presented over two seasons, 4 July – 20 September 2015 and March – July 2016.

The next instalment of The Grand Tour was the Derby Museum and Art Gallery. Situated in the Cathedral Quarter surrounded by the stunning architecture of the nearby buildings and only a short walk from the Assembly Rooms, this museum is definitely worth the trip to Derby. Their exhibition ‘Wright Revealed: Part 1’ provides an exploration of two rarely seen paintings by Joseph Wright, the 18th century artist born and raised in Derby who achieved great acclaim, influenced the Society of Artists, and created a vast quantity of high quality paintings – many of which can be seen here at the museum.

                                                                                      daylight Moonlight

The paintings, The Colosseum, by Moonlight’ and its sister, ‘The Colosseum, by Daylight’ are not as impressive as some of the other exhibitions in The Grand Tour, however, they are still well worth a look because of their history. Originally belonging to a collection of four paintings exploring Rome’s famous Colosseum, only two survive and are badly damaged after being restored unsuccessfully in the mid 20th century. The focus of this exhibition is to show the visitors the conservation process the two paintings will be undergoing, with the aim of revealing as much of Wright’s original work as possible. The end result of the restored paintings will be displayed in The Grand Tour’s second half – ‘Wright Revealed: Part 2’ running from the 23rd April to 19th June 2016.

Alongside the two paintings is the opportunity to explore more about the artist and the work that will be undertaken to restore the paintings to their original glory. A digital interactive guide is available to inform visitors about the history, damage, and conservation methods; the most interesting element is being able to see the paintings under an infra-red radiation lens which highlights the imperfections within the paintwork microscopically. In addition, the museum also contains a large selection of Wright paintings, a particularly poignant exhibit entitled ‘A Soldier’s Story’ following the role of Derbyshire’s soldiers in warfare.

“Derby Museum also contains many other galleries and exhibition spaces that explore a wide variety of topics”

Derby Museum also contains many other galleries and exhibition spaces that explore a wide variety of topics and provide something for everyone’s interests. From a highly engaging reading and study room to a display on natural history, containing taxidermy animals, specimens pickled in jars, eggshells, and bones, to a 3,400 year old log boat. It also provides archaeological finds from the Roman to medieval times, and a gallery exploring the natural world, an exploration of ‘The Changing Face of Derbyshire’, and to top it all off, three Egyptian mummies and a mummified cat!

Other temporary exhibitions include a history of Derby Museum and its collection in ‘Common Treasury’, extended until the 15th November, and tying in with the Museum’s local ethos, John Stobart’s ‘An Artistic Journey from Derby across the Atlantic’, full of complex landscapes which celebrate another local’s talent.

If after this varied selection you are still wanting more, Derby Museums also have two other sites only a short walk away, in the form of The Silk Mill. The Mill has just secured a huge redevelopment fund from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and Pickford’s House, a museum of Georgian life and costume, which are also both free and promise to be just as entertaining as the Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

Amy Wilcockson

Images courtesy of Derby Museums Trust

For more information about the Grand Tour, see here.

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