Important sale of mountaineering literature.
The Armitt Museum Bookshop is having a major sale of LAKE DISTRICT/MOUNTAINEERING/CLIMBING books. These are duplicates from the Library of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club and include quite a number of rare books. One of our customers described this book sale as a once in a lifetime opportunity for those with an interest in mountaineering literature.
The book sale will continue into the Spring - we have more FRCC books arriving next month.
2014- In brief
The year began with our shop refurbishment, funded through a sustainability grant from the Association of Independent Museums. The object was not only to create more space but also a much more welcoming atmosphere, largely by repositioning the counter from its central island to the back wall. To make the grant stretch, much of the joinery work was undertaken by volunteers, staff and friends and we are delighted with the results (although there is still heated debate over the very green carpet!). We also took the opportunity to renew the CCTV system.
At the same time as the shop refit, we were reorganizing the Library to accommodate the collection of the Fell Rock Climbing Club. This involved the truly massive task of relocating a large proportion of the library collection, both physically and on our database. However it turned out to be a very useful exercise and gave us the opportunity to devise a much more logical arrangement with all local material and the FRCC library in one space and everything else- literature, history, education etc. in the other. It was also useful in bringing to light a number of rare and valuable books which had been lurking unnoticed in the general collection. Local joiner Paul Edmondson built and fitted an impressive range of new bookcases to match our originals – the work was financed by the FRCC.
The Arrival of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club Library.
The library collection, of around 1500 books was delivered (in a great many boxes) from Lancaster University to its new permanent home, where it has been reunited with the collection of former FRCC president Robert Files and his wife Muriel and also with the important collection of 17th-20th century Guides to the Lake already held at the Armitt.
In addition to the books, over the past century the club has accumulated an important archive relating to all things mountaineering, this includes early equipment much of it donated by famous former members which shows the progression from sturdy tweeds and hobnailed to boots of the late 19th/early 20th century to the sophisticated technical gear of today.
The FRCC archive also includes many of the original Abrahams bros. glass plate negatives and of particular interest a collection of photographic images on glass slides from the 1921 Everest Reconnaissance Expedition. It is of great satisfaction to both the FRCC and the Armitt that these significant collections have come together in the heart of the Lakes and are now accessible to all.
The early part of the year saw the Armitt well represented in the media. Articles for the Westmorland Gazette, Lancashire Life, Ambleside Life and the Journal of the American Society of Botanical Artists were produced in-house as well as another appearance on BCC TV Countryfile (broadcast 9th Feb).
The Portico Library Exhibition
During May our colleagues at The Portico Library, Manchester, held a very well received exhibition of 25 of our Beatrix Potter mycological watercolours and associated books, manuscripts and ephemera.
In June we loaned our Charles McIntosh letters to the Birnam Institute for an exhibition which coincided with the Beatrix Potter Society Conference held in Dunkeld.
Beatrix Potter: Image and Reality
Our ‘permanent’ Beatrix Potter exhibition is proving to be very popular. The visitor’s is book full of extremely positive comments including one from Prof. Richard de Marco where he described the Armitt as ‘the nodal point of cultural life in the Lakes. It is good to see this unique celebration of the genius of Schwitters, Potter and Ruskin, all under one roof.’ It is very satisfying that our visitors are making these connections.
During the Summer we had a Charlotte Mason study visit from our friends in North America including Dr. Deani van Pelt (Redeemer University, Ontario), Prof. Caroll Smith (The University of North Carolina), Margaret Coombs (Oxford) and John Thorley. A thoroughly interesting and enjoyable time was had by all!
In September the Armitt was delighted to announce that through the generosity of the V&A Purchase Fund, The Art Fund and a number of private supporters it had acquired two further paintings by the internationally renowned German émigré artist Kurt Schwitters. The Armitt holds the largest permanent collection of Schwitters works on public display in the UK.
The two paintings, The Old Mill, Ambleside (1945) and Bowl of Flowers (1946) are rare and important examples of Schwitters’ Lakeland work, and as such represent an important addition to the Armitt’s collection.
The paintings were purchased from the family of Schwitters’ great friend the late Harry Bickerstaff. Described as a slight, quiet man, Harry Bickerstaff was a teacher at Ambleside elementary school and first met Schwitters while working in his allotment on the Gale, near Schwitters’ lodgings. The acquaintanceship developed into friendship and when Schwitters suffered a stroke in late 1945 and was in bed for five weeks, Harry visited him daily. He records in his diary ‘When Schwitters began to recover he asked me a lot of questions about the subjects I was teaching; then he taught me to play chess and painted my portrait’.
The following Spring Harry helped Schwitters and his companion Edith Thomas, to find new accommodation close to his own home on Millans Park as the stiff climb onto the Gale had become impossible for him. They moved into rooms in number 4, the home of the recently widowed Mr Creighton, the local blacksmith.
Mr Bickerstaffs’ daughter commented that ‘she felt sure it would have been her father's wish that the pictures were returned to Ambleside where they would be available for all to see’.
The Armitt works to actively promote Kurt Schwitters and his links to Ambleside and is developing a long-term plan to extend its current facilities. Curator, Deborah Walsh commented that, ‘It is our ongoing plan to bring a wider audience to the importance of his work and, in particular, the scale of his labours in Ambleside. We are keen to acquire works by Schwitters, particularly those that are representative of his time in Ambleside and we are grateful to the V&A, The Art Fund, the Friends of the Armitt and our private patrons for their continuing support. Schwitters and Ambleside are irrevocably linked.’