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Behind the Scenes Blog

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August 15th 2017

On Saturday 19th August, the Mayor of Bournemouth’s Charity Appeal presents… The Time Travellers’ Masked Soirée!

Step back in time for what promises to be a wonderful evening here at the museum. With our very own gin bar, kindly supported by award-winning Conker Spirit, and performances from local artists, we cannot wait for this magical night. It’s the perfect excuse to dress up in your best vintage pieces and see the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum after closing time!

On the evening, we will be hosting various entertainment to keep up the lively spirit in our galleries. Below are some of the local talent you can expect to be supporting:

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s Sorrentino String Quartet

Featuring some of the top professional string players in the Bournemouth and Dorset areas, BSO’s Sorrentino String Quartet will be joining us on the evening to add a touch of sophistication to our masked ball. You can listen to them play here.


Pianist Hope Schachter

Gracing us with her beautiful, wide repertoire will be local pianist and songwriter Hope. Having performed at many venues and events across the Bournemouth and Poole area, Hope has a knack for creating a lovely ambience and making her guests feel special. For a taste of what to expect, listen to some of her music with fellow musicians as full band ‘Hope and the New Flower Generation’ here.


Dancing from Ruby Adams

Expect some delightful dancing on the evening from the wonderful Ruby Adams. As a dance teacher based in Bournemouth, Ruby shares her talent with others through classes, workshops and dance parties, as well as performing around the UK. Her speciality lies in vintage and retro dancing so will fit in perfectly with our time travel theme!


Gin bar supported by Conker Spirit

Dorset’s first gin distillery creates small-batch gin distilled in Dorset from British wheat spirit and New Forest Spring Water. With ten botanicals including a dry Macedonian juniper heart, Dorset notes of elderberries and handpicked New Forest gorse flowers, the end result is a unique, refreshing blend perfect for summer evenings. On the night, expect delicious cocktails and mocktails made by our lovely Beth and Elissa.


Dorset Event Photography

Capturing our wonderful evening will be Dorset Event Photography, a family-run business based in Poole. They will be providing a photobooth and fun props for you to make the most of your wonderful outfits. With instant studio-quality prints available to purchase on the night, you’ll be able to take home a piece of the evening to remember your time at the Russell-Cotes.


Plus, get access to the rest of the house after-hours and marvel at the opulent décor of one of the last Victorian House to be built in England.

Will you be joining us for this special event?

Saturday 19th August, 7.30-10pm

Tickets £18, including a welcome drink.

Dress up in your best vintage and bring a mask!

Written by Milenka Stevens, social media volunteer

July 18th 2017

Well we have a had an entertaining month- quite literally! Last week saw Behind the Lines theatre company perform their show ‘All the Nice Girls’.

Alison Child and Rosie Wakley set up Behind the Lines Theatre company in 2014 and have since been touring and performing in their show ‘All the Nice Girls’. The show is about lesbian variety stars Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney and is viewed from the perspective of male-impersonator Ella Shields.

Alison and Rosie travelled from Brighton for the performance, bringing with them a van full of props and costumes. As soon as the museum closed it was all hands on deck for the ‘get in’. We set up the stage in the door way of the main hall leading down to the galleries. The doors were shut which looked fantastic as the evening sunlight lit up the stained-glass panels – a rare sight as they are usually left open during the day.

We set up a seating area then left Alison and Rosie to change and warm up for the performance. Our café was turned into a temporary bar space so the audience could enjoy a cooling beverage pre-show.

At 7pm the show began, and what a show! There were song sheets on every seat and audience participation was encouraged! We started with a hearty rendition of ‘Ship Ahoy!’ featuring the title line ‘All the nice girls love a sailor’. Alison and Rosie made an addition to the script to mention Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, who were greatly admired by Merton and Annie Russell-Cotes (they even have a room dedicated to them in the house!). An addition that is now a permeant feature of the show.

It was such a fun evening and everyone certainly threw themselves into the singing. Thanks to Alison and Rosie for providing such fantastic entertainment.

Next week we have another evening event – a talk from British Library Curator Steven Dryden: ‘The Wolfenden Report: Love, Law & Legacy’. This talk is to tie in with the British Library’s exhibition ‘Gay UK: Love, Law & Liberty’ and should be highly interesting as it will feature rarely heard archival recordings and images of material from the British Library collections. We still have a couple of tickets available, priced £7.50 which includes a glass of wine and nibbles. To book please call 01202 451820 or buy tickets online here.


6th June 2017

This weeks blog post is written by Milenka about the installation process of ‘Refracted: Collection Highlights’.

‘I wanted to share some behind-the-scene photos with you from the setting up process prior to the exhibition going live. With our team of dedicated staff and volunteers, we worked hard on all aspects of getting the space ready including painting the walls in our two galleries and measuring the space required for each painting, as well as displaying the actual art.

With the clock ticking, we somehow managed to keep ahead of schedule, which everyone knows is not usually the case with such events! From a personal perspective, it was exciting to be involved in such a hands-on experience and watching the exhibition come to life. Alice, Tanya and I had a lot of fun putting the paintings up and using our muscle strength to screw them into place by hand! It was only after Duncan came to the rescue and fixed the electric drill that we were able to take a step back and really look at the progress we had made that day.

It was also really lovely to be able to arrange some of the objects in our glass cabinets, despite my only previous experience with arranging displays being in a clothing store. The decision was definitely not easy and required quite a bit of moving around to finally settle on which items should go where. However, the finished result was worth it, and with just a few retouches after adding the labels, I was so pleased to see that Alice and the rest of the team were happy with the arrangement.

As someone who enjoys visiting museums and historic houses, the ability to be involved behind-the-scenes like this has been a fantastic opportunity, especially in such a beautiful place. The Russell-Cotes is truly a hidden gem and I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t visited prior to starting volunteering here, which seems absurd as it has been on my doorstep in Bournemouth for all of these years. However, I am happy that I have finally experienced it for myself, and from such an exciting perspective. Helping out with this exhibition and being part of the Russell-Cotes team has been a lovely start to the summer, and with the exhibition continuing throughout the summer months, I am hoping to be involved a little longer still!

Make sure you come and visit us to see the finished project if you haven’t already. ‘Refracted: Collection Highlights’ will be up until 8th September 2017.

You may have already followed our journey through Instagram Stories on @russellcotes but if not, we have plenty of photos on the grid from the setting up, the exhibition itself and everything else that is going on at the museum! Don’t forget to follow us on there, as well as on Twitter, to keep up with what’s happening here at the Russell-Cotes.’


After the walls were dry we positioned the paintings on their corresponding walls

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Alice and Beth making a start on the green wall


Duncan adjusts the newly conserved ‘Ring Mistress 1: Suzy Raeburn’ by Alexander Moffat


One of the display cases in the process of being arranged

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Milenka and Tanya pose by the first painting that Milenka screwed into place (by hand!)


Some of the paintings before they went up on the wall

Written by Milenka, Social Media Volunteer


25th May 2017

You may have already heard about the exciting news of our award of £132,453 by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Wolfson Foundation. This money will support our Art Galleries Skylight Project which will conserve the roof structures over our galleries, letting natural light in through the stained glass & improving environmental conditions. Long term this will enable us to bring you bigger and better exhibitions: great news for everyone!

To carry out the work, there will be a partial closure of certain galleries from 9 September for vital renovation works, which will greatly improve the quality of future exhibitions and borrowed pieces housed at the Russell -Cotes in the future. (Funded by grants from the Department of Art & Culture, amongst others). The historical house, gift shop, café and other areas will remain open throughout this time, and there will also be several exhibitions and events taking place throughout the building during the autumn months, including work by the artist William Ranken, and decorative arts from the Munich Art Nouveau. There will also be more volunteers in the house, experts in storytelling, conducting tours around objects in the various permanent collections.

The newly improved galleries will be fully up and running from mid-January 2018. Look out for more news as we get nearer to the project.


11th April 2017

Today was moving day for our upcoming exhibition ‘Refracted: Collection Highlights’ here at the Russell-Cotes. Pieces that have been selected had to be carefully wrapped and arranged in transport boxes to be moved from our study centre to the museum. The objects will be displayed as part of our LGBT+ inspired exhibition, open to the public from 13th May 2017 and running until the end of summer, 8th September.

Some of the pieces were not the easiest to wrap thanks to their intricate shapes and required quite a lot of moving around to fit into our boxes, a little like a jigsaw puzzle. Certain items like the Hindu deity Sita were deceivingly heavy for their appearance and definitely required some muscle strength to move! This object will be part of the ‘spirit’ theme associated with the colour purple from the Rainbow Flag, which is how the ‘Refracted: Collection Highlights’ exhibition will be organised. Other objects, such as the alpine boy, are extremely delicate due to their material and will need extra special care when transporting.

With just a month left until the exhibition, Alice and Duncan worked hard getting everything ready and packed, and we wanted to share the journey with you to show some behind-the-scenes!


The alpine boy getting comfortable for his journey to the museum

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Some shapes are not as easy to wrap!

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Written by Milenka, Social Media Volunteer

9th March 2017

So February appears to have been missed off completely- apologies for this, a combination of annual leave and a lot of list making are to blame.

The list making I refer to is the on-going-nearly-complete final list of paintings for the ‘Refracted’ exhibition (this is now the title of our LGBT+ community exhibition). To make this list even more streamlined it is necessary to work out the ‘hang’ of the gallery. This is done by working out the size of the wall space (i.e. measuring it with a tape measure or looking at floor plans), then sourcing the height and width of each individual painting including frames. (Note: it is very important to include the frames as some are at least twice the size of the artwork, which could lead to significant miscalculations!).

The paintings are then arranged on the wall. Obviously they cannot be arranged on the actual wall so they are arranged on a series of hand drawn gallery plans. Each time a painting is added the space it will take up on the wall is calculated allowing for between 10-30cm wall space each side. The entire process is a bit like one of those logic puzzles that seem to appear around Christmas time: you think you’re nearly there then you change one thing and have to alter pretty much everything you have done up to that point!


A photo of the plan for the hang. Note the measurements of each piece in cm. 

Label research and writing is well underway. The exhibitions team has morphed into the research team, each undertaking the writing of three or more labels. It certainly is an undertaking! Although the labels are roughly 100 words or less, a lot of time is put into researching each one. Each painting has a file detailing its specific history. Depending on the object it can take hours to read through all the documentation and then there’s books and online resources to consider. With all this information 100 words is really very limited so deciding what goes in is tough job!

I’ll leave you with a date for your diary – watch out on the Russell-Cotes’ social media channels on Thursday 16th March. It may have something to do with ‘Refracted’…


Chris researching and label writing. 

January 19th 2017

Happy New Year! A bit late but as this is the first blog post of 2017 it seems appropriate nonetheless.

In case you missed it, we are over the moon to announce that we have been awarded £132,453 by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Wolfson Foundation. This money will support our Art Galleries Skylight Project, which will conserve the roof structures over our galleries, letting natural light in through the stained glass & improving environmental conditions. Long term this will enable us to bring you bigger and better exhibitions: great news for everyone!

Updates on the LGBT+ Community Exhibtion: Last week was spent selecting paintings for the exhibition in May. We spent three hours in Picture Store Two and only managed to see around a third of the paintings on the ‘pick list’ (our list of paintings that we are considering for the final exhibition) so that should give you some idea of the size of the list!

When we look at the paintings we are taking into account their quality (in terms of will they need restoring before the exhibition), whether they fit with the themes of our exhibition and how they will fit with each other. For example, we looked at a number of lovely landscape paintings. They are all very nice but we really only need one as opposed to five. These are the sorts of decisions that we will have to make over the next week. -Alice

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Judith, Chris, Nigel and Ezgi considering a painting being held by Helen.

Helen and Alice 2

Helen and Myself sourcing the next painting for consideration (Photo by Chris Flynn)

December 22nd 2016

The smell of floor polish and the sound of Duncan’s mega mix are filling the rooms of the Russell-Cotes this week. No, it’s not a strange new exhibition, we’re closed for floor polishing and other necessary tasks.

PolishingBeth, Elissa and Miranda polishing the floor in the Dining Room

The floor polishing is the main event and is the reason why the museum is closed for a week. In order to polish the floor in each room all items on display need to be carefully moved to an alternate location- this has included our beautiful Christmas trees. Each floor then has numerous coats of polish applied before being polished with a floor buffer. When everything is dry it is then time for all of the objects to be placed back in their original positions.

PetePete using the floor buffer

Just in case this wasn’t enough, we have also been painting the walls.

mirandaMiranda working on the spiral stair case

Parallel to this hive of activiy on the shop floor, we have been at work behind the scenes in Picture Store two.


April measuring the plastazote foam

The racks which house the paintings needed to be lined with plastazote foam in order to cushion the frames of the paintings and prevent damage. This was also a good opportunity to look at every painting, assess its condition and check it was in the right location.

Alice and April

Alice and April standing in front of the completed racks

From everyone at the Russell-Cotes- hope you have a Merry Christmas! -Alice


December 12st 2016

What do a mummified bird, a Maori canoe paddle and a model ship called ‘Clementine’ have in common? No, it’s not the start of a joke. They are all objects in the Russell-Cotes collection and last week the exhibition team for the LGBT+ project spent the afternoon looking at these items and many, many more. Duncan, the Curator, showed the team around the object store.

Chris and Nigel

Chris and Nigel investigate

It was an exciting afternoon and gave the team an idea of the number of objects we are dealing with- there are well over 40, 000 objects in the collection! Not something that can be fully understood until you are standing in a room with shelves upon shelves of objects wrapped in acid free tissue.


One of the many shelves in the store

Now the challenge is deciding which ones to pick for our exhibition next year. We have decided on a theme for the exhibition (which will be revealed in the new year) and we are selecting objects accordingly. The exhibition team went away with lots of things to think about but definitely enthused for our next meeting in the new year. – Alice

Looking at Objects

Looking around the store


December 1st 2016

The big news this week is the loan of a piece well-loved by visitors and staff alike: ‘Midsummer’ by Albert Moore. ‘Midsummer’ has gone on a trip starting in the Netherlands at the Museum De Buitenplaats as part of their ‘Albert Moore. Of Beauty and Aesthetics’ exhibition. This show will bring together amazing works from public and private collections across Europe. Next ‘Midsummer’ will travel to York on the 7th April 2017 as part of the same exhibition. The Exhibition should be well worth a visit, especially the York leg of the tour which has the added significance of being the birth place of Albert Moore in 1841.

The move of ‘Midsummer’, took the combined efforts of no less than eight people. Due to the scale of the piece, the painting is only able to be removed through one door. The door in question is the original entrance to the house which is, unfortunately for the movers of ‘Midsummer’, up a considerable number of steps. As such the entire move took well over half a day to achieve. The good news is it wasn’t raining as otherwise the entire move would have had to be postponed until a clearer day.

Moore, Albert Joseph, 1841-1893; Midsummer

‘Midsummer’ by Albert Moore


November 24th 2016

Christmas has arrived at the Russell-Cotes. The Dining Room is looking suitably festive with crackers, baubles and cherubs making an appearance. So far we have one Christmas tree, complete with angel, which is shortly to be joined by a couple more trees at various locations throughout the museum. Christmas is spreading! We are also looking forward to a visit from the man himself- Father Christmas will be at the Russell-Cotes on 10th and 11th December. Book to avoid disappointment on 01202451820.


Last evening the museum played host to over 150 guests in order to launch our highly anticipated new friends scheme. Guests enjoyed a private view of all three of our current exhibitions and a chance to mingle with curators and artists alike. This increased level of engagement is an example of the events we are offering as part of our new friends scheme. For more information and to sign up visit http://russellcotes.com/friends-scheme/


Here are Beth (our Fundraising Office) and Ruaidhri (our Visitor Services Team Leader) enjoying themselves at the Friends Launch.

Our LGBT+ community exhibition project is well under way. Our first volunteer meeting was great and we have now formed an exhibition team from this meeting. We are in the early stages of the planning process so our main focus is deciding on a title and theme for the exhibition. It certainly promises to be an exciting couple of weeks ahead! – Alice

November 17th 2016

Welcome to the first blog post from the Russell-Cotes. We are hoping to give you an insight into the behind the scenes activities of the historic house.

The first blog post is from Alice, a new member of staff who is working on the LGBT+ community exhibition that will be on in the gallery next May.

I write this sitting in Gallery 3 where the exhibition to commemorate 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality will be on display from May next year. At the moment it is housing the Modernism Exhibition (on until 24th April and well worth a visit!).

Currently the exhibition is in the early stages, we have a working title ‘For the Love of the Russell-Cotes’ but that may well change. One thing we are sure of is that the exhibition will be featuring the highlights of the Russell-Cotes’ collection. The exhibition will be put on with the help of local volunteers from the LGBT+ community who will be involved with everything from the selection of works to the marketing and organisation of events. So far we have had a great response and I am looking forward to meeting everyone next week at our first meeting which will be at 1pm Wednesday 23rd - do come along if you are free!

As I have only started working here recently I have been familiarising myself with the collection which has been fantastic- I have greatly enjoyed seeing the sheer volume of objects – picking the highlights will definitely be a challenge as there is just so much on offer!

I leave you with a picture of one of my favorite images from the current exhibition ‘Meeting Modernism’.


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