Collections and Interpretation

Val Bott’s considerable experience of developing collections and interpretative concepts underpinned this aspect of her consultancy. She pioneered new approaches to community engagement in the 1970s and ’80s, creating and managing two new museums – Brent in 1977 and Wandsworth in 1986. She re-modelled the Passmore Edwards Museum in Newham in 1992, and her team won a Gulbenkian Award in 1993 for an innovative accessible natural trail at East Ham Churchyard. She set up a Community History team in Newham, which today flourishes as the independent Eastside Community Heritage.

Val also advised on the successful HLF grant application and researched and wrote the script for the new Havering Museum in 2008/10. She has also created the first ever museum in a supermarket, for Sainsbury’s new Hertford store – The Brewery Story opened in the summer of 2012.

With the support of an expert steering group, Val devised the new interpretative scheme for Hogarth’s House. This uses a local history rather than an art history approach to set the artist’s home into a Chiswick and London history context and people it with Hogarth’s friends and family as well as other past residents. The House re-opened in November 2011 and visitors are enthusiastic about this new approach. Her book on the history and occupants of Hogarth’s House was published in 2012. Val was awarded the MBE in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours for her work with Hogarth’s House.

This hands-on experience enabled Val to advise upon museum interpretation and to create themes which capture visitors’ imagination,  helping them to make meaning of the past.

Advice to the Theatres Trust on the interpretation of Normansfield Hospital Theatre

Assessment of and proposals for future use of Twyford Bathrooms business archive

Support for Barley Hall, York in a successful HLF bid for interpretation and outreach work

Cowper’s House from the garden

Interpretation planning, working with trustees and volunteers, for the Cowper & Newton Museum in Olney (with Matthews Millman).

Advice to the Suffolk Punch Trust on inter-pretation in advance of an HLF grant application (with Matthews Millman)

Interpretative planning for a new Shrewsbury Museum at the Music Hall in the town (with Artservice/Matthews Millman)

Interpretative and management planning for new Havering Museum in part of former Romford Brewery (with David McCabe Design); curatorial and interpretative input to HLF application (grant awarded Feb 2008), research and script writing, working within design team, Museum opened May 2010

Interpretative planning for Lewes Castle and Barbican House for Sussex Past (with David McCabe Design) at Stage 1 of and HLF funded project. Stage 2 funding was awarded and the project is now completed.

Audience development plan for City of Westminster Music Library (with Matthews Millman)

Hogarth’s House as the artist saw it

Support for HLF application for Hogarth’s House (Hounslow Council), grant awarded  in 2008. Chair of steering group for refurbishment, devised new inter-pretative scheme and provided curatorial support to client for the project. House re-opened to visitors November 2011. She also worked with Hounslow officers on a successful second bid for the Mulberry Garden Project at Hogarth’s House.

Concept development for interpretation of the House Mill, Bromley-by-Bow and advice on funding strategy, in advance of submission of funding applications. A substantial Stage 1 HLF grant was awarded in November 2010 and Val continues to advise the River Lea Tidal Mill Trust.

Interpretative planning for Toynbee Hall in East London, working with Jura Consultants on a successful HLF application.

Initial interpretative planning for The London Charterhouse, working with Museum of London staff and Jura Consultants for a successful HLF application.

Hertford Brewery, architect’s perspective, 1891

The Brewery Story, a museum about McMullens’ Brewery in Hertford, opened in June 2012 in the town’s new Sainsbury’s store. Val Bott co-ordinated the project, with David McCabe (3-d design), Toni Marshall (graphics) and Bob Farrow (technical support and mount-making), using objects and images from McMullens’ collection. Steve Beeston did the digital photography including photos of the Whole Hop Brewery today.

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Thomas Rowlandson, Richmond Park

Val worked with Pat Astley Cooper, advising the late Daniel Hearsum of Pembroke Lodge on developing a project to create a Richmond Park visitor centre. Sadly, despite a number of high quality grant applications this was never implemented.

Sandycombe lodge

Sandycombe Lodge

Val advised on interpretative planning for Turner’s House,  Sandycombe Lodge, whose transformation with the support of HLF funding opened in 2017. This is the house which J M W Turner designed and built in Twickenham for himself.

The Chiswick Pier Trust installed an information panel close to Chiswick Pier which provides a brief history of Corney Reach. Designed by Toni Marshall, Val researched the storyline and images and compiled the text.

The Heritage Room at The Grange Centre in Bookham was opened by the Duke of Gloucester in September 2018. The collection of needlework and equipment, dating from the beginnings of the charity as The School of Stitchery and Lace in the 1930s, plus recent art work by some of the people with whom The Grange works, are on display with photographs and oral history recordings. It presents the story of The Grange and looks at the care and education/ training of people with disabilities over the last 90 years.

Aaron Jones created the elegant design, with graphics by Nicky Doyle. Louise Squire, textile conservator, prepared garments and domestic textiles for display. Val advised on the concept and wrote most of the interpretative history text. This lovely project has been supported by an HLF grant.

Val advised Berry Brothers & Rudd, the St James’s Street wine merchants founded in 1698, during 2017 and 2018. She listed business archives, papers as well as all manner of packaging and merchandising, and advised on new displays for the refurbished reception at No 3 St James’s Street, the 18th century premises. Now fellow consultant, Jon Newman, is overseeing conservation work, cataloguing and digitisation and preparing a strategy for the future.

London’s land-based college, Capel Manor, opens its Enfield estate to visitors, with model gardens, animal displays and events throughout the year. Val has advised upon ways of interpreting the heritage of the estate. Her initial research has revealed new information about the history of the site. Her essay on the Boddam family, who owned the property from about 1790 to 1810, won Enfield’s Council’s David Pam Memorial Prize in 2016.