Latest News | 16 February 2022

Museum supporters raise thousands to buy rare manuscript

Derby Museums Trust
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Supporters of Derby Museums have raised thousands of pounds to help it purchase a rare unpublished 19th century manuscript by a Derby botanist and artist.

The Derby Museums’ Friends raised £6,251, matching an Arts Council England / V&A Purchase Fund Grant, to help Derby Museums acquire the manuscript, dated 1825, which was created by Lucy Hardcastle.

The manuscript is a rare find, being one of only a handful of her original drawings and watercolours known so far.

Bought from the Antiquariaat Schienrenberg, in Amsterdam, it contains eight watercolour illustrations of flowers and mushrooms from life, including two specimens of Agaricus, which the artist records as having been ‘found near Derby’ by her daughters Antonietta and Mary.

Research carried out by Emeritus Professor Jonathan Powers, of the University of Derby and Anne Powers, a professional genealogist and historian, has confirmed that Lucy was born in Derby around 1771, the second child of Lamech Swift and his wife Dorothy. Lamech was a ‘Silk Throwster’ and ran the Silk Mill, on what is now the site of Derby’s Museum of Making.

Lucy Bamford, senior curator of fine art and the Joseph Wright Collection at Derby Museums, said: “We are delighted to have had the support of the Derby Museums’ Friends and Arts Council England / V&A Purchase Grant Fund to help acquire this wonderful manuscript for our collection.

“Not only will it go some way towards helping to improve the representation of women artists in our collection, it also illustrates the importance of studying art and science in tandem; a subject that is close to our own heart as an organisation dedicated to the principles and encouragement of STEAM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) learning.”

Since the foundation of the Derby Museums’ Friends in 1969, the group has helped to acquire over 300 objects for Derby Museums’ and is currently putting its support towards the museums’ £1 million Endowment Fund challenge.

The Lucy Hardcastle manuscript will go on display later this year at Derby’s Museum of Making and will also feature in the museums’ forthcoming exhibition, Women History Makers, which will open at Derby Museum and Art Gallery in September.

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