Visitors enter the
Museum's first gallery, THE CONISTON GALLERY, through the shop/reception
area. On the right wall is the history of the Ruskin Museum laid out in
text and pictures. Nearby are two computers which have pictures showing
Coniston in the past. This is a very popular and interesting display. Since it was Ruskin's philosophy that everything connects, the
displays from here on are not lined up in any order. You can choose your own
starting-point to explore the great variety of exhibits on offer.
THE PRE-HISTORY CASE on the left contains rough-outs and polished weapons
from the Stone Age axe factory sites, and rare items from the Bronze Age.
The Lake District is known as an area of outstanding natural beauty, but
has been managed by man for over 5,000 years.
Additional information is presented in folders and on laminated boards,
and there is a selection of rough-outs set out for handling purposes.
THE GEOLOGY DISPLAY is placed centrally. The graphic panels
have information on geological time, worlds in collision, fire and mud,
and the age of ice. There is a geological map of the Coniston fells, and a
selection of local volcanic and sedimentary rock samples from the
Coniston area for 'hands-on' study. A folder nearby has general geological
information plus articles about some of the largest and most famous volcanic
eruptions from the past. The display was produced by the British Geological
Survey. The geology of the Yewdale Fells may be seen in spectacular array
through the large window. You can sit and admire this view on the old railway
seat. You may then wish to read the extra folders of information there,
relating to dry-stone walls, old Coniston and Ruskin in Coniston.
To either side of the Geology information and specimens, there are cases
displaying the history and artefacts of both Coniston Copper and Coniston
Slate. The coppermines were exploited from the Bronze Age until the early
20th century, and slate quarries have changed the face of the Old Man.
Coniston has copper-bottomed the fleet and roofed the world !
One of our most popular computer displays is about the Coniston
Coppermines. Over 300 high quality images can be accessed showing not only
the surface features in the past and as it is today but also stunning images
of the exploration of the mines themselves. It is ideal for anyone who
has wondered what it is like in this dangerous but colourful
Placed up high on the wall by the big window we have the tailfin
of Bluebird K7 on loan to the Museum, as well as colour and
black and white photos and other memorabilia telling the story
of the CAMPBELLS. See Donald Campbell page for more details.
Further along is a dramatic sculpture of a charr (by
the artist-blacksmith Chris Brammall ), graphic panels and
a map of the lake which all celebrate the uniqueness of CONISTON
Industrial sites (bloomeries and transport of copper-ore and slate), along
with places linked to Arthur Ransome's 'Swallows & Amazons' stories,
are also featured on the map. A model of the magnificent steam-yacht gondola
(the real-life version of which still provides a passenger service on the
lake) is displayed in a case of its own.
The SLATE FLOOR throughout the museum is a contemporary version of
a Roman hypocaust, heated from below. The beautifully-polished slate is
from the local quarry at Elterwater; it is a volcanic slate formed from
ash and silt that shows all the structures found in a water-lain sediment.
There is a case displaying some of the work of local violin-maker Bert
Smith. In his lifetime he made violins for such great musicians as Yehudi
Ruskin gave his name to pottery-making ventures in his time, and there is
a small case showing fine examples of this particular craft.
The FARMING displays concentrate on the fascinating
Herdwick sheep, with artefacts and implements relating to the history of
farming in the area.
Adjacent to the Farming is a display which offers a few insights into
writer Arthur Ransome's connections with Coniston.
Wonderful examples of RUSKIN Linen and Lace have been set out in special
cabinets which show them to great advantage. It was John Ruskin who instigated this local
cottage industry for womenfolk, along with WOOD-CARVING for the men. The
Museum offers Lace Courses several times a year (see Linen & Lace page).
There are three TV screens in the Coniston
Gallery, one showing Mrs Elizabeth Prickett, the leading expert on Ruskin
lace; one showing Donald Campbell in colour at Coniston Water; and the other
showing dry-stone walling, riving slate, sheep-shearing and 'bratting and
from the visitor book
wonderful experience-return visit assured "
impressed with display of Ruskin Lace"
"Excellent, could have spent much longer"
for any visitor to the Lakes"