Museum to open after revamp
A museum celebrating the lives of a poet and a preacher will reopen with a day of talks and tours.
The Cowper and Newton Museum, in Olney, will launch the 2008 season with its annual Cowper and Newton Day on Saturday April 26, following completion of an intensive programme of work over the winter break.
The museum, which was founded in 1900, commemorates the poet William Cowper – who lived in the museum building from 1768-1786 – and his friend
John Newton, ex-slave trader, hymn-writer, and campaigner for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.
It also holds an important local history collection and has beautiful period gardens which contain Cowper’s original summer house.
In 2006, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund and donations from local residents, the museum was able to acquire the last important collection of William Cowper memorabilia still in private hands.
This success attracted further funding, enabling it to undertake an ambitious programme of refurbishment and redisplay.
The story of the Cowper and Newton is now told through a series of colourful interpretation panels.
All the objects – paintings, books, manuscripts, personal belongings – are newly displayed, with the latest in lighting and display cases to show them at their best and, there are audio points with readings from their work. Whole rooms are devoted in turn to their family and friends, their domestic life, their writings and, in John Newton’s case, his progress from blasphemer and slave trader to inspirational preacher and abolitionist.
The local history section has now become the Olney Museum, separated from the Cowper and Newton collection and housed in the rooms above the shop.
Here you can browse through the geology and archaeology of the town, the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Civil War, World War Two, and the lace making and boot and shoe trades which were so important to the area.
Space has also been created for an educational resource centre and for an exhibition gallery – known as ‘The Three Hares Gallery’ – which will be available free of charge for use by community groups.