Alton Decorative and Fine Arts Society

Heritage Volunteers

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In the past ADFAS has helped the Royal Green Jackets Museum in Winchester, at Rotherfield Park in nearby East Tisted and Chawton House Library. At the present we are supporting Gilbert White's House and Museum at The Wakes in Selborne and if you are interested in joining us please contact Niven Baird for more details.

Gilbert White's House and The Oates Museum, Selborne, Hampshire

In the Spring of 2011 Gilbert White's House installed a new exhibition devoted to The Reverend Gilbert White, the 18th century naturalist and writer. White is often called the father of British natural history, in that he worked as modern naturalists do, observing nature in the wild and reporting on what he saw. He called this Watching Narrowly.

The exhibition tells the story of White's life and times, and illustrates his passion for the flora and fauna of his native place, the village of Selborne. It shows how he wrote The Natural History of Selborne (which has never been out of print since 1789) from a series of letters addressed to leading naturalists of the day, how he recorded the weather and how he tended his garden. Far from being a dry country clergyman he emerges as a fascinating and multi-faceted character, surrounded by family and fascinated by the smallest details of nature. The exhibition was financed by a grant form the Your Heritage Lottery Fund and by numerous private donors and trusts. It received a wonderful donation of all the editions of The Natural History during its planning, which are housed in a specially constructed and secure bookcase in the heart of the museum, together with the original manuscript of Gilbert's book.

The new exhibition has something for everyone and because Gilbert White is most commonly associated with the observation and classification of birds, the Museum wished to display its collection of mounted birds in an interesting and sympathetic way. They were conserved funded by a grant from the AIM Conservation Grant Scheme and supported by the Pilgrim Trust.

As a result there are beautiful swifts, swallows and martins (White called them 'hirundines') flying through the air in the display, while the ring ouzels and black-backed stilts keep them company with their legs firmly rooted in the ground and on branches. Most importantly of all the birds that White classified as separate species by their songs are in pride of place - the wood warbler, chiff chaff and willow warbler. Previously everyone had quite reasonably thought these little green-brown birds were one species, and the feat of separating them by their songs and by minute differences in their plumages was an outstanding one of patience and observation. Visitors can replicate White's feat in the exhibition by trying their skill at bird song identification - it is harder than one thinks!

Gilbert White's House is open all the year round, and in addition to the exhibition about White himself, it also commemorate the life and works of Captain Lawrence Oates, who went to the South Pole with Captain Scott and walked out of the tent to save his friends saying I am just going outside and I may be some time.

There is a wonderful garden, restored to White's original plans, and a Field Studies Centre where the children of Hampshire learn about landscapes and the environment, and which can be hired for social events, conferences and meetings, as can conference rooms in the house. There is also a first class shop, and a Tea Parlour for delicious lunches and teas.

Antartica Plc

2012 marked the centenary of the Scott Terra Nova Expedition to the Antarctic and the 100th anniversary of the death of Captain Oates. Thanks to a National Lottery 'Your Heritage' grant, match funding by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust, generous donations and fundraising, the Lawrence Oates Gallery at The Wakes was redesigned. The galleries tell the story of Oates's early life, his distinguished service in the Boer War and the story of the Scott Expedition of 1910-12. A completely new section reflects the scientific importance and legacy of the Scott Expedition.

Captain Oates (18801912) was chosen to be part of Captain Robert Scott's team to undertake the epic journey of discovery to the South Pole a hundred years ago. The ill-fated expedition turned into a race for the pole when the explorers learnt of the presence of the Norwegian team led by Amundsen. Scott's team suffered inadequate food supplies, severe weather conditions and failing health so Oates sacrificed his life in the hope of saving his comrades, leaving the tent in a terrible blizzard with the famous last words "I am just going outside and may be some time." His body was never found.

The arts society volunteers help to conserve our heritage both in Britain and in parts of Europe. Conservation and preservation of our heritage are tremendous burdens on the limited resources of museums, National Trust properties, historic houses, libraries and gardens. Volunteers help them in non-specialist but vital ways by caring for collections, recording documents and stewarding for visitors.