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Webb-Share: Celebrating our Victorian Astronomy Heritage

Project Outcomes – June 2010

This report covers the three years of the Heritage Lottery funded project ‘Webb-Share’ in Herefordshire – project number YH-06-01747


Outcomes for each Objective:

1 Research

A team of volunteer researchers led by tutors Janet & Mark Robinson investigated the lives of three Victorian astronomers from Herefordshire using both primary and online sources. Significant help was provided by Rhys Griffith (Senior Archivist – Herefordshire Record Office), Peter Hingley (Librarian – Royal Astronomical Society) and Mark Hurn (Librarian – Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge).

Surprising discoveries included :

Another group of volunteer actors researched the lives of Webb / With / Key to stage a Victorian re-enactment during a star party – with thanks to Nick Waller (The Play Supply).

2 Webb-Ranyard letters

Digitisation of 329 letters written by Rev T.W. Webb to Arthur Ranyard which are in the Royal Astronomical Society Library have been fully transcribed by volunteers and edited by Janet Robinson.  They reveal both new insights into Victorian astronomy and the social history of the time.

Arthur Ranyard first wrote to Webb as a 13-year old boy asking for advice about buying a telescope. By the time Webb died (in 1885) Ranyard had become a leading London barrister and also Secretary of the RAS.

3 Telescopes

Restoration of two telescopes has been completed – a 6-inch reflector with folded optics (donated by Martin Griffiths) and a 3-inch refractor. Both telescopes now form part of the Science collection in the Museum Resource & Learning Centre (MRLC) in Hereford. Additional items include silvered-glass mirrors – including the largest mirror made by With of 18-inches diameter – and a radiometer. All items can be viewed by contacting David Stevens (MRLC).

4 Star parties

Three star parties were organised during the Webb-Share project:

Clear skies allowed members of Herefordshire Astronomical Society to pass their enjoyment of the night sky to families attending all three star parties – with special thanks to Paul Olver and Mark Chamberlain.

5 Loan boxes

Two loan boxes for the Museum’s handling collection were produced by Clarissa Haley & Paul Haley (Space Today UK). These involved work with the children of Clifford Primary School – and are designed for Key Stage 2 pupils. Teacher resources are included – using the twin themes of ‘Communication’ & ‘Observation’. The boxes can be booked by contacting Sarah Skelton at MRLC in Friar Street, Hereford.

6 Family learning events

‘Out of this World’ events were held in Ross-on-Wye and Hereford at the start of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Families attending Heritage Services events were involved – with thanks to Sirial Collins & Mary Sinclair-Powell.

Longtown Primary School & Community Centre hosted an event – with thanks to Joyce Hvass (Longtown Discovery Club).

Two events were also delivered at Enginuity in Coalbrookedale – with thanks to Mel Weatherley (Ironbridge Museums).

7 Exhibitions

Events occurred with Herefordshire Astronomical Society (Annual Webb Lectures) and the Woolhope Club in Herefordshire. The Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge provided a venue for the Webb Society exhibition. Hardwicke Church & Clifford Primary School hosted events including an astronomical flower festival during the ‘Celestial Objects’ celebrations.

Two final events – at Herefordshire Record Office and Hereford Museum enabled large numbers of the public to access the Webb-Share project during a two-month period in April-May 2010.

A combination of attractive posters about Webb-Share and high-resolution images from the global exhibition ‘From Earth To The Universe’ guaranteed excellent feedback from members of the public.

8 T3 overlays

The Royal National College for the Blind initially worked closely with The Share Initiative on the design and production of talking tactile overlays for visually-impaired learners. Early designs were piloted in the Olsztyn Centre for the Blind in Poland. However staff changes at RNC prevented further work on this objective.

9 DVD & website

A Project film and these webpages have been produced by Matt Biggs (Artaura Productions). The film is scripted by Paul Haley and narrated by Joanna Ford. 100 copies have been distributed by TSI.

The DVD also includes a trailer for ‘Heavens Above’ – showing further scenes shot with our actor volunteers – which is being separately funded by TSI and Artaura.

10 Signed & Subtitled film

When completion of the T3 overlays proved impossible a new objective was agreed with Lucy Caruana (Heritage Lottery) – to produce signed and subtitled versions of the Project film for hearing-impaired learners. This was achieved by Matt Biggs (Artaura Productions) working with Debbie Harvey (Deafinite Interpreters).