Rex Russell Exhibition at Baysgarth House Museum
Baysgarth House Museum has dedicated its latest exhibition to local historian and educator Rex Russell, who is known to have revived archaeology and historical study in the Barton area over the second half of the twentieth century.
The exhibition sums up the life, work and discoveries of one of Barton’s most interesting characters and one of its most prolific scholars stimulatingly and thoroughly. The exhibition is elementary enough and interesting enough to engage those who are unfamiliar with the man and his work, while still having the depth to arouse interest in those who are more au fait with him.
There are minimalistic but useful guide books to help explain the exhibits to the visitors, although this is only really needed for the archaeological exhibits, as much of what is on show is self-explanatory.
Three years after the end of the man’s 98-year life in January 2014 and 15 years after his last publication, this feels like a worthy memorial to a hard-working and duly renowned scholar as well as an exhibition of what he created and found. One room is primarily dedicated to the man’s life, his art, and his interest in a range of subjects, while the other is more focused on his research and his discoveries.
The side of the exhibition focusing on Mr. Russell’s life gives visitors a good feel for the man and his interests, which range from history and archaeology to sociology. Particularly noticeable is a large timeline in one corner of the room which, together with several large notices, takes you through his life from his London birth, through his time in the Royal Navy, to this area and then finally to his recent passing.
There is sentiment as well as emotion here. Mr Russell’s drawings of his first wife, Froude, show the warmth and caring detail that only comes from true closeness to a person. Meanwhile, photographs of the man undertaking the pursuits that he loved almost radiate enthusiasm.
In the other room of the exhibition, cabinets of findings and maps plotted by Mr Russell demonstrate his work in very real terms. The historical treasure trove harbours Roman pottery, medieval tiles and much more, while the maps are focused on the lost towns and historical enclosures that shaped our country.
It’s hard to look at Mr Russell’s work without becoming aware of his interest in the socio-political structure of society. While his studies remained objective, Mr Russell’s background as a hard-working farm labourer inspired and coloured his study of the enclosures, Methodism, and other similar issues. The exhibition melds these aspects of his work life and personal life seamlessly. When covering a man whose work was his life, this definitely feels appropriate.
The exhibition celebrating Mr Russell’s life continues at Baysgarth House Museum continues until Sunday, July 30. The Museum is open every Thursday to Sunday and Bank Holidays from 12 noon until 4pm.