18th September, 2015

Anna Rhodes, Macclesfield Museums (and a great Panda)

My name is Anna and I am the Collections Manager for Macclesfield Museums.  It is a very varied job I am responsible for the collections across four sites; Paradise Mill, The Silk Museum, The Heritage Centre and West Park Museum. After graduating with a degree in history, I started my museum career as an intern at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.  This was a great grounding for a career in museums and I later went on to work in their education team.  Since then I’ve worked at The Armitt Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry and at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, where I still work part time alongside my role at Macclesfield.   This career path has allowed me to work with many different collections from brachiopods to Romantic manuscripts, Egyptian shabtis to oil paintings.  

West Park Museum holds a small but interesting natural history collection including the only stuffed panda in a North West museum.   He has an interesting history and like many things in Macclesfield he has a link with the Silk Industry, as he was shot by a member of the Brocklehurst family. The Brocklehursts were the leading silk manufacturers in Macclesfield and it was on a trip to China in 1935 that Captain Henry Brocklehurst shot him.  What is more unusual is the Panda’s link to Nazi Germany, as in 1937 he was part of the Great Hunting Exhibition in Berlin and it is reported that Herman Goering wanted to buy him.  Luckily for us he came to West Park Museum in 1941 and has been on display ever since, well apart from a short stint last year in the freezer where he was being treated for carpet beetle. 

Alongside the panda we have a selection of Victorian taxidermy birds which are displayed near our  collection of bird prints, drawings and paintings by Charles Tunnicliffe.  Although Tunnicliffe painted many British mammals, including illustrating the Tarka the Otter series, it is for his bird pictures that he is most well-known, producing illustrations for the RSPB and Penguin books. We are looking at rehanging these artworks and making more of the star exhibits at West Park, which will of course include the Panda.  West Park Museum is free to visit and is open Wednesday – Sunday, 1pm-4pm.