Past Matters

Self-portrait of Emma Brownlow - The Foundling Museum

An episode of Past Matters

By Ploy Radford
Museums, galleries and historic houses are treasure troves of items from the past. But how easy is it at these sites to unknowingly just walk straight past an object with an incredible story to tell? In this podcast series journalist Ploy Radford talks to the experts at different museums, galleries and historic houses about the most underrated objects in their collection, and unveils some fantastic facts.
More places to listen

More places to listen

It’s not all about the mammoth! Visitors to Ipswich Museum should also take note of three frightening looking taxidermied gorillas in the corner of the Victorian Natural History Gallery there. This group were the first gorillas the British public would have ever seen and the story of their expressions and poses provides a crucial insight into Victorian thinking and involve a swashbuckling fraudster desperate to be accepted by moralistic Victorian society. You can view a picture of the gorillas on 
August 9, 2019
Madame de Pompadour snuffbox - Waddesdon Manor
Art, dogs, and a famous royal mistress... what more could you want from a podcast episode? To round off Season 1 of Past Matters, journalist Ploy Radford talks to Dr Mia Jackson, Curator of Decorative Arts at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, about a beautiful snuffbox depicting the beloved dogs and birds of Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV of France. Listen in to learn more about France's most famous mistress, the complicated art of porcelain making, and Mia's thoughts on the identity of the pampered pooches depicted.  You can view a picture of the object on 
August 8, 2019
Three tapestries - Hever Castle
This episode of Past Matters if for fans of the Tudors, Anne Boleyn and anyone who has ever wanted to learn more about tapestries, royal signifiers of power and historical fashion. Or those who enjoy looking for the comic scenes hidden in art.  Download to hear Alison Palmer, Conservation and Engagement Assistant, at Hever Castle talk about three very beautiful and entertaining tapestries that are currently hanging at the former seat of the Boleyn family.  You can view pictures of the tapestries on or via Past Matters' social media channels. 
August 1, 2019
Regency fan - The Holburne Museum
This episode takes us to the Holburne Museum in Bath, which runs an excellent programme called Pathways to Wellbeing whereby they offer art classes focusing on the objects in the museum to people with mental health issues referred by the local NHS trust.  Listen on to hear Louise Campion, Education and Outreach Officer at the Holburne, discuss the history of an object that was used in a Pathways to Wellbeing art class and why it was a helpful talking point for the session participants.  You can find a picture of the object in question on 
July 19, 2019
Roman jewellery - Colchester Castle
It can be very easy to walk by jewellery in an exhibition because these items tend to be very small. Don't skip by this episode of Past Matters though - in it journalist Ploy Radford talks to Colchester Museums' Senior Collections and Learning Curator Glynn Davis about some exquisite pieces of Roman jewellery that cast a new light on the inhabitants of Roman Colchester, show off the skill of the jewellers and gem cutters of the time and reveal more about Roman jewellery trends.  Pictures of the items can be viewed on 
June 25, 2019
Alfred Munnings' Newlyn sketchbooks - Munnings Art Museum
 This episode is for those people who love animals and art because in it, I interview Jenny Hand, curator at Munnings Art Museum. Alfred Munnings was a famous 20th century impressionist painter, particular known for his paintings of horses.  The objects Jenny picked though, are actually remarkably animal free - they are the sketchbooks from his years living in Cornwall. Listen in to learn more about a rather tragic period in Munnings life, and be reminded that he was rather good at depicting people and not just horses too.    To view pages from the sketchbooks, visit 
June 20, 2019
Regency dairy - Weald & Downland Living Museum
Nestled among the reconstructed low-status farm buildings in Weald & Downland Living Museum is an almost fairytale-like structure. It wasn't the home of fairytale heroine though - it's actually an ornamental dairy from Regency England. Although, there are marks within it to ward off witches and evil spirits... To learn more about this building which visitors have walked past but will only be able to enter in this summer, listen in to this episode of Past Matters with Weald & Downland Living Museum curator Julian Bell. You can view a picture of the dairy on   
June 13, 2019
Self-portrait of Emma Brownlow - The Foundling Museum
It would be very easy to walk by the small, understated self-portrait of Emma Brownlow at the Foundling Museum in London, but it would be a travesty to not pay more attention to someone whose works provide such an interesting insight into life at the UK's first ever children's charity - the Foundling Hospital. The daughter of a former foundling who then became the head of the charity meant Emma grew up with insider knowledge of what the hospital was like. She was also remarkable for being a female artist who supported her family with her work.  Guiding us through the life of Emma Brownlow and what her works tell us about Victorian morals and the life of foundlings at the hospital is Kathleen Palmer, Curator of Exhibitions and Displays at the Foundling Museum. 
June 5, 2019
Japanned Chinoiserie cabinet - Christchurch Mansion
Thought furniture was boring? Nonsense! Come and listen to episode 2 of Past Matters and learn about secret compartments and boudoir calendars in this interview with Bob Entwistle, Conservation Officer at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich.  The object up for discussion is a Japanned Chinoiserie cabinet that dates from the early 1700s. You can view a picture of it on 
May 22, 2019
Renaissance parade sallet - The Wallace Collection
Can weapons be art? How can you do armour - something worn to be admired from a 360 degree angle - justice in a museum? And did you know there were armour-making dynasties in renaissance Europe?  Download this first ever episode of Past Matters to hear Dr Tobias Capwell, Curator of Arms and Armour at the Wallace Collection, London, explore these topics and more with journalist Ploy Radford. The Wallace Collection's underrated object at the centre of this discussion is a renaissance parade sallet (helmet) created by Kolman Helmschmid in Germany, circa. 1520.  For a picture of the item, visit Although of course, nothing beats going to see it in person. 
May 15, 2019
Introduction to Past Matters
Journalist Ploy Radford introduces herself and what Past Matters is all about. 
April 21, 2019
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