Last Saturday, the Mills Archive opened its doors to welcome our Friends of the Archive, volunteers and alumni to our annual Friends’ Garden Party at Watlington House in Reading.
It was a glorious day: we were fortunate that the sun was shining and our beautiful herb and flower garden was in full bloom. Upon arrival, guests had tea and coffee whilst chatting to old friends and meeting new people, and were then able to view the two exhibits that were held especially for the day.
A display on the volunteers was set up in the Garden Hall, with photos and blogs from volunteers, explaining about the tasks they’re currently working on in the Archive, and why they enjoy working here. It is down to the outstanding work of our volunteers, past and present, which allowed us to be awarded the hugely prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in June – so this was a great opportunity to acknowledge the volunteers and all they do to keep the Archive running.
Upstairs in the Founders’ Room we had the Gems of the Archive exhibit, showing off our newly collated collection of mill-related ‘Gems’: images, artefacts and documents that uncover some fascinating and unexpected stories which have been lying hidden, waiting to be unearthed. They include curiosities such as the stereoscope, a Victorian device through which you can view optical illusions (you can see our Archivist, Nathanael, demonstrating it in the picture!); two plaques from the United Kingdom Flour Millers Association, which once adorned a WWI ambulance train; and an adjustable copper measure for gunpowder and shot – with some gunpowder left in it.
Lunch was thoroughly enjoyed (especially the chocolate tartes, which I keep finding myself daydreaming about!) and some guests participated in the challenge to think of words describing the Archive. Some good examples included ‘priceless’, ‘dynamic’ and ‘unrivalled’; it’s really encouraging to hear that other people share our view of the Archive’s uniqueness and importance. We’re always keen to hear people’s views on the Archive, so if you ever have any comments you’d like to share, please do send them in!
We were delighted to also have some children at the party, who as well as having fun with the balloons and bubbles, viewed the exhibitions with thoughtful interest. It’s great to see the next generation of mill enthusiasts in the making!
Overall, the day was a great success with over 70 guests attending, both old faces and new. It was wonderful to see so many of our supporters, and celebrate the Archive’s achievements with the people that make them possible. We’re already forward to next year!