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Black Jack Gilpin

Black Jack Gilpin

Why did I do it?

Why did I agree to put myself through extra work and the stress of setting up an Armoury in the Undercroft for A Night at the Museum?

Well, one reason is for the last 31 years I have been involved in re-enactment work and have amassed a collection of costume and weapons. The first problem was making six free-standing frames for the armour to be displayed on. I was unable to get help from our Shaky (our resident Technician and all-around clever guy who builds stuff), since he was under pressure with other jobs, so I had to make it myself. The next problem was to find time to get them painted black.

Then I had a stroke of luck: two women happened to be painting some boxes the same colour as I was about to use. They offered to help, I offered to buy chocolates, and the deal was sealed.

By slipping in and out of the Undercroft at odd times I managed to get most of the set up sorted, but it took one last push on the Friday afternoon to get it finished.

On Saturday evening I was all ready for A Night at the Museum. I arrived at the Herbert, changed into my character, Black Jack Gilpin, entered the Undercroft at six of the clock and prepared for a long cold night. I had a constant stream of visitors as I regaled them with tales of ghosts and daring do. Lots of children arrived in their pyjamas but the one thing that sticks in my memory was my “story” of Sir Valentine…how his ghost was reported to walk down the Undercroft stairs, across the floor and up the other stairs leaving a cold draft of air as he passed by….

It had to happen – one of the visitors told me that she was a “ghost hunter” and had spent a night in the Undercroft. She sat upon the stairs in question and there was severe drop in temperature.

Could it be that “Sir Valentine” really walks the steps?


Eric Hodgkins, Site Management and Gallery Assistant

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My post is Head of Collections and Programmes, a fairly grand title meaning I manage and support staff and projects related to the museum’s 300, 000 objects; I also help guide the direction of 10 or so exhibitions each year, and many varied events. In addition, I oversee our learning, outreach activity and media team offer we provide to schools, families and community groups. Given the broad scope of my post, I can honestly say that no two days are the same. My time often involves talking to a wide spectrum of people who are very creative in their ideas and full of enthusiasm for the job they do.  In fact the Herbert is full of such people, but I also have the chance to talk to many colleagues in other museums around the region – I had a recent meeting with colleagues at Birmingham museum, for example, to talk about the future priorities for work on collections.  Read the rest of this entry

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