A collaboration between a conservation project and Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery is unlocking the secrets of the River Severn past and present. In a new exhibition visitors can gain an insight into the underwater world hidden beneath the river’s surface and be introduced to an endangered fish – the twaite shad – that historically undertook an epic annual River Severn migration.
In addition, a fascinating haul of artefacts and artworks fished from the Shropshire Museums’ archives adds a unique historical perspective. These items focus on the River Severn at Shrewsbury, and how local people’s relationship with the county’s most important river has changed and developed over the years.
The exhibition is suitable for families and accessible for disabled visitors and has been created by Unlocking the Severn – a conservation and river engagement project. Alongside the story of current efforts to restore the fortunes of migratory fish, a carefully curated selection of items relating to the River Severn will be on display from Shropshire Museums’ own collections. The unique combination of modern exhibition materials and archive elements will enhance visitor’s perspective on the relationship between the people and wildlife of the River Severn.
If you have an interest in nature, fish, or the River Severn more generally, this is an opportunity to stop and think about the wildlife under the water and the nature of human impact on the river habitat both past and present. Graphic panels and commissioned film and animation tell the shad fish’s story and describe their annual migration up the River Severn in search of freshwater spawning grounds. Visitors can also enjoy historic paintings of the river around Shrewsbury, a landscape has inspired many artists over the ages. These diverse images provide insight into how the river has been part of local people’s lives.
Shropshire Museums’ collections also reflect the natural history of the county and hold specimens which reveal the changing biodiversity of the riverine landscape. Other items on display provide tangible insights into the changes in working life as the river, once a key conduit for industry in the region, became a focus for leisure pursuits and an important haven for wildlife.
Alex Ball, Senior Project Manager said, “We hope this exhibition will provide a chance to change people’s perspective, viewing this powerful river through the eyes of a small fish, swimming up from the sea, trying to get past large weirs to reach good spawning habitats. We hope visitors will be inspired to plan a visit to the new underwater viewing window at Worcester’s new fish pass when it opens later this year.”
Sarah Skelton, Curator of Shropshire Museums added, “As we were selecting and choosing objects to support the Unlocking the Severn exhibition, it struck me that the artworks in our collections really reflect the changes to the river ecosystem. Through our paintings we can see how human activity has shaped and changed the river over the centuries. In the context of an important conservation project, we can also consider our place in history and what the impact of our current behaviour will be on future generations’ relationship to the River Severn and its wildlife.”
Unlocking the Severn is a conservation and river engagement project led by Canal & River Trust, and partners the Severn Rivers Trust, the Environment Agency and Natural England. It is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the European Union LIFE Nature Programme.
The Unlocking the Severn Exhibition will be open at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery 10am to 4pm everyday until Tuesday 31st August 2021. Entry is free but, as numbers are limited, visitors are recommended to book online at www.ticketsource.co.uk/shrewsburymuseum.
CAPTION: Part of the exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.