Former Gazette journalist Janis Blower has been delving deep into the archive of South Tyneside’s history.
Janis, much-loved for her long-running column Cookson Country, was invited by bosses at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery to take a look around the vaults and put together an exhibition of our favourite pieces.
Janis Blower: A Personal Selection is on display now at the venue in Ocean Road, South Shields.
Janis said: “How could anyone resist an invitation to go behind the scenes at the museum?
“Especially when the art store is one of this particular museum’s hidden treasures, a repository of paintings, drawings, maps and the like which are a window on to a largely vanished past.
“The afternoon I spent being guided through the collection by curator Adam Bell was both a pleasure and a revelation.
“Here was a pictorial jewellery box, from which I was being allowed to choose my favourites.
“In selecting the dozen or so images you’ll see, the journalist in me was attracted by works that were a matter of historical record, like the wonderful scene depicting the harbour on the day Albert Edward Dock was opened.
“The interest of the historian was piqued by others that showed places lost to us now, like Pie Lane, and the never-built Hippodrome Theatre.
“I hope you enjoy my choices – certainly as much as I did making them.”
Each of the pieces is accompanied by a few words from Janis, explaining why she chose it.
Her favourite is Silhouette of Dr Thomas Masterman Winterbottom, an ink on glass drawing created by John Woodhouse in 1821.
She said: “My love of silhouettes dates from childhood, when one depicting a sailor holding his small son’s hand used to hang on the wall at home. They have an element of mystery to them which I find appealing.
“This one does have a question mark over the identity of the sitter, but it would be lovely to think that this is Dr Winterbottom, the philanthropist and founder of the Marine School in Shields.
“He would have been in his 50s at this time, a period when he was writing on medical matters from his home at Westoe, and obviously keeping up with the news. I love the pipe.”
* Janis Blower: A Personal Selection is on display until Saturday, June 25.
The museum is open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday, and 11am to 4pm on Saturdays. Entry is free.