From September 2017 to January 2018, the Salisbury Museum hosted an amazing Terry Pratchett Exhibition. (Salisbury is near Stonehenge; Sir Terry lived there for over 20 years.) I’ve been a Discworld fan since I was 12, so when I found out my exchange semester in London overlapped with the exhibition I of course went Hallelujah, Thank You, Cruel Uncaring Universe, For Having My Back. And during the last week of the semester I finally got a chance to go!
It’s been about a year since then. I first wrote up this “picture essay” for the r/Fantasy community on Reddit a few hours after I got home; I’m reposting it here with a few edits and prettier formatting. The stars really had to align for me to be in Salisbury. I’d like to share this experience, from a fan perspective, with all the other fans who missed it for whatever reason. Also, the staff at the museum positively encouraged photos and I don’t want them lost to the Reddit archives!
Apologies if I’ve messed up any of the info, I was a bit overwhelmed! You can find the whole collection of photos here, but they’re in messed up order. Please check the linked album if you can’t zoom in properly on any of the pictures below. WordPress is a bit funky with image quality; all the labels should be legible on Imgur.
Below is the museum entrance itself:
The exhibition is divided into four-ish rooms and I’ll go through each individually with pics. Like I said, I really wasn’t sure what to expect – whether I’d be laughing or crying or even mildly weirded out. But my first reaction was just grinning: almost all the museum labels were Terry Pratchett quotes! Some of them I knew, some I didn’t, and almost all were, of course, hilarious. I tried to include the labels in each photo.
The first room was about Early Pratchett: a little of his influences, Strata and Carpet People, and The Colour of Magic. Fun fact: Terry’s mom used to bribe him to read when he was young, giving him ~1p per page – until he discovered Wind in the Willows.
Here’s a few pics:
It also had two portraits of Pterry drawn by Josh Kirby:
Also found here was by far the wildest piece of info I learned from the whole exhibition: in November 1967 YOUNG TERRY WROTE TO JRR TOLKIEN AND TOLKIEN WROTE BACK. This was also the only thing I couldn’t take a picture of – because of copyright (??? Tolkien estate is hardcore). Even I’m not a crazy enough fan to transcribe the letters, sorry, but the gist was that Terry fanboyed out over The Smith of Wootton Major and Tolkien wrote back, “Oh hey ur the first person to write to tell me u liked it, I like it 2.” Except more eloquently on both sides.
The next room was, I guess, Sir Pterry As We Know Him Best. The first thing you see when you walk in is the classic Pratchett outfit.
This room also contains The Chapel – a recreation of his writing space. Below is the description next to it, a panorama view, and a couple of close-ups. The .doc file being typed is a bit from Night Watch – when the female assassin falls into Vimes’ trap. There’s also a huge Luggage on the left of the table but naturally I forgot to take a pic…
There’s other fun stuff too: his sword, his Carnegie medal, and his honourary Brownie membership!
Then there was a hallway with some of Paul Kidby’s work (and there was more of his work scattered throughout the rooms). I didn’t really take pictures of it: it’s amazing in person but all of the paintings are available online or in official art books, and in better quality than my phone! But here’s a little sketch of Rincewind and Granny drawn by L’Auteur himself, and below that is a 2016 painting of Death by Kidby.
The next room is where I, um, started to cry. It’s the room about The Embuggerance. Sir Terry died of Alzheimer’s in 2015; the second picture is a close-up of the sketches he did while being tested for it. I felt a bit like an idiot, tears dripping by myself. But for what it’s worth I think I heard another girl sniffling, and I overheard one of the museum staff members say loads of people start crying. So there, I guess. (Later as I was leaving, I told another staff member that I needed to go before I started crying again. She replied, with a cheerful smile, that I should just grab some more tissues and go round again.)
Following up that one, the next room was about his legacy. There were more Kidby sketches, mainly of Tiffany Aching, as well as a little script no one thought we’d ever see! You can also see the famous harddrive which contained some unfinished Discworld novels and which was crushed by a steamroller upon Sir Terry’s death.
Also awesome is Kidby’s sketch of a statue that was supposed to go up in Salisbury! Unfortunately, I’m not sure if the statue ever did go up or if it’s still in the planning stage or in limbo. This article is the last info I can find on it, which does show a completed bronze bust.
Anyway, then you go upstairs. And that’s where the tears stop because THEY ACTUALLY MADE A DRESS-UP CORNER!! Tiffany Aching, Rincewind, Granny, and Moist von Lipwig costumes are available. They’re all huge, to fit all sizes. Obviously I had to put on Moist’s golden suit. Going Postal was the first Discworld book I read – well, after A Hat Full of Sky. But the Nac Mac Feegles were so difficult for me (a Ukrainian kid who’d learned English in America and at the time lived in Israel) to understand that my first Discworld experience was honestly less “reading” and more “politely turning pages”. I picked the books up because someone on a Neopets forum told me that Pratchett was fantastic at character descriptions, so an enormous shout out to that Internet stranger!
Around the corner you can sit down and write a little letter about your Discworld experiences and then “post it” in an Ankh-Morpork postbox. Naturally, I wrote something really sappy about how much the books meant to me, especially when I was 12 and had just moved country and continent three times in four years. My sappiness didn’t last long: the postbox makes an absolutely horrifying munching/chomping sound when you put a letter in. Bloody Stupid Johnson at it again I assume! There’s also a couple more paintings, including one of Lancre which I’d somehow never seen. (On my original thread I was told it’s from the Tourist’s Guide to Lancre, in case anyone’s curious.)
And that’s about it! The museum continues with a room of Paul Kidby’s equally gorgeous non-Discworld art and then historical Salisbury (e.g. lace-making, Stonehenge stuff). Back downstairs, by itself probably because it was only made about a week before my trip, there’s a Lego recreation of Kidby’s The Amazing Maurice pied piper painting.
The only bit left is, perhaps, the toughest to face of them all: The Museum Shop. Lots of cool stuff there. I also got a chance to flip through The Imaginarium for the first time – it looks great! For everyone interested, a lot of the paraphernalia can be bought at the Discworld Emporium, which delivers and sticks Ankh-Morpork stamps on their packages. But of course it’s different when you see a whole room of it in person.
In the end though I just got an Ankh-Morpork pin to put on my tote. (The Lilac pins were, understandably, sold out.) The cashier told me she’d never sold an Ankh-Morpork one before – and tried to give me a Fabricati Diem Pvnc pin first – so I guess I’m lame/a Discworld hipster. And then me and my pin (and my three pairs of tights) were off to Stonehenge. The tote remained my absolute prized possession until I “put it somewhere extra safe” while moving flat that spring and never found it again. I’ve mourned it ever since and I’m still hoping if I rattle my drawers hard enough in praise of Anoia, it’ll turn up again.
So yeah! The exhibition was definitely bigger than I expected: I felt like I’d photographed basically everything, but while writing this up I kept thinking, “Dammit why didn’t I take a pic of X” . The staff were all also extremely friendly and welcoming, and it was just… really well-made and a really good memorial. I’ve been a fan of Sir Pterry for half my life now. Even looking at these pics one year later brought back a bit of the absolute mess of emotions I’d felt. It’d be nice if they brought the exhibition back at some point in a couple years, for everyone whose stars didn’t align last time. In short, it made me laugh a lot and cry a little, like the best Discworld books.
GNU Terry Pratchett