IT is rather appropriate that to mark the retirement of the man who has kept the ancient, the odd and the unexpected safe at Worcester Museum for half a century, there’s a featured cartoon in the display gallery of Garston Phillips in his 1970s flares.

I have a pair of similar period strides in the loft, nostalgia from an age long gone, but they look nowhere near as good as his. Which somehow sums up the man’s skills. Because curator Garston not only had an eye for the unusual, but knew how to present it too.

In recognition that his familiar face will no longer be seen around the museum in Foregate Street, it has mounted an exhibition which could rightly be called 50 Years of Garston Phillips.

Instead its official moniker is 50 Objects: 50 Stories. It comprises 50 exhibits, each one chosen by the man himself and each with its own special association for him.

They range from a poster for a Victorian rock band concert to an albatross in flight  to the entire contents of a chemist’s shop, which operated in Worcester High Street from 1776 until 1974 and was removed piece by piece to the museum over two years. All are accompanied by a  descriptive little story from Garston. 

He retired with the rather impressive title of Collections Ambassador and Keeper of Natural Sciences, something that would have been beyond his wildest dreams when he visited the museum for a “once a year treat” as a boy. 

He said: “When I started in August, 1969, my first duties were not actually in the building itself, but at the City Show on Pitchcroft, where every year we took items from the museum collection to display in a large tent. That hasn’t happened for at least 40 years.”

From then until now, Garston has amassed a fund of remarkable and amusing stories. I particularly liked the one attached to a lovely old Victorian rocking horse, which the museum acquired from St Clement’s School in St John’s.

It was in a rather sad state and eventually received many hours of painstaking restoration. At the time, the museum had no vehicle to transport items, so the wooden horse had to be carried manually through the streets. As it passed the Old Greyhound pub, a voice was heard to cry out: “That’s the one I backed in the 3.30 yesterday!”

Of all the museum’s exhibits – of which only a fraction are on display at any one time with the rest in store rooms below – Garston’s favourite is a Golden Eagle.

“It is my earliest museum memory,” he explained. “It always used to fascinate me as a child when it stood in a bird habitat case. Even more than the albatross, which was above it. The bird collection galleries were my favourite rooms.” Incidentally, the albatross has a nickname, as well as an 8ft wingspan. 

“Albert” was presented to the museum back in 1902 by an engineer on a ship from New Zealand which was transporting refrigerated meat.

Once in Worcester, the bird was prepared and mounted and put in a showcase for the grand sum of £16. “Albert”, who is one of the museum’s most popular exhibits, has recently undergone a complete renovation to ensure he’s good for another 100 years or so. 

Finally that ancient rock band concert poster. And no, it’s not for a Rolling Stones gig. It dates from 1850 and refers to Richardson’s Monster Rock Band from Keswick in the Lake District, which played instruments carved out of solid rock. But did they own a pair of flares like Garston Phillips? Not on your Nelly. So rock on, Garston. Enjoy retirement. You’ve earned it.