Thursday, September 7, 2017

Curating Spend, Spend, Spend

A new exhibition has opened at Castleford Museum, documenting the life of one of Castleford’s most famous women, Vivian Nicholson. The display was curated by our Front of House staff at Castleford Museum, Danielle and Sarah. 
In this blog Danielle and Sarah share their experiences of curating the exhibition.
Viv Nicholson and her husband with their cheque. With thanks to the Football Pools.
Way back in early August 2016, whilst planning for the following years workshops, Danielle and I were thinking of themes, relating to our collections, that we could turn into activity workshops. Through this discussion we realised that apart from Jack Hulme, there was no collection or mention of other famous people from Castleford. So, out of interest, we googled ‘famous people of Castleford’ and the results returned many, many images of Vivian Nicholson; a lady famous for winning (big time) on the football betting game ‘The Pools’.
A month later, Danielle mentioned that she had been researching  Viv Nicholson and she was a very interesting character. After hearing about her and reading her autobiography, I was hooked. We both really wanted to share the extraordinary life of Viv with the public so we decided ask our managers if we could curate a case on her. We are currently Front of House staff. As a general rule, Front of House staff are there to welcome visitors, encourage discussions through engagement with the public and facilitate activity sessions, so we were a bit nervous to do something outside our comfort zone and actually curate a case.

Fortunately for us, we have a great museums team. They were all really supportive and readily agreed for us to curate, not just one case but two whole cases! We were delighted…then we realised we needed to start some serious work.
The first step was research, research, research. After making copious amounts of notes on Viv’s book, looking at endless newspaper articles, talking with Viv’s family and generally being a nuisance to the local studies staff, we produced a case ‘Data Sheet’. This document outlined what the key message of the exhibition was going to be, what the public were going to learn from it and which objects would be included to tell her story. 
After this we then assigned ourselves roles to make the process easier; Danielle would be ‘the Collector’ and I would be ‘the Writer’. This generally meant that Danielle would be in charge of finding objects, liaising with museums to discuss loans etc and I would be in charge of anything text related such as the case information panels and object descriptions etc, though we did agree and decide everything together.

Over the following months and with help from the museums team, we were able to secure loans from The West Yorkshire playhouse in Leeds, Sheffield Library and some of Viv’s family members. One of the most exciting parts of the research process was conducting an oral history with Viv’s granddaughter, as neither Danielle nor I had done one before. We organised, prepared and recorded an interview with her, which we hope to present to the public in an audio format in the future.
As well as external associates we also worked closely with our in house teams such as the collections team to make good use of our existing collection; the exhibitions team to design information panels, case backgrounds etc; the education team to discuss interactives through which the public could learn and the marketing team to promote the case once it was completed.

Throughout the entire process we have enjoyed gaining many new skills, from how to curate a successful exhibition and write interpretation text to filling in object loan forms; from how best to conduct an oral history to writing a great press release.

We have had a wonderful experience and we hope to do it again soon in the future. If you would like to know more about the Viv Nicholson exhibition and our experience, please visit Castleford Museum.
The ‘Spend Spend Spend’ exhibition runs until end of August 2018.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Join Our Team!

Wakefield Museums are recruiting

Exhibition and Design Assistant
£20,661 - £22658
Full time - 37 hours per week

Wakefield Museums, Wakefield Council, Wakefield One, Burton Street, Wakefield WF1 2EB

We are looking for an enthusiastic and creative individual who is passionate about museums and heritage.

You will assist in the practical delivery of Wakefield Museums' exhibition and display programme.

With excellent three-dimensional build skills you will create exhibition elements within the museum workshop, at Wakefield One, and install across our museum sites; whilst also maintaining the permanent displays to good working order.

You will have a good understanding of health and safety issues; be able to work to strict deadlines; and work well in a team.

'This role carries the potential opportunity to gain a fully funded nationally recognised qualification'

For further information and guidance, or to apply online please visit: Wakefield Council Job Search [search 'exhibition' in job title]

Alternatively, you can contact the Recruitment Line on 0345 8506506 (typetalk calls welcome) for an application form.

Wakefield Council is wholly committed to ensuring children and young people are fully supported and safe. We are dedicated to the safeguarding of all children and young people whilst promoting their welfare and expect all staff and volunteers to share this responsibility


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Pontefract's Townscape Heritage Initiative

Since 2011, the Pontefract Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) has been helping to preserve the heritage of Pontefract town centre, working with owners and tenants to fund repairs to historic properties in order to restore and improve the Market Place conservation area. The THI, which is jointly funded by Wakefield Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund, has also worked with local partners to raise awareness of Pontefract’s important historic buildings, and to promote its unique, and often hidden history.

To celebrate the scheme’s final year, the THI team worked with Pontefract Museum to create the new ‘Pomfret’s Printery’ exhibition about the Holmes Printing works, which was based at 11-13 Gillygate for over 80 years.

Pomfret's Printery - exhibition now open in Pontefract Museum
11-13 Gillygate is now being restored with funding from the scheme, and the exhibition explores the fascinating story of the building, as well as the important role that the Holmes family played in documenting everyday life in Pontefract throughout the 20th century. 

Pomfret's Printery - exhibition now open in Pontefract Museum

The scheme has also created a new Pontefract ‘Spotters Guide’ an architectural treasure hunt around Pontefract Town Centre for children and families.

To find out more, drop into the museum between
10am and 3pm on Tuesday 1 August - Yorkshire Day
where you can pick up a copy of the guide and
create your own mini ‘pop-up’ market place.



For more information about the THI please visit

Monday, July 17, 2017

Fabulous Family Fun for the Summer Holidays

Are you ready for an adventure this summer?

There are loads of exciting events, fun family activities and things to see and do around the district during the school holidays.

Castleford, Pontefract and Wakefield Museums have a brilliant selection of creative workshops and fun activities throughout the summer; there really is something to do every day.

To help you plan ahead download a copy of our free Fabulous Family Fun Summer Holiday Planner today at Fabulous Family Fun Summer Holiday Planner

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Wakefield Wins Again!

Maya Harrison, Wakefield Museums, reflects on Wakefield's recent successes

Last night it was announced that The Hepworth Wakefield has won the largest museum prize in the world, the Art Fund Museum of the Year. This is awarded to an “outstanding museum, which has shown exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement across the preceding 12 months”.  At the award ceremony Simon Wallis, Director of The Hepworth Wakefield said

'Thank you to the people of Wakefield; we can all be proud of the inventive change that keeps occurring there,'

This is fantastic news for The Hepworth Wakefield but also has highlighted once again what an amazing place the Wakefield district is.

This isn’t the first time the Art Fund Museum of the Year has been awarded in Wakefield; in 2014 the prize went to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  A great artistic offer shouldn’t come as a surprise from an area that produced internationally renowned artists Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth!

The Hepworth Wakefield
It’s not just art we excel in.  This Sunday sees the 22nd annual Liquorice Festival in Pontefract, a glorious, colourful celebration of liquorice . Wakefield also hosts the Rhubarb festival in February celebrating the ’Rhubarb Triangle’.
Impressed yet?
There’s more…
Another reason to cheer is the recently opened visitor centre at Pontefract Castle, and the ongoing conservation of this once magnificent and important castle.  The new visitor centre boasts an impressive learning space, new exhibitions, a shop and delicious cafĂ© (we can highly recommend the lemon and blueberry cake!).
The new visitor centre at Pontefract Castle
Last week the district’s Museums (including Castleford Museum, Pontefract Museum and Wakefield Museum) were awarded significant funding from The Arts Council England;  Joining The Hepworth Wakefield, The Yorkshire Sculpture Park and The Art House as National Portfolio Organisations.

Castleford Museum
For a district once brought to its knees through declining industry and pit closures this is an impressive rise to the top of the cultural pile! This is a reflection of the passion and determination of Wakefield communities.  We should feel proud,  VERY PROUD, and shout from the rooftops about how brilliant Wakefield is.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Kinsley WEA Writing Group

Using hats from the handling collection as inspiration for a short piece of writing.

In May 2017, the Kinsley WEA Creative Writing group had a visit from Wakefield Museums to provide objects for inspiration. A box of hats from the museums handling collections were taken to the group and after discussion and handling the hats the group were tasked with creating a short piece of creative writing. 

We invited the group to share their work via our blog and here are some of the pieces of creative writing and memories recalled.

Marjorie Lacy

The Brown felt hat with ribbon and feather!

This hat reminded me of my mum, around about 1940/1950s. Mum had a similar one. It matched perfectly the brown and green check coat she wore.

Mum would have made the coat herself; Uncle Billy, who was a tailor would have sourced the material for her and also have cut it out for her. As an ex-machinist for Montague Burton’s factory in Leeds, mum would have sewn the pieces together. Auntie Madge would have done the ‘finishing off’ of the collar, buttons and tie belt, then pressing it. - The making of the coat was a real family affair!

When mum put the coat on, she was very happy with it, then she decided it needed a hat to complete the ‘look’. We went to the hat shop on Harehills Lane, it was next door to our Doctors Surgery. Mum tried several hats on, we laughed at them knowing they were not ‘the ones’.

The milliner handed her a brown woollen felt hat with green trimmings. It was just right, the hat colours blended perfectly with the colours of the check coat. As Grandma Precious said later, ‘You look a right Bobby Dazzler!’


Something Blue


Caroline Devonport

The blue and white striped box, so beautiful it must contain beauty. I slide the string handle off, lift the lid. The excitement builds, my palms are slightly clammy. Unfolding the tissue, I’m desperate to see what it contains. I know, but still the excitement of seeing it for the first time.

I close my eyes to remove the last layer, reach and grasp the soft silky fabric, feel the firmer body below. Gently carefully, my eyes still closed I lift it from the box.

I can feel the folds of material stroke and tease my hands, but I don’t look even a peek. I slowly slide it onto my head. Facing the mirror, I open my eyes gradually, wanting to take in every detail as I do.

A blue silk Halo meets my eyes; tiny pearl beads frame it catching the light in a milky glow. Turning my head slightly to the right now a beaded flower catches my eye, supporting the ostrich feathers of gray and blue. The bonnet's outside it's stripped silk of silver and blue, the inside of the brim, pale blue silk, the same silk as my gown. A lighter blue silk ribbon wraps around the hat, tied at the nape of the neck.

Perfect just perfect.

I Remove the bonnet and position it on the wig stand, before pulling out my veil, and the glass headed pins. Folding, tucking and pinning as I go I gently attach the antique veil to the brim.

Ready, ready for my big day.

MY HATS     by Susan McCartney


I have hats for all seasons

Hats for no reasons

Apart from I love them

Cannot get enough of them

I’ve got loads of hats

More hats than cats

I’m a serious mad-hatter

And what does it matter

Whatever the weather

A hat with a feather

Makes me feel better

So I’m a real go-getter

But daughter Kate’s opinion

Is that I look like a silly ‘un

She says of the tan one

That I need to chuck it

‘Cos I look like Hyacinth Bucket

She’s doesn’t mean I look like a prat

I know the truth

SHE wants that hat

She says with a sigh

And a gleam in her eye

I look like Michael Jackson

With my black felt hat on

But let me tell you

SHE wants that one too

She’s right about one though

The green feathered has to go

Makes me look like Robin Hood

A style that’s never good

A hat that was once the rage

Of ladies of a certain age

Give me hats for all reasons

Give me hats for all seasons

Do I suit this one?

Don’t tell me the truth

String me along

Don’t tell me, don’t admit

That I look like a twit

The pink straw trilby

Will be

Going to charity shop

In the drop of a hat because

I look rather silly

Like I’m serving In a Deli

The embellished pink is dandy

The colour of bubble candy

But too fancy for me

I’d rival a Christmas tree

The 20s cloche is somewhat posh

This vintage find is quite sublime

It suits all faces, times and places

Kate will have to dream

She could try her schemes

But she’ll have to wait

To a much later date

I so love this hat

So there’s the end to that

It makes me taller, thinner

Everyway a winner

So give me a hat

Homburg, trilby or flat

Whatever the reason

Whatever the season

I love a hat


Sunday School Hat


Lynda McCraight


I was born in 1954, but I remember a particular hat I had to wear for Sunday School in the 1960s. It was white and very stiff, shaped round the edges to incorporate where your ears were and had a very thin, red, velvet ribbon tied around it. I think Mum said they soaked the fabric in sugared water to make it stiff.

We always had our Sunday School Anniversary about May time and did a morning procession around the mining village where I lived, singing hymns we’d rehearsed for weeks and carrying a big banner, a bit like those carried by miners on marches, and were accompanied by  a little brass band, maybe the Boys Brigade.

I remember wearing a Sunday best coat with a velvet collar and white ankle socks with some kind of ornamentation at the top like a frill, and being allowed a new dress from C & A in Nottingham, as long as it didn’t cost any more than £1/19/11. I also had little white net gloves and new shoes from Alfreton Market. One pair I had was odd. They were essentially a beige colour but one had become lighter than the other. I hated that pair, and sitting on the platform erected at one end of the Methodist Chapel, I dared myself to kick them down through the platform, to the floor below, and spent the rest of the service standing in my socks!

It seems strange when you think about what young girls wear today. We were essentially an imitation of our mothers but it didn’t necessarily make us ladylike. I was a right little beggar, especially at the Anniversary. One year I volunteered to recite a poem and learned it off by heart but when it came to my turn to recite, I refused to do it. They called my name three times and I just refused to stand up – maybe it was the year I was standing there in my socks.

Mum sat at the back with my baby brother and punished me by buying him and my sister an ice-cream on the way home – but no ice-cream for me, and I was sent to bed as soon as I got home. I hadn’t realised how ashamed my mum had been by  that incident – all I could remember was thinking I’d managed to rebel against the Sunday School rules. However, when I was 14 and thinking I’d be asked to become a Sunday School teacher, they said, “Sorry, but there are no vacancies.” And that marked the end of my relationship with the Chapel.



Hat Box


Neville Raper

 May 2017


Rob felt like Howard Carter at the tomb of Tutankhamun, except right now, instead of sand, it was mainly dust he was sweeping away.

The door to the walk-in cupboard was stiff, probably hadn’t been opened in years.

This wasn’t unusual to Rob; he’d been in the house clearance business for about ten years.

This property had been empty a while, although it was hard to estimate how long. Rob considered anywhere between two and two thousand years.

Rob pulled at the door handle; the hinges shrieked in indignation.

The interior was gloomy, to his left was a pull chord connected to an ancient looking

Bulb. “There’s no way this will work” he muttered to himself. To his complete surprise, it burst into light, instant sun in the confined cupboard.

“made to last” he chuckled.

He was confronted by a stack of identical cardboard boxes. Each a dirty brown colour and about twenty inches square.  Stacked from floor to ceiling, a wailing wall of storage.

There were no markings on them, completely anonymous.

Whoever had put them there had made a great job of arranging them, boxy brickwork.

Rob eyed them up and down; he reached up and forced his finger tips either side of one of the highest boxes. He pulled it gingerly towards himself. He knew by painful experience to be careful when moving such, mystery, containers.

Too many times in the past he’d come a cropper when the contents had been much heavier than he’d expected. He’d lost count how many times he’d woken up, on the floor confused, with a bump on his head.

To his delight, the box felt light, he pulled. Everything he saw next was in exquisite slow motion. The whole cardboard construction fell in an avalanche of organisation. He was sure that when the boxes fell they left behind a perfect shadow of dust suspended in the air, a dirty negative.

The whole wall collapsed upon him, buried in storage,  as if this wasn’t bad enough,  a split second later, the dust followed it.

Rob laid where he was for a few minutes, waiting for any injury to manifest itself.  After feeling no real pain, or the wetness of blood, he sat up.He checked himself, particularly his bare legs below his old cargo shorts. To his relief, the boxes all appeared to be as light as the first and fell off him easily.

One of the cardboard containers had tipped over, and the contents had fallen out. A hat.

Rob picked it up and looked at it. A straw boater in excellent condition, in fact, it looked almost new. The straw weaved into the construction was bright and fresh with an aroma of sweetness. The band that ran around the crown was bright blood red. The hat showed no sign of age.

Rob did what most people would do in this situation; he popped it on. Immediately, he felt a shift in his equilibrium. A smell of wet vegetation assaulted his senses, and he could hear the drone of summer insects close to his ears.

His arms ached from exertion, and a trickle of sweat ran down his back. Rob looked into his hands and could see the shadow of something substantial there. He squinted and could make out what appeared to be handles of oars. He felt the resistance of liquid weight, ebbing and flowing. Suddenly a voice made him start. Another shadow manifested itself about two metres away. The image wavered and wained like the water he could feel flowing past his arms. He focused, and beautiful young women crept into view. Like a portrait looked at through a rain soaked window, she seemed to warp and run.

“Oh Bertie, what a wonderful day for an aquatic adventure”.

Rob snatched off the boater; reality snapped back into full fact focus. He reached up and touched his face; it was covered in a thick layer of dust. Rob used his T-Shirt to rub some of it off.

He must have bumped his head, he thought, although he wasn’t aware of losing consciousness. The irony of this wasn’t lost on himself.

He moved and removed the lid of another box. This time it revealed a bright yellow helmet. He picked it up in his hands. It was a fireman’s helmet; it looked like it was from the second world war. Once again, it looked new, unused. The visor was clear with no scratches, and the leather straps used to attach to the head smelled clean and freshly tanned.

Rob hesitated but wanted to ensure that what just happened with the boater was just dust in his eyes and a bang to the head. He slid it on.

Immediately, the smell of acrid dense smoke filled his lungs; he retched into his mouth. He felt an intense heat. Looking down, he saw the hairs on his arms and legs shrivel and oxidise on his skin. They broke off and mixed with the dust.

Rob felt his clothes tighten, the material within them reacting to the temperature. He couldn’t see anything. The smoke was a black hole eating oxygen and light in equal measure. He looked at his hands and was terrified to see blisters starting to form. As he stared, one popped, and viscous fluid ran down his wrist. He’d seen and endured enough. Struggling, Rob felt the strap melting into his chin. He scratched and clawed, managed to get his nails underneath and threw the helmet off. To his disgust, he could see tendrils of his charred skin follow it.

He clenched his teeth and fell to the ground; he rolled around and around in the dust to extinguish himself. He slowly stopped when he realised he was untouched and unmarked. He looked at his hands; they were perfectly intact and unmarked.


Dave, the site foreman, popped his head through the room door.

“You OK Rob? I heard a bang.”

“Yeah, I’m alright thanks, think I’ve inhaled too much dust from this cupboard, I’m gonna finish early.”

“You should have worn a facemask, you daft lad!”

“I know that now” Rob shrugged with embarrassment.

“OK Rob, see you tomorrow.”


Rob gathered up his belongings. As he did so, he saw another open box near the door. Hanging out was a brand new bowler hat. A tsunami of nostalgic warmth washed over him. He remembered as a child watching old black and white comedies with his Dad. Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy and of course, Charlie Chaplin. His dad would love that hat.

As his hands were full, he took a chance and popped it on to his head. He waited for some terrible vision or event but nothing happened, relieved, he walked out of the room.

He left his possessions behind.

Dave shouted after him, “see you Rob, nice hat.”

Rob turned and scowled at the foreman. Dave felt that stare in his very bone marrow, the smirk he had on his face dropped immediately.

Rob walked out into the busy street. He looked up and down until he saw what he needed.


The cab pulled up, and Rob got into the back. Although his body felt the cool leather seats on his bare legs, his brain didn’t register it. He was deep in thought.

“Where to pal?” The driver cheerfully asked.

“I am not your pal, my good man” Rob retorted.

“Sorry mate, so where to?”

Rob rubbed his hands together. So much unfinished business to be attended to, so much yet to do.

“My title driver is Doctor.”

“OK, Doctor” the driver responded sarcastically, “Where do you want to go?”

“I have lot’s to do” responded Rob.

“Well, the meter is ticking…”

“Rillington Place, number 10” a wide smile broke out on Rob’s face or rather the shadow that was Rob’s face. It was slowly fading away.



Monday, May 22, 2017

Sporting Memories

We have recently developed a sixth reminiscence box which is available to borrow from Sandal Library, for all Wakefield Library card holders.


This Sports themed box was developed on the suggestion of people who have been using our other 5 boxes.


From ‘Spokey Dokes’ to a vintage bowling ball this new box contains objects linked with  sports such as football, cycling, golf and cricket. Each of the objects has an information sheet with suggested ideas for discussions and activities. These have been developed for use with groups of people or on a one to one basis.


Some of the objects have kindly been donated for use in the reminiscence box. A Castleford Tigers fan donated a shirt for reference to rugby and the team he supports. There are items from Hemsworth & District Clay Pigeon Club – some people may not think this a sport. The club secretary but in many hours creating a file of information to support the objects donated and to explain this sport in more depth – for this we give thanks as this is not something we had knowledge to produce.


There is also a photo pack to accompany the box which contains images from Wakefield Museums collections and has been enhanced with image within Wakefield Libraries collections. Images are printed on white card with supporting text printed on yellow card for people who have sight impairment or dementia.


Since completing the Sports box we are looking to develop a seventh box upon the theme of Rugby. With our district having three rugby teams, (Castleford Tigers, Featherstone Rovers and Wakefield Trinity) and each of these having such strong local support it was thought that a box designated to the one sport would be of interest to many people. We are sure there will be many stories and memories that people have from playing rugby at school or for a professional team, from watching your favourite team in the final or your favourite player score the best try ever seen the box will provide object to prompt discussions no matter which team you support.
If you would like to borrow one of reminiscence boxes, please contact the dementia-friendly Sandal Library: 01924 303355 or email.