Monday, June 25, 2012

The Celtic Head

The Museum's Celtic Head has been used to inspire creative writing in a number of ways.  

It has been taken into schools to inspire personification poetry - asking how an archaeological object would 'feel' about being discovered and put on display in our new museum.
The Celtic Head has been used to inspire a varied range of creative writing!
It has also been on display in Drury Lane Library, where it inspired this piece of writing by Brittany in the Library's Teenage Readers Group.

I held her hand and supported her as she limped through the library.  Turning towards the literature section I noticed something and hatched a plan.  

At 8pm I caught the bus back to town.  As soon as I’d tucked her in bed I had changed into my jeans and jumper and snuck out.  Sitting on the bus I evaluated my plan.  I had never done anything like this, never thought I’d be capable but here I was.  Jerking forward as the bus braked at the bus stop, I climbed out of the bus, throwing a wave at the familiar bus driver.

Watching for any standing public, I walked around the back of the library.  I stood at the back door and slipped the key in.  I ran through the hall and deactivated the beeping alarm.  I caught it just before it screamed at me, and I pushed away the thought of what would’ve happened if they’d changed the code.  

I went through the doors and strode into the main hall, overwhelmed by the vastness of the area without the bustle of the crowds.  I stopped at the dome holding the Celtic head.  Up close it looked like it was snarling, as if it knew my plan.  

I pulled out my nail file, and gently eased it around the circle lid.  Being careful not to drop anything I eased the lid up.  Lifting myself onto the cabinet I reached inside and lifted the Celtic head from its place.  Slowly and carefully I pulled it into my arms, set it on the cabinet and climbed back to the ground.  

Staring at its gruesome face I realised what I had done, a tear rolled down my cheek.  It was for the best, I knew that.  But why, I questioned myself, had it come to this?  Why had we been dealt this hand?  I pushed the thoughts out of my mind, picked up the head and turned around. 

“Hey Rox.”  Standing there was Liz, a library worker, my personal favourite one at that. The head suddenly felt 10 times heavier, I didn’t have time to hide it.  “What you doing here?”  She continued, although it was pretty obvious what I was doing here.  
“I was…um…I just needed to…”  I sighed, giving up the fa├žade.  “I was taking the Celtic head.  Its magic you know.”  Tears started coming quicker.  

“I don’t believe in magic.”

“Neither do I.  But it’s worth a shot.” I tried to wipe the tears, but the stupid head got in the way.  “How did you know I was here?” 

“I was just leaving, heard the alarm beeping.  Came to investigate.  I assume you used your mum’s old key?” 

“Yeh.  It was still on the hook.” 

“Look Rox, I’m not going to involve the police.  But please, put the head back.  Its thousands of years old, it won’t help.  Please.”  She took a step closer.  By now the tears were coming so fast, and my nose was running, but I couldn’t stop.  I was nearing hysterics.  

“Well nothing else helps.  We need something, and this is the only thing I can see at the moment.”  I hiccupped.  

“What did your mum say?  Did she think this was a good idea?”  She came closer, held out a tissue.  I put the head back on the cabinet and took the tissue.  

“She didn’t say anything.  I didn’t tell her.  Even if I had she wouldn’t have agreed. She’s given up Liz, and I can’t accept it.  She may accept that there’s nothing else, but I don’t.  I need my mum, forever, not for the next 3 months.  I can’t just sit there and do nothing.  When I’m helping her walk I see people look at us, they pity me.  I don’t want that, I want people to be jealous of my beautiful, healthy mum, one who doesn’t have…cancer.” I’m hiccupping so much now.  

“Listen.  You can do this.  You don’t need a silly head to sort your life out.  You need to just accept it…I know it’s hard but there is nothing left.  You need to get on with your life, enjoy it while you still can.”  She’s come over now, she puts her arm around me, just like she did when I was younger, and came to work with my mum, it was her way of saying hey.  Now it feels like a comfort blanket, all warm and safe.  “You know we’re always here for you both.  Come see us more often.  We miss your mum, and you.”  

I turn towards the head.  It doesn’t look as scary now.  I realise I don’t need it to feel better, I have something better. 


Monday, June 18, 2012

A Miraculous Discovery - The benefits of working with Local Studies

One of the great benefits the Wakefield Museum project is the bringing together of two fantastic local history resources – the museum collections and the local studies library. Last week we looked through the studies store to see what we could use to complement the museum collections on display and found something amazing!

This pamphlet  “A Miraculous Victory” was published in May 1643 and tells the story of a daring night time raid on Wakefield during the English Civil Wars. Thomas Fairfax (later the Commander in Chief of Parliament's New Model Army) stormed through Wakefield from Stanley down Northgate and into the Bullring taking prisoners, guns and ammunition belonging to King Charles I.

A Miraculous Victory - 17th century pamphlet held in Wakefield's Local Studies collection
The War area at Wakefield Museum will focus on different wars fought or endured by Wakefield’s residents and the first display will feature the English Civil Wars. There were three major events in Wakefield, from a skirmish at Walton Hall, the fighting in the streets of Wakefield and the siege of Sandal Castle, which led to its destruction. Using this pamphlet from Local Studies with examples of cannon balls, swords and the armour worn by Colonel Bright, one of Fairfax’s officers on the night time attack, will not only bring together collections but give a bigger view of what happened in our town. 

Colonel Bright's armour - Colonel Bright was involved in the attack detailed in the pamphlet

Monday, June 11, 2012

Is it summer yet?

No matter what the weather is doing to us, we are planning for a fun summer across Wakefield's Museum and Heritage sites.  A varied range of family activities are taking place, including activities using the objects currently on display at Drury Lane Library.

Do email us if you would like to be added to our mailing list, or would like to request a copy of this flyer to be sent to you.  Please note that many of these activities require booking in advance as places are limited. 

Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge

We are delighted to share with you a short piece written by Danielle - a member of the Teenage Readers' Group at Drury Lane Library.  She has written this piece inspired by the 1950s television currently on display.  We look forward to sharing with you some of the artwork and other creative pieces generated through our Summer programme!

 The 1950s TV - by Danielle
“Daddy!”  Elizabeth, my younger sister called as dad stepped through the door, “Where’s the TV?” mum asked as he placed it on the living room floor, “it’s in the living room, come have a look Cath, it’s more modern than we thought!”  as mum came from the kitchen, I had reached the bottom of the stairs. “Look at this Dorothy, it’s great!” mum called. “I know, doesn’t that look modern, mum, why don’t we have a try?” I asked mum, I knew her answer was going to be what I wanted, yes. Mum had been more excited than me and Elizabeth this morning, when dad finally announced that we had enough savings to buy one. We were the only house on the street that could afford one, and mum was pleased she finally had something to show off about.
1950s Television on display at Drury Lane Library

The tele flickered on with an introduction of black and white zig zags, which produced a man and a woman sat at a desk, Elizabeth turned up the volume and was immediately sucked in… She then appeared on the screen moments after. “Liz” mum screamed. I just stared horror stricken at the screen. “What just happened?”  dad asked, me and mum replied in unison, “we don’t know!”

Mum slowly pushed herself up onto her feet, and shuffled to the kitchen. I shared a look with dad as wonder filled my head… What if we turned the volume down, I went to the button that took Elizabeth away but dad pulled me back, “I am going to turn it down, and see what happens” I explained, but he still wouldn’t let go, “Dad just let me try” I was getting no-where “Please!” he loosened his grip but didn’t let go as mum walked in with a hammer. “NO!!!!!” I screamed at mum “If you break it you could trap her in there, think how can we get her out, not how can we destroy the tele!” mum looked at the hammer and then flung it to the side, smashing a vase in the process. Dad had finally let go of me to calm mum down, I flung myself at the tele, I reached for the button and twirled it anti-clockwise…

I waited, but I could still see Elizabeth on the screen, suddenly she disappeared and landed on top of me in the same position she was in before the tele sucked her in. Mum let out a squeak as she dived to hug Elizabeth “Liz, what happened?” she exclaimed “I turned up the volume, or is that not the volume button?” she asked, she had felt nothing… “Just leave the volume there why don’t we, don’t do that again!” I said, she looked at me like I had a bright green face but quietly agreed and snuggled deeper in to my jumper.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

An object's story is revealed!

The displays at the new Wakefield Museum will showcase some unexpected new discoveries from the Museum Store, as well as better known iconic objects such as the cayman that naturalist Charles Waterton captured in South America and Wakefield’s Anglo Saxon cross.

Plain-looking wooden box
One new discovery is a plain wooden box which has been in the collections since the 1970s, but may never have been on display. Its significance was only recognised last year when a furniture specialist, Adam Bowett, was brought in to assess the furniture in the museum collections. 
The box looks unassuming inside too...

A hidden drawer is found!
Inside the box a handwritten document was found explaining that the box was made to hold the papers of a Society of Wakefield Cabinet Makers newly formed in 1790. The purpose of the Society was to regulate the prices paid to cabinet makers for each piece of furniture, to stop the poor economic situation driving down their wages.  

Document found inside hidden compartment which sheds new light on Wakefield's trade.

The existence of the Society was previously totally unknown and adds Wakefield to only one or two other towns where cabinet makers joined together this early to protect their livelihood. Cabinet makers in Leeds published a printed book with the costs for making different pieces of furniture: no similar book seems to have survived in Wakefield although the handwritten text suggests a Wakefield price book was printed.

"this Society was made on purpose
to regulate Cabenet prises
so a Book was printed at Time
Liveing was then very deear
Corn was 23 shillings a Loade
and Beef at 7 pens a pound"

An article about the box has recently been published in the journal Regional Furniture.

The discovery highlighted how little was known about cabinet makers in Wakefield in the late 18th century. Stimulated by the discovery of the box, local historian Lesley Taylor has done original research on the subject and found that Wakefield almost rivalled Leeds in the size of the trade locally. The results of her work will be published shortly in the next journal of the Wakefield Historical Society.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Local hero remembered

Every now and again a relative of someone who has donated an object, or was involved in a historic event gets in touch with us and last week Paul Miziewicz, on holiday from Australia, came to see us.

His Great Grandfather, George William Beaman was a coal miner at South Kirkby Colliery. Following a series of explosions in August  1935, Beaman risked his life as part of rescue parties to recover trapped and injured miners.  10 men were killed but it would have been more if it wasn’t for the bravery of Beaman and his fellow rescue team.

Beaman and two other rescuers, Norman Baster and James Pollitt were awarded the Edward Medal (the civilian equivalent to the George Cross which recognises military bravery) and the medal is now in the museum collections.  It was displayed as part of the '50' exhibition at Wakefield Museum and at Pontefract Museum in 2010/11.
Curator John Whitaker (left) and Paul Miziewicz (right) looking at Paul's Great Grandfather's Edward Medal last week