Thursday, October 10, 2013

Drambuie bottles, hobnail boots and crisp packets

Artefacts or objects – Why do we collect and display what we do

After a Twitter post about objects going on display at the new Castleford Forum Museum (opening soon by the way!) we had a comment in response questioning the use of the word ‘objects’:

Hope you mean artefacts I see objects in the street & don't want see them in a Museum?”

This got us thinking….

When we think of the ‘great’ museum artefacts we are lucky enough to be able to see in our country’s museums we may think of The Rosetta Stone, The Piltdown man, The Sutton Hoo burial and The Crown Jewels.  These fabulous, unique, inspiring and priceless items are crucial in telling the story of Britain, and exploring its place in the world.  So how do you feel about museums collecting and displaying a Drambuie bottle or a hobnail boot?

As a museum service we have a collecting policy which informs what is added to, and kept in, our collections.  Here is an extract from our policy:

‘Wakefield Council’s Museums collect, safeguards and make accessible approximately 118,000 objects that document and record the human, social and cultural history of Wakefield and district from the distant past to the present day. We want to enable both citizens and visitors to the district to explore these collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment.’

It goes on to say:

‘Wakefield Museums collects social history material that enhances an extensive collection showing the changing lives of people in the Wakefield district since 1650. Formal collecting first began in the early 1920s. Together, this material is evidence of the way of life and achievements of people who lived or live in the Wakefield district.’

Our collection includes some amazing objects.  The collections that will be going on display at Castleford Forum Museum are varied and fascinating, unraveling the story of Castleford and the people who have lived there:

Bronze Age settlers who left bone tools and daggers

An Iron Age warrior buried in a chariot


A Roman soldier who lost a hobnail boot!


Coalminers fighting for their livelihoods

Castleford glass workers creating the everyday and demonstrating their extreme skill and craftsmanship

Whatever we collect and however we want to refer to them, as artefacts or objects, as unique or every day, as conventional or controversial, we try to ensure that our collections reflect real lives, and allow us to tell the stories that our ancestors, or we, create every day.  
We therefore believe that every object in our collection, no matter how spectacular or every day helps tell the stories of our lives and our history.
As for those objects that you see in the street….
Here is a crisp packet commemorating the royal wedding in1982 - should this be in a museum?
We'd love to know what you think about what we collect and display….

1 comment:

  1. the crisp packet certainly warrants a place in the museum,as it represents more recent social history,as history isnt always about what happened 100 years ago


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