Friday, October 31, 2014

George Kellett's World War One Diary: October 1918

Throughout 2014 have been tweeting entries from a World War 1 soldier’s 1918 diary. You can follow George Kellett’s diary entries on Twitter @WW1_Diary.

We will also post the full month’s diary entries on this blog.

For George Kellett's September diary entries please see our previous blog: September 1918 

6 October 1918
Emma father Harry and I went to church this morning to our Harvestineal 

11 October 1918
Left home about 8:45pm left Kirkgate at 9:15.  Stayed at Normanton for an hour with  Emma’s cousin 

17 October 1918
Passed the Batt at Rurmelly 

18 October 1918
Working on the roads at [?] 

20 October 1918
Moved today to St. Vaast through St.Hilare 

21 October 1918
Out working on the roads 

23 October 1918
Moved into new billet in St.Python 

25 October 1918
Moved to Vertain

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Day in the Life

A lot goes into making our museums wonderful places to visits and caring for our collections. This series of blogs invites staff at Wakefield Museums to tell you about their day. 

John Whitaker

Museums curatorial and collections officer

Well the pressure is on here. I have been asked to write about a day at work for the blog and I’ve just read Ali’s entry Alison Creasey Day in the Life from last time. How do I compete with rainforest day?

Get into work at Wakefield One, quickly check emails, have coffee, spring into life

Meet artist Harriet Lawson and drive over to our off site stores.

Harriet is a very talented artist who we have commissioned to create an art work in one of the showcases in the upper atrium of Wakefield One. She works mainly with pottery and textile and will be using the museums pottery collections to inspire her display.

Rummaging through the pottery collections at stores

Our stores are a treasure trove. Museums tend to have more stuff than there is room to display and also some of the collection is very sensitive and will fade if on display for too long and so we need somewhere to store it. It’s a warehouse building and a bit like the end scene of  Raiders of the Lost Ark except I have not yet found the Ark of the Covenant in the collections (you never know though – I have not yet been in every box)

Anyway we have lots of pottery for Harriet to look through, the project focusses on everyday pottery rather than artwork so we picked out some pieces made in Castleford and Ferrybridge as well as plates and teapots from our social history collection, and early Roman and medieval examples. She is interested in getting a complimentary colour pattern so there is a lot of toing and froing. She photographs the chosen items.

Harriet Lawton selecting pieces

Harriet particularly like the pieces which are chipped and worn as they really show that the objects have lived a full life before they came to the museum for retirement – she does take this to the extreme though as she really liked a Chinese plate which is broken in two (broken and repaired BEFORE it came into the museum collection I should add, the old repair has failed!)

Back to Wakefield Museum for lunch – a sad sandwich today.

Back on the road this time over to Pontefract Museum

2:00pm – 4:00pm Meet the Curator
I’m covering Meet the Curator at Pontefract Museum this afternoon. The Meet the Curator afternoons are designed as an opportunity for visitors to bring in treasures they have at home to show a museum curator – to be dated, identified or offered to the museum collections. Our collection is built on generous donations from local people since the first objects came to us in the 1920s. Our criteria for collecting is that they are related to or can tell us stories about people who have lived and or worked in the Wakefield district – and we have not already got examples of them in the collection already. We are definitely sorted for flat irons, radios, mangles, dolly tubs and commemorative royal pottery!

This afternoon is as eventful as ever – an interesting Chinese blue and white pot for identification and Roman coin which turned out to be a copy this time.

In between enquiries I also help our museum designer Andrew Marsland display a First World War British officer’s  jacket in the foyer at Pontefract Museum. The jacket is quite unusual as it displays officer stripes on the sleeves, something which was toned down very early in the war because it identified officers to the enemy and made them a target. The display is part of the many activities we have developed to commemorate the beginning of the First World War. We have a Great War Trail at Wakefield Museum which includes a jar of pickled plums, a decorated biscuit and a watch worn in the trenches to time going over the top on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The subject of the war is difficult to balance. It is a commemoration not a celebration but sometimes it is important to finds the chinks of light in the darkness.

Andrew Marsland working on a First World War jacket for display

Back to Wakefield 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Collection highlights: England's weather vanes

A post for a windy day!

For generations England’s Ironmongers was an institution in Pontefract’s Market Place. 

Behind the ornate terracotta fa├žade (that is now WH Smith) was England's “white” or tinsmith, who made ladles, boxes and even weather vanes.

Tin templates for weather vanes from England's, Pontefract. 

These templates were part of a range on offer to clients. The large tree stump used as an anvil is also been kept in the museum’s collections.  We even have a small pair of framed slates on which the tinsmith had chalked out a list of his day’s work not knowing that he would be killed by a heart attack on that very day.

In the liquorice works of the town “Spanish Lasses” (as the workers were known) used metal shovels to mix the different “allsorts” sweets. As the shovel wore away, work became a little easier. But when replacing the blade at England’s tinsmith could no longer be put off, the work became harder again, as the blade was its full heavy thickness once more.

Few ornate weather vanes survive locally. The one on Pontefract Town Hall is a modern replacement that is out of scale with the Georgian building. Pontefract racecourse and Nostell Priory both once had elaborate weather vanes. “Father Time” at Lords cricket pavilion is now a bit of a national icon and if you visit Whitby the gold salmon on the Georgian town hall is beautiful!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Collection highlight: Shoes from the 1700s


We’re not sure exactly how old the shoes are, but costume source books say that they were probably made between about 1714 and 1760. Like many shoes of the time, they are made of fabric (silk?). Shoes like these didn't last long as they were so delicate. Women often wore overshoes called pattens to protect their shoes. 

You can see how this patten fits this shoe exactly. The patten is made from hand-stitched leather as well as the same fabric as the shoe.

A fairly rich woman probably owned these shoes, and didn't wear them much at all! Wealthy women never had to walk far and wore restrictive clothes that made physical movement difficult.

In the 1700s, wealthy Britons’ clothes were influenced by French fashions. Corsets (stays) squeezed women’s bodies into fashionable shapes. Their pinched waists looked even smaller because their skirts stuck out over wide hooped panniers worn on the hips.

These shoes are currently on  display at Wakefield Museum in our Style Picks exhibition (until the end of January).

For an amazing view of another  of our Georgian shoes (1740-1740) see the image below created for us by Microform Imaging Ltd.

Click on the image and use your mouse to rotate the shoe!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

World Octopus Day

8 October is World Octopus Day. 

First thing's first...what is the plural of Octopus?  

This is what Oxford Dictionaries have to say:

The standard plural in English of octopus is octopuses. However, the word octopus comes from Greek and the Greek plural form octopodes is still occasionally used. The plural form octopi, formed according to rules for some Latin plurals, is incorrect.

Secondly, why isn't October the eighth month? 

Well it did used to be, the Roman calendar used to start from March.  January and February were added by Numa Pompillius around 713 BC. He did this so there were more months with an uneven number of days - Roman's considered odd numbers to be lucky!

Thirdly - why are we so interested in world octopus day? 

...Because of our new display...the knitted aquarium which is stuffed to bursting point with knitted (and stuffed) see creatures, including a plethora of octopuses...

The display is to celebrate Wool Week 6-12 October 2014.  The pieces took 25 people from WoolnStuff five months to create.

Here is a sample of some of the woolly Cephalopoda:

Make a splash, come and dip your toe in, cast off to an imaginary world at Wakefield Museum.  Display is free to visit.

If you visit take a picture and Tweet us @WFMuseums.