Thursday, December 10, 2015

Father Christmas is coming to Wakefield Museum!

On Saturday 19th December, come to Wakefield Museum for a magical experience!

Father Christmas will be 'at home' in his Victorian kitchen, to chat to families - and he may have a gift for you - if you've been good!

A 'Santa's Grotto' with a traditional feel, and plenty of other Christmas craft activities to try while you wait to see the man himself.

FREE, no need to book

Friday, November 27, 2015

Our next adult workshop

We had a fantastic evening with Andy Singleton making paper birds on 11th November. 

Paper birds made with Andy Singleton's instruction - a fun evening!

Next month, we will still be working with paper to try bookbinding, with Timid Elk.

Timid Elk trained in ceramics but found more joy in creating the paper test pieces - and so now mostly works with paper.  Her work includes exquisitely intricate shaped paper pieces, and she has designed a workshop for us with her trademark use of old Ordinance Survey Maps.

Some of you may have seen a piece of Timid Elk work on display in Wakefield before - including the gorgeous lamp that was on display outside the museum for the 2014 Lit Fest.

This lamp was made by Timid Elk
Close-up of this extraordinary piece

Of course, in a day's workshop, we can't expect to be able to create something like this! 

To get a taste of the techniques, we are running a day's workshop on Saturday 12th December to create a hand-bound book.

Create a Hand Bound Book - with Timid Elk
Saturday 12 December
Wakefield Museum Learning Zone
10am to 4pm
Adult session – ages 18+
£15 per head – including light refreshments (Lunch not provided, but there is a café on site)

Learn the technique of hand binding to create an individual sketchbook/notebook. Decorate your book by taking inspiration and utilising a selection of Ordinance Survey maps.
Bookings with full payment must be made in advance.  Click here to follow a link to online payments


Friday, November 20, 2015

Working with the next generation of teachers!

We have had a couple of fantastic work placement teaching students working with us:

Our names are Megan and Terri. We are studying Primary Education: Early Years at Leeds Trinity University and over the past two weeks, we have undertaken a placement with the Wakefield Museum Services.

The purpose of our placement has been to experience learning in an alternative setting.
Throughout the two weeks, we have had the opportunity to observe several workshops (such as WW1, Victorian and Egyptian) and assist with the activities involved in them such as handling artefacts. Having the chance to handle some real artefacts such as weapons used in WW1 really excited us and we were both fascinated by the mummified baby crocodile in the Ancient Egyptian collection!
Mummified baby crocodile
The children involved in these workshops have been both Key Stage One and Two children. These workshops were very interesting and engaging, but they also allowed us to successfully develop our own subject knowledge and confidence when working with children. We also observed a workshop at Sandal Castle and were given the chance to visit other places off site such as Pontefract and Castleford Museums and Pontefract Castle (where we went on a magazine tour) to gain a broader knowledge of how museums and heritage sites contribute to education.

Completing our placement at Wakefield Museum has allowed us to see how History lessons in school can be developed into cross-curricular sessions. For example, the WW1 session that introduces children to Wakefield soldier George Kellett incorporated diary writing, therefore covering aspects of the Literacy curriculum. Part of this session involves an actor portraying George Kellett by reading extracts from his diary to the children. We were also given an insight of how much content is covered in each session depending on the time allocated to it. We found that the amount of content covered was perfect for the amount of time a session lasted.
George Kellett's diary

Actor playing George Kellett
As well as observing and supporting workshops, we were given a project to work on throughout our placement. This was to create a teaching pack on Charles Waterton that the museum could use to encourage schools to engage more with local study and the museum itself. In order to help us with this, we researched Charles Waterton extensively (both before and during the placement) and visited the Charles Waterton exhibit in the museum. We put together three cross-curricular sessions to support the teaching of Charles Waterton in both Key Stage One and Two and also included a range of possible follow up activities, early years input, outdoor activities and possible visits (such as Walton Hall where Charles Waterton lived) that may enhance learning.
Caiman caught by Charles Waterton in 1820
It is very difficult to choose one aspect of our time at Wakefield Museum as our favourite because there has been such a wide variety of opportunity. However, our particular highlights were handling artefacts from a range of different historical periods, watching children’s faces when they saw these artefacts and observing the role play part of the WW1 workshop. We would definitely recommend this placement to other students and we look forward to bringing our future classes to the museum!
Thank you Megan and Terri - it has been great to have some fresh insights into our sessions. We wish you well with your studies and hope to see you with your classes in the future!


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Secret History: the Ballot, the Borough and Britain

Friday 13 November, 12.30 – 1.30
Nelson Room, Pontefract Town Hall.

A rare opportunity to examine the impact of secret voting in Britain. Join one of Britain’s most important parliamentary experts,   David Natzler, Clerk of the House of Commons, and curators from Pontefract Museum to explore the seismic change to Britain’s democratic system caused by Britain’s first secret ballot in Pontefract in 1872.

The ballot box used in 1872
Tickets are free, but must be booked by calling 01924 302700,  emailing or collecting a ticket from Pontefract Museum.

The ballot box

Pontefract was centre stage on the 15 August 1872 when the first secret ballot in the Northern Hemisphere was held to elect a member of Parliament.

This was the first time that people had voted in secret by placing an ‘X’ on a ballot paper next to the name of their choice – the system that we now take for granted.

One of the boxes used to hold the ballot papers is now on display in Pontefract Museum. It is still marked with the wax seals used to ensure the votes were not tampered with once the box was closed.

The seal was made using a liquorice stamp from Frank Dunhill’s factory, which shows the image of a castle and an owl. The owl was the emblem of the Savile family who were local landowners. The castle is similar to the design that is still seen on Pontefract cakes today. For many years Pontefract cakes were given their distinctive design by hand using just this sort of stamp.

Pontefract has held a charter since 1484 so it is odd that the box was not sealed using an official stamp. Perhaps it was a sign that the local officials did not think much of this new system of voting. Or maybe they just used what first came to hand, which in a town so involved in the liquorice industry, was this stamp.

Frank Dunhill may have been a presiding officer overseeing the ballot. One of his roles would have been to check that the box was empty before voting began – to prove that there were no voting papers already in the box. He could then have used his stamp to seal the box ready for use.

The votes were counted and the results announced at the Town Hall in Pontefract, where H.C. Childers was elected MP for the town.

The Times newspaper of the following day reported that

‘The first election under the Ballot Act has been throughout peaceful. Persons of great experience declare that they never saw a contested election in which less intoxicating liquor was drunk. No charges of bribery are rife, and the election appears to have been fought on both sides on principles of purity’.

This was a great change from earlier elections, which had often been riotous and uncontrolled affairs, with people voting openly rather than in secret. At the time there were even complaints that this new system took ‘all the life’ out of voting. This first ballot was however seen as a success and set the standard that we still use worldwide today.

The ballot box has recently been 'on tour' to parliament as part of the Festival of Freedoms, and can now be seen at Pontefract Museum.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Make a date at the Museum

Wakefield Museums have a fun, hands on approach to learning about the area’s heritage and everyone’s invited.

You’ll find all manner of exciting exhibitions and experiences on offer, whether its family fun in the school holidays, messy crafts and activities for the little ones, or artist and historian led workshops just for the grown-ups, Wakefield Museums have it all. Meet at the museums and fill your social calendar with some dates with a difference.
Play Date

Wakefield’s Museums are the perfect place to arrange a play date. With lots of fun hands-on activities and opportunities to get creative and a little bit messy, the kids will find plenty to keep them entertained. At Castleford Museum children can dress up as a Roman soldier, follow the museum trail, have a pretend tea party or try miner’s clogs on for size. At Wakefield Museum try on a 1950s dress or a Victorian Wedding dress and cook up a feast in the child sized 1950s kitchen. Pontefract Museum offers a sweet treat with a colourful display telling the story behind the town’s historic link with liquorice. Learn about the famous Pontefract cake and see some of the brightly colourful packaging from across the years, see if you can spot your favourite.

Lunch Date
If you are meeting a friend for a catch up, why not have a wander around Wakefield Museum before popping into Create café for a delicious lunch, or a cup of coffee and a cake. At the museum you can visit the extraordinary world of Charles Waterton, a Victorian explorer who created one of the world’s first nature reserves. If you’re feeling brave enough, step onto the glass floor above the giant Caiman, one of Waterton’s most fearsome finds from South America. Uncover stories about Wakefield’s history from the early days of the Vikings, through the hardship of war and the various industries that have helped the city to prosper through the ages.

 A date with history
Pontefract Museum has many stories waiting to be discovered. Explore the heritage of Pontefract and the people who have lived, worked and played there. From the turbulent history of one of the North’s most important castles and the part it played in the British Civil Wars to the industries of glass making, coal mining and, liquorice. At Castleford Museum learn all about the rich and diverse history of the town which was once thought to have been an important Roman settlement. Try your hand at an interesting craft activity or find inspiration among some of the captivating displays. See the Ferry Fryston Iron Age Chariot, the only complete chariot burial on display in England and imagine what life was like in Bronze Age Castleford and how the town changed when the Romans came to power.

Fall in love
For all you romantics, meet your true love for a date with a difference at one of the museums. Love is definitely in the air at Wakefield Museum, displays include wedding dresses through the ages and the Sandal Castle posy ring. Don’t miss the rare opportunity to see the precious ring collection on loan from the Victoria & Albert Museum until 25 June. Fall in love with the cosy atmosphere at Pontefract Museum, the beautiful art nouveau building built in 1904 retains many of its original features, from intricate door handles to a stunning tiled entrance and staircase. Discover a treasure trove of hidden gems and historic finds amid the warm welcoming atmosphere of the museum.

Find out more about some of the unique events, exhibitions and experiences on offer at Wakefield Museums visit or keep an eye out on this blog.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dare we mention Christmas yet?

Catch the Light this Christmas!

As much as it feels wrong mentioning Christmas in October, we have a really exciting workshop being held in Wakefield Museum on 14th November, which is bound to get you into the spirit!

The perfect handmade gift for friends and family. Personalised tuition to create up to 5 beautiful light catchers with a range of colours to suit every taste, inspired by the stained glass in the museum collection.

Fused glass light catchers - design and make your own!

Learn how to cut the glass and work with it to create depth and intrigue. You’ll have bespoke gifts suitable for indoors or outdoors which catch the light and the admiration of everyone you know!

Saturday 14th November 10-1pm  
Wakefield Museum Learning Zone, Wakefield One, Burton Street, Wakefield. 
Ages 18+
£50 per head includes all materials to make up to 5 pieces.

Booking is essential as numbers are limited to 8 participants. Click here to follow a link to online payments

We have just two places left now on the wonderful paper bird making workshop with Andy Singleton on Wednesday 11th November - a free workshop as part of the Nightingale Festival - so book quickly to reserve your place on 01924 302700 or or email!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Day of the Dead at Castleford Museum

In the past, people have buried their loved ones with an amazing array of meaningful objects. 

Castleford Museum displays some of these locally buried treasures, from Bronze Age axe heads to the incredible Iron Age Chariot (yes, a whole chariot was buried!) showing evidence of how past people have celebrated their dead.

We have taken this celebration as inspiration for a Day of the Dead themed event at the museum on Saturday 31st October.

The Mexican Day of the Dead is a festival which focuses on the tradition that on one day a year, the spirits of dead people are allowed to come back and party with their friends and family!  It isn't supposed to be scary, but is a happy festival!

The festival involves dressing up and face-painting, lots of colour, marigold flowers and skulls!  

So pop into Castleford Museum - and be prepared for lots of skulls!

Monday, October 5, 2015

New Adult Programme Launched!

We are pleased to announce our new adult offer - including talks from TV and Radio personalities, creative artist-led workshops and curator-talks

The Extraordinary Life of Charles Waterton – with John Welding
Wednesday 28 October
Wakefield Museum Learning Zone
From 6pm
Adult session – ages 18+

See the exhibition - meet the artist!
Meet local artist, John Welding for a special insight into how the Young Waterton comic strip was made. See close-up examples of the materials and working processes used (Scripting, Layouts, Inking, Colouring and Lettering), and get tips from an expert!
FREE, but booking essential on 01924 302700 or email as places are limited.

Nightingales – Paper bird workshop – with Andy Singleton
Wednesday 11 November
Photo by Nick Singleton

Wakefield Museum Learning Zone
From 6pm
Adult session – ages 18+

Have you seen the beautiful paper birds on display in the atrium in Wakefield One? Meet artist Andy Singleton and get hands-on instruction to make your own paper bird!
FREE, but booking essential on 01924 302700 or or email as places are limited.

Fused Glass Coasters for Christmas - with Claire Lake
Saturday 14 November
Wakefield Museum Learning Zone
10am to 4pm
Adult session – ages 18+
£100 per head – including light refreshments (Lunch not provided, but there is a café on site)

Make your own beautiful kiln fused glass 4 coaster set to enhance your decor or the perfect personalised gift in time for Christmas.

A maximum of 8 places are available to ensure personalised tuition throughout the session.
Bookings with full payment must be made in advance.  Click here to follow a link to online payments

Potwallopers and Plumpers - Britain's first secret ballot in Pontefract
Tuesday 17 November
Wakefield Museum Learning Zone
12noon to 1pm
Adult session 

Pontefract was centre stage in August 1872 when the first secret ballot in Britain was used to elect a Member of Parliament, allowing people to vote in secret by placing an ‘X’ on a ballot paper next to the name of their choice.

The box is still marked with the seals used to ensure the votes were not tampered with. The seal was made with a liquorice stamp, used to make Pontefract cakes from a local liquorice factory.
David Evans and John Whitaker, Curators at Pontefract & Castleford Museums and Wakefield Museum, have recently taken the box to Westminster and talked about it there. This is is the talk they gave recently in Parliament highlighting its significance in the history of British democracy.
FREE, but booking essential on 01924 302700 or email as places are limited.

The Rationing Diet - with Dr Annie Gray
Wednesday 18 November
Wakefield Museum Learning Zone
From 6pm
Adult session – ages 18+

Meet TV and Radio Food Historian, Dr Annie Gray for this fascinating talk about wartime rationing foods – and with tasting samples!
FREE, but booking essential on 01924 302700 or email as places are limited.

Create a Hand Bound Sketchbook - with Timid Elk
Saturday 12 December
Wakefield Museum Learning Zone
10am to 4pm
Adult session – ages 18+
£15 per head – including light refreshments (Lunch not provided, but there is a café on site)

Learn the technique of hand binding to create an individual sketchbook. Decorate your sketchbook by taking inspiration and utilising a selection of Ordinance Survey maps.
Bookings with full payment must be made in advance.  Click here to follow a link to online payments

Ring making workshop
Wednesday 27 January
Wakefield Museum Learning Zone
From 6pm
Adult session – ages 18+
£32 per head – including light refreshments

Inspired by ‘Precious’ our exhibition of rings from the V&A, design and make your own statement rings using glass beads, Swarovski crystals and pearls. You’ll create stylish and fun jewellery that can accessorise any outfit.
Bookings with full payment must be made in advance.  Click here to follow a link to online payments

Textured Wall-hanging – with Ruth Singer
Wednesday 24 February 2016
Wakefield Museum Learning Zone
6pm to 8.30pm
Adult session – ages 18+
£10 per head – including light refreshments

Make a mini textile hanging inspired but the colours, textures, plants and wildlife of the rainforest with textile artist, Ruth Singer.
Bookings with full payment must be made in advance.  Click here to follow a link to online payments

Sugar and Spice – Tudor to Georgian Sugarcraft – with Ivan Day
Saturday 27 February 2016
Wakefield Museum Learning Zone
From 10am to 4pm
Adult session – ages 18+
£50 per head – including lunch

A hands-on workshop of early cold sugar work, led by food historian Ivan Day, using real period moulds. Try your hand at Tudor to Georgian sugarpaste work to make moulded sweetmeats.
Bookings with full payment must be made in advance.  Click here to follow a link to online payments

Meet the Curator

Bring in your objects for advice on their care and research
Wakefield Museum - First Thursday of every month 2-4pm                    
Pontefract Museum - Second Wednesday of every month 10am  to 12 noon

Castleford Museum - Third Thursday of every month 10am to 12 noon

Castleford Adult Mornings
First Monday of the month (term time only)
Castleford Museum
11am – 12noon
Adults, you can join in too!  Pop into the museum for the chance to try a new craft and make new friends!
No need to book

Download our new Events and Exhibitions leaflet here:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Extraordinary Life of Charles Waterton - Comic Exhibition Launch

A special event is being held at Wakefield Museum
Wednesday 30 September 5pm to 7.30pm

To celebrate the launch of our new comic exhibition - The Extraordinary Life of Charles Waterton - we are very excited to announce that artists John Welding, Staz Johnson and Richard Bell will be in the museum, along with John Whitaker, the museum curator and writer of the Victorian adventurer comic.

The Victorian adventurer who captured a caiman crocodile by riding on its back - the perfect action comic hero!

Charles Waterton was famed for his interest in nature, and travelled widely collecting specimens before setting up the world's first nature reserve at Waterton Hall, near Wakefield. 

For more information about how the comic has been produced, see this earlier blog post.
Wakefield Museum has an extensive collection of Waterton artefacts - including a giant Cayman which is exhibited in Wakefield Library and his diaries which detail his travel experiences and his life.

Waterton is well-known for his 'creations' - his taxidermy inventions of grotesques. 

To celebrate this aspect of Charles Waterton, we are also delighted to host - for one night only - the amazing Palace of Curiosities - a Victorian Travelling Sideshow with objects including a mermaid and a unicorn's horn!

In their own words:
Every now and then we find someone from history whose life really needs celebrating - Take Charles Waterton a Victorian man who created taxidermy of stuffed animals and presented them as political cartoon satire - The Palace of Curiosities is proud to announce we will be exhibiting at Wakefield Museum to honour this mans life and achievements on 30th September 2015 - 5pm-7.30pm as part of Wakefield's "The Art Walk".

The professor with his mermaid