Thursday, December 8, 2016

An Experience in the Exhibits

Recently, we hosted three Primary Education students from Leeds Trinity University for a two-week placement.

Kaisha and Oliver are specialising in Key Stage 2 (later years) whilst Jenny is studying early years (to age 7). 

This blog post was written by them.

For many years both research and experience has shown teachers that there is huge value in taking children out of the classroom to learn in an alternative context. As trainee teachers we have been fortunate enough to witness this first hand during our time at Wakefield Museums.
Over the past two weeks we have shadowed Learning Officer, Louise Bragan as she delivers some of Wakefield Museums’ wide range of workshops, including 1940s housewife, Greek pottery and Charles Waterton. We have seen how these workshops support and enhance learning across a number of curriculum areas and in ways which are as inspirational as they are unexpected!

The 1940s housewife workshop is popular with Year 5 and 6 classes. It offers an alternative insight to learning about the Second World War by focussing on daily life for a lady and her children living in Ossett, a small local town. Children (and teaching students) are surprised by how little food was available under rationing, demonstrated in a very stark way by ‘Dorothy’, Louise’s character for the workshop (and her real life grandma!). It was fascinating to see how children responded to the effects of war when told from a local perspective, when much of what they had absorbed so far had been about dates and important figures.  After speaking to Dorothy children had the opportunity to look at real ration books, identity cards, gas masks and other papers and paraphernalia associated with life at that time. Oliver and Kaisha were inspired to create a series of handouts to accompany each item for teachers to use in future lessons.
World War 2 Ration book, identity card and Women's Voluntary Service scarf and hat (below) used in the workshop

In the Charles Waterton workshop children learn about the local eccentric who created the first nature reserve, rode a caiman and used pioneering taxidermy methods to create monstrosities with a political message.  As expected, this workshop directly relates to the history national curriculum, but Louise also provides a wonderful literacy link. Children follow in the footsteps of Charles by using a quill and ink to write with. It was fascinating as a student teacher to observe how children reacted to this task – speaking to their teachers it was clear that children who are usually reluctant writers embraced the alternative medium, some producing notably higher quality work with the quill that in pencil at school.
This workshop inspired Jenny to create a teachers' pack which will be used to support teachers and other accompanying adults to help children get the most out of a visit to the exhibit.
John Bull and the National Debt - one of Waterton's crazy creatures

Children get to handle a real crocodile skull as part of the workshop
The Greek Pottery workshop saw us take the learning into school. We were as amazed as the year 6 class that we were able to not only see, but also touch, pick up, smell and examine the 3000 year old jugs and urns that make up a small part of the Museum’s extensive handling collection. The sense of awe and wonder shown by  children who got to hold these and other objects during our visit, demonstrates the enormous value of museums and the use of objects, both as a way of connecting children with their past and sense of place and to learning across the curriculum.
We were fortunate enough to visit the museum stores as part of our placement – a huge warehouse filled with objects from the sublime to the ridiculous. I think we could all have lost many days to that fascinating place which was reminiscent of a scene from Indiana Jones! Objects formed an important part of our two weeks’ with Wakefield Museums: we were fortunate enough to receive training on how to use objects as a stimulus for learning and to see how this operated in practice. These skills will be invaluable to us as teachers in the future to help engage and inspire children across the curriculum.

Personal Reflections:
From a personal perspective history was always my favourite topic, so this alone already cemented my interest in this establishment. As formal as a museum might appear there was a great working environment with friendly staff (who offered to make coffee every 15 minutes with free parkin) and a relaxed atmosphere.

Working with children in an unfamiliar setting may appear daunting, but if the topic is something you are deeply engaged in, the time flies by. I’ve spent more time talking about a Kit-Kat wrapper to year 6s than I ever thought I would. Yes, that sounds incredibly tedious and boring but if history is your interest you’d be surprised! In short, if history or anything you know is at the museum that interests you, go for it, you might just learn that Kit-Kat wrappers were blue in the 1940s due to the shortage of milk and thus the colour change indicated that the traditional milk chocolate was temporally changed with dark chocolate. - Oliver

My experience of history at school was different to Oliver’s. I was bombarded with facts and figures, politicians, kings and queens and I found the whole subject boring and irrelevant. I love teaching younger children as the awe and wonder about the world which they have is wonderful and contagious. My time here at Wakefield Museums has taught me how I can bring history and a wide range of other subjects to life and make them meaningful to even young children by using objects and relating learning to their own experiences. I have spent two weeks in awe and wonder myself at all the amazing artefacts in the collection and how they can be used and I know that what I’ve learnt will make me a better teacher. - Jenny
Oliver and Jenny at the Museum Store - looking at a WWI diary with curator, John

Tear-jerking, awe-inspiring and truly inspirational…
No, this is not a review of the latest romantic comedy – it’s even better - it’s a review of my time at Wakefield Museum!

As a self-confessed history geek, the opportunity to handle artefacts spanning from Ancient Egypt to World War Two was something I couldn’t imagine passing up. On the very first day genuine tears were shed over a Victorian prison cell door because I was so fascinated by it and I imagine I probably cried more than any prisoner who ever had the misfortune to have been held behind it.

But that is the magic of museums for me, as through my time here I have loved being able to connect with a random miscellaneous object from the past and imagine the story behind each artefact. The handling collection contained a Victorian iron and a few wooden pegs, which could easily be overlooked or discarded by someone who was disinterested. Instead, the time we could spend with each artefact on this placement allowed my mind to wander and imagine who these items could have once belonged to.

Was it a young housekeeper or an ancient gran, fingers gnarled from a hard life? I’ll never know and that doesn’t really matter, it’s the element of not knowing in fact that makes it all the better because my wild thoughts will never be shut down or dismissed.
Through this time exploring I realised first-hand how powerful a journey of enquiry can be, and I feel I am now more keen than before to provide this opportunity to the children I will one day teach. The use of open-ended questioning and higher-order thinking is something we are frequently lectured about but it truly means nothing until you see it in practice, guiding the children towards forming their own opinions and interests regarding the past, its role in the present and how it can shape the future they will come to find themselves in - Kaisha

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sindy: the doll you loved to dress

Who had a Sindy doll as a child? Claire, who grew up in Wakefield in 1980s, has kindly donated her fabulous collection of Sindy dolls, clothes and accessories to us. We thought we’d share some of the collection with you.

Sindy was launched in September 1963 by Pedigree Toys Ltd. She first appeared in our lives in a 30 second TV advert that was shown in the London area. In 2013, Sindy celebrated 50 years with a new anniversary range.
Here are some of Claire’s Sindy dolls. They came to us lovingly wrapped in protective tissue paper and carefully labelled.


Sindy was advertised with the tag line, ‘the doll you’ll love to dress’. Her outfits were designed to reflect the latest trends. Claire had a varied wardrobe of clothes and accessories to choose from for her dolls. Amongst them are swimming costumes, dressing gowns, leg warmers, dungarees and a kilt. Claire even hand made her Sindy an umbrella to keep off the Wakefield rain!

Of course, Sindy needed somewhere to live. Our team had great fun building the Sindy Super Home, a 3 storey townhouse complete with roof terrace and external lift!

Claire lavishly furnished the Super Home with her collection of Sindy ‘Scenesetter’ products, a large range of miniature replicas of lifestyle items. Sindy slept in a luxurious four poster bed, and ate at a dining table laid with her own dinner service, silver cutlery and gold candelabras. And she could serve guests at her dinner parties from her very own hostess trolley!


Many of the Scenesetter items had additional fun features. The oven in the Action Kitchen Unit actually lit up and there were blenders that could be plugged in and operated.  Sindy’s Beauty Salon also had a working hairdryer and her swimming pool even had a Jacuzzi setting!



Some of our favourite items, though, are the ones that Claire made herself. This ingenious homemade TV set has a selection of channels to choose from and a guide. Programmes range from the News to Top Gear!

We loved looking through Claire’s collection and are very pleased to look after it. Did you recognise any of the dolls or accessories from your own childhood?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Calling all Comic Artists: Pontefract’s Secret Ballot Comic Commission

Wakefield Museums hold in our collection ballot boxes used in the first secret ballot in parliamentary elections.  Putting a cross to a name on a ballot paper is taken for granted today.  The Pontefract by-election in 1872 changed the democratic process and made elections safer and fairer.

Wakefield Council Museum Service has been successful in securing funding from The Speaker’s Art Fund to create a comic telling the story of Pontefract’s secret ballot.
We are looking for an artist to create 12 pages of art work.  The aims of the comic are:

-          To create engaging, humorous interpretation of Pontefract’s Secret ballot. 

-          Create a sense of pride amongst local communities about the role Pontefract has played in shaping modern democracy in Britain.

-          Engage young Pomfretians around the importance of democracy and the development of universal suffrage.

-          Promote the importance of Josephine Butler who, with the formation of her Ladies National Association in 1869, became the first publicly recognised feminist activist in Britain and came to Pontefract in 1872 to campaign to repeal the Contagious Diseases Act.

-          Highlight the importance of the first secret ballot in Parliamentary elections.

The script for the comic will be provided, as will other source material.
The artwork contained in the 12 pages will be used in a variety of ways including:

-          To create four other pages that will give background information to characters and elements of the story. 

-          To form the basis of graphic interpretation in a new gallery display at Pontefract Museum.

-          As part of learning  materials

-          To create a printed version of the comic (which may be sold by Wakefield Museums).

These elements will be designed and led by Wakefield Museums.

Project budget: up to £3000

This budget covers fee and delivery of the following:

·         12 Pages of comic artwork (inked, lettered and coloured).

·         Rights for Wakefield Council to  use artwork however required (this may include, but is not limited to, gallery interpretation, learning resources, marketing material, online,  retail products)

·         Regular updates of progress to project manager.

All art work is to be signed off by project manager.

Project Timeline: Comic to be completed by

Friday 17 February 2017

How to apply:
If you are interested in submitting a proposal for the commission please provide the following information:

·         Rough sketch thumbnail of double page spread [see below for script & visual references]

·         Examples of previous work

·         Explanation of how you would approach ensuring that the artwork reflects the historical period authentically.

·         Details of two referees

Email to  by 5pm on Thursday 8 December 2016. 
If you require further information about the project please contact Maya Harrison,, 01924 305350.

Potwallopers and Plumpers Script:

The comic explores the first parliamentary by secret ballot in the summer of 1872 in Pontefract.
Background to the scene

The secret ballot election in Pontefract was a by-election to decide who was the Member of Parliament for Pontefract.
The two candidates in the election were Hugh Childers of the Liberal Party – the incumbent and Lord Pollington a Conservative challenger.

As the election was the first to use the secret ballot system and the high profile nature of the election was exploited by a women’s rights campaigner Josephine Butler and the Ladies National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts. This was the first women organised and led movement in modern British history.
The two pages released follow the efforts of Josephine Butler and her fellow campaigners to hold a meeting to raise awareness of their campaign. The current MP Hugh Childers has tried to stop the group having their own meeting in town by double booking rooms and then insisting that they only have a meeting which he chairs.

They manage to secure a hayloft just outside of town but Childers’ supporters intend to spoil it.
They have been helped by a Mr Stuart (there is no description of him and therefore artistic licence can be afforded).

Page 6:
Panel 1:

Int: Cross section view. Crowd of mainly women queuing into a hayloft and  climbing a ladder from a large room containing hay bales, cross section of floor and a women alighting ladder through a trap door into large loft room, pitched roof. It is dimly lit by oil lamps hung on walls. Behind the trapdoor is a crowd of mainly women. JB and her friend Mrs Wilson are at the end of the room.
Also visible outside but hidden from view of the crowd is a group of four men with aggressive postures and angry faces.

Caption: Outside Pontefract
JB Narration: We had been obliged to go all over town before we found anyone bold enough to grant us a place to meet.

Mr Stuart paid for a room on the outskirts of town; a hayloft with a rather unconventional entrance. However, the place was large enough to hold a good meeting, and it was soon filled.
JB: Welcome ladies….gentlemen…..

Panel two:

Close up of JB and Mrs Wilson. JB has tears in her eyes, Mrs Wilson is sniffling. There are wisps of smoke visible from the floor
JB: Mr Childers is AFRAID to meet us and answer our questions. This election is our chance raise this issue and turn his supporters against him

JB Narration: They were not tears of passion, : Little did we realise that Childers’ party had been at cruel work at our meeting
Panel three:

View of the crowd in front of JB, their eyes are streaming and some are sneezing
Crowd: at Choo….cough etc.

JB: perhaps we can now have a proper debate about this INHUMANE act….cough……cough
Somebody out of frame: Pepper?...there is pepper all over the floor

Panel 4: Aggressive men are now downstairs setting light to the hay bales, smoke is billowing up through the floor boards
Angry man: Smoke ‘em out

Crowd (through the floor): Smoke! Fire! Get out!
JB: everyone remain calm

Panel 1:

Head after head of men with countenances full of fury appearing through the trapdoor. Lead by men dressed as gentlemen, one pointing at JB
Gentleman: ?!!%$£$£

Panel 2:
Smash of a window by stones thrown from the outside….glass scatters over JB and Mrs Wilson

Panel 3:
Gentleman and JB face off

Gentleman: We’ve had enough of your talk (something along the lines of immoral and unladylike talk)
JB: You can tell Mr Childers that this kind of behaviour will not diminish our resolve

JB Narration: few of these men were Yorkshire people
Panel 4:

Policemen pop heads through trapdoor – they have a cynical smile
Policeman: evening all

JB: at last…constable please kindly remove these men from the premises….where are you going?
Panel 5:

Policemen leave
Policeman: we are only here for election matters so we will be on our way

Panel 6:
The mob move in and women start to flee down the ladder. Mr Stuart confronts them and get into a tussle

Mr Stuart: Get out of here!
JB: Come Mrs Wilson….it’s us they want the rest will be safe…

Panel 7:
JB and Mrs Wilson jump through the trapdoor

Tell Mr Childers this is far….FAR!... from over (as they are leaping)
Visual References:
Hugh Childers

Josephine Butler in 1876

Victorian Policeman in 1874

Victorian Gentlemen

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Playmakers exhibition runs , Wakefield Museum, 26th November 2016- 1st July 2017

Did you know that the football that won England the World Cup in 1966 was made in Horbury? Or that Steffi Graf and John McEnroe played their tennis with a state of the art Horbury-developed racket?

A Slazenger Challenge football for the 1966 World Cup and some of the tools used to make it
Dunlop Max 200G tennis racket used by Steffi Graf at Eastbourne in 1985
On loan from Jim Warner
For more than a century, Horbury was a centre of high tech, high quality sports manufacturing, home in its heyday to possibly the largest sports equipment factory in the world. Our upcoming exhibition at Wakefield Museum celebrates this important local industry. Playmakers will tell the story of how a local saddler’s apprentice became the chairman of a leading international company.


In 1870, William Sykes used all his life savings to buy his own saddlery. After 10 years in business, he turned his leather working skills to making footballs. The Victorian era was a golden age for sport with more and more people participating and professional governing bodies forming. Sykes was quick to tap into this captive market and expanded into making goods for a wide range of different sports. William Sykes Ltd went from strength to strength and was soon selling equipment all over the world and supplying major tournaments like the FA Cup.
Front cover of the House of Sykes, a promotional booklet produced to celebrate the company’s proud history
The William Sykes Ltd factory at Albion Mill, Horbury
William Sykes Ltd eventually merged with rival firms, Slazenger and Dunlop but Horbury remained the centre of production and innovation until the factory’s closure in 1986. In 1978 the Mayor of Wakefield opened a new Research and Development centre where many pioneering technologies and products were masterminded, including a new golf ball and revolutionary injection-moulded tennis racket.
To explore the full story, visit the Playmakers exhibition and follow our giant timeline charting all the key milestones in the history of William Sykes Ltd and Dunlop Slazenger. Along the way, you’ll see historic equipment and iconic products, and meet famous sports stars who used Horbury goods. You’ll also be able to try your hand at recreating a classic Sykes football and have the chance to live out your sporting dreams: why not don a 1966 England kit or dress up as John McEnroe and have your picture taken with your adoring fans? Don’t forget to share your snaps with us on Facebook and Twitter!
We’ve chosen a few star objects from the exhibition to whet your appetite. Visit Wakefield Museum from 26th November to see these and much more!
Bowls and carrying case, William Sykes Ltd, early 20th Century
Billiards balls, William Sykes Ltd, early 20th Century

Boxing gloves, William Sykes Ltd, 1930s
On loan from Miles Smith
Snow shoes for the military, Second World War

Don Bradman Autograph cricket bat, William Sykes Ltd/Slazenger, 1940s

Quiver of arrows, Slazenger, 1959
On loan from Roger Byard



Our display team are working hard to install the next exhibition at Wakefield Museum :

The exhibition opens on 26 November....

Check back soon to find out what's going on display!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Commemorating World War 1

It is coming up 98 years since the armistice of World War One.

Here at Wakefield Museum we have a variety of objects on display that tell the various stories about people, places and events surrounding World War One.  There is now also a new downloadable teachers' pack to support schools by providing information about some of the objects in the collections. The pack can be found here.

There were many families affected by World War One, not just those who lost loved ones but also the people who survived and returned.  One gentleman who returned home to Wakefield was George Kellett. Relatives of George donated his diary, written in 1918, whilst a soldier in France and Belgium. With agreement from the family the museum have used social media to share the George's thoughts. To see what life was like for one Wakefield man see @WW1_Diary on Twitter.
George Kellett's 1918 diary is now in the museum collection
Sadly there were many who did not return home. Students from Kettlethorpe High School earlier this year researched and developed work on two such men. Their work is on display at the museum and further information can be seen in the previous blog post found here.

Students from Kettlethorpe High School in Wakefield Museum with their thought-provoking display

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Pontefract Museum main gallery redisplay

Earlier this year Pontefract Museum received some funding to redisplay some of the main gallery.  It looks fantastic (if we do say so ourselves!!).

If you haven't had chance to visit, why not make plans this weekend? 

The museum is open 10.30-4.30 on Saturdays, with free entry.

Learn about Pontefract's sweet history....

Get creative, and dress up....

Enjoy the amazing objects

We are really proud of the new display, we hope you enjoy them

When you've finished have a stroll around the fascinating town centre, and pop into one of the many cafes for lunch.