Stories from the Stores – mystery object 1

Can you help us find out about this month’s mystery object?
By Rachel Smith and Tabitha Cadbury, curators of Social History and World Cultures

Some objects have been found in the social history stores with no associated information, so we don’t know what they are. Each month we will post a new mystery object. This month’s mystery object is on display in the museum if you want to come in for a closer look, or click on the thumbnails for larger images.

Can you tell us anything about the mystery item? Have you got any idea of its original use? Can you guess? Or better still do you have a story or anecdote connected to it?

The social history collection covers everything from working life, home life and community life as well as personal items. Therefore the mystery objects could be tools for a trade or craft, items for domestic use, bits of a building or pretty much anything really! And don’t forget the object may be a piece of something much larger.

Your help is much appreciated.

Stories from the Stores Project Update 2

Introductory foyer cases installed
By Tabitha Cadbury, Curator – Social History & World Cultures

We have filled two display cases in the Museum foyer with intriguing and mysterious objects that we have found in the store.

 One case introduces the Stories from the Stores project by displaying a cross-section of the objects that we have in the social history collections, from a 1970s ‘Girl’s World’ toy head, to the microphone used by King George VI to talk to the people of Plymouth – and, of course, the knitted breakfast!

Introducing Stories from the Stores display
Introducing Stories from the Stores display

 The other case contains mystery objects that we have found undocumented in the stores. We really don’t know what they are – and we hope that some of you may be familiar with them and will be able to identify them for us. 

Mystery objects display
Mystery objects display

We would love to hear any memories, stories and knowledge you have relating to these objects. Come on in to the Museum, share your stories and find out how you can get involved with the project.

Stories from the Stores Project Update 1

Audit reaches 4000 objects
By Rachel Smith, Curator – Social History & World Cultures

The first stage of the project is to audit all of the Social History collection to work out exactly what we have got. We’ve been busy in the main Social History store and found some intriguing curiosities while going through the objects. As well as a microphone that was used by King George VI to talk to the people of Plymouth, there is an entire Tudor ceiling in pieces and a knitted breakfast!

Tabitha looking through our stores
Curator Tabitha Cadbury looking through a collection of decorative pole heads used by village Friendly Societies. The brass emblems chosen to represent each society would have been attached to the top of a staff.

Thanks to the help of volunteers and other members of staff, progress has been good and we have audited more than 4000 objects already.

Rachel working on the audit spreadsheet
Curator Rachel Smith adds new records to the huge audit spreadsheet.

We will be looking for more volunteers to help with the next stages of the project, so keep an eye on the museum volunteer page for new opportunities.

Cottonian Furniture Project Update 2

By Emma Philip, Curator – Fine Art

Today the first two pieces of furniture went off to conservation in the capable hands of John and Andy from Tankerdale.

 Our tortoiseshell cabinet was first carefully padded and wrapped for transit to ensure that its many drawers stayed in place, and its delicate inlays were not damaged.  It is a heavy piece and had been displayed stacked on top of the wave-fronted cabinet, so lifting it off and away was a delicate process.

John and Andy preparing the tortoiseshell cabinet for transit
John and Andy preparing the tortoiseshell cabinet for transit

The top of the wave-fronted cabinet was then revealed for the first time in many years.  As you can see from the photo, it has a very beautiful but very damaged set of decorative veneers on the top.  These were a surprise find, and leave us with the question of whether after treatment we should cover it up with the tortoiseshell cabinet again, or re-organise the gallery so that we can show it to our visitors.

John from Tankerdale takes a closer look at the newly-revealed decoration on the top of our wave front cabinet
John from Tankerdale takes a closer look at the newly-revealed decoration on the top of our wave front cabinet

Mind the Gap!
Friday 3rd December

As you can see from the photo below, our Cottonian Gallery is now looking a little different without some of its historic furniture in place.  I have written a panel to explain what is going on to our visitors, and after a bit of work in our design studio, I hope to have that on the wall soon.

Empty wall where there was furniture
Empty wall where there was furniture!

Cottonian Furniture Project Update 1

By Emma Philip, Curator – Fine Art

First piece off to conservation

30 November 2012

Here is a photo of the inside of our wonderful tortoiseshell cabinet.  This will be first piece that goes off to conservation next week along with our wavefront cabinet.

The inside of our collector's cabinet
The inside of our collector’s cabinet

Time for some evaluation

29 November 2012

Today I have been doing a bit of evaluation work with visitors to the Cottonian Gallery.  Over the course of this project we will be carrying out research to see if the interpretation we are creating about the furniture is helping to bring the restored pieces to the public’s attention. Our Museum Assistants have also been involved in counting ‘dwell time’ – the amount of time that visitors are spending in the gallery. We hope that as the project goes on, we will convince people to stay for longer.

Museum Assistant Les with his clipboard!
Museum Assistant Les with his clipboard!

First two cabinets are prepped for conservation

26 November 2012

Today my colleague Neil (one of our Senior Conservators) and I began the process of decanting the first of the historic books from the wave-front cabinet in the Cottonian Collection Gallery.  The cabinet is off for much-needed conservation at expert furniture conservators Tankerdale Limited, along with our tortoiseshell collector’s cabinet.

These beautiful pieces of furniture have been part of the collection for at least 180 years.  Their production date, makers and history are not known for certain and so we are working with furniture historian Dr Adam Bowett to find out more about them.

During the process of counting and moving the books into secure storage, we found a small book called ‘The Legend of Captain Jones’, which was published in 1671.  In the inside cover of the book was what looked like a child’s drawing of the story of Captain Jones.  The little artist had attempted to sign the name ‘William Weuller/Weiler’.

The drawings on the inside cover of The Legend of Captain Jones
The drawings on the inside cover of The Legend of Captain Jones
William (once proud owner of the book), practising his signature
William (once proud owner of the book), practising his signature

Welcome to our blog!

Welcome to the official blog for Plymouth City Council’s Arts and Heritage Service.

The Service includes Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office,  Mount Edgcumbe, Public Art, Smeaton’s Tower, the Elizabethan House and the Merchant’s House.

We’ll be using this blog to document the progress of some of the major projects we’ll be working on throughout the year.

Click on the individual pages to get a behind-the-scenes view from our curators, conservators, arts and education officers, and more.

Don’t forget, you can also keep up to date with other things that are going on by visiting our website or Flickr photostream, or by signing up to our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Happy reading!