Museums Movember & Christmas cracking collection…

November is now the month of moustaches, due to the charity event Movember to raise awareness of prostate cancer, other male cancers and associated charities.  Museums were able to take part in this by using the hashtag #musmovember on Twitter, sharing images of muzzy-related objects in their collection, and donating to the cause at the same time. I shared a few objects that I found on MODES, which can be seen on my Twitter feed, and made a donation to one of my friends who was cultivating a ‘tache.  I thought I would also share some of the images here too.  A really fun task that raised awareness for the event but also allowing access to the more hairy items in various museum collections!

Costume DollBearded lady

Bukta catalogue, 1979

Bukta catalogue, 1979

Bukta catalogue, 1979

Bukta catalogue, 1979

A Victorian moustache teacup... wonderful!

A Victorian moustache teacup… wonderful!

Now it is nearly upon us, I am sharing some Christmassy objects from the collection on Twitter.  I am aiming to do an item a day until I leave for the festivities but sometimes I forget with all the various things that are happening at the object stores (Lots of hats coming in for an upcoming Hat Works exhibition, RDing, HILing, accessioning, stores tidying etc. etc.)!

So here are some of the festive finds; I will share a festive object tomorrow, and Wednesday which is my last day before Xmas.

1930s Christmas Card

1930s Christmas Card

Christmas vinyl record from my year of birth (1987)!

Christmas vinyl record from my year of birth (1987)!

1907 Christmas postcard

1907 Christmas postcard


‘Christmas Designer Craft Show’ at Stockport Art Gallery

Stockport Art Gallery in the Winter sun

Stockport Art Gallery in the Winter sun

The Christmas Designer Craft Show has been running at Stockport Art Gallery for a few years.  Hosted in the ArtLink area, the craft show offers designer-maker products, from jewellery to cushions and cards to scarves; many gifts can be found! 

before and in midst

(L-R) Part of the ArtLink before; and in the midst of preparation for the craft show

This year I helped Bronwen, the Collections  Access Officer for the gallery, to prepare the ArtLink space for the craft show.  Jobs included painting, taking delivery of products, creating displays, labelling products, arranging the products, incorporating collection objects into the display… not forgetting decorating a huge christmas tree!

Jobs undertaken: (L-R, clockwise) Labelling; Katie unpacking tiles; Jo prepraring the jewellery cases; applying vinyl lettering; labelling

Jobs undertaken: (L-R, clockwise) Labelling; Katie unpacking tiles; Jo prepraring the jewellery cases; applying vinyl lettering; labelling

Here are some images from the craft show preparation to illustrate some of the work involved in transforming the space from an exhibitions area to a Christmassy treat!



Accessioning a purchase

Book of prose and a solander box containing watercolours by Thomas Kay

Another post for a nice task I have undertaken recently!  A lot of watercolours came up for auction, that were by a former Mayor of Stockport (1913) who was also in the local pharmaceuticals business.  His name was Thomas Kay, and he was a great fan of the arts – becoming a patron by setting up an arts grant.  13 of his watercolours and a book of his prose was being sold at auction, and Katie made a successful bid.  When the watercolours arrived, Katie gave the job of unpacking, accessioning and re-packing  the objects to me, which I have very much enjoyed.  The watercolours show scenes from a variety of places; it would seem Thomas Kay was a well-travelled gentleman.

Inscription on watercolour

I have written all of the information known and researched about each watercolour in the MODES record, taken a photograph to attach to the record and written (in 2B pencil) the object number on the back of each object.  These are housed in a large solander box which will be kept on a shelf with other artworks in the stores. 

I have also been able to write in the accession register, which is the hard-copy format (kept in a fire-proof safe!) for all entry items being accessioned into the collection.  This asks for the date accessioned, the date of entry, a brief description and the source of the object (gift, purchase, bequest).

Using the Accession Register

MA Conference – Edinburgh, and a quick pitstop in Glasgow

I attended the Museums Association Exhibition and Conference on the 8th and 9th of November.  This year it was hosted by Edinburgh, at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.  There were many keynote speeches, training workshops and debates to attend, as well as a networking event and ceilidh dancing at the National Museum of Scotland on the first evening.

(L-R) Beatrice, Louise and Natasha at the reception evening at the National Museum of Scotland.

I met up with two HLF Skills for the Future trainees, Beatrice McDermott, who is based at the Garden Museum in London and Katherine Reed, who is based at the Chiltern Open Air Museum.  Katherine was volunteering as a steward for the conference so she was very busy and we only met briefly.  It was lovely to meet in person, having only been in contact via Facebook and Twitter previously!  While we were there, we formed a group with Natasha Honeyman, who is an MA student and works part-time for Brisbane’s Living Heritage Network in Autralia.  She had come over to England for two weeks, especially to attend the conference.  It was great to speak to a museum professional and museum studies student fromthe other side of the world, and find out about how things are done!  We also met Louise, an MA student in Scotland.

Natural history ceiling display in the National Museum of Scotland

The most valuable aspect of the conference was the opporunity to attend ‘Smarter Training’ sessions, short 30 minute training workshops run by musuem professionals and consultants.  I joined the following:

  • Getting your story out there – how to run a media campaign
  • Perfect prose – top tips to improve your text
  • Focus, focus, focus – producing creative and effective audio and AV
  • Running Twitter and Facebook accounts – the nitty gritty

These short training sessions were packed with tips, examples and best practice advice, which I particularly enjoyed and gained a lot from.

Martin Roth – Director of the V&A

There were also keynote speeches by various speakers; Fiona Hyslop (Cabinet secretary for culture and external affairs), Aamer Anwar (Criminal defence lawyer), Martin Roth (Director of the V&A), and Mark O’Neill(Director of policy and research at Glagow Life).  These speeches raised various points about cultural identity, social justice, independance for Scotland, international work, partnerships in the UK, opportunities and challenges facing the museums sector, and access.

Other sessions:

  • ‘Teaching Museums – shaping the next generation’.  This session discussed the future museum professional and what attributes, qualities, skills and qualification or training they may need, as well as the country’s first ”Teaching Museum’ in Norfolk (see Norfolk County Council news for details) – using the idea of a teaching hospital for the museums sector.
  • ‘Expanding Horizons’.  This session discussed international partnerships, sharing skills and opening communication.  A case study of work in the Balkans was presented.
  • ‘Unlocking the past’.  This session presented case studies of prisoners working with museum collections, and argued for the value of this practice.
  • ‘Iobject! Working through conflict in musuems’ – This session talked about various instances of conflict and differences within museums.   Groups then talked about any examples of conflict they had experienced and the outcome.

Overall the MA Conference was a great experience, which offered many talks, training and events to attend.  It was a shame however, that many of the talks and workshops overlapped, which resulted in having to choose one session and miss other interesting presentations.

Whilst in Edinburgh, I made a pitstop to Glasgow to see friends and visit a museum – this time it was the Riverside Museum. I do intend to go back to Glasgow again soon and sample some of the other museums and galleries on offer there!  I thought that the interpretation and display of objects at the Riverside Museum was interesting and bright, a good use of the large and almost clinical space.  See pictures below.

cars and dresses...

cars and dresses…

my friends in an old tram ...and part of 'Main Street'

my friends in an old tram …and part of ‘Main Street’


Upper Clyde Shipbuilders poster

Upper Clyde Shipbuilders poster

A Touch of Glass


If you follow my tweets (@emma_museums) then you may have seen that a few weeks ago I was busy researching for an exhibition of glasswares for a display case in the Local Heritage Library, to replace the previous Olympics themed-exhibition.

The display case in the Local Heritage Library gives the curatorial team the opportunity to showcase some of our collection, in this instance the unusual and varied glass objects in Stockport’s museum collection.

Glass objects chosen for display before packaging and transportation to the Local Heritage Library.

Whilst researching Codd bottles, the two displayed being local to Stockport,  I came across the folklore that the phrase ‘Coddswallop’ dervied from the codd bottle and the cheap local beer found in them!  This sparked an idea for the interpretation I developed, with two people shouting phrases to one another from either side of the case.  In addition to this, I created a main A3 ‘panel’, in the form of laminated paper, with some background information about glass and different ways it is formed.

A Touch of Glass – finished case

Preparing for this mini-exhibition was a great experience, due to the many jobs it entailed.  These included:

  • Searching MODES for potential glass objects
  • Going into the stores and retrieving the objects
  • Completing ‘Object Movement Tickets’
  • Photographing objects that had no image attached to the record on MODES
  • Researching the formation of glass and other information for interpretation
  • Creating labels for displaying inside the case
  • Creating interpretation posters
  • Packing and transporting the objects
  • Dressing the case
  • Displaying the objects
  • Updating MODES with the temporary location of the objects

On the day I had Nicola (Curatorial Officer) with me, and she helped to pack away the objects from the former display, and to offer advice on how to best display the glasswares.

This was a really fun project to manage, and hopefully I will get the chance to do another one soon!

If you would like to visit the glassware exhibition, and indeed the Local Heritage Library, you can find the opening hours and directions here.

Tatty bye!

Standing next to the finished case

Lyme Park and my first archaeological dig at Wood Hall!

On stage in the Long Gallery, as the family did in the Edwardian period.


At the beginning of October, some of the HLF trainees met up at Lyme Park.  It was a great chance to look around at a partly owned Stockport Council site, which is run by the National Trust.  I have previously done a university placement at Lyme Park and some volunteering, so it was nice to go back.  I even saw some of my handy work in the interpretation – during my placement I searched the archives for images and documents that could be used in a scrapbook for the Edwardian nursery bedroom.  Some of the images now appear on the new house map.  I felt quite proud of myself! We also had a quick walk around a small part of the gardens, and may or may not have ended the day by having a meeting about the upcoming Wood Hall dig in the tearoom….

The house map for Lyme Park, which includes images I found in the Lyme archives and scanned in for a placement project in 2010!


Emma, Juliette and Katie in the gardens at Lyme Park

Emma, Juliette and I in the gardens at Lyme Park

The Dig

Day 1: Unearthing the cobblestones, before and after…

As mentioned in a previous post, a community excavation took place from 8th October – 19th October at Reddish Vale Country Park, which all of the HLF trainees completed research and compiled work for.  We also  undertook two days of digging at the excavation site, to work with volunteers and the University of Salford archaeology team to help uncover the secrets of Wood Hall.  Our main task was to reveal the cobblestones, by using a mattock and shovels to dig away the earth; later using trowels to scrape and clean them.  Backbreaking work, but it was fun and lovely to be outside in the crisp Autumn sunshine!  Here are some photographs from the two dig days (10th October and 17th October), and from the open day (20th October) in which four of the trainees and I presented the work we had done about Wood Hall and the history and conservation of buildings in the Reddish area.

Day one: Katie, Emma and Greg

Day one: Juliette and Rosie drawing up plans

Day one: Scraping mud from the cobblestones


Day one: Myself wielding a mattock


Day two: Unearthing more cobblestones… before and after


Day two: Trowel



Day two: Emma working on the cobbles


Day two: Katie working on the cobbles


Day two: Work that had been done on digging out the foundations

Day two: Work that had been done on digging out the cellar

Open Day: Table displays created by Juliette, Rosie, Emma and Katie


Open Day: The timeline and posters I created


Open Day: various


Open day: Tiles on the finds table


Open Day: Museums Collections, Conservation and Libraries & Archives trainees


Open Day: (clockwise L-R) Intact lightbulb, ceramic egg, marble fireplace fragment with date scratched in, and porcelain flapper girl ornament


Open Day: All the HLF trainees bar two – (L-R) Yours truly, Emma, Juliette, Rosie, and Katie

The dig led to uncovering many foundations and steps down to a cellar; and some of the archaeological finds included tiles, a lightbulb, glass bottles, marble fireplace fragments, and coins.  It may be possible to bid for more funds to extend the dig in the future –  I am sure there is a lot lurking underground and a lot more about Wood Hall and Wood Hall Farm that is yet to be discovered. 

more of a catch up – Wood Hall, Stockport Heritage Trust, Vernon Park Museum, and HIL numbers…

The lone object in the collection directly involving Wood Hall. A negative plate showing ‘A View of Stockport’ (RD.21149).

A lot of the time up to the beginning of October was spent researching (search being the operative word) for information about Wood Hall, which was situated in Reddish. A community excavation organised by Dig Greater Manchester (DGM) and managed by the Centre for Applied Archaeology at the University of Salford gave all of the HLF trainees a chance to work on a community involvement project.  As touched upon above, there is not much documentation on Wood Hall other than census records which show the inhabitants.  Indeed, no known photographs or paintings of the hall exist, the only object in the collection directly including Wood Hall being a negative plate showing ‘A view of Stockport’. There are however some photographs of Wood Hall Farm and similar census records which show the inhabitants.  Volunteers and school groups were to be involved in the dig, and so I created some interpretation in the form of posters and a timeline. 

Screenshot of a poster showing objects in the collection relating to the dairy farming industry.

The posters showed images of objects in the collection, relating to the farming industry.  These objects may well have been used at Wood Hall Farm.  The timeline showed key dates in the history of Wood Hall and Wood Hall Farm as well as the Reddish area; and I put this into context by showing key dates and world events.  

Screenshot of part of my archaeological finds poster.

These can be handed to school groups, and can be used as background information for volunteers and other visitors to the site.  The Libraries and Archives trainees produced a report about the history of Wood Hall and Reddish, using records and other sources – which is also available to read at the site. 

Screenshot of my timeline.


 The actual dig commenced on Monday 8th October, and will continue for two weeks – leading up to an Open Day at the site on the 20th October. I will create a new post with images from my day of digging once I am up to date with my blogging….

Another project I have been working on is to catalogue the documentation belonging to Stockport Heritage Trust.  There are many files worth of research and reference documents at the Heritage Centre, with no way of searching for a specific item or area of interest.  With my new experience of using MODES and cataloguing objects, this is a good challenge for me to manage.  I immediately saw creating a database with Access or Excel as problematic; with visions of accidental deletions and various copies having to be made due to maximum document sizes…  So I searched the internet and quickly found a free database, specifically created for museums and archives by a man named Jim Halpin.  This database is called Museum Archive Software (MusArch for short), and can be found at  It was decided that this was worth downloading and using to catalogue all of the documents in the Trust’s collection.  To start with, it will be trial and error of how to configure the database in a way that works for the Trust and those searching for records.  I have changed the numbering system I originally started using, and will also have to alter the descriptions of objects.  This will be a long task, one which I cannot see through to the end due to my 12-month contract coming to an end in June – but can certainly help establish and create easy guildelines for volunteers to use so they can continue to document the reference collection.  Here are some initial screenshots from the software.

A screenshot of MusAarch – editing a record

A screenshot of MusArch – the list of records so far.

Finalising my display of the stockings at Vernon Park Museum.

Another recent task I helped with was to empty a case at Vernon Park Museum with Janny.  Maintenance work which involved the inside of the WWII case meant all of the objects from had to be decanted, packaged up and taken back to the heritage stores. 

A week later when the work was complete we were able to take the objects back to Vernon Park and re-display the items – which ranged from stockings to a fire log book – in the case. Vernon Park Museum is a lovely, traditional museum with fascinating displays of objects.  I had never visited before, and realised that I have missed out by not doing so!

The finished case that Janny and I re-displayed (a mash-up of two separate images hence the wonky join!)

 Finally, another of the projects I have started (but may have mentioned in an earlier post) is to document the reference material in the Hatting Information Lounge.  At the end of September I started to rifle through box 24 and add records to the reference catalogue on MODES.  When discussing how to go about this project, Katie and Nicola decided that there should be a system of recording each type of document: those with entry forms, those without, original delicate objects, photographs, books, photocopies of documents or photographs etc.   Each document has a HIL number, and this will eventually make it a lot easier to use resources as we will know where certain documents are and can assist people with their enquiries in a more organised way.