A World of Dolls

What comes to mind when I ask you to think about the word ‘doll’? For many, the image is likely that of a toy baby or child carried around, cared for, and dressed in different outfits. For others, it might be an ‘Action Man’ or perhaps something carried as a lucky mascot. Then there are the unfortunate few with Pediophobia (the fear of dolls) who may be far more uncomfortable with the thought at all.

Dolls, however, are this and much more. They are the oldest archaeologically known toy and appear in the vast majority of the worlds’ cultures in a variety of forms. A doll was discovered in Egypt, appearing as a highly decorated length of wood, and dated at over 4000 years old. Woolly mammoths walked the earth at the same time as humans were making dolls! Move forward to the 20th century and the doll has maintained its importance, being the very first type of toy to be manufactured in plastic during the 1940s and continuing to be a focal point for discussions about body image and gendering in the present day.


A World of Dolls Blog Post


Today, though, I would like to introduce you to the use of dolls as an aid for religious instruction. In our forthcoming Hands on History session, we have an example of a Kachina doll from the Hopi people of the southwest United States. These hand-carved figurines take the form of immortal beings who bring rain and perform other varied natural and supernatural feats. Different forms and styles of these dolls are gifted to young girls at special ceremonies so that they might be hung up in the home and the forms and features of the Kachina studied, learned, and memorised. This doll is not a toy, as you might imagine a doll to be, but is an important religious icon.

If you would like to find out more, or are interested in seeing other dolls from our collections, please visit us on Saturday the 21st of July any time between 11:00 and 16:00 for our Hands on History session ‘A World of Dolls’. We look forward to meeting you and perhaps hearing about the dolls that have played a special part in your life!

Until then, I leave you with an interesting question: Are action figures dolls – what do you think?

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All that glitters…

Today we are sharing with you a peak of Saturday’s Hands on History session, featuring some of the Museum’s collection of jewellery and ornaments from around the world. Such objects are beautiful to the eye and have been worn throughout human history within every culture not only to enhance appearance, but also to convey status, offer protection from harm, or act as lucky talismans.

In this post, though, we’re going to look at some very special pieces of jet.

This broach, with the motif of a daisy, as well as these earrings depicting scallops, were donated to the Museum in the 1960s.

Jet is unusual as a gemstone because, unlike most others, it is not a mineral. Unlike diamonds, rubies, emeralds, jet comes from the fossilised remains of ancient trees, just like coal.

Jet is easily carved but is very delicate so that applying fine details requires a great deal of skill. The final product can then be polished and mounted for a striking ‘jet-black’ feature. The term jet-black, meaning the darkest possible black comes, as you could probably guess, from this material.

Jet’s popularity has fluctuated over time. It is quite common as a find in Neolithic and Bronze Age excavations. It then fell out of favour in Britain until the arrival of Romans. British jet was collected in Eboracum, modern York, where it was processed and shipped across the Roman Empire. Popularity declined again after the Romans, with only sporadic use by Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians, until it came into fashion again during the reign of Queen Victoria. After Prince Albert’s death, the Queen wore Whitby Jet as a part of her mourning dress. Perhaps due to this association with mourning, jet’s popularity has again waned.

Be sure to drop in to see and learn about more of our collection of world jewellery from 11am to 4pm on Saturday the 16th of June.

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Shoulder To Shoulder

You may have seen on the television on Sunday the amazing site of hundreds of banners being processed in London, Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh, all marking the 100th anniversary of some women getting the right to vote.

This was all part of the PROCESSIONS project which I blogged about a few weeks ago and I’m very proud say that Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery and our band of gallant ‘banner creaters’ were part of it!  Afer an 8am start and journey to London our beautiful banner, paying tribute to Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, made it’s way along with 40,000 people from Park Lane to Westminster. It was an incredible experience to be involved in, the banners being processed alongside ours were amazing and additionally there were some deeply inspiring stories associated with many of them.

This was certainly a memorable project and my thanks go out to Eileen, Christine, Julie, Ann, Jean, Tracey, Chloe, Ali, Tracey, Beth, Vikki and Jacqueline for being part of the project and creating some history.

I personally found PROCESSIONS a moving experience. The courage, suffering and determination of the Suffragettes 100 years ago to obtain the right for women to vote must never be forgotten and their legacy of inspiration can be used by everyone to fight all forms of social inequality. ‘Deeds Not Words!’

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Courage calls to courage everywhere!

2006-134-2Lily Maybury’s Cap Badge read her story below

Courage calls to courage everywhere! This call to arms appears on the new Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square, London.   On Sunday the statue will witness the arrival of 40,000 people taking part in Processions to mark some women getting the vote in 1918.   This mass gathering will include women who have participated in the museum’s recent project to create a banner which will represent the borough.

The inclusion of the word courage sparked thoughts of women from the borough who have shown strength and resilience in their lives improving the world for those around them. Over the next few weeks we will take the opportunity to celebrate some of these women.

We will begin with the Story of Lily Maybury


World War 2 left its mark on the borough. Air raids of incendiary devices and high explosives were to take their toll on the borough as they did across the many towns and cities caught in the conflict. Lives were lost and extraordinary acts of bravery took place.

In addition to those who served in the armed forces overseas everyday men and women were to assist the war effort here on their doorsteps. Lily Maybury was one of those volunteers.  Lily was a trained nurse and when the war began she became part of the Civil Defence in Nuneaton. She was stationed at a first aid point in Higham Lane.

During the night of 16th May 1941, came the worst air raid to hit Nuneaton.  Early during the raid the gas, electricity and telephones were put out of order.  The Air Raid of that night caused extensive damage to the town. 110 people were killed and 170 people were injured during the raid.

Lily worked alone by candlelight, tending wounds and the severely injured. She wasn’t able to save two of the wounded.  She recorded treating 19 people but the actual total was higher.  She was so focussed on her work that she had to be told that the air raid had ended.  Even then she cleaned up her post before she went off duty.

For this action, she was presented with the MBE by King George VI in 1942 on his visit to Nuneaton.


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Deeds Not Words!

This year marks the 100th anniversary for some women in Britain being allowed the right to vote. It was the start of a move towards general suffrage for women.
In marking this event, Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery was invited by prestigious arts organisation Artichoke to take part in their fantastic PROCESSIONS project. This will see 100 organisations from across the country parading 100 banners which celebrate the achievements of the Suffragettes. As part of this project the Museum has been hosting a series of printing and textile workshops involving women from across the borough, to design and produce their own Suffragette banner.
Textile and print artist Tracey Watson has been leading the workshops, demonstrating amazing print techniques to create our unique banner. As a finale, participants will be travelling with members of the Museum team to London on 10 June to parade the banner with other groups from across the country. Simelar events will also be taking place in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh on the same day.
We’re very pleased and proud to be taking part in such an important national event as well as representing the borough in the capital city.
For more information on the project visit http://www.processions.co.uk and watch out for further updates!

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A Collection of Favourite Recipes from Nuneaton

Recipe book published by Newdegate Press Ltd, Nuneaton

A slim, papery, brown book entitled ‘Collection of Favourite Recipes’ from our museum collections is packed with retro recipes with intriguing names and basic ingredients. The book was printed by Newdegate Press, Nuneaton and the majority of recipes contributed by Nuneaton people. Each recipe includes the name of its contributor and, in many cases, their address.

As a taster of our ‘Sweet or Savoury’ Hands on History session on Saturday 21 April, I’d like to share a few recipes that appear in the book.

Rather than scrambled eggs on toast, you might like to try ‘Tomato Scramble’ on toast.

If, like me, you enjoy citrus flavours, ‘Lemon Fluff’ may well appeal to your tastes.

Lemon Fluff recipe

My favourite recipe name in the collection is Funny Bread. Perhaps it’s the inclusion of treacle that makes the bread funny (or unusual) but I’d love to try it and see.

Funny Bread recipe

A dessert recipe deliciously named ‘Apple Amber’ sounds like an apple version of lemon meringue pie.

Apple Amber recipe

Join us in the White Gallery on Saturday 21 April between 11 am and 4 pm for our ‘Sweet or Savoury’ Hands on History session, when this book, and other cookery books and cookery related objects from our collections will be available to discover.

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A visit to Brampton Museum

On Monday 26 March members of the Museum team visited The Brampton Museum in Newcastle Under Lyme. In many respects this museum is similar to Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery as it has temporary exhibitions as well as more permanent exhibitions reflecting the history and diversity of the area. It is also set in the beautiful Brampton Park, which, as it was a lovely day we sat and had lunch!
Museum manager Teresa Mason made us most welcome and gave over some of her valuable time to discuss with our team some of the challenges and the opportunities that a small museum faces. We all felt that there was a good deal of common ground and we were able to exchange some really good ideas, thoughts and suggestions.
An exchange visit is planned for the Autumn so watch this space! Thank you Teresa and The Brampton Museum for an inspiring day!

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