To collect or not to collect?

What should the museum collect? This blog post seeks your advice on a very unusual potential acquisition…

Image courtesy of Capes Dunn & Co. A 19th Century white marble sculpture of the left hand of the novelist George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans 1819 - 1880) depicted resting on a cushion and entwined by a trailing and flowering plant, incised with the words 'George Eliot'.

Image courtesy of Capes Dunn & Co.

This sculpture of George Eliot’s left hand has been recently brought to our attention. We think this striking white marble sculpture was created as a memorial to George Eliot, who was married in 1880, the same year she died.  It shows her hand resting on a cushion and entwined with a trailing and flowering plant. The sculpture is due to be auctioned in May and we would like your opinion on whether the museum should bid to purchase it.

A dress which belonged to George Eliot, mid 1800s.

A dress which belonged to George Eliot, mid 1800s.

It’s quite an interesting piece because it gives the viewer an idea of what Eliot looked like. Women in the mid to late 1800s wore dresses with high necklines and full length sleeves and skirts (see photograph). Their hands would have been one of the few parts of their body visible to other people. Hands are also very symbolic of the craft of an author.

The sculpture is also interesting from a social history perspective. It links to the Victorian phenomenon of memorialising the dead through objects including death masks, jewellery containing locks of hair and photographs of the deceased. Objects such as these can provoke a strong emotional response and are a powerful way to learn more about beliefs and customs in the 1800s.

But does it belong in the collection at Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery?

‘Should we collect this?’ is a question we discuss regularly at the museum. We meet to talk about every object we are offered and think very carefully before we collect. We want to make sure we can display our collection for visitors to enjoy. With limited storage space and resources we have to consider whether we can keep and care for items properly. We don’t collect duplicates of artefacts already in the collection. We only collect objects that help us to tell the story of the Borough. We also take care that we are making good use of public funds and donations. The sculpture is estimated to sell for between £300-£500, plus buyer’s commission and VAT.

We would like your opinion.

  • Do you think this object is important?
  • How does it make you feel?
  • Will it help us to tell the story of George Eliot?
  • Is it a good use of resources or should we focus our attention elsewhere?

Comment below to let us know!

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The History Hub tackles the Home Front!



Have you ever wondered how a Community Case exhibition is produced at the Museum & Art Gallery?

Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery has been working with local history group The History Hub to help tell the story of life on the Home Front in Nuneaton during the First World War. Members of the group are choosing and researching Museum objects that reflected life away from the battlefield. Including letters home from soldiers to ‘Trench Art’ souvenirs, these artefacts tell a fascinating story of how everyday people coped with the war.

For instance, did you know that Parma Violet perfume sachets were sold to help raise money for the war effort in 1915 . Clearly Galley Common School were doing their bit!

The first task for the group was to identify objects from our collection which captured their interest and fitted the Home Front theme. These were noted down. Subsequent workshops will see the group researching their selected objects in depth, composing labels and finally creating a display within the Community Case. Throughout the project, participants are taught a range of skills such as object handling, basic conservation, effective label writing and display techniques.

This project compliments other work currently being undertaken by The History Hub. Thisviolets volunteer based group is currently researching several pairs of brothers from Nuneaton who were killed in action during 1916.

The Community Showcase is a great way for members of local clubs, societies, schools or special interest groups to explore the museum collections and select objects which they would like to exhibit in the case. If you are interested in taking part, please contact the Museum Outreach Officer on 024 7635 0720.


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Tick Tock, Tick Tock

One of the most familiar sounds in day to day life is the ticking of a clock. In fact it’s such a familiar sound that we often tune it out. Whilst thinking of objects that produce sound in preparation for the ‘Sounds Familiar’ Hands on History session, I became aware of the clock in the office ticking. Until that moment, it hadn’t occurred to me to look for a clock to bring out of the stores to share with our visitors, even though it’s an obvious choice for the theme. I guess that serves to prove that tick-tocking is such a commonplace sound it can be barely noticeable except of course on a sleepless night!



I could hardly have hoped to find a lovelier, more locally significant clock to share with our visitors than this crescent moon shaped timepiece manufactured by the British United Clock Company of Birmingham. Established in 1885 by the Davies brothers, the company was one of the first in Britain to mass produce clocks. Despite the brothers’ considerable contribution to the development of manufacturing methods in late nineteenth century Britain and their success in winning high profile awards throughout the 1880s, the company was forced to close in 1909 due to the import of less expensive, lower quality clocks from Europe.

The high quality of design and decoration given to the British United Clock Company’s products is clearly identified in this example from our museum collections. The clock’s dial displays a relief engraving of a cherub bathed in sunshine, lifting a fan of feathers into the air whilst riding a chariot that appears to be drawn by two dragonflies. In tandem with the engraved scene, is another scene painted on porcelain and framed within the crescent moon. The depicted church, which stands on the corner of a street lined with houses, is believed to be the Nuneaton Wesleyan Methodist Church that once stood in Abbey Street.

In two tiny cottages on Abbey Street, Nuneaton’s first Methodist place of worship was founded in the 1820s; a further cottage housed the Sunday School. In 1841, the first Wesleyan Methodist Chapel seating 400 parishioners followed. Following a four year programme of renovations and improvements, led by Reginald Stanley of Stanley Brothers Brickworks and architect, Frederick John Yates, the Chapel re-opened in 1873. Two new organs, an upper balcony, capacity for a congregation of 800 and the addition of a spire were among the renovations. It seems fitting that this once impressive Nuneaton building, sadly demolished in 1963, is preserved in time through this unique clock.

We hope you will join us in the Picture Gallery on Saturday 16 April from 11am – 4pm for the chance to see the clock and get hands on with various objects from our collections that have made some familiar sounds in their time.

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Happy Easter from Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery

IMAG1688To celebrate Easter we are sharing these photographs of painted eggs from the museum’s collection.

Our records tell us that the eggs were made “by Polish speaking girls living in Germany”. In Poland these eggs are known as ‘Pisanki’ and are part of the country’s Easter tradition.

Like many other Easter objects and images ‘Pisanki’ symbolise the revival and rejuvenation of nature after winter. For Christians this links to the Easter theme of resurrection. We love the bright colours and floral patterns on the museum’s eggs.

IMAG1686Generally the eggs are covered with a layer of wax which can then be drawn on. Sometimes the pattern is created with wax and the egg is then dipped in dye.

Historically only women took part in this past time. Some accounts state that men were barred from the house while women were creating the eggs! Today both men and women enjoy the tradition, giving painted eggs to their family before breakfast on Easter Sunday.

Does your family have an Easter tradition?

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Who is Jacko?

A rather interesting character as it turns out.

John ‘Jacko’ Bosworth was Nuneaton’s last Town Crier. His job was to make public announcements in the street, getting people’s attention with his handbell and, I imagine, a rather loud voice! Jacko was the social media of his day in the early 20 century, relaying news of important events often before it appeared in the newspapers.
Sadly this distinctive local character was the last of his kind but we are fortunate to have his bell and rather natty official costume in our collection!jacko2

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Lighten Up!

This month’s Hands on History session will present objects from our collections that have a relationship to light, delving into their uses and the histories behind them. Fantastic objects for visitors to enjoy will include a beautiful Tibetan Flint Pouch traditionally known as a ‘chuckmuck’ and an atmospheric painting by the cartoonist Noel Ford called ‘The Twilight Shift’.

Here’s an unusual light related object, which looks as if it might belong in a chemistry lab! I was excited to find it in the stores and will be bringing it out for our visitors to handle. Can you guess what it is and how it might have been used?


The wooden panel the object is mounted on is a later addition for safe-keeping and display purposes and does not relate to the original use of the object.

Look forward to seeing you at our ‘Light’ Hands on History  session in the Picture Gallery on Saturday 19 March from 11am – 4pm.

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New acquisition: Photographs from Alfred Conner & Co. Ltd.


The company owned a fleet of delivery vans branded with its distinctive logo.

We have recently acquired a wonderful collection of photographs taken in the 1970s at Alfred Conner & Co. Ltd.

Alfred Conner & Co. Ltd. was founded in 1878 and had three factories and a warehouse in Nuneaton. Its Head Office was on Fife Street with further factories at Aston Road, York Street and Pool Road.

The company was known locally as Conner’s or Conner’s Box Factory. At the time these photographs were taken it employed approximately 450 people.


The photographs depict different manufacturing stages and show both traditional techniques and the latest technology.

The company manufactured a wide range of products but specialised in games and playing boards, jigsaw puzzles, rigid boxes, printed cartons and handmade boxes. It offered a full service from design to printing, cutting, finishing and packing.


Several photographs show employees assembling jigsaws. The company could produce up to 3,000 piece jigsaw puzzles.

We have acquired thirty-four photographs, which offer a fascinating glimpse into life at the factories for the men and women who worked there. They also reveal some of the products being manufactured at the time, which include boxes for Wedgwood and a ‘Black Beauty’ jigsaw.

We’re currently cataloging the photographs together with a small group of related ephemera. We would be really interested to hear from anyone who might be able to tell us a little more about the photographs. Were you working for Alfred Conner & Co. Ltd. around this time? Do you think you might recognise the people in the photographs or could explain the processes taking place at the factory?

If you would like to help us catalogue the photographs please contact Becky, Assistant Museum Officer at

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