Dressing up 1780’s style!

We are very excited about our exhibition ‘Dressing the Women from Poldark’ opening on Saturday. This Cosprop exhibition presents costumes from BBC One’s hit television series ‘Poldark’, an adaptation of Winston Graham’s series of historical novels. To accompany the exhibition, we have commissioned several beautiful pieces of dressing up for children to enjoy, I’m particularly fond of this lovely hat!

Dressing up is a key element of learning, enabling children to explore imaginary worlds and develop their creative thinking. Dressing up also plays a valuable role in museum learning and encourages families, children and adults to connect with our exhibitions. Trying on costume opens up a discussion about who would have worn it and when or where it would have been worn. Dressing up offers a tactile experience, inviting children to touch different materials and textures like lace, straw and felt. Captivating storytelling is at the heart of Poldark. Dressing up can inspire children to create their own characters and begin telling stories of their own!

Camellia Stafford

Museum Access Assistant

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July’s Hands on History session explores objects from our museum collections which can all be described as vessels. The session will look at use of vessels to hold, collect, preserve, carry and protect their contents whilst also being decorative, beautiful and tactile objects.

One particularly enticing vessel combining an elegant appearance with a specific function is this Turkish Spice Box.



The round box is made from pewtered copper and has a domed lid that lifts off, with a spire shaped handle. The lid is attached to the box base by two small chains of pewtered copper and fastens at the front with a clasp style copper loop. The design gives the impression of something precious inside. Patterns and shapes have been added to the surface of the box so that every inch of it is covered with sprays of dots, circles, zig zags, flower and leaf shapes. The inside of the box is in contrast plain and undecorated. Inside the box, spices would have been kept and preserved, filling it with their colours, textures and smells.



The spice trade originated in the Middle East over 4,000 years ago. Trade on the Silk Road via Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (and other land routes) was initially conducted by camel drawn caravans. The spice trade in its heyday became the world’s biggest industry. Black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, nutmeg and cloves amongst many spices that were introduced to the wider world.

Traders were secretive as to where they got their spices from.  Magical stories were created for specific herbs & spices. Cassia was said to have grown in shallow lakes guarded by winged animals whilst cinnamon reportedly grew in deep glens infested with poisonous snakes. These mythical tales created a sense of mystery, danger, exoticism and rarity that surrounded spices and resonate in this Turkish Spice Box from our collections.

Join our Access Assistants in the Picture Gallery on Saturday 15 July from 11am until 4pm to discover this spice box and other vessels from our collections.


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Stories from the store: A box of books

“The War 1914: For Boys & Girls” by Elizabeth O’Neill

We are continuing to work on our collections audit in the Museum’s main store and are uncovering some amazing objects that have been previously undocumented. Today we wanted to tell you about one box that contained a group of historic books.

Three books in particular grabbed our attention. The first was a children’s history book that gives the story of the outbreak and initial months of the First World War. A handwritten message inside tells us that it was given as a Christmas present in 1914. The owner lived on Haunchwood Road in Stockingford, Nuneaton.

Another fascinating book was a kind of ‘dummy’s guide’ to photography dating from 1902. We loved the advertisements, which show images of cameras and photography equipment. It’s interesting to note the technology that was current at the time, with chapters on how to make negatives, prints and lantern slides.

“Photography for Novices: The Primus Handbook” by Percy Lund

“Photography for Novices: The Primus Handbook” by Percy Lund

Finally, there’s a piece of local history with this rather appealing guide to dyeing textiles, including wool, cotton and silk. Its handy cut out tabs allow the reader to turn quickly to the textile of interest. The book was used in the dyeing department at Hall & Philips, a hat factory on Meadow Street, Nuneaton. The hatters were based in Nuneaton from 1868 and we believe this book was in use in the early to mid 20th century.

The book was written by German company Badische Anilin- & Sodafabrik

“Pocket Guide to the Application of Dyestuffs” used at Hall & Philips hat factory.

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The Hands on History session for May explores Disguise through the form of masks.

Take the opportunity to get hands on with masks of all shapes, sizes & colours from the Museum’s collection, while the Access Assistants share with you the stories that hide behind them. Discover how they were made, the materials they were made from and the unique individuals who wore them for performance, dance, or ritual.

One of the masks we will be sharing with you is this extremely rare wrought iron Siberian Shaman mask that was probably worn during a ritual or ceremony.


The mask originated from the Tungus tribe in Siberia. The Shaman of this tribe was a spiritual leader associated with the spiritual realm. His role was passed down through generations  to sustain the balance between the human, natural and spiritual world, with the belief that each realm is made up of living spirits that should be honoured.

Through blessings, spiritual ceremonies and rituals the Shaman was able to access the healing powers of the spiritual realm and ultimately achieve harmony for their community.

The Museum Access Assistants look forward to sharing our magnificent masks with you from 11am to 4pm on Saturday 20th May in the Picture Gallery.

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Art Detectives at the Museum: Who is E. Jackson?

Our collections contain some amazing stories but there are also many tales we’re yet to uncover. At times our collections documentation is very vague, containing little information about an object or why it was acquired. However, every now and again we discover something that can help us to solve these mysteries…

Several years ago we participated in the Public Catalogue Foundation’s Your Paintings project. Through this project we digitised oil paintings in our collection and these are still available for anyone to view via the Art UK website, which is a fantastic, free resource.

More recently Art UK launched Art Detective. Through Art Detective anyone with specialist knowledge can help public collections to learn more about their artworks. This forum has generated some interesting discussions and a recent conversation has been key to unlocking a mystery in our collection.

‘Boat Builders in Madras’ by E. Jackson

Last year we were contacted via Art UK for more information about an E. Jackson, artist of ‘Boat Builders in Madras’ (H/1/1977/65). It was suggested that the initial had been incorrectly recorded and that the work should instead be attributed to Stanley Jackson. Stanley Jackson worked in India in the 1930s. His painting ‘A Soldier in Battle Order, Madras Guards’ is in the collection of the National Army Museum and appeared to show a similar style to our painting of the boat builders.

We investigated a little further. Our accession register showed that the work was bought directly from the artist in 1970. The address given was local but to our frustration again only the initial and surname of the artist had been recorded – E. Jackson – and we didn’t hold any more information about the artist in our history files or collections database.

Behind the scenes in our art store.

It was time to visit the artwork in store for a closer examination. We took a careful look at the signature on the painting. Unfortunately the signature had been partly obscured by the frame, which we’re unable to remove without the help of a professional conservator. Nonetheless, it did appear that the initial was ‘E’ rather than ‘S’.

So who was E. Jackson? Was our identification of the artist as E. Jackson correct? Could the artwork have been bought from a relative whose initial had been mistakenly recorded as the artist’s? The artwork wasn’t formally accessioned until 1977, had some vital piece of information been lost in that time?

More recently we have been looking through the museum’s scrapbooks. These contain press cuttings relating to new acquisitions, events and exhibitions at the museum since the 1960s. We found the answer in our 1970s scrapbook.

Newspaper cuttings from 1970 reveal that our artist, E. Jackson, was Emily Jackson. Emily Jackson lived in Nuneaton and entered the Festival of Arts in 1970. She entered paintings into several sections of the Festival and was awarded three firsts (in figure composition, portraits and free choice), one second prize (still life) and a special trophy in the art section of the festival (The Warwickshire Miners’ Association Cup).

Mrs. Jackson is described by the Coventry Telegraph as “A Nuneaton housewife” and the Evening Tribune records how she “swept the board” at the Nuneaton Festival of Arts that year.

‘Boat Builders in Madras’ was purchased by the museum’s curator Francis Fawcett following public and expert consultation about which paintings should be acquired for the collection.

Crucial information about the artist was found in the museum’s scrapbook of press clippings.

It’s always satisfying to uncover more information about an object or artwork in our collection and this will be added to our records for future research and interpretation. We would still love to know more and would be grateful to hear from anyone with more information about Emily Jackson. Please contact Becky at becky.harvey@nuneatonandbedworth.gov.uk  if you’re able to help us.

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Behind the scenes: uncovering objects in store

As our collection audit continues we’re coming across a real mix of objects. Some have never been cataloged and documented so are new to us. Others have been accessioned, but still remain somewhat of a mystery!

This week we found a great mystery item – a polished section of tree branch bearing what is described in our records as a Jewish inscription.

Today when we acquire new objects for the museum’s collection we record as much information as possible about the item and its significance to help us interpret it in future.

However, we hold very little information about this section of tree branch, which makes it a very difficult object to display and interpret. We would love to hear from anyone who can tell us more about it. If you can interpret the inscription or know more about the object please contact Becky at becky.harvey@nuneatonandbedworth.gov.uk

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From 1917 – Celebrating 100 Years of Nuneaton Museum

In celebration of Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery’s 100th Birthday our next Hands on History session will take you back to the year 1917, when the Museum first opened its doors to visitors.

On display will be several objects from the Museum collections, including a series of photographs showing how the Museums interior & exterior has changed over the past century, alongside Museum objects dated 1917.

Beaded Snake.1

One of the objects we will share with you is this exquisite beaded snake, handmade by a First World War Turkish Prisoner of War. Prisoners made a variety of bead work objects to pass time during their imprisonment, including necklaces & lizards. The snake was most prominent as it was believed to be a symbol of good luck in the Middle East & was easier to construct due to its tube like design.

Beaded Snake.2

The prisoner would hand select glass beads to adorn to the snakes basic fabric structure either using crochet or by weaving them on a small loom. This particular snake is made from small green glass beads, with the incorporation of a basic zig zag design distinguished in black. The words ‘Turkish Prisoner 1917’,  are composed in blue beads on the white underside of the snake telling us the year it was created & where.

Once completed these beautiful objects were used to barter and exchange for food or sent away as gifts to the loved ones of prisoners.

Our Museum Access Assistants look forward to sharing this beautiful object with you, and more from 11am to 4pm on Saturday 15th April in the Picture Gallery.

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