Love is in the air

As Valentines Day is almost upon us I thought I’d let you into a romantic little project that we’re planning for this year. Intrigued? Read on…
The Museum & Art Gallery is commissioning illustrator Jhinuk Sarkar to create a series of illustrated walking maps of the borough. The one she is working on at the moment is linked to love and romance but she and the Museum need your help!
The Romance & Love Map will be about places in the borough that hold romantic memories but we need your real life romantic stories to help us do this. Where was your first kiss? Where did you have your first date? Were you proposed to somewhere locally? Your story can be anonymous, funny, heart-breaking or just plain romantic, Jhinuk will welcome them all. Your story will help inspire the locations chosen and the artwork that Jhinuk creates.
Pop into the Museum to collect a project form or drop us an email at:

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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Hands on History: Journeys

Our next Hands on History session on Saturday 20 February and is on the theme of ‘Journeys’.


Whilst searching in the stores, opening up box after box of fascinating objects, I discovered a charming toy Romany caravan, which inspired the theme of ‘Journeys’ for this Hands on History event. Continuing my searches amongst the stores, I was delighted to find further, intriguing objects corresponding to the theme, from an Arctic whip to a carriage wheel spoke brush. These and other exciting objects, including the Romany caravan, will be on display for visitors to handle and learn more about.


Romany Caravan



The toy caravan is likely to have been homemade and was used at Church Farm, Bedworth. It has some lovely details: little yellow curtains, a tiny lantern and an arched door that opens. The Romany name for a caravan is vardo. These caravans were highly cherished by their owners and used by Romany people for 150 years. Prior to this they travelled on foot with carts carrying their possessions and slept in tents called ‘benders’ made of hazel twigs. It took a specialist wagon maker between 6 to 12 months to build a vardo, usually from oak, ash, elm, walnut or pine. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, hundreds of vardo were built and travelled throughout Britain. The declining use of Romany caravans in the mid twentieth century occurred due to various factors especially the dominance of the motor car. Only small numbers of original vardo survive today, preserved in museums and private collections.

Look out for the Access Assistants and their trolley between 11am to 4pm in the Yellow Gallery. They will be very pleased to see you!


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An insight into how we source our shows – will you be exhibiting with us in 2017?

Visitors to the museum will know we show all kinds of different things and our exhibitions cover a wide range of subjects.

We host touring exhibitions which we hire in from different galleries and companies and we often develop our own exhibitions to present interesting messages and ideas to our visitors. We also accept exhibition applications from members of the public and preparing for the next round of applications is what I’ve been working on lately.

shows white gallery


The selection process for exhibition places is competitive so we try and produce guidelines to help people with their applications. We also provide things like a Biography Template to help us get to know lots more about the people applying – this helps when the panel sits down to make their selections. The panel usually consists of about 4 people, some of which won’t be from the museum at all. This means the panel might know very little about the applicants, which is why good quality photos of the things to be exhibited, and having a good exhibition idea, are so important.

Part of my job is to get these guidelines and templates ready, which along with other sheets form our Application Pack. It’s just one of the things I’ve been working on lately and it’s really interesting to think about how we can best develop it.

But….soon all my hard work putting together the Application Pack will be over and it’ll be down to you to decide if you’re going to apply to us with your exhibition idea!DSCN7408

We welcome either art, craft, photography or history-based applications. Both individuals and groups are welcome to apply and applications will be open until Sunday June 5th 2016 so there’s plenty of time to have a think about what kind of show you’d like to put forward.

It’s free to apply and free to exhibit (but we do take commission on sales made during the show). There are also three different temporary exhibition spaces, each with different sizes and layouts, meaning we can accommodate a lot of different types of proposal. You can see in these photos an exhibition which was held in the White Gallery, which is one of our larger spaces, and an exhibition on the theme of protest which was developed by the museum for the Landing Gallery (which is our smallest temporary exhibition space).

Why not have a go and see if your show can be one of 2017’s exhibition showstoppers. Our Application Packs will be released soon.


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Re-discovering our Islamic collections

In October 2015 we successfully applied to the Islamic Art & Material Culture Subject Specialist Network’s support scheme and were offered a grant worth the equivalent of £3,250. We were pleased to be one of just three museums awarded a grant.

The Subject Specialist Network aims to unlock the potential of Islamic collections in museums across the country and to broaden knowledge and expertise in caring for and managing these collections. Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery’s Islamic collections form part of our wider world culture collection that was acquired by the museum’s curators in the 1960s and 1970s. The grant provides specialist support to examine and identify this collection as well as funding to photograph some of the most significant objects and share them more widely.

Islamic SSN project

Image courtesy of the Subject Specialist Network for Islamic Art & Material Culture.

The project is already well underway. In December, we were joined for two days by George Manginis, a Teaching Fellow in the History of Islamic Art at the University of Edinburgh. Together with Assistant Museum Officer Becky and volunteer Julie, George reviewed around 130 objects from our Islamic collections. These objects mainly originate from the Near and Middle East and North Africa.

George helped to identify and assess the significance of the collection and suggested new ways of interpreting objects. We now have a better understanding of the collection and how we might engage visitors with it. We discovered that particular strengths of the collection include weaponry, dress and everyday life. The collection also tells us about the interests of English tourists in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

We’re continuing to work on the project and will share our progress with you. In the meantime, here are a couple of our favourite objects from our work with George…

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Does this weapon surprise you? We tend to think of daggers as dangerous and violent objects. However, the sheath for this dagger is covered in a beautiful piece of silk brocade, likely to date from the 1700s. Furthermore, the blade is inscribed with a form of Persian calligraphy called ‘nastaliq’. This elegant form of writing is used for poetry. Taking this into account, the dagger appears more decorative than deadly. Weapons such as this were carried by both men and women. They were rarely used to kill; instead, they functioned as a form of jewellery. Often elaborately decorated, daggers conveyed the status and power of the wearer. Who might have carried a dagger like this?

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Do you know what this object is? It originated from Turkey or the Ottoman Empire and is known as a ‘kalamar’ or pen case. It was used to store ‘kalam’, a type of reed pen used for calligraphy. Our case is well made and beautifully decorated using a technique called chasing.  In the 19th century in places such as Turkey, the Balkans and Syria, people who knew how to write would carry their kalamar on their belt when they travelled. Raw silk or cotton fibres would be placed into the small ink pot, absorbing the ink so that it wouldn’t spill. Squeezing the fibres would release the ink into the pen ready to use.

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Reginald Stanley – Building Nuneaton

Some of you may be familiar with the former Stanley Brothers brickworks in Nuneaton but how much do you know about the man behind it? Whilst doing some research for a project I came across some fascinating facts!

Reginald Stanley was born 2nd May 1838 in Hayle, Cornwall.

At the age of 18  he boarded a ship for America, seeking fortune and adventure. He travelled to Montana during the 1864 Gold Rush, and found success mining for gold.

Decorative tile produced by Stanley's Brickworks

Decorative tile produced by Stanley’s Brickworks

Returning to England in 1866 he used some of his wealth to buy into a brickworks in Stockingford. Over the next 20 years the business expanded, producing high quality bricks but also diversifying into coalmining and engineering.

Reginald Stanley invested a great deal of his wealth in Nuneaton.  He was a Liberal Party member and helped in the building of the Nuneaton Liberal Club on Abbey Street. Another of Stanley’s creations reflects his Methodist beliefs. The extraordinary Gate Temperance Hotel on Abbey Street reportedly cost £8000 to build in 1895, a huge amount of money at that time.

His biggest donation to Nuneaton was the gift of a hospital to the town. The Cottage Hospital on Manor Court Road was opened in 1893  using Stanley Brothers distinctive detailed terracotta brickwork. Today a memorial to Reginald Stanley can be seen in the grounds of his former home in Manor Court Road, but take a look at the chimney pots and bricks around the town for more tributes to the man that helped shape Nuneaton!

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Fine old Christmas!

This shows an early image of Santa Claus wearing a blue cloak

When Santa wore blue.

“Fine old Christmas, with the snowy hair and ruddy face, had done his duty that year in the noblest fashion, and had set off his rich gifts of warmth and colour with all the heightening contrast of frost and snow.”
George Eliot, Mill on the Floss.

Unfortunately today is more wet and cold. Warm wishes for the festive season from the team at Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery.
We are now closed until January 2nd when we will be open 10.30am until 4.30pm.

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Countdown to Christmas 24: No more Christmas?

Most of us will be celebrating Christmas with games, fun and lots of nice food to eat, but things might have turned out very differently.

In the seventeenth century, the Puritans tried to put a stop to many of the Christmas customs which were enjoyed by the people of the time. Too much revelry and misrule didn’t seem like a fitting way to celebrate Christmas and so many customs were outlawed!

On 10 June 1647 an ordinance was passed which declared the celebration of Christmas to be a punishable offence. Measures preventing traditional celebrations were so unpopular that they even sparked riots! Luckily for those of us who enjoy a bit of Christmas revelry, celebrations are now commonplace again – letting us eat, drink and be merry.


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