Puzzle Jugs!

It always surprises me what weird and wonderful things one can find while searching through the Museum’s collections. While locating items for our upcoming Journeys themed Hands on History Session (on the 15th of September if you would like to come join us), I stumbled upon something I had never seen before and found rather odd. This was clearly a jug of some sort, but it had a series of rather large holes in the neck as well as some conspicuous spouts set in the rim.

Puzzle Jug for blog

After a quick search thanks to our ordered stores and helpful database, I discovered that this object is a puzzle jug. What is a puzzle jug? Well, the helpful taunting text on the body provides a good clue.
“Here Gentlemen, Come try your Skill;
I’le (sic) hold a wager if you Will
That you don’t Drink this Liquor all;
Without you spill or lett (sic) some fall”
The goal, then, is to drink the contents of the pitcher without spilling any – a task made quite obviously difficult due to the large holes in the neck.

The secret, however, is that the rim and handle are hollowed, allowing the clever person to suck the liquid through a small spout. This example has an added layer of complexity in that the other two spouts would need to be covered in order to create suction. Or, of course, you could always enlist more drinkers!

I have had a bit of fun learning about drinking puzzles, something entirely new to me, and I hope that you might be inspired to investigate as well. Be sure to share with us in comments some of the interesting things you discover!

Posted in Collections, Learning | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How to handle a museum object (carefully!)

Today we were training three of our Museum volunteers about how to correctly handle some of our fabulous museum objects. Museums look after and preserve objects for their communities so it is important that objects are handled carefully so that they are not damaged or worn. Objects sometimes need to be handled when they are being moved to an exhibition, being shown to researchers or being moved about in the museum stores.

After donning our attractive blue handling gloves, we all had a go at lifting and moving museum objects correctly. We made sure we supported their weight with our hands, removed loose parts before moving them, didn’t pick them up by their most fragile areas (such as by handles and spouts that could break off) and laid them on a padded surface to cushion them.

After all that practical training, we had definitely earned a nice cup of tea (which we definitely did NOT make in the Museum’s beautiful Tibetan teapot!)

Handling training - Harriet, Jessica and Eve

Posted in Collections, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Bake off is back; so let’s get cooking 18th century style!

As followers of this blog will know many of the museum team have a healthy interest in cakes and that’s probably why one of our favourite objects is Elizabeth Raffald’s Cookbook from the late 18th century.  With the Great British Bake Off due back on television next week it seemed the ideal time to share a couple of Elizabeth’s recipes particularly ones suitable for harvest time.

To make an Apple Tart.

SCALD eight or ten codlins*, when cold skin them, take the pulp and beat it as fine as you can with a silver spoon, then mix the yolks of six eggs and the whites of four, beat all together as fine as possible, put in grated nutmeg and sugar to your taste, melt some fine fresh butter, and beat it till it is like a fine thick cream, then make a puff paste (pastry), and covera tin petty-pan with it, and pour in the ingredients, but do not cover it up with the paste (pastry); bake it a quarter of an hour, then flip it out of the petty-pan on a dish, and strew fine sugar finely beat and sifted all over it.

  • Keswick Codlins are apples that were in use before Victorian times. Their name comes from the term to coddle which is to cook gently.  As these apples were good for cooking as they reduced to a puree easily.

To make Black Currant Jam

GET your black currants when they are full ripe, pick them clear from their stalks, and bruise them in a bowl with a wooden mallet, to every two pounds of currants put a pound and a half of loaf sugar beat fine, put them in a preserving pan, boil them full half an hour, skim it and stir it all the time, then put in the post and keep it for use.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

First Aid

August’s Hands on History session investigates objects from the museum collections connected to medicine. One object to be shared with visitors on Saturday 18 August is this mid-20th century First Aid Kit.


Mid-20th century First Aid Kit


This kit belonged to a local miner, who lived in Mancetter and worked at Mancetter Colliery. The kit is housed inside a metal tin painted black with white painted lettering on the lid. The tin contains an extensive range of dressings and bandages in their original coloured paper packaging.


First Aid Kit contents


Text on the individual paper wrappings shows the manufacturers of these medical supplies were Boots Pure Drug Company Ltd and Smith & Nephew – Southalls Ltd. The kit also contains an iodine ampoule, which could date from earlier on in the 20th century than the other supplies found within. Iodine was used to clean wounds during surgery to reduce death by infection in World War I.


Iodine Ampoule


First Aid Kits were invented in 1888 by Robert Johnson, who co-founded the American pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. Johnson’s idea to create a transportable kit containing medical supplies bloomed from his impromptu conversation on a train with a Railway Surgeon. The conversation highlighted to Johnson, the advantages of making sterile gauze and other medical supplies readily available to Railway Surgeons, who often worked in remote locations and could not easily access further medical assistance.

First Aid Kits installed on trains enabled Railway Surgeons to stabilise emergency casualties before they were transferred to the closest facility providing further treatment. From here, Johnson’s idea grew to create First Aid Kits for the general public tailored to various settings including domestic kits.

 Join our Access Assistants from 11 am until 4 pm on Saturday 18 August to take a closer look at this First Aid Kit and other intriguing medical items from our collections.


Posted in Collections, Events, Learning, Local history | Leave a comment

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?

Posted in Collections, Events, Learning | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!’

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment