Warwickshire Young Carers become Museum Curators!



A group of 13 to 17 year olds have been working with the collections at Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery to create their very  own exhibition.

Since the beginning of July, four Young Carers have been working ‘behind the scenes’ exploring and researching in the Museum stores to create their own exhibition in our Community Showcase. They’ve also been learning some important curatorial skills such as how to handle objects in the Museum stores, searching databases and how to care for different types of artefacts. Each participant has made a personal choice about the object they wish to display. Many of the objects chosen reflect personal interests, family history or inspiration and curiosity.

Lindsey Wood is a Warwickshire Young Carer’s Project Worker running a fortnightly group for Young Carers in Nuneaton at St Nicholas Church. There, Young Carers aged 12 and over get the opportunity to meet and socialise with other Young Carers living in the area, do arts and crafts, play games, relax, cook, and chat to support workers. She outlined the value of a project like this;

‘The Warwickshire Young Carers Project is a charity offering support to Young Carers under the age of 25 who help to look after someone at home. This could be a parent, grandparent or sibling who has a long-term illness, disability, a mental health illness or struggling with addiction. All the participants in this project have really enjoyed it. I think handling museum objects and working in the places which are off limits to most visitors added a real level of excitement! Having the freedom to choose, research and display their own choice of object to visitors has certainly developed their personal levels of confidence and given them a great deal of pride.’

Visitors to the Museum can see this unique exhibition in the Community Showcase until December.

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Making Fun!

If you’ve wondered who has designed our wonderful children’s make & take activities over the summer holidays, we can now reveal all!

Liz Ashford is one of our regular team of volunteers and a graduate in graphic design. She has been developing her skills by creating some wonderful activities for our younger visitors to enjoy. Judging by the number of participants we’ve had this summer they have been very well recieved!

We still have one more week of free summer activities for children to enjoy.  Join us next week from Tuesday 29 August to Thursday 31 August. Activities run from  10:30am to 3:30pm each day.

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Volunteer Steph is a finalist at the West Midlands Volunteer Awards!

Volunteer Steph is a finalist in the Special Award: Audiences category.

Last week we were thrilled to learn that museum volunteer Steph is a finalist at the West Midlands Volunteer Awards.

Steph is a finalist in the Special Award: Audiences category in recognition of the work she has done to develop exciting new ways for children to discover the museum’s collection.

In the last year this has included creating a digital audio tour from the perspective of the museum’s founder, Edward Melly’s dog, Tootles. You may have seen Tootles’ paw prints around the museum! The project was funded by the West Midlands Museum Development Programme and involved getting to grips with some innovative and at time challenging technology.

Testing our new under 5s resource pack.

Steph is currently working on a new resource to help children under 5 to develop the skills they need to start school. When completed the pack will use the museum buildings and displays to develop children’s listening, participation and social skills. It will support them in getting ready to take the important next step in their lives. Steph is working closely with nursery and family groups to test ideas and use their feedback to develop the pack. The project is supported by Warwickshire County Council’s Smart Start funding and has seen Steph show incredible empathy and imagination to create this special resource.

Our museum volunteers do amazing work, often behind the scenes, to support the museum and we want to recognise Steph’s enthusiasm, dedication and willingness to go the extra mile to develop new experiences for the Museum’s visitors.

The winners will be announced at a special ceremony on Tuesday 19th September and we will keep you up to date with the results.

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Objects of the Written Word – Spotlight on Scenes of Clerical Life

Objects connected to writing and text are the focus of August’s Hands on History session. Books, diaries, journals and writing implements, a miniature newspaper, memorial cards, letter seals and objects inscribed with text will feature.


A book of considerable local significance to share with our visitors during the session is a copy of Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot.


George Eliot’s ‘Scenes of Clerical Life’ published in 1857


This hardback book published by The Walter Scott Publishing Co Ltd has an olive green cover embossed with a beautiful floral design. The book title appears on the cover in gold lettering surrounded by a curly gold border. A plate inside the front cover states that the book was presented to Nellie Currall who attended Hall End Baptist Mission Sunday School in Attleborough in 1907.


Book plate inside front cover dated 1907


Scenes of Clerical Life is the first piece of George Eliot’s fiction to be published and the first to be published under her pen name, George Eliot, in 1857. The book is a collection of three short stories or novellas: The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton, Mr. Gilfil’s Love Story and Janet’s Repentance. The stories take place in the period from approximately 1780 to 1850.


The fictional English Midland’s town of Milby which is the main setting for these stories is believed to be based on Nuneaton. George Eliot, or rather Mary Ann Evans, was born on at South Farm on the Arbury Estate in Nuneaton in 1819 and grew up at Griff House between Nuneaton and Bedworth.


Griff House, Eliot’s childhood home


In the following extract from Janet’s Repentance, Eliot describes the town of Milby, conveying the presence of the weaving industry whilst also highlighting qualities of natural beauty in the town:

To a superficial glance, Milby was nothing but dreary prose: a dingy town, surrounded by flat fields, lopped elms, and sprawling manufacturing villages, which crept on and on with their weaving-shops, till they threatened to graft themselves on the town. But the sweet spring came to Milby not-withstanding: the elm tops were red with buds; the churchyard was starred with daisies; the lark showered his love-music on the flat fields; the rainbows hung over the dingy town, clothing the very roofs and chimneys in a strange transfiguring beauty.’


‘Janet’s Repentance’ from ‘Scenes of Clerical Life’ by George Eliot


Specific Nuneaton people and places known to Mary Ann Evans have been identified as the inspiration for particular characters and settings in Scenes of Clerical Life. For example, in Mr. Gilfil’s Love Story, the character Sir Christopher Cheverel is thought to be modelled on Sir Roger Newdigate, who owned and lived on Arbury Estate at Arbury Hall. Mary Ann’s father worked for Sir Roger Newdigate as his estate manager hence Mary Ann’s familiarity with Arbury and the Hall, where she was given access to the library.


In Mr Gilfil’s Love Story, Arbury Hall becomes the fictional residence of Cheverel Manor.


Arbury Hall, the inspiration for the fictional Cheverel Manor in ‘Mr Gilfil’s Love Story’


Eliot’s description of the dining room at Cheverel Manor mirrors Arbury Hall’s dining room:

any one entering that dining-room for the first time, would perhaps have had his attention more strongly arrested by the room itself, which was so bare of furniture that it impressed one with its architectural beauty like a cathedral…the lofty groined ceiling, with its richly-carved pendants, all of creamy white, relieved here and there by touches of gold. On one side, this lofty ceiling was supported by pillars and arches, beyond which a lower ceiling, a miniature copy of the higher one, covered the square projection which, with its three large pointed windows, formed the central feature of the building. The room looked less like a place to dine in than a piece of space enclosed simply for the sake of beautiful outline;’

Join our Access Assistants to appreciate the written word and its objects at this drop in session on Saturday 19 August from 11am until 4pm in The Writing Room.

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Meet our new placement student!

Hanning (left) helps Exhibition Officer Lyndsey (right) to hang artworks in the White Gallery.

We’re pleased to introduce Hanning Feng, who is on a placement with the Museum & Art Gallery for 8 weeks this summer as part of her Museum Studies postgraduate degree with the University of Leicester.

Over the summer Hanning will gain experience of the varied and exciting work that takes place here. She had a busy first week working alongside the Exhibitions Officer, Outreach Officer and Assistant Museum Officer. Last week Hanning:

  • Helped to take an exhibition down and carefully packed objects away in store
  • Started work on the collections audit with training on how to use our specialist collections management software
  • Assisted with the installation of our latest exhibition “Dressing the women from Poldark”
  • Shadowed a planning meeting for an exhibition next year on the history of the Festival of Arts
  • Prepared children’s Make & Take activities for the summer holidays

And there’s lots more to come! You may meet Hanning at one of our summer holiday events and we’ll share more of her work here and on Facebook.

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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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