Celebrating Volunteers

One of our long standing volunteers, Steph Broughton, was nominated as a finalist in the West Midlands Museums Volunteer Awards 2017. In a fabulous presentation ceremony at The Hippodrome, Birmingham, we met up with many other volunteers, all of whom spend many hours of their own time helping to make museums in the West Midlands amazing places to visit. Steph started volunteering with us in 2011 and has given us many hours of her time working on projects, developing initiatives and also baking and bringing in some tremendous cakes!

Congratulations Steph and thank you for all that you do!

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Women’s Land Army remembered

Our Lunchtime Talk on Friday 8 September was led by fabulous costume historian Jane Arnold. Performing to a maximum capacity audience she brought with her uniforms and equipment as used by wartime Landgirls who helped keep the nation fed during the Second World War . We were also honoured and privileged to be joined by two ex Landgirls, Doreen Angus and Mary Row, who were delighted to share their memories of working on the Home Front. The efforts of the Womens Land Army were vital to the survival of this country during those dark times and we owe them all a debt of gratitude. Well done ladies!

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Sound of Music

Join us on Saturday September 16th for a Hand on History session that will bring music to your ears. Our Access Assistants will share with you musical instruments from around the world that form part of the museums collection, including a Nepalese Murchunge, a Tibetan singing bell & a Bamboo Nasal Flute from Borneo. Find out how each instrument was played and for what occasion; celebration, commemoration or personal enjoyment, whilst having the opportunity to listen to the sound they would have made.

One of the objects we will showcase is this beautiful copper and silver horn. Originating from Tibet, the horn is known as a Dungchen and is played by Monks during specific prayer ceremonies, where individuals ask Buddha for help, guidance or blessing.


The horn is usually played in pairs, sometimes performing ritual music alongside other instruments, including smaller horns, drums and double reeds.

Many describe the sound of the Dungchen like the dull moo of a cow, which can be heard over a great distance once played.

Varying in size they can reach over three metres in length, with this particular example being 1 metre and 67cm long. The instrument is made up of several sections that extend for playing and are pushed back together afterwards to aid storage and transportation.

Our Access Assistants look forward to sharing these beautiful instruments will you from 11am – 4pm in the Picture Gallery.

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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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