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  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

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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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Transcribing diaries: New volunteer opportunity at the Museum

What was day to day life like as a young woman growing up in Nuneaton during the Second World War? We have just acquired a set of diaries that offer valuable insight into teenage life during this turbulent period in the Borough’s history and are looking for a volunteer to help us transcribe them.

Sunday 3rd September, 1939: “The British gave Germany till 11.0 AM to take arms out of Europe. They did not. We are at War.”

Joyce Webb was born in 1923 and lived on Heath End Road with her parents, Joseph and Evelyn. She kept pocket diaries recording her activities each day. We have acquired a number of Joyce’s diaries including a full set from the war years. When war broke out in September 1939 Joyce was 16 years old. By the time the war finished she was 22.

Monday 7th May, 1945: “Announced V. Day tomorrow!!!”

We are looking for a volunteer to read Joyce’s diaries, identify and transcribe key entries to add to our records. The ideal volunteer would have:

  • The ability to read and transcribe small handwriting
  • An interest in local history and an awareness of Nuneaton landmarks, buildings and organisations in the mid 20th century
  • An awareness of key events during the Second World War as well as acronyms that may have been used at the time
  • Word processing skills

For more information and a role description please contact Becky Harvey at

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Museum collections provide inspiration for cultural diversity project

Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery is working in partnership with a local arts organisation and local young people to create a special exhibition inspired by museum collections and cultural diversity.
Aspire In Arts provide inclusive arts activities and generic youth led provision to young people across Warwickshire. As part of their Heritage Lottery funded ‘Young Roots’ project they invited the Museum & Art Gallery to be a partner and help participants deliver their own cultural heritage project.
In weekly workshops led by the Museum team, young people have been getting hands on with some of our beautiful collections from around the world. Inspired by objects they select they will create their own exhibition in the Museum’s Community Showcase which can be seen from 25th April.
Youth Worker Kirsty Lowrie commented,’Working with the Museum & Art Gallery collections has given the participants a fantastic appreciation of other cultures around the world as well as a unique opportunity to learn professional museum skills.’

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In Commemoration – Nuneaton Charter Day 1907

I’m really looking forward to our next Hands on History session on Saturday 18 March, which explores objects from the museum collections created specifically to commemorate events of local and national significance.

An object I am excited to share with our visitors is a booklet produced in 1957 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Nuneaton Charter Day, which took place on 28th September 1907.

Nuneaton Charter Day Golden Jubilee Booklet 1957

Nuneaton Charter Day Golden Jubilee Booklet 1957

Nuneaton Charter Day marked the merger of Nuneaton and Chilvers Coton into a single municipal borough, which Edward VII granted by charter in 1907.

The first page of the booklet presents a Jubilee message from The Worshipful Mayor of Nuneaton, Councillor Robert Wilkinson and announces that the 1957 Charter Day Celebrations will include a Civic Exhibition.

Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery’s founder, Edward Ferdinand Melly, appears in the booklet, which includes photographs and dates of office of Nuneaton Mayors from 1907 to 1957. Melly served three terms of office as Mayor of Nuneaton from 1908 to 1909, 1909 to 1910 and 1927 to 1928.

A page of Nuneaton Mayors from the Nuneaton Charter Day booklet including Edward Ferdinand Melly

A page of Nuneaton Mayors from the Nuneaton Charter Day booklet including Edward Ferdinand Melly

Also of interest, is a photograph included in the booklet which shows damage caused to Melly’s home in the 1941 Nuneaton air raid.

Photograph in Nuneaton Charter Day booklet showing air raid damage to Melly's home in 1941

Photograph in Nuneaton Charter Day booklet showing air raid damage to Melly’s home in 1941 (bottom)

The booklet details the formation of the George Eliot Fellowship in 1930 and recounts that a garden design competition held in 1951 by the borough Council resulted in the creation of the George Eliot Memorial Gardens.

The Museum Access Assitants look forward to sharing this and many other fascinating objects with you from 11am to 4pm on Saturday 18 March in the Picture Gallery.We hope to see you there.

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What is it like to volunteer in the museum stores?


Volunteer Julie working on a plate that belonged to the Stanley family.

Julie has been volunteering to help with our collections audit for over a year. She has worked on a wide range of objects in store, looking at everything from world cultures to social history objects. Here she shares the recent work she has been doing to help accession a fascinating group of objects into the Museum collection.

“Volunteering to help with accessioning objects in the stores at the Museum has been very interesting. I have come across many unusual, interesting, rare, weird and wonderful objects.

It has been like opening Pandora’s Box, to find out what’s inside each one.  I have come across objects from all corners of the earth. The collection surprises and intrigues me, and I’ve wondered how the objects have made it to this Museum in the centre of England, miles away from where they belonged.


Julie uncovered Reginald Rowley’s fascinating experiences in the Second World War.

Every week I come to the stores and pick a box off the shelf and wonder what I will find.  My latest find has been of great interest, as it has been a collection given to the Museum by the brother of a local man, Reginald Rowley.

Reginald Rowley wrote an account of his time during the war. He was a young man at the start of the Second World War, and joined the Territorial Army.  As soon as war broke out he became a regular soldier and was sent to France, and then to Belgium to fight.  It was here he was captured and sent to a Prisoner of War camp in Germany.  He had many photos taken in the camp, showing boxing tournaments and plays put on by the prisoners to entertain themselves.  The collection contains letters between Reginald and his cousin Doreen who was back in Nuneaton. Reginald wrote in a diary a full account of the march the Germans took them on over several days as the Allies were approaching towards the end of the war.

A glimpse into Reginald Rowley’s journal kept in 1945 as he was marched away from advancing Russian troops.

A glimpse into Reginald Rowley’s journal kept in 1945 as he was marched away from advancing Russian troops.

Reginald was interested in local history and writing, and in particular he had a great interest in the Stanley family, writing many articles and collecting photos and memorabilia.  One item was a plate (see photograph above) with an image of a woman in the centre, which after a bit of research I discovered to be Maria Octavie Stanley, Reginald Stanley’s wife.”

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