Friday, 27 May 2016

Up From Below: Keepsakes, Souvenirs & Intangibles at Leeds Discovery Centre


I do love Tuesdays. Tuesdays are when I head into the Store at Leeds Museums Discovery Centre to search for new objects to talk about on our Store Tours and in this blog. 

On a recent store search I spotted a small silvered glass mug with 'Remember me' etched on it. It sat unassuming, tucked mid-shelf behind more conspicuous glass and ceramic pieces. I laughed at its audacity and guessed at who or what had wished to be remembered so emphatically - and to whom? It seemed a pretty direct thing to ask of someone, at once implying both love and its feared inevitable loss. But I liked its nerve, the boldness of its instruction pitted against the futility of anything or anyone truly seeking to mark-make in perpetuity!

Silvered glass mug etched with 'Remember Me' c.1900

The Remember Me mug is a keepsake, a physical token of affection dating from c.1900, given so that the recipient would do just that, remember the donor. The silvered glass effect, often referred to as mercury glass, is achieved by coating the inside of a mould-blown double walled glass structure with a silvering substance (typically a silver nitrate base mixed with glucose) via a small cavity before being sealed. The mercury reference comes from the use of it in the production of mirrors or looking glasses which displayed a similar effect to that of the mirrored tableware. 

This silvered glass technique was developed in the mid 19th century and was popular until the 1930s when production dropped off in response to a dwindling market. Trends in our material culture often repeat and silvered glass has become popular again in recent years with newer items being easy to identify by their single wall structure. Typically low-cost then and now, they were referred to as poor man's silver, or in Germany as Bauernsilber (farmer or peasants silver). 

Keepsakes and souvenirs took many forms from glassware, jewellery and perhaps most prolifically from the mid 19th century through to the late 1930’s, the W.H. Goss trade in miniature white glazed porcelain models (pianos, replica Greek and Roman urns, local landmarks, English cottages, busts of Kings and Queens) carrying the coat of arms of the places where they were sold as mementos.


Miniature white porcelain model of an upright piano bearing the crest of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Arkinstall & Sons (Stoke-on-Trent) 'Arcadian' crested souvenir ware, early 20th Century. Similar to Goss Crested China

The trade in tourist keepsakes, either reminders of a holiday or small gifts to give to loved ones on your return, was widespread throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and still thrives on. My maternal Grandma Alice lived with us and often joined us on our holidays but when she didn’t, finding a gift to take back to her became the focus of the week. With ten grandchildren and six greats she tenderly amassed an eclectic jumble of shell frogs, china thi
mbles, lavender water, snow globes and compact plastic biros. Each one stating: I remembered you. 

The author's personal collection of compact plastic biros, c.1985
Just like the glass mug, these objects were acquired for the memory and sentiment associated with them. Simon Knell in 'The Intangibility of Things' (Dudley, Sandra H. Museum Objects. London: Routledge, 2012. Print., pp.324-335) says that all objects are in fact two objects:
  • the tangible object in our museum collections that we can see and hold and think is real but in fact has no real meaning but for that which we project on it
  • the intangible object existing in our recollections, the product of our cultural interpretations, everything that we know based on what has gone before 
Souvenirs in particular help illustrate this distinction, carrying as they do a hidden transaction, a call to delay, if not defeat, obscurity. They are a portable, viewable embodiment of a memory that we really do wish to retain. 

While the tangible souvenir object - our silvered glass mug - may or may not have carried intrinsic value, utility or aesthetic worth, its intangible worth was tacit yet powerful: its meaning and sentiment only articulated with the giver's input and the recipient’s salute. The word souvenir derives from the Latin 'subvenire', meaning to come (venire) up from below (sub). In French, 'Remember me' written informally would be 'Souviens-toi de mois'.

People aside, that little beaker seemed now the only remnant of the place or affection it once cupped. It called out a little to be remembered for just being itself, tangible and still hanging in there despite its material fragility amidst a million plus objects in a window-less storage space in Leeds. 
I wondered if it would regard a spot on a shelf of a national museum store to be a good resting place when all was said and done? If that would qualify as being Remembered? I hope it appreciates this blog. 



By Pamela Crowe, Volunteer Tour Guide and Blogger at Leeds Museums Discovery Centre


Additional sources:

How to find the Discovery Centre:
Leeds Discovery Centre is located on Carlisle Road, 1.5 miles south from the city centre, near Leeds Dock and the Royal Armouries Museum.  

Get in touch:
For more information about visiting our store, please contact us on 0113 378 2100, email discovery.centre@leeds.gov.uk or visit our website.
 





A Brief History of Temple Newsam on YouTube




A new series of short films about Temple Newsam House are now available on YouTube. The first of these gives an overview of this great treasure house, focusing on its origins, how it was enlarged, inherited and sold over the years and how it came to belong to Leeds City Council.

Origins 

The four and a half minute video gives a flavour of nearly a thousand years of history from Newsam’s first appearance in the Domesday Book. James Lomax, Curator Emeritus, explains that the house was first built nearly 500 years ago and quickly became a hotbed of political intrigue with the first owner beheaded on the orders of Henry VIII and later another thrown into the Tower of London. Temple Newsam is notable as the birthplace of the notorious Lord Darnley, the husband of Mary Queen of Scots.

Using old drawings and diagrams of Temple Newsam, James Lomax describes the alteration and enlargement of the house under Sir Arthur Ingram in the early 17th century, bringing it to the familiar three-sided courtyard form which we see today. 

Inheritance

Fans of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice will recognise the next significant problem which befell Temple Newsam about three hundred years later. Just like in that famous novel from the same period, there were five daughters in the family and no male heir to the title, which died out. Fortunately for Temple Newsam the ownership of the house did continue through the female line, and in recent centuries it is the women of the estate who have made notable alterations, decorations and acquired some of the most fabulous objects which belong in the house.

The Second World War left particular marks on the estate when coal mining overwhelmed the grounds. Until the 1980s the Capability Brown landscape was scoured with open-cast mines. Now under the ownership of Leeds City Council, Temple Newsam house, its restored land and many recovered treasures are part of ongoing work to keep this historic estate accessible to visitors.

By Janet Tankard, Volunteer Blogger with Leeds Museums and Art Galleries



Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Artspace on the Move: Sorry We're Closed

Artist Lucy Courtney-Clegg reveals how she's been helping to create pop-up environments in
which people can experience art outside the gallery space



I joined Leeds Art Gallery’s education office during the gallery’s closure for roof repairs. For me, it was perfect timing. Outside of the gallery I work as an artist with a group called ‘Reet So’ and we specialise in interrupting public spaces with art. I was excited to get my teeth stuck into the placement and find ways for the Art Gallery’s learning programme to pop-up in city venues and shake-up experiences of art in schools.

Bringing the gallery to the people!
There’s a few of us at the moment in the education team: a student intern, a visitor assistant and myself working collaboratively as a ‘Think Tank’ to dream up new ideas for bringing the ideas of a gallery and its artworks to the people of Leeds. The gallery offers a place where you can see the world through the eyes of artists and it can make you think differently and reflect on our own experience.

The challenge is we don’t currently have an art gallery and it is impossible to recreate those wondrous high ceilings, spaces and atmosphere that the gallery brings to the experience of exploring art. But we can create pop-up experiences of art that interrupts the way we think about our everyday, lives that go beyond formal learning and play with the familiarity of a space.

Take ‘Situationism,’ a mid-20th century movement that created alternative life experiences through the construction of situations. They wanted to challenge the categorisation of art and culture as separate activities and to transform them into part of everyday life. These thoughts reminded me of something I experienced the other day across the road from the gallery; ‘The Weather Café’, “a unique environment in which to reflect, be still and drink tea” created by artist David Shearing.  With its own microclimate, animated by wind, sound and rain, it featured the voices of the people of Leeds and provided a snapshot of the current mood of the city.

Artspace on the Move
So what does this have to do with Leeds Art Gallery? Currently we are using Artspace, which previously had a permanent space in the gallery, where families engaged with artworks from the collection. We are now mobile, creating situations for experiencing art in public spaces such as Trinity Kitchen, in Leeds city centre, which is populated with street food stalls.

‘Artspace: On the Move’ was inspired by artist Martino Gamper and invited families to re-imagine broken objects from the centre’s shops into new artworks, questioning the role of consumerism in a consumerist location. It became a social space unifying families, in the middle of their shopping experience, through art.

The Weather Cafe
The following pop-up event, in the gallery’s ‘White Room’, was inspired by David Shearing’s The Weather Café. We invited families to come to our open space, conjure memories, and explore the weather and its relationship to moods. It was a grassy, messy space, not a space often imagined when you say the word ‘gallery’. But to me that is what Artspace is all about; playing, thinking, talking, being and experiencing art in ways that interrupts your experience of everyday life.


Monday, 23 May 2016

Waddingtons Cluedo and how ‘The Great Detective Game’ was made in Leeds.

As a child whenever we drove past the Waddingtons factory on Wakefield Road in Hunslet my parents would tell me that was where they made Monopoly. More excitingly for me it was also where they made my favourite game ever - Cluedo! 

Cluedo 'The Great Detective Game', John Waddington Ltd., c.1965
Cluedo 'The Great Detective Game', John Waddington Ltd., c.1965

I was reminded of this when I went to visit the Crime and Punishment exhibition at Abbey House Museum recently. One of the displays in the exhibition is titled 'Crime Fiction' and showcases some of the links Leeds has to crime fiction including examples of the Cluedo board game.

Cluedo is the who-done-it of board games. Between 2-6 players vie to solve the mystery of who killed Dr. Black. Players moved around the board based on a quintessential country house which is the setting for any good detective fiction novel. Each player takes the part of one of the 6 suspects and by process of elimination they have to work out who the killer is, which weapon was used and in which room the dastardly deed occurred. 

The game itself was originally designed by Anthony Pratt of Birmingham. The story goes that Pratt was inspired by the party game Murder! during which guests would roam the house, creeping up on one another in corridors and the victim would shriek and then fall over. However, during the Second World War the black-out meant that there were limited opportunities for parties and games of Murder. 

Instead Pratt designed a board game able to replicate some of the fun of one of his favourite games. In 1944 Pratt and his wife Elva took the game, which they had named Murder!, to Waddingtons in Leeds and presented it to Norman Watson one of the company's executives. Watson accepted the game and promptly changed the title to Cluedo - possibly as a play on the name of the game Ludo which means ‘I play’ in Latin.

Due to post-war shortages Cluedo had to wait until 1949 before its launch and was simultaneously licensed to Parker Brothers in the United States. The relationship between the two companies was already strong with Waddingtons holding the UK license for the game Monopoly. The North American version was sold under the name Clue and had slight modifications including changing the name of the murder victim to Mr. Boddy. The suspect Reverend Green was also changed to Mr. Green apparently because Bob Barton of Parker Brothers thought that the American public would not accept a parson as a murder suspect.


Key, Norwegian Version of the board game Cluedo, published by N.W. Damm, Oslo, 1953
Key, Norwegian Version of the board game Cluedo, published by N.W. Damm, Oslo, 1953

Cluedo? Leeds Centenary Edition, John Waddington Ltd., 1993
Cluedo? Leeds Centenary Edition, John Waddington Ltd., 1993
The game has been highly popular across the world and has not been out of print since it was first sold in 1949. It has also spawned lots of versions across the world including a Norwegian version titled ‘Key’ which is on display in the exhibition. There was even a Leeds version of the game produced in 1993 to celebrate Waddingtons centenary. In this version the suspects were changed to local Leeds celebrities including Barbara Taylor Bradford and Jilly Cooper. The rooms of the house became local Leeds landmarks including the Yorkshire Evening Post building, Yorkshire Television and John Waddington Ltd. itself.

Whilst the Cluedo board game is still going strong the same can unfortunately not be said for Waddingtons. The games division of the company was sold to Hasbro in 1994 and the Wakefield Road factory which had been the company's main factory site from the 1920s was closed and demolished in the early 1990s.

Although Waddingtons are known to many as ‘the Monopoly people’ to me they will always be ‘the Cluedo people’ and to paraphrase the famous tag line of their game as manufacturers of not just ‘the Great Detective game’ but the Greatest Detective Game ever made.

Sources:

  • The Waddingtons Story: From the Early Days to Monopoly, the Maxwell Bids and into the Next Millennium by Victor Watson.
  • ‘Mr Pratt, in the old people’s home, with an empty pocket’, Guardian, 12 November 1998.

You can visit the Crime and Punishment exhibition at Abbey House Museum until 31st December 2016.

By Rebecca Fallas, Volunteer Blogger.






Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Leeds local elections - 1906 style



As we can learn in the Crime and Punishment exhibition currently at Abbey House Museum, in 1890 a major conflict occurred between the Liberal controlled City Council and the gas workers at New Wortley. 

Towards the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, we can begin to see that the existing elected officials weren’t very popular with the working class. The newly formed Labour Party was increasing in popularity across the city.
The 10 Labour candidates for the Leeds local elections in 1906.
This photograph was taken for Leeds Museums and Galleries and is licensed under Creative Commons BY NC SA


A group of postcards relating to this political shift have recently been catalogued into the museum collection. The first of these three postcards (pictured above) depicts ten oval portraits of Municipal Labour Candidates in November 1906: these were John Brotherton, Walt Wood, Owen Connellan J. P., Frank Fountain, W. Morby, I. Brassington, G. Gale, Joseph Knipe, G. Clay and R.M. Lancaster. 

Unfortunately for the party, despite ten Labour contests across various wards only Owen Connellan J. P. won his seat for New Wortley, unsurprising as this had been the location of the gas riots previously!
The second (pictured below) is a single portrait of John Brotherton, the candidate for Holbeck.


John Brotherton, the Labour candidate for Holbeck in the 1906 elections. This photograph was taken for Leeds Museums and Galleries and is licensed under Creative Commons BY NC SA


The third (see below) depicts nine oval portraits of the 1906 elected Leeds Labour councillors: James O’Grady, Arthur Shaw, John Buckle, J. H. Barraclough, T.C. Wilson, George Thaxton, John Badley, George Layton and J.D. Macrae.
Postcard showing the 9 Labour councillors elected in Leeds in 1906.
This photograph was taken for Leeds Museums and Galleries and is licensed under Creative Commons BY NC SA

One of the most famous faces on the postcards is James O’Grady who was elected in the 1906 general election as representative for Leeds East, a seat for which he sat for 12 years (1906-1918) and then Leeds South East for a further 6 years (1918-1924).

Politicians rise and fall!

James O’Grady wasn’t the only famous Labour politician representing Leeds in the turn of the 20th century. John Buckle, initially a councillor for Armley & Wortley, soon became the leader of the Labour Party and was the first Labour leader in history to sit on Leeds City Council. Buckle resigned from his post in 1908.
There is also John Badley who became to Council Group Leader in 1894 and replaced John Buckle as the leader of the Labour Party from 1908-1913. Badley was forced to resign from his position as Labour Leader and Alderman due to his acceptance of a directorate of the Royal Liver Insurance Company and the salary that when with this, which was seen as incompatible with his position as a representative of the working class.

By Becky Cooley, work placement student from Leeds Trinity University


Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Exploring the Leeds Industrial Museum Store at Armley Mills



Model Hunslet Engine Company
The store at Leeds Industrial Museum is packed with intriguing artefacts. Our Industrial History curators are still investigating many of the stories behind them. Last week, I got the chance to have a behind the scenes tour with Curator John McGoldrick and University of Leeds Museum Studies Placement Student Naomi Roberts.

Enclosed inside a secure cage, is a huge space filled with shelving, drawers and curious objects from a massive wooden early locomotive wheel pattern to cinema projectors in various incarnations through the ages. This eclectic collection encompasses the range of Leeds industries past and present.

Technical drawings from the
Leeds Industrial Museum Store
Tiny scale models are dotted around the store – from the Crown Point Bridge to a tiny re-imagined Armley Mills, as well as dozens of working machines. Among my favourite items was a tiny replica of an engine made in Hunslet. Did you know that steam locomotives are still made in Leeds? The Hunslet Engine Company was founded in 1864 and is still making new steam locomotives today, now part of the LH Group.

Wallpaper printing blocks
Inside rows of drawers are a wealth of plans, many of which tell the story of Armley Mills and reveal something of the people who once worked here. Alongside machine designs, we uncovered technical drawing tests which would have tested the skills of new employees.

A whole series of shelves are filled with large wooden wallpaper printing blocks, each one covered with a different pattern, which would have adorned rooms all over the country.

The printing industry has been going in Leeds since John Hirst began printing the Leeds Mercury in 1718, and the Industrial Museum has a great deal of related paraphernalia. 

I was fascinated by a Monotype typesetting keyboard. This triple QWERTY keyboard has three layers, with lower case letters, capitals and what looks like heading letters. A typesetter would once have used it to create tapes of text, which were then fed into a caster which formed the individual letters into columns of text ready to print on paper.
Monotype typesetting keyboard

With National Mills Weekend coming up, the curators have been selecting some special items to go on display at the event this Saturday and Sunday (see our website for more details). John will be using some of the scale models in the collection to demonstrate steam power.

Click the YouTube video link below to watch a short demonstration of this 1/12th scale model of a beam engine used for pumping, which was made by E J Szlumper.



Explore Leeds' industrial past at Armley Mills – find out more on our website

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By Jen Newby, Digital Media Assistant