Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The War Illustrated

This piece was actually researched and written by Megan Turnpenney – a student from Greenhead College –who was on a placement with us at Abbey House Museum last week. Having come across these items a few weeks ago, but not having had the chance to put anything together for the blog, it seemed a perfect opportunity for Megan to get to work…

At Abbey House museum we house a collection of magazines written during and after the Second World War. The magazine- ‘The War Illustrated’- was originally started in 1914 at the start of the first World War, but was discontinued in 1919 after the war ended. However it later returned at the start of World War II and continued to be published until 1947. The magazine was edited by John Hammerton, it was published every alternate Friday and was extremely popular. The popularity was partly due to the fact that the magazines expressed the views of the British public throughout the war.

The magazines covered a range of articles from what certain regiments of the army were doing in the war effort to eye witness stories of the war. The magazine also discussed key debates of the time such as whether Britain could still count herself as an island or whether she was truly dependant on others to survive. ‘The War Illustrated’ tried to boost morale whilst also trying to give informative and accurate information. Certain stories were heartbreaking to read as they recounted gruesome tales of life in a Nazi prison camps and the suffering of hundreds or thousands.

However many articles were written not to shock readers but to increase patriotism and support of the war. One such page displayed a picture of The N.A.A.F.I ( Navy, Army and Air force Institutes) the picture only contained women who, for the first time, would be working in the Forces canteen at Singapore- all the women shown look in a state of happiness and excitement for the task they are about to embark on. (Volume 7, Magazine number 175, pictured above.)

Another article which was published contained a condensed version of a speech given by Churchill - Prime Minister of the time. In this speech the Premier gave an inspiring review of the accomplishments and ordeals that led to victory in Europe. “I told you hard things at the beginning of these last five years. You did not shrink, and I should be unworthy of your confidence” Also in this certain magazine, published a month after Germany’s surrender, there is a picture on the last page of Churchill passing through Downing Street surrounded by an exuberant crowd after hearing of Germany’s unconditional surrender. (Volume 9, Magazine number 208, pictured below.)

As we are a museum service, one article had to be included. On the back page of an edition of the magazine, there was a picture of 20 tonnes of Precious manuscripts and ancient documents being returned to the British Museum after spending six years in their wartime repository at Skipton Castle. Yorkshire accumulated the artefacts in 1939 due to the imminence of war and the possibility of air-raids on main sites in London. The boxes containing the manuscripts were guarded by police and railway detectives; the boxes were also padded, locked and sealed to ensure minimum danger to these precious documents. (Volume 9, Magazine number 227, pictured below).

Sadly, the original City Museum in Leeds wasn’t lucky enough to have an alternative home – it was hit by an air raid in 1941, and many of the objects were damaged. A visitor to the Leodis.net website comments on how their mother was taken to see the damage, and saw Nessy the Leeds Mummy out on the street!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Dangerous spiders at Leeds Museums

Banana Spiders (also known as Brazilian Wandering Spiders) live in the rainforests of South America, wandering the forest floors at night and hiding in, amongst other things, banana trees during the day. Their bite will cause immediate pain, a cold sweat and irregular heartbeat. They have been known to cause death within an hour! Although they are most common in banana imports into the US, they have been recorded to survive the transatlantic journey to UK supermarkets.

Like that of the Banana Spider, the venom produced by the North American Black Widow also acts on the nervous system. Deaths are caused by its victims being unable to breath. While Banana Spiders are aggressive, Black Widows only bite in self defence, for example if they are accidentally trodden on. Although their venom is extremely potent, deaths in healthy adults are extremely rare and anti-venom treatment is usually successful.

Although the Brown Huntsman Spider also appears fearsome, it is easily scared by humans and will flee on their approach. It has great speed and agility, running out of its hiding place of small cracks to ambush its prey, as although it has the ability to produce silk it does not spin webs. They are common in Australia, and their leg span can be up to 20cm! They are often regarded as welcome inhabitants of homes, helping to keep down cockroach numbers.

Posted by Clare but written and researched by Sara Tricoglus (biology intern, Spring 2010) who worked diligently on the wonderful herbarium collections held at Leeds Museum Discovery Centre.
I couldn't resist tagging this drawer on to the end of Sara's blog:It's part of Leeds Museums and Gallery's arachnid collection. All these specimens were found in bananas or grapes in Leeds supermarkets.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Leeds links to Boston (Massachusetts)

Having just come back from a trip to Boston (purely pleasure - not work, although I did of course visit a couple of museums) I thought I'd check what items we had in the Leeds collections which had connections to that city.

First off is this late Victorian souvenir teapot stand (donated in 1967) featuring the statue of George Washington which still stands in the Boston Public Gardens.

More recently, in 2008, we collected some personal items belonging to a Leeds woman Hannah Bloomfield (nee Fatkin) who was an active Christian Scientist and visited the mother church in Boston in 1934. The bag that she used for the trip is shown below.

Before marriage, Hannah Fatkin was manageress of Field's Coffee House, Commercial Street Leeds. She was a significant figure in the Christian Science movement in Leeds during the 1930s and 1940s.

Last week I visited the Mary Baker Eddy Library in the Christian Science Head Quarters in Boston and in particular saw the famous "Mapparium" which is a glass globe and world map that you can stand inside. It is frozen in time in 1935 which is around the time Hannah visited, so she may have seen it newly installed. The map proved too costly to alter to keep up with the upheavals of the 20th century, so is a snapshot of a vanished world order. http://www.marybakereddylibrary.org/exhibits/mapparium