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 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.


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. 


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.


  • 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

Treasures of the Leeds Industrial Museum Store

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 had a behind the scenes tour with Curator John McGoldrick.

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 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, as 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 used to try the skills of new employees.

A whole series of shelves are filled with large wooden wallpaper printing blocks. Each one is covered with a different pattern, which would once 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 heading letters. Typesetters used these machines to create tapes of text, feeding them into a caster which formed the individual metal letters into columns of text ready to print.
Monotype typesetting keyboard

With National Mills Weekend starting this Saturday, the curators have been selecting some special items to go on display at the event (see our website for more details).

John will be demonstrating steam power using some of the scale models in the collection.

You can watch a short demonstration of an 1/12th scale model of a beam engine, made by E J Szlumper via the You Tube video below.

Do you have a story to tell from Leeds' industrial past? We'd love to hear from you! Why not share a story in the comment facility below, via Facebook or email us?

Follow us on Instagram @leedsmuseumsandgalleries to see more behind the scenes images of Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills!

By Jen Newby, Digital Media Assistant

Monday, 9 May 2016

The Sternberg WW1 Postcard Collection

Every postcard can tell a story and give us a glimpse into the past. As we continue to remember the centenary of the First World War and the people of Leeds involved, we would like to focus on the postcards of Vincent William Sternberg. Several years ago, Leeds Museums and Galleries were given a donation of around 100 postcards created during the First World War by this Adel schoolmaster.

Vincent William Sternberg (or V.W.S. as it is written on most of his postcards) moved to Headingley when he was fourteen and began designing postcards in his twenties. After 1920 he appears to have stopped creating postcards. In 1929 he became schoolmaster at the Church School in Adel, Leeds. What make his cards interesting is that many of them were created during the war years.

Designed in France

On seven of these cards Sternberg has written that they were designed in a ‘dugout in Flanders’ or ‘France’.  Interestingly, the cards made on the battlefield are particularly cheery and cheeky. You wouldn’t even know a war was happening if it wasn’t for the word ‘Flanders’ or ‘France’ written on the border. There are a couple of exceptions however. One postcard designed in Flanders has a young girl and a dog covered in red, blue, and white ribbons with a caption reading: ‘Another Blooming Victory!’

Curiously, his cards that were not designed on the battlefield have a much more open connection with the War. One card shows a picture of a young girl holding an umbrella with the caption underneath reading: ‘Here's a card to let you know, while you are in the trenches, that you are still remembered, by one of your old wenches’.

Many of these sorts of cards have a gloomy air and a large portion of his designs focus on the women who are left behind. A particularly moving card has a girl sadly sitting on a tombstone that says the word ‘Miles’. The caption underneath reads: ‘Miles upon miles & miles upon miles, you've gone away from me, and yet I can't forget your smiles for my thoughts are e’er with thee’. 


The Sternberg collection offers great examples of propaganda postcards. This type of card gives a biased promotion of the war. His cards display the war effort in an idyllic yet melancholy way. The hardships of the war are evident without being openly mentioned, but the main theme centres on faithfully supporting the war effort.

Not all of his postcards focus on daily life. Many of them display simple, rural themes. One postcard currently on display at Abbey House Museum shows a puppy staring playfully at a bee with the caption underneath reading ‘to bee or not to bee’.

This wide variety of designs would have made Sternberg’s postcards accessible to many people. Postcards before and during the First World War were inexpensive ways to send a quick message and they were also popular to collect. The pictures used would not only have been considered visually pleasing, but they would have encompassed the emotions that were felt by the people sending them.  


When you received a postcard, there was only so much you could say in the space provided, which is why the drawings could be quite powerful. Of course, sometimes people talked about things that were completely unrelated to the picture. 

One card has a picture of a young girl wrapped in ribbons sitting on top of a telephone pole with the caption 'I do not wish to grumble, but, take things as a whole, with you so very far away, I do feel up the pole’. On the back of the card, the writer casually talks about visiting German prisoners in Norton. This postcard was written after the war in August of 1919. It offers a look into the attitude  of British people towards the remaining German prisoners.

Each postcard tells its own story and provides a look into the lives of ordinary people during the First World War. If you would like to find out more, be sure to visit the Leeds City Museum where several of Sternberg’s postcards will be on display.

By Renee Goble, MA placement student

Friday, 6 May 2016

Exploring Weather: Artspace, Leeds Art Gallery

This question came into my mind whilst volunteering at Leeds Art Gallery’s most recent Artspace. Artspace is an open access area with playful and creative activities inspired by artworks within the Gallery’s collection or temporary exhibition. 

For one week of the Easter school holiday we transformed the Gallery’s White Room into a space for exploring the weather and emotion, in particular how you can use weather as a way of meeting with and thinking about how you feel. We’d been inspired by the David Shearing’s Weather Café installation, which had been across the street from the 1 - 20 March ( 

We selected three paintings from the collection to display: 'Blackpool Siesta' by John L. Cooper (1894-1943); 'Leeds Canal' (1914) by Charles Ginner; and 'The Café Suisse' (Café des Arcades, Dieppe) (1914) by Richard Walter Sickert. All offered insight into aspects of our project. They were hung at the very front of the White room and acted as a lure into the rest of the space which we designed to be as visually stimulating as possible.  

Artspace: Weather Moods invited people of all ages but especially children and their carers to use watercolour to paint weather images over weather stories they had written. There was also an immersive mood room with a series of projected images and sounds of different weathers and comfortable seating to encourage reflection on weather experiences.  

Other activities invited thinking about feelings as weather related phrases e.g. a face like a thundercloud.  These were displayed as if raindrops falling from an umbrella. 

Inflating Balloons we hoped would support playing with air and promote reflection on aspects of wind.

Whilst a paddling pool with books for reading about weather stories aimed to inspire children to imagine the weather when they can use such pools 

As Artspace filled with participant artworks and ideas, I couldn’t help thinking about how we were making our very own artwork as-installation-in-a-gallery, and from that I began to reflect on the question ‘what is Art?’.  Or perhaps more precisely, how do we value art? 

Artspace: Weather Moods was installed within the same room as exhibitions generally accepted and understood as Art by formal art institutions and audiences. I wondered, is the space we had created through the interaction between ideas, materials, participants and staff any less Art than what had been displayed in the room before? 

Our mood room, a sound and video combination, was shown in the same space that had previously housed a film for British Art Show 8. Did occupying this space make this installation Art? In a previous blog post I wrote about socially engaged artists such as Martino Gamper and Ciara Phillips who involve the public in their artistic processes, could our holiday Artspace be another example of socially engaged Art?

The more I began to think about the question what is Art and how we value it, the more I recognised that there is no one fixed answer. Reflecting on my thinking I have come to the conclusion that formal art institutions place value on Art for the rigor of the ideas, intention, and imaginative labour that went into its creation. (They may also value its historical significance, or because it is brand new and never seen before). In the education office we value our installation because it evidently inspired creativity, reflection and play. We value what is made by participants because it expresses their exploration, imagination and learning. I am now wondering whether comparing and contrasting these two frames may help unpack what is seen as ‘Art’.

As an Art History student I’m constantly thinking about questions like these, frequently I have more questions than answers. After my day in Artspace I came away with a renewed belief that there are many ways to value Art, and it is the multitude of possibilities that makes it so incredible. 

By Corinne Fosky, Placement Student

A successful Women's History Season at Leeds City Museum!

Women in Leeds doing embroidery

After nearly two months of events, talks, workshops and study days we have finally finished our Women’s History Season. We’ve heard fantastic speakers talk about a great range of subjects, and lots of people came along and learnt more about a wide range of women's histories. We’ve learnt about women of different ages, in many centuries, leading varied and interesting lives – and also a fair bit about the resources that can help us understand more about this history. 

 My personal highlight of the season has to have been getting to learn about the lives of Medieval women in a one-off study day run by Liz Mylod, Sophie Harwood and Kirsty Day. Having studied both Ancient and modern history but not much in the middle, it was fascinating to hear about how nuns set off on pilgrimage getting as far as the Holy Land in a time where moving from one village to the next was a logistical nightmare.

It was also wonderful to hear about so many local women and how they have made a name for themselves. We heard about suffragettes and suffragists like Mary Gawthorpe and Isabella Ford, alongside women like Elizabeth Moxon (local author of an 18th century cookbook) and the Barnbow lasses as well as finding out about broader topics like Girl Guiding and Jewish fashion. I was also thrilled that some of our other local services like Leeds Libraries and the Feminist Archive North based at the University of Leeds were able to come and talk about the material in their collections, and the possibilities this opens up for researchers.

I couldn’t possibly write about everything in one blog as it would go on far too long, but I did want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who was involved. Whether you gave a talk or ran a session for us, whether you worked wonders behind the scenes or whether you were one of the audience - thank you for your support and for making the season such a success. 

 And if you didn't manage to catch any of our events, why not book a place on our Leonora Cohen study day at Abbey House Museum on 9th June. The day costs £10 including lunch and runs from 11-3. Places are limited so please call 0113 3784079 to book. Full details can be found on our What's On website.

By Nicola Pullan, Assistant Curator of Leeds and Social History

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Museums and extinct species

Natural science museum collections contain some of the huge biodiversity that we share our home planet with. A particular jewel of museum collections that curators are keen to shout about are specimens of extinct species.

Despite the promises of technological advances, once species have become extinct, we will never again share our planet with them. Millions of years of evolutionary history, billions of generations and iterations of natural selection are irretrievably lost.

Museums holding specimens of these lost species then become the only place where we can see them or learn from them. If we’re really lucky, there may even be recordings of their sounds held elsewhere. But that’s a poor substitute for enjoying them in the wild, and certainly no use in filling whichever ecological niches have been left empty by extinction.

While researching for my Bird Name of the Week tweet, I came across our Kōkako study skin. First of all, enjoy that name. Kōkako. There are two types of Kōkako, both from New Zealand. Some consider these to be two distinct species, while others consider them two subspecies within the same species. The bird skin we have in our collection had been catalogued simply as ‘Kōkako’ (I’m going to keep using this word while I have the chance!). When researching the meaning behind this name, it became obvious that our Kōkako is, or was, a South Island Kōkako. The North Island Kōkako (Callaeas wilsoni  (or Callaeas cinereus wilsoni)) is dark grey bird with characteristic blue wattles, visible in our two taxidermy mounts of this species.

Mounted brown bird with blue patches
North Island Kōkako
In contrast, the South Island Kōkako (Callaeas cinereus (or Callaeas cinereus cinereus)) has orange wattles, as seen in our study skin specimen.

Bird skin showing a brown bird with orange wattle
 South Island Kōkako

As well as their wattle colour, the North Island and South Island species of Kōkako have another very important difference. Although they are endangered, it is still possible to see a North Island Kōkako in New Zealand. However, the South Island Kōkako is now thought to be extinct, the last confirmed sighting being in 2007.

So, it seems that Leeds Museums and Galleries can add another species (or subspecies) to our list of extinct animals in our collection. The extinction of the South Island Kōkako has made this sad-looking specimen precious. It will be vital in the future, perhaps to research the genetics and conservation of the surviving North Island Kōkako, but certainly to teach us why we need to look after our planet, and what we risk losing if we don’t.

Rebecca Machin, Curator – Natural Sciences

Monday, 2 May 2016

A WW1 Writer in Residence at Armley Mills

Robert held writing workshops at Armley Mills, Leeds, focusing on local First World War stories.

As a writer of children’s books I normally take workshops with the under elevens. But my short Writer’s Residency at Armley Mills Industrial Museum last week enabled me to work with the over elevens for a change! Some participants in my creative writing workshops were over fifty years over eleven! 

Whilst children often have few inhibitions about creative writing us grown-ups are sometimes reluctant to put pen to paper. But over two days, after slow, reluctant starts some truly exceptional writing and poetry was created inspired by the Women, Work and War exhibition and the stories it tells. 

Inspiration and WW1 history
A visit to Armley Mills Industrial Museum more than two years ago inspired me to write my up and coming novel, Troublesome Aunts, and last week the exhibition inspired people of all ages to write accounts and stories based upon their own knowledge of World War One, how it affected family members and the social and economic impact that the conflict had on women in the UK. 

The Barnbow Munitions Factory features heavily in the exhibition as it does in my book and it was amazing to meet someone who had worked at Barnbow, albeit in the 1970s when the site produced tanks for Vickers. The tragic events of December 6th 1916 were really brought to life by the exhibition for me and the visitors and I really hope Leeds Museums will commemorate the anniversary of the tragic loss of the 35 lives later this year. 

Discovering WW1 stories
During the final session one lady who found writing difficult wrote a moving piece about how the exhibition opened her eyes to what women, not only in Britain but in her home city of Leeds, went through and achieved in World War One. But she finished by stating that she wasn’t surprised about what the women in Leeds achieved as she knows that women can do anything!

You can visit the Women Work and War exhibition at Armley Mills until 24 September 2017. Find out more on our website.

By Robert Bullock