Archive for June, 2010

History in all shapes and sizes

Not everything in a museum collection makes perfect sense. Sometimes you just have to enjoy something for what it is. Like a large plastic Tizer sign.

What's not to like about a large Tizer sign?


All That Jazz

The glorious roaring twenties. Any of you remember it? It was a time of Jazz, prohibition and gangsters. Well, it was in the USA. But what about the UK?

The reason I ask this question is because the featured item in this blog entry is a flappers dress from the 1920’s. Did flappers exist over here? The answer is yes. Very much like the USA, the Great War had brought about a change in attitudes amongst society.  While the word ‘Flapper’ had been used since the 1800’s to describe a prostitute, during the 20th Century it came to define a young woman who was immature or sexually promiscuous.  

The material for the dress is very light but the intricate detail adds a lot of weight

Flappers became defined by their lifestyles and image. They smoked, drank and would often head out to enjoy themselves. They would often have short hair and would show a lot more skin then was deemed appropriate. The effect of flappers was so deep the 1929 general election became known as the ‘Flapper Election’ as it was the first time women under 30 were allowed to vote.

Whilst some of it is embroidered much of the detail is just stuck on

Push it. Push it real good.

With the World Cup starting I began to wonder why football is popular around the world. I think one of the reasons is it’s simplicity. You can play a game of football using little more than a ball and some t-shirts to make some goal posts. I think the same reason accounts for the popularity (albeit on a smaller scale) of shove ha’penny.

The premise is simple. You shove a ha’penny. For those not in the know, ha’penny (pronounced hay p’nny in a thick lancastrian accent) is an old pre decimal coin worth, surprisingly, half a penny. Slightly smaller than a two pence coin they were the ideal size to slide across a table top.

The game did have some rules and in many places would be played on a shove ha’penny board.

A classic Shove Ha'Penny board

 The board would allow the game to be played in different ways. As shown in the left hand side of the board, the different sections can be numbered. You then shove your 3 or 5 pennies down to see how many points you could get. Alternatively the aim can be to get the coins to finish within all the different sections.

The board hangs over the edge of a table. I'm flicking the coin here but you could shove it with the palm of your hand if you wished.

I decided to have a go. It is more difficult than it looks! Shove Ha’penny used to be a popular game in pubs around Blackburn and people would take the game extremely seriously. It was not uncommon to find one side of the coins polished until it was smooth to give a ‘smooth’ and a ‘rough’ side of the coins. Did you ever play the game? Did you play to any different rules? Put your thoughts in the comments section.

Please sir, can we just play on the computer instead?

I liked school. Some people didn’t, but I did. I think I was lucky that my schooling co-incided with the rise of computers within the workplace and home. I enjoyed the fact that I would learn traditional subjects like English, Maths and History (a personal favourite!) whilst also learning about new technologies. Pehaps things have come too far though? Schoolchildren are brought up with no idea of a world before computers and no idea of the types of lessons being taught. Like Civics.

That’s right. Civics. Within the collection at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery is an exercise book from Blackburn High School for girls where civics was taught as a lesson. The lessons helped a student understand every aspect of our political system, local and national, and how it affected us. Students would learn what the council chamber looked like and where each individual would sit.

How many children know the layout to the council chamber? In fact, how many adults know it?

They would learn what constituted an urban district, rural district, parish and borough. Who had the right to vote, who could stand in elections and the make up of the county and borough councils. The House of Commons and House of Lords were discussed. Including their origins and current regulations.

House of Commons

The Royal family would also be discussed during these lessons including the duties of the King, what happens in a coronation ceremony, a funeral ceremony and their privileges.

Now, I’m not sayign that all children should have to sit through a year of civics. Perhaps it would give them a sense of pride and understanding as to the complexities of the system and the strange origins of many of the functions. Perhaps it would inspire young people to follow a career in public service. It might, however, just bore them silly.

Blackburn Museum can be found in Blackburn, Lancashire. It houses objects documenting Blackburn's industrial past as well as a world class collection of Fine Art, Japanese prints, Icons, Numismatics and Manuscripts. Come and visit us to find out more.

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