Archive for March, 2011

Mum’s the Word

The second blog written by Rebecca during her placement, this one focuses on the upcoming Mother’s Day and an object in the collection which may make you want to do something special for your mum this Sunday.

This Sunday will see me bring my mother breakfast in bed, make her endless cups of tea and maybe even present her with flowers or a gift of some sort, because this Sunday is Mothering Sunday – so I kind of have to be nice!

Few people realise that Mother’s Day is the result of two traditions, one British and the other American, coming together.

Mothering Sunday dates from the 17th century, when churchgoers would travel to their large ‘mother’ church in their area on the fourth Sunday of Lent – hence the name ‘Mothering’ Sunday. In later years, young employees who worked away from home in Manor houses, for example as maids, were allowed home to visit their families on this day, often bringing cakes or flowers for their mother. Nowadays, Mothering Sunday is more commonly known as Mother’s Day and has been heavily influenced by the American tradition of their Mother’s Day, which began in the early 1900’s, of giving your mum cards, flowers or gifts to show how much you appreciate her.

If your in London why not head to see this painting

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, it seemed appropriate to consider the painting ‘Mother and Child’, or ‘Cherries’ as it more affectionately known, by the Victorian artist, Frederic Leighton. It is one of the Museum’s most important artworks as well as a touching portrayal of the relationship between mother and child. ‘Cherries’ is made all the more special because the artist’s mother died in the same year as it was completed. For Leighton, the role of his mother was hugely important in his development as an artist and this sentiment is reflected in this painting.

Leighton was born in Scarborough in 1830 but as his mother suffered from rheumatic fever, the family travelled widely throughout Europe in his youth for the warmer weather. Leighton received drawing lessons whilst in Rome at the young age of 10 before continuing to the Academy of Art in Berlin aged 13. Within his teenage years, Leighton’s family relocated to Florence, Frankfurt and Paris, exposing the budding artist to a variety of artistic influences. So it can be seen that, because of his mother’s ill health, Leighton had the opportunity to develop his talent as an artist and achieve the great success which he did.

As shown by the story of Frederic Leighton, the role of a mother should never be underrated. So go on, treat your mum this Sunday to show her just how much she means within your life. (Hint: mum’s always like chocolate!)

‘Mother and Child (Cherries)’ is currently on loan to the V&A Museum in London as part of their exhibition ‘The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement1860-1900’, which opens 2nd April. For more information visit:


Spring Forward, Fall Back

This blog entry has been written by a placement student currently at the museum. With the clocks changing it seemed a perfect topic for Rebecca to cover and she has found some very interesting things.

Hopefully this blog entry will serve as a reminder to all those people who, one sunny Monday in March, have strolled casually into work or school at 9am thinking that they are perfectly on time, only to feel like a complete idiot when you realise that everyone else has already arrived because you’ve forgotten that the clocks have moved forward and you’re actually very late! (Oh, that was just me then?) 

Yes, it’s that time of year already when the clocks go forward an hour, marking the beginning of British Summer Time and hopefully a bit of summer sun. This Sunday, as your clever mobile phones, computers and digital TV’s automatically adjust to the new time; spare a thought for past generations who had to manually adjust the time on their many grandfather clocks, carriage clocks and pocket watches. 

As well as having to adjust the time, people would also have to wind up these clocks to give them power. A grandfather clock is a weight-driven pendulum clock which was first developed in the late 17th century but they remain very popular today. They would have to be wound up either every day or once a week, depending on how expensive the clock was, using a ‘key’ which would be inserted into the clock face. Here you can see one of the Museum’s many grandfather clocks being wound up, as you can see it is not an easy task. 

Oh look, it's already time for lunch!

Pocket watches would be wound up in a similar way to grandfather clocks, with the holes for the ‘key’ seen clearly in one of the clock faces of the pocket watches here. It was important for the owners of these watches to keep them wound up to ensure that they showed the correct time. In Ohio, in 1891, two trains unfortunately collided as a result of an engineer failing to wind up his pocket watch, leading to it stopping for 4 minutes and so he misjudged the timing of the train. 

Four watches and i'm still late for work

This shows how vital it was that people remembered to keep their watches wound up, and constantly adjusted them so that they showed the correct time. Now, I don’t know about you but I even struggle to remember where I left my keys, so I don’t even want to consider how I would cope with having to remember to wind up and adjust a multitude of clocks every day! So this Sunday, as I grumble about getting an hour less in bed, I’ll remember all this hand-wound clocks and be extremely grateful that I live in the age of digital time-keeping.

Top of The Pops

It’s been a while but unfortunately we have run out of interesting things to write about. Not really, but I a have been a bit tardy with the blog in 2011 and will update this more often. For this entry I have passed the torch to my placement student Ourania. After a look through the collections we came across our hundreds of LP’s and decided this would be a good theme. Here is what Ourania has to say about it:

I was surprised by the number of records held in the museum. Vinai explained many have been kept because they were bought from local record shops and have a local history link. This wasn’t what caught my attention though. Going back in time, the majority of the records are dated between the 1930s and 1940s from companies that lovers of music will recognize: Parlophone Records, Regal Zonophone Records, EMI, and last but not least HMV (His Master’s Voice). The last two companies are still in existence and do what they know well: make records, but not in the vinyl form any more.

Compact discs stepped to the forefront of recordings in the 1980s because they are not worn by playing, they are more convenient in size, and their sound reproduction quality is better. But, collectors treasure the collectible character of records for their sounds, the kinds of music they preserve, and the artwork and information on record jackets.

Greasing the Wheels of Steel

Play Records… Vinai’s first record was a ‘2 Unlimited’ CD. I happened to have purchased my first vinyl play record around 1988; it was ‘The Best of the Doors’ LP. Since then, together with my brother we managed to enrich our father’s classical LP collection with more rock and/or heavy metal stuff. At the moment, they should be more than 300 LPs and I really don’t want to think of ‘who owns this collection’ me or my brother? Let’s just say there have been many arguments between us about this.

Currently, the Blackburn Museum has a great number of gramophone and other records. Names like Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Mozart and other great composers have found a place in one of the shelves in store. But the highlight of this particular collection is ‘The best of Barry Manilow’ on which one can find the famous song ‘Copacabana‘ which is an everlasting song for generations to come. Every year in my hometown in Greece a carnival takes place which encompasses a combination of traditional ancient-based customs with a contemporary/commercial feel, similar to the carnival in Rio de Janeiro, but obviously at a smaller scale. Every year, every night in every club or bar during the carnival the ‘Copacabana’ song is played by every DJ. As I moved to England, my last carnival was in 2006 but before that I have listened to this same song so many times playing everywhere I went that I have promised myself: I hope to never listen to it again!

Now it is 2011 and the actual record is here, original and in a very good condition, hooray!!!

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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