Posts Tagged 'Museum'

Christmas comes but once a year, the build up lasts forever

And so it begins

I think it was early November, Halloween was almost upon us and there it was. I heard it. The first Christmas song of the year. The person on the radio that requested the song thought it was great fun.

And now we enter December.

Any constraint being shown by retailers, radio stations and the media is officially gone. Its Christmas season. Now, don’t go painting me as a scrooge. I thoroughly enjoy Christmas. I love the opportunity to spend time with family and to eat and drink myself silly. What is annoying is the long, long build up and the feeling that every year a new ‘tradition’ is introduced and Christmas is becoming more commercial. But is it?

I had a look into the collection to see how Christmases were celebrated in the past. More restraint? Less fun? Or perhaps they were more sophisticated than our sparkly, jangly modern day Xmas?

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What did I find in the collection? Tinsel, Christmas cards, crepe decorations, fairies and Christmas frost. It seems that as usual, we have looked back through rose tinted glasses at previous generations. It seems they loved a sparkly, colourful Christmas just as much as we did!

One way they did differ was the language in Christmas Cards. The words used harked back to an older age and perhaps this is one area we could look to return to. So this year, rather than just write ‘Merry Christmas’, you could be a little more traditional:

‘This same old wish

That’s ever new

This Christmastide

Is sent to you’

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Box-ing Clever

Krista is a student on placement here at the museum. She is gaining experience of how to manage a museum collection and also learning a few things she wouldn’t find on her course. In this instance, the power of curiosity…

I am hopeless with a Rubik’s™ cube. I have a friend who can solve one in under a minute and then move onto bigger ones with even more squares! I am satisfied if I can get one face to be all the same colour. That is, what I call, Krista solved.

Today I found a different kind of puzzle. It drove me crazy trying to open it so that I could find out what secrets lay undiscovered inside. I thought that there may be some sort of treasure from a distant land, or a secret note, maybe even a map to a lost island. I would have even settled for a HSBC advert

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It opens…But it doesn’t.

Every time I think I’ve worked it out I hit another wall. After 20 minutes of twisting and pushing and pulling to try and get this thing open, I make a break through. A quick tip upside down, a click and the top slides open to reveal the secrets inside.

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I even tried saying ‘Open Sesame’!

Empty. What a let-down. Perhaps I can leave a note for the next fortunate person who finds this and works out its secret. They’ll probably crack it faster than I did, that’s for sure.

Hat’s all folks

Krista is an MA student currently on a placement here at the museum. Whilst workign withthe collections she found some objects which not only confused her, but reminded her of her past. Here she tells you why…

My parents love to wear Stetsons, blue jeans and cowboy boots. Once when I was being picked up to go to a youth group, the friend who gave me a lift commented on the fact that he had just driven past two cowboys standing on the corner of my street with guitar cases. To my embarrassment, I had to admit that they were related to me and they were waiting for a lift to a folk club (Oh the shame).

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If only Achilles had worn a hat into battle then no-one would have noticed his heel!

When I first came across these diminutive hats a number of ideas flitted through my mind. Perhaps they were made to be hats for the dolls of rich children, or hats for babies. How you would keep the hats on a baby’s head, I don’t know (elastic bands?). Perhaps they were made for costume in a travelling show? Or maybe a family of borrowers have moved into the museum archives and I have unwittingly stumbled across their wardrobe? If it is the latter and the (tech savvy) borrowers are reading this, don’t panic, I’ll return them shortly.

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I think Daniel Thwaites looks wonderful,it complements his moustache. He doesn’t seem so pleased about it though!

Milliners are professional hat maker, for example, the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland is a milliner. This profession holds the responsibility for the creation of Stetsons (named after John B. Stetson) and other such hats (did I mention that my mother also owns a number of bonnets?). When milliners travelled around to sell hats they couldn’t carry around all of the hats that they are capable of making. Even a small selection would be too bulky and difficult to manage. In order to show their customers what sort of hats they may want the milliners made model hats. This way they could whip out an example of their craft in a ‘here’s one I made earlier’ kind of moment then take orders for the actual size version. Let’s just not invite them to my parents’ house or who knows my family’s next hat craze might be.

Rise and Fall. Boom and Bust

That is the way of the world. It always has been. Even the Romans had issues with their economy and went through periods of boom and bust. Although when they went bust in the 4th Century AD, it plungedWestern Europe into the Dark Ages!

But those were different times! The speed of development and the state of our society means this current economic downturn isn’t going to throw us back to the dark ages. But what can we do to get out of this funk and come charging out the other side? As usual my answer would be to look back into history and see what happened. I’m a big believer in idea that no matter what the situation, someone will have experienced the same thing before. Do your research, find out what happened and build from there. One of the more recent (in historical terms) downturns came in the early 1920’s. InEuropemany countries had been hugely affected by the war and were still recovering from the financial and manpower implication of 4 years of drawn out warfare.

One of the solutions in both this country andAmericawas to create large building programs. To make these men employable, or to just keep them employed until the economy improved many public buildings were erected. Bridges, libraries and roads were all built under these programs. The good thing about these programs is that with money in their pockets, these workers were spending at local shops and markets helping kick start the economy. Did it work? Well they weren’t known as the ‘Roaring Twenties’ for no reason.

Workers Plaque

It may not be much, but it means a lot

This sign is a little reminder in the museum of this period and is from the bridge which spans the canal at Whitebirk in Blackburn. It’s apt to use the sign in the blog now as there are big debates around jobs and whether many young people want to work, or how desperately the need jobs. Would there be many who would willingly help build bridges and roads just to get some money and experience? Or are we now a society who wants good, well paid jobs behind a computer straight away without putting the graft in first?

Down and out in Blackburn

Do you ever feel unsafe walking through an area?  Even in the more affluent areas of town we are not totally safe and now id and internet theft can mean you can have all your savings stolen without the thief ever leaving their seat and you none the wiser until you get to Asda and your card is declined.

Wouldn’t more bobbies on the beat be a better thing. Just seeing policeman can help provide reassurance that nothing will happen whilst they are around. But, what about once they have walked past? No matter how affluent an area every town and city will have its drunkards, drug addicts and petty criminals. ‘Oh what has our society become! ‘ I hear you lament, ‘If only we could go back to the glorious industrial days when there were more jobs than people and you worked that long and hard you were always to tired to cause any problems!’

Unfortunately, I have to burst your bubble. There have been criminals and trouble makers since the dawn of time. The industrial era did provide a place like Blackburn with tens of thousands of jobs and school leavers could walk into any factory of their choice, not just one that had vacancies. This however, did not stop crime and we have the evidence to prove it with these criminals’ record cards.

Crime Sheet
The Crime sheet of 62 year old Patrick Cocklin

Take Patrick Cocklin. A youthful looking 62 (trust me, compared to some of the other offenders, he looks young) who was first jailed for 2 months for stealing some shoes. He also had 4 months imprisonment for stealing a manure fork.

Crime Sheet

Crime Sheet for 17 year old Martha Ann Madden

Or how about Martha Ann Madden, who was caught stealing shoes and a shawl and being drunk and disorderly. Many of the crimes are thefts of items like food, shoes or warm clothing. There are also plenty for drunkenness and idleness and we also have one for murder, the convicted man being executed.

It’s fascinating to read these cards and learn what people at the time were being arrested for. It also lends a word of warning to those who look back through rose tinted glasses, industrial Blackburn would have had an aura of progress, desire and honesty but look deeper and into the cracks and life was hard. Very hard.


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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