Armistice Day

The Reading Connections project may have finished, but work is still ongoing to research the people who appear in the Book of Remembrance of those Members of The University College Reading who fell in The War 1914-1918.  More information has been discovered by volunteer Jeremy Jones on many of the people in the book, including Florence Mary Faithfull.  The Memorial book contained just the name of Florence with no further information, including what her connection to Reading University College was.

 

Memorial page A-H

 

Many details have been added which bring her to life.  She was born about 1892, the daughter of Constance M. Faithfull (neé Deshon), of Kingsworthy, Crowthorne, Berkshire, and the Late Lt. Col. W. C. Faithfull (I.A.).  She had been born in India but came to Britain with her four siblings before the war, living at 26 Upper Redlands Road, Reading in 1911. She obtained a Certificate in Commerce in 1911 from Reading University College.  Florence became a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse in 1914.

In 1918 she was nursing in Basra, Iraq with the Voluntary Aid Detachment, 65th British General Hospital.  She died on 15 January 1918, aged just 26, when a launch, in which she was travelling with a Matron and 12 other nursing staff, was in collision with a tug.   They had been invited by the Officer Commanding Beit Naana Officers’ Hospital to spend the afternoon of 15th January 1918 at his unit, to meet his convalescent officers and have tea. They were transported by motor launch, but on the return journey they were involved in an accident.  Florence’s body was not recovered until 2 February 1919. Four members of the nursing staff died. The result of the Court of Enquiry was accidental death, due to an error of judgement on the part of the steersman of the launch[1].

Florence is buried at Basra War Cemetery (Subair Gate) Part I, grave/memorial reference is I. G. 14.

If you have any further information on Florence Mary Faithfull please let us know.  You can add further details by visiting our Flickr site.  It would be especially good to find a photograph of her.

The memorial book is part of an exhibition at the main library until January 2015.

 

[1]  Information taken from 1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=69355

Suttons in World War I

This, the centenary year of the First World War, has heightened many people’s awareness and understanding of the conflict. The anniversary has also been an opportunity for us to delve into our collections, looking to see what they tell us about the contemporary reactions to World War One. This fascinating extract is just one of those that has been discovered:

Extract from a leaflet in the 1915 Suttons Seed Catalogue (TR SUT P2/A75)

To Our Customers

The stupendous conflict in which almost the whole of Europe is engaged, and the constant vicissitudes of the war, have dwarfed many features of every-day life which under normal conditions would demand attention …business must be carried on in as complete a manner as circumstances will permit, and in no section of trade is this more true than in the case of the great industry with which our House has been so prominently identified for more than a century.

The immense importance of producing home foodstuff of all kinds, on as extensive a scale as possible, was realised at the outset and large quantities of vegetable seeds were supplied by us to clients throughout the kingdom in August last [1914?]

Economy with efficiency has been the basis upon which our vast business has been built up, and in compiling our catalogue for 1915 we have endeavoured to keep the cost of seeds as low as is consistent with that efficiency which is essential.  It is perhaps unnecessary to remind our patrons that ‘cheap seeds’ are invariably the dearer in the end.

Photograph of premises adapted for use by troops as recreation rooms.

TR SUT_P2_A75_01

Suttons Seeds roll of honour (TR SUT P2/A76)

TR SUT_P2_A76_roll of honour_01

For more information on the Sutton Seeds collections please click here.

For information on events which are taking place as part of our commemorations of the First World War, including details on our fascinating seminar series, please see MERL Seminars: The Great War and the countryside and Special events 2014.

Zoe Watson

Project Manager/Project Archivist, Reading Connections

 

Experts look deep into Historic World Objects

As the Reading Connections project draws to an official close, a number of consultancy visits have been run as part of its ‘World Cultures’ theme. The most recent of these was a seminar to assess the potential of the Historic World Objects collection for future community engagement, but we’ll hear more about that in a blog post to follow. A wide range of people have been involved in organising and attending these sessions, and towards the end of February one of the Reading Connections interns, Farah Qureshi, helped facilitate an object research visit. She’s written a post about her experiences of the day:

‘As part of the Reading Connections project, a selection of historic world objects collected and donated to Reading Museum between the late-nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century have been highlighted for further study. Including clothing, weapons, musical instruments and tools, the objects represent historic international cultures and give us an insight into the cultural interests and travels of Reading residents.

As an intern involved in Reading Connections, I joined in helping while museum consultants visited the Reading Museums stores at the end of February to have a close look at these objects. Two of eight consultants who will contribute to the World Cultures theme of the project, Len Pole and Marina De Alarcón, were invited to Reading on the basis of their expertise. Len (freelance, formerly Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter) is predominantly a specialist in West-African material, and Marina (the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford) is mostly a specialist in South American material, although their knowledge seemed to know no limits!

After studying Anthropology for my University Masters, I appreciated the opportunity to spend two days working with Len and Marina, learning from Reading’s ethnographic collections. Both consultants have worked extensively with ethnographic collections across the world, and had an impressive wealth of information to share. While they analysed a range of objects, I found that my knowledge of world cultures was greatly enhanced observing the functionality of objects, which often shed light on cultural practices. I wrote down their observations, preparing notes to be attached to database records, and enjoyed being involved in their discussions exploring the purposes of the objects.’

Sword

This ‘executioner’s sword’ from the DRC seems to have been a hit with multiple consultants and project staff!

Craft catalogued!

MERL 74/131/63. A rug made by Mrs Eva Norris of Reading and part of the Hemeon Collection of rug-making tools and thrift rugs.

MERL 74/131/63. A rug made from strips of French knitting sewn together. Made by Mrs Eva Norris of Reading and part of the Hemeon Collection of rug-making tools and thrift rugs.

I have just completed enhancing the digital catalogue records for the approximately 4500 objects in the MERL collections which were originally classified as ‘craft’ (see previous post). Some of these had been enhanced during previous cataloguing projects, while others were essentially empty records. I started with the 1300 untouched records, and then went back to edit the others. Each record has now been enhanced with information about provenance, use and historical context. In some cases, further enhancements incorporating more specialist information, such as details to do with materials and techniques, have also been added. The crafts at MERL are divided into seven materials-based categories – clay, leather, metal, straw, stone, textiles and wood – so I worked through the records material by material to enable me to cross reference them, to rationalise object names and descriptions, and to generally bring all the records into line with one another.

I have also systematically keyworded all of the records to make them more easily searchable on MERL’s online catalogue. This element has tied in with the work I’ve been doing on another project at MERL, Countryside21, which has involved updating the MERL Classification and developing a structured keywording system based on it.  Each craft record now has a top level process-driven and materials-based keyword – CRAFTS : clay-working, CRAFTS : leather-working, CRAFTS : metal-working, CRAFT S: stone-working, CRAFTS : straw-working, CRAFTS : textile-working, CRAFTS : wood-working. The generic keyword CRAFT S has been given if the material is not known, is not listed, or crosses many materials. Further and more specific keywords have then been added to help narrow down the searching, based on craft disciplines which are well-defined or of which we have significant numbers of objects, e.g. brick and tile making, saddlery, tinsmithing, stonemasonry, rope making, rug making, basketry etc. Take a look at the project page for a full listing of craft keywords.

During the cataloguing, I’ve come across large craft collections which I had no idea we had (such as the Hemeon Collection of rug-making tools and samples), collections which have enthralled me (my love of our basketry collections is well known), and collections which have left me asking ‘why?’ (such as the Alec Coker Collection of corn dollies).

It’s enormously satisfying to have completed this work, and I know that it will be an incredibly useful resource – especially to craftspeople. It will also be beneficial to future projects at MERL, as the importance of knowing what you have and what you know about it (all of which can now be easily found) cannot be understated. However, I’d also like to think that the craft cataloguing isn’t over – it would be great if craftspeople, when looking at our catalogue, could let us know if we’ve made mistakes or if they have further information to add (email merlobjects@reading.ac.uk). Furthermore, I really hope that engagement with craftspeople in terms of building connections, opening dialogue and raising awareness of our collections, which formed the second aspect of the craft strand of Reading Connections will become an ongoing activity at MERL.

 

Greta Bertram, Reading Connections Project Officer

 

MERL remembers WW1

 

You may be forgiven in thinking that all has gone quiet regarding the WW1 part of the Reading Connections project but, in fact,things have been busier than ever.

Since the beginning of the year, of course, there has been a significant appetite for commemorating the centenary of the First World War, most obviously, in the media. This interest has also been evident locally where attention has been focused on the impact of the conflict on Reading. Among those delving into this fascinating aspect of our local history have been the University’s History students who, last month, ran a WW1 Roadshow at MERL. This event, as well as showcasing the students’ research on the First World War and Reading, also invited members of the public to bring their WW1 documents, photographs and artefacts and show them to the students and to a panel of experts, including John Chapman of the Trooper Potts Memorial Trust (pictured).

P1010469

Of course, as can be seen in this photograph, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to display the Memorial Book and objects dating from the First World War in the MERL collections during the event.

P1010487

The Memorial Book is just one of the artefacts which has been selected for display in a free exhibition,  Reading University College: WW1 and Beyond, one of the highlights of the Reading Connections WW1 project. The exhibition was installed yesterday and, as with all installations, involved many hands on deck. The photographs below include Danni Mills (Reading Connections Digitisation and Data Officer) adding the final touches to the displays.

ww1installation4

 

ww1installation5

 

Reading University College: WW1 and Beyond opened today and will remain on display until the 1st August in the MERL Staircase Hall. Its main focus is the University’s Memorial Book which features those individuals who had connections to the then Reading University College who lost their lives in the First World War. That said, it is a display which also examines how our collections relate to other conflicts. Among the more surprising and remarkable objects on display are a selection of tiles from Hiroshima which were donated to Special Collections in 2011.

Throughout the exhibition’s duration, our appeal to find out more about those individuals who feature in the Memorial Book still continues. Our appeal launched last Autumn and asks for the public to look at our flickr site where all of the individuals in the Memorial Book are featured and, if they can, to provide information on them. To access our flickr site please click here.

 

Phillippa Heath

Reading Connections Digital and On-line Engagement Officer.

 

Historic World Objects: research and beyond

Although we’ve been pretty quiet on the blog post front, plenty has been going on in the World Cultures part of the project since last autumn. Adam and I have been busy researching the 600 objects that were chosen and re-photographed for inclusion in Reading Museum’s new online catalogue. This is quite a varied process as there is a lot of variety in the amount of information already available about the objects. Some records might tell you who collected the object, when, from where, what it is, and what it was used for. Others are less informative; my personal favourite is the record that simply states ‘This is a mat’. As ever in documentation and research, you are rather at the mercy of whatever information was originally collected about an object at the time it was donated to the Museum! This isn’t to say that the sparser records are lost causes – if anything, they’re the most satisfying to research, for those ‘breakthrough’ moments when you make a connection or identification.

Mozambique door rubbing

A rubbing of a door carving from a hut in Mozambique, sent to the Board of Study for the Preparation of Missionaries as a teaching tool, researched during a recent consultancy visit.

To date we’ve researched around 475 objects, which puts us just over three-quarters of the way to meeting our target. Unfortunately this does mean that we’re now getting to all the trickier objects that, earlier on in the process, we put aside for later! The research process is generally pretty fun though – especially as I seem to have the capacity to become interested in just about anything. As just a small sample, we’ve researched: traditional Burmese puppet theatre, Tunisian ceramics, Zulu bead-work, West African musical instruments, Northwest Coast Native American basketry, Scandinavian birch bark shoes, Portuguese ox yokes and Venezuelan devil masks. Keep an eye out for announcements about the launch of the online catalogue, if you’d like to see the rest of the 600 objects!

Historic World Objects consultancy

Investigating an object described as a ‘Congolese executioner’s sword’ during consultant Chris Wingfield’s visit.

The other main focus of activity over the past few months has been planning the Historic World Object consultancy. We’ve invited six ethnographic specialists to visit the collection and offer advice on research, conservation, and the potential of the collection for future engagement projects. These will take place between now and the end of April, but the first three consultants, Len Pole and Marina De Alarcón, and Chris Wingfield have visited over the past few weeks. I will write a blog post about the outcome of all the visits closer to the end of the project. In the meantime you should hear soon from one of the interns working on the project, Farah Qureshi, who helped out with one of the consultancy days, about her experience of working on this part of the project.

Felicity McWilliams, Project Officer

 

The Chronicle Collection – The1960s

Since my last update at Christmas, my research on the Chronicle Collection owned by Reading Museum has continued with the help of Project Intern, Farah Qureshi. I have worked systematically and chronologically through the collection beginning with photographs taken in the 1930s for the Berkshire Chronicle newspaper before moving on to the 1940s and 1950s.

In nearing completion of the research stage for the photographs selected for the online resource, I am now researching photographs from the 1960s, the final decade for this strand of the project.

‘The Sixties’ denotes a time of revolution in social norms and a relaxation of social taboos. It has become a period synonymous with the new, radical, and rebellious cultural and political movements and trends of the time. It is also an era I find of particular interest, so I have chosen a few of my favourite photographs from this period to share.

The first is that of ‘Screaming’ Lord Sutch at 20 years of age, performing at the Majestic Ballroom on Caversham Road in Reading at an event aimed at teenagers. Mr David Apps, the Majestic manager expressed his surprise at the popularity of Screaming Lord Sutch with the audience.  The singer was backed on stage by his band, The Savages. The Berkshire Chronicle described Lord Sutch as wearing “his hair about 18 inches long” and always appearing “in odd clothes like an old tattered loin cloth or some Eskimo outfit”. Sutch gained notoriety for his horror-themed stage show, dressing as Jack the Ripper, pre-dating the stage antics of the likes of Alice Cooper. During Sutch’s music career he worked with Keith Moon of the Who, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Ritchie Blackmore who would later become a guitarist in Deep Purple and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones. He later forced a career in politics having founded The Official Monster Raving Loony Party in 1983, a registered UK political party famed for its deliberately bizarre policies aimed at satirising British politics. Sutch sadly suffered from manic depression and committed suicide in 1999.

1960s chronicle

The second is American ‘Ban the Bomb’ marchers on Wokingham Road in Reading. The marchers, facing hardship and possible loss of freedom trooped into Reading after beginning their walk in San Francisco in California 6 months previously. Their route took them across America to New York where they were then flown to England. The walk was organised by the American Committee for Non-violent Action, in an effort to “make people in the West and the East see the follies of nuclear armaments”. Upon arrival in Reading they were joined by Reading Youth Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Reading University Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. They were applauded by a 200 strong crowd of local people upon reaching the Town Hall on Blagrave Street. The marchers’ next stop was France followed by Belgium, Western and Eastern Germany as well as Poland before their final destination of Moscow in Russia.

1960s chronicle2

 

Sophie Fitzpatrick

Reading Connections Project Officer

 

Reading Connections in the Lake District

Walter Lloyd and Project Co-Ordinator Sarah Thomas getting to grips with some of the tools.

Walter Lloyd and Project Co-Ordinator Sarah Thomas getting to grips with some of the tools.

Last week I was lucky enough to visit the Lake District for a couple of days to help out on a project called Walter’s Tools, which has been funded by the HLF’s ‘Sharing Heritage’ scheme and led by The Woodmanship Trust. Walter Lloyd is a fascinating 89-year old who has been (and still is to a certain extent), amongst other things, a bow-top caravan builder, charcoal burner and fell-pony breeder. He has a barn piled from floor to roof with all sorts of agricultural equipment, including a wide selection of hand tools from a variety of rural trades and crafts.

The Walter’s Tools project aims, with the help of a team of volunteers, to catalogue and restore these hand tools to create a ‘tool library’ for use by craftspeople and educational organisations – basically, the tools can be borrowed and, most importantly, used! It’s a fantastic idea! I really do love working at MERL but it can be sad knowing that the tools in our collection have reached the end of their functional lives – not because they’re no longer in a suitable condition but because that’s what museums do – so it’s great to know that there’s a project happening which runs counter to that vein. The tool library will be housed at Stott Park Bobbin Mill near Newby Bridge in Cumbria from 2015.

By Monday afternoon the sun was shining and the shelter was finally up.

By Monday afternoon the sun was shining and the shelter was finally up.

Having spent the last year at MERL working on the craft strand of Reading Connections, which has been all about cataloguing craft collections and making connections with craftspeople, I was really keen to get involved in Walter’s Tools and to share some of my craft cataloguing experience. It was quite a challenge in some ways, as a collection like this doesn’t need the same sort of cataloguing as a museum collection. Working with Sarah Thomas, the Project Co-ordinator, we assessed the needs of the cataloguing and devised a cataloguing workflow to take into account what needs recording, at what stage in the process, and how best to do it. The much more exciting aspect of the project – the restoration of the tools – is yet to come. A local blacksmith and a local handlemaker will be working on site with volunteers to restore and refurbish the tools into a working condition. In some cases this means a good scrub with wire wool, in others it’s a case of sharpening or re-handling.

By Tuesday afternoon we'd started sorting through some of the tools and giving them provisional numbers.

By Tuesday afternoon we’d started sorting through some of the tools and giving them provisional numbers.

The project is only just getting underway, so a lot of the time during my visit was spent preparing the site – clearing rubble, putting up a shelter, and shovelling huge piles of woodchip. I had a wonderful time! The weather was beautiful and it was great to be out of the office and doing something active on a Monday and Tuesday! We also started to do fish out the tools from the piles in the barn, put them into crates and conduct an initial assessment as to whether they were suitable for inclusion.  We managed to give 200 tools provisional numbers by the time I left on Tuesday afternoon.

There must have been over one hundred billhooks in Walter's collection.

There must have been over one hundred billhooks in Walter’s collection.

There’s a lot to do and I think Sarah’s got her hands full running the project, but I’m very envious! I really hope I can go up again in a couple of months’ time and do some more volunteering – perhaps a weekend scrubbing billhooks?

 

Greta Bertram

Project Officer

Press release: Arts Council funding brings Reading museums closer to the community

We are delighted that the Museum of English Rural Life and Reading Museum will be able to build on the partnership we have developed during the Reading Connections project as a result of further Arts Council funding which has been announced today. For more details, read the press release issued by the museums today.

Reading Museum outreach

Arts Council funding brings Reading museums closer to the community

5th March, 2014

The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) and Reading Museum have been awarded £129,150 to collaborate on ‘Reading Engaged’, a new joint project aimed at strengthening engagement with local communities.

MERL, which is owned and managed by the University of Reading, has received the award as part the latest round of Arts Council England’s Strategic support fund, announced today.  57 organisations will receive a total of £5,715,338 through the Renaissance Strategic support fund, which aims to support excellence, and the potential for excellence, in a wide range of museums across England.

Over the past year the two museums have worked together to reinforce to the local community the contribution Reading and its citizens made during the First World War. This award strengthens that partnership and sees the museums develop closer ties with community groups through displays, partnerships and events.

New display cases in Reading Museum’s ‘Reading: People and Place’ gallery will allow both museums to experiment with innovative community-generated or volunteer-developed exhibitions. MERL will use these displays to test ideas and new approaches to content creation and engagement for ‘Our Country Lives’ – MERL’s redisplay project.

MERL community eventThe funding will also support audience research that will help both museums develop new programmes that reflect the communities they serve.   Other joint activities will include working together on new merchandise for their Museum shops and on staff and volunteer training.

Kate Arnold-Forster, Director of MERL, said: “The Museum of English Rural Life is delighted to have been given this opportunity to strengthen our strategic partnership with Reading Museum. We are confident that this project will mean that people living in Reading will be able to experience more and better opportunities to enjoy what our museums have to offer. We also want to share what we learn through this project with other museums to help show them the benefits of partnership working.”

Cllr Paul Gittings, Lead Member for Culture and Sport at Reading Borough Council, said ”It is fantastic that the University and Council’s museums are working so closely together for the benefit of all Reading’s communities. This further funding success builds upon the foundations of their joint work over the last 12 months and will provide more exciting opportunities for local people to engage with the significant museum collections we have here in Reading”.

ENDS

For further information, images and interviews, please contact:

Alison Hilton, Marketing Officer at Museum of English Rural Life on 0118 378 8660.

Notes for editors:

The Arts Council announcement and further details can be found on their website

Reading at War: the exhibition progresses

One of Reading Museum’s most significant outcomes from this project will be the Reading at War exhibition, due to open on 5 April 2014. Planning for our exhibitions can start two years in advance or even more, but by this stage the pressure is increasing as opening day approaches.

We’ve met our text deadline and sourced the images for the interpretation panels which were sent to our designer in early January. The logo (which you can see here and will be used in all the publicity, such as private view invitations and event flyers) has been created and we’re working hard with the University’s Film and Theatre Dept developing other content including the Second World War images and the Huntley & Palmers war biscuits ‘film’.

Reading at War exhibition logo

There is still a lot more to do: the fascinating facts, the interactives, the resource centre; taking out the current exhibition and repainting the gallery; not to mention finalising the selection of objects, working out an exciting way to display medals and completing loan arrangements. Loans for this exhibition include ‘Bobbie’, a stuffed dog from The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum in Salisbury which houses the collections of the Royal Berkshire Regiment (http://www.thewardrobe.org.uk).

 

Bobbie was the mascot of the 66th Berkshire Regiment of Foot, who survived the Battle of Maiwand (a disastrous defeat for British and Indian forces towards the end of the Second Anglo-Afghan War, 1878-1880). He joined the regiment’s retreat to Kandahar, though wounded, and was presented to HM Queen Victoria at Osborne House in June 1881 alongside the human survivors! In 1882 while on a march with the regiment he was run over by a cab carrying a wedding party and one of the soldiers present had to be restrained from laying into the cabbie with his rifle butt. Bobbie was stuffed and preserved in a case with an Afghan campaign medal round his neck. (The photo, from the Reading Chronicle Collection, shows him being admired by guests at a ball in Brock Barracks on Oxford Road in 1949.)

Bobbie

Although the Reading at War exhibition marks the centenary of the First World War’s outbreak, it will explore how war throughout history has shaped Reading’s character – for example the Battle of Maiwand is commemorated by the Lion in the Forbury Gardens, a symbol of Reading for many. We hope the exhibition will be a focal point for the town to reflect on the impact of war.

Reading at War will run until Sunday 14 September 2014 and will be complemented by a full programme of events. Look at the exhibition entry on the Reading Museum website http://www.readingmuseum.org.uk/events/details/429/ for more information.

 

Angela Houghton (Collection Systems Curator) and the Reading Museum Exhibitions Department.

Images courtesy of Reading Museum (Reading Borough Council)