It has been an exciting time for Epping Forest District museum as they reopened this year with improved facilities and displays and an extension into the building next door which gives them more exhibition space and an activity room. The improvements were funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The museum is based in Waltham Abbey in a Tudor building which is now far more accessible to all thanks to the recent improvements. It tells the story of the Epping Forest district through its collections of art, archaeology, photographs, social history and documents and has over 50 000 object in its collection. You can get a flavour of the range of its collections by visiting a new gallery- the core gallery- which has a ‘cabinet of curiosities’. This gallery also lets visitors see what is happening behind the scenes and allow a peek into the art and costume stores.
The museum is keen to uncover the untold stories of the roles played by women at work over the last 100 years. They are looking for volunteers to help them research material both in the collection at the Museum in Waltham Abbey and in the community across the district. You could contribute to this by researching stories online, visiting libraries in the district or by visiting the Essex record Office to give the museum ideas of what stories might be hiding, untold, in their collection.
Colchester Borough Council runs three museums in the town, Colchester Castle, which focuses on archaeology, Hollytrees which contains their social history collections and the Natural History Museum, which focuses on the science wildlife habitats, biodiversity and climate change.
As part of Snapping the Stiletto, Colchester Museums want to learn more about Mrs Bertha Mason. Bertha, along with her husband and sons, set up the E. N Mason & Sons printing company. Their factory was situated in the Arclight works on Maidenburgh St in Colchester between 1921 and 1938 when it moved to Cowdray Avenue. It made some of Britain’s very first photocopiers amongst other copying technologies.
The museum holds an archive of material relating to the Mason family, including photographs of and letters from/to Bertha. They are looking for a volunteer to help by scanning this material and adding to the information about each piece. The volunteer can also spend a day at the Essex Record Office as there are a variety of documents and oral history recordings in their archive relating to the Mason family and the Arclight printing works.
To volunteer to help with the research, or to find out more, click here.
The museum is also looking for volunteers to share their posts on social media, promoting the museum and the work it does. You can sign up here to help and follow their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
The Essex Fire Museum in Grays has a great collection of historic fire engines, firefighting equipment, uniforms and photographs that tell the story of how firefighting has changed over the years. Today’s blog is a guest blog by Snapping the Stiletto volunteer Becky Wash who signed up to help the museum investigate their collection to look for stories of women in the service over the last 100 years.
Volunteering at the Essex Fire Museum
Although I work full-time, I saw that the Essex Fire Museum was offering one day volunteer opportunities so I signed up to take part.
We started the morning with a discussion about the history of the fire service and the role women played. I asked questions and listened to interesting stories retold by Fire Museum volunteers, which we noted as potential stories we could use for the project.
I got to look within the museum’s displays to find objects and create a list of items that may be suitable for display in the exhibition. We also took photographs of suitable artefacts.
Then I searched through the handwritten accessions registers, searching for more suitable artefacts that could help tell the story of women in the Essex Fire Service, and created a list.
We then visited the museum store and I got to see first-hand, how the objects were stored, and we were able to handle some of them.
We decided that we would like to scan some of the paper documents and photographs and I hope to return to assist with this in the near future.