Focus on… Southend Museums

Votes for WomenSouthend Museums consists of four unique venues spread across the town:

  • Southend Central Museum and Planetarium
  • Beecroft Art Gallery
  • Southchurch Hall
  • Prittlewell Priory

 

The museum has been working very closely with Snapping the Stiletto volunteers to research women at the start of our hundred year period. In addition to trying to discover the identity of this mystery suffragette, stories being researched include that of Adelaide Hawken, who set up Southend’s first mother and baby clinic and Rosina Sky, a suffrage leader who ran a tobacconist shop in the town who refused to pay her business rates as she couldn’t vote on how they were spent.

 

Click here to find out how to get involved in this and other opportunities across the county.

 

We are particularly keen to highlight our events team, who will be helping to share stories like these at a range of displays and celebratory events over the coming year and a half. Monday 4th June is our first training day for events volunteers, although others will be scheduled soon if you can’t make it (including at least one on a weekend). For more information, click here.

 

Focus On… Colchester Museums

colchester-castle

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.

Uncovering the Past at Essex Record Office

One of our key partners in this project is the Essex Record Office who are helping us with advice, research and training.

The ERO holds archives that take up nearly eight miles of shelves and the items they care for include parish registers, diaries, letters, court records, wartime records, manorial records and school records. It’s also home to the Essex Sound and Video Archive.

To mark 100 years since the Representation of the People Act the ERO blog has celebrated Essex women such as suffrage campaigners, WWI Nurse Kate Luard  and Matron of Black Notley Hospital Mary Ellen Ruck.

Josephine Culling

Several of our volunteer challenges suggest that you could visit the ERO to look for more information about a particular person such as Katherine Mina Courtuald and Josephine Culling.

Other challenges ask people to look for stories of women working in engineering at different companies such as Ford, Paxman, Bentalls and Marconi and the ERO holds many different company newsletters which could be a great starting point for this.

 

 

If you have never visited a Record Office before it may feel a bit daunting but staff are there to help and you can find a useful guide here.

The Record Office looks after unique, irreplaceable historic material so there are a few key things to remember as these are all to minimise the risk of damage.

It is worth being aware before you visit that they ask-

  • Please bring as little as possible into the Searchroom
  • store your bags in the locker room (free to use and located next to the Searchroom)
  • Please use a pencil rather than a pen
  • You can use laptops and tablets, but cases must be left in the locker room
  • They provide transparent wallets for holding notes and small items

It’s a good idea to bring a warm layer to wear as the searchroom is kept cool (22°C) to help preserve documents (a good place to visit in a heatwave!)

If you’d like a tour of the searchroom there is one coming up on May 30th and you can book here

Just be warned- Record Offices are full of fascinating documents- I’ve lost hours in them!

100 volunteers and counting

I missed the actual moment when our 100th volunteer actually signed up but last weekend we passed the 100 mark and now have 104 people signed up on our Volunteer Makers site to help with the project.

Since we launched the volunteering programme on March 8th (International Women’s day) there have been 30 challenges offered by our 12 partner museums and we estimate that volunteers have given us 227 hours of their time.

It’s really interesting to see how the minutes add up. Our Just a Minute challenges have been popular and people who have signed up to share information on social media have spent around 16 hours on this- it may not feel like you are doing much at the time but every tweet or Facebook share really adds up! We could do with some more help on this, particularly for our own Social Media accounts so please sign up to help us spread the word about the project.

Some of the Hour or Two challenges have been very popular and the most popular of these saw people deciphering 100-year-old handwriting in a Police Pocketbook- trickier than I first thought!

Alice Wilson’s Pocketbook from the Essex Police Museum

We were surprised by how many of you were keen to transcribe oral histories and have paused this while we work out how to convert more old recordings on tape so we can email them out to you. Lots of volunteers are looking online for stories of women who worked at various engineering companies across Essex and we are particularly keen to get more help looking for stories of women who worked at Fords, Paxman or Bentalls.

Spare a Day challenges have seen people sign up to research stories at the Essex Record Office, look at a collection at the Essex Fire Museum and research untold stories for Epping Forest District Museum. Brightlingsea and Braintree museum would both like some help with research so have a look here if you think you could spare some time.

Volunteers who have a little more free time have been signing up to the Regular Help Challenges. A team in Southend have made great progress researching Rosina Sky- a local suffragette and are also exploring the work of Adelaide Hawken who set up one of the first mother and baby clinics in Southend. Other volunteers are working with museums to investigate their collections or are spending time researching a specific story. If you’d like to help a museum out then the Museum of Power would really like your help to create a Museum of power party

A mother and baby clinic in Southend

We are just launching some team challenges and if you’d like to help us out at events please have a look at this challenge and see whether it’s the sort of thing you’d enjoy.

Thanks to all of our volunteers- the project wouldn’t work without you are we are grateful for every minute of the time you give us!

Join a team

For the project we have been thinking about volunteering a little differently and have created challenges that you can do from home in a few minutes, challenges that we can send to you to do in your own time at home, challenges that ask you to visit a library or record office to do some research for us an challenges that get you into a museum to investigate their collections.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We are now asking for people to sign up for spaces for some longer term team challenges to help the project communicate the results of all of this research and investigation which is being carried out by over 100 volunteers.

As part of the project we will be designing a travelling exhibition which will go to at least six museums and libraries later this year and next. We don’t want this to be just us deciding what stories we tell, what pictures we use and what the end result looks like- as so many people across Essex are working with us as volunteers to uncover stories of strong Essex women we want a team from across Essex to work with us to tell these stories.

http://snappingthestiletto.volunteermakers.org/get-involved/regular-help/help-us-design-an-exhibition/37/

gallery-with-blank-canvas_23-2147518602

We are also being asked to go along to community events and talk to people about what we are uncovering so we’d like a group of people to help with this (our Events Team).

http://snappingthestiletto.volunteermakers.org/get-involved/work-as-a-team/become-part-of-snapping-the-stiletto-events-team/36/

Lastly as well as being invited to existing events we want to think hard about telling these stories outside of museums and libraries and are recruiting an ’Engagement Team’ to help us think about different places to go and different ways to celebrate the strong Essex women of the last 100 years.

http://snappingthestiletto.volunteermakers.org/get-involved/work-as-a-team/join-the-engagement-team/40/

All of these challenges will need a time commitment and this will include some training devised by the Snapping the Stiletto team along with different experts. The training won’t be sitting in a room listening to someone but will be hands-on, interactive and (we hope) fun! You may end up telling stories, improvising jokes, even singing songs or devising dance moves as well as learning about how people working in museums think about and plan for exhibitions and events.

There are limited spaces for these challenge and we probably won’t be able to fit in everyone who is keen so we’ll be doing our best to make sure that all of Essex is represented with a whole mix of people from across the county.

Focus on… Brightlingsea Museum

Herrings smoking Mussons c1920

It’s an exciting time at Brightlingsea Museum. They are in the process of moving out of their current building and into a brand new, purpose built one and plan to re-open in 2019.

 

The museum are looking for volunteers to research some important women from Brightlingsea, both as part of Snapping the Stiletto and to inform the displays in their new museum.

 

Could you help research the women who worked in the Brightlingsea Fish Yards? While thought of as a “male” profession, photos like the one above (from the museum’s collection) show that women worked there too and we would love to know more about them, the work they did and lives they lead. We are recruiting volunteers to spend an hour or two searching online, finding information for us to follow up on later or people able to visit the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford and do in-depth research.

 

Crooks Reginald Josie nee Culling, Teacher UDC and BowlingAnother story that the project and museum are keen to know about is that of Josephine Culling, the first female Chair of Brightlingsea Urban Distrct Council, former teacher and National Bowls Champion. She was an influential woman in Brightlingsea during the mid-Twentieth Century but we know very little about her.

 

Brightlingsea Museum is also looking for people to help share their social media, promoting both our project and their move.

 

To find out more about all of our volunteering opportunities, click here.

Focus On… Redbridge Museum

 

Red Mus - entrance1

Redbridge Museum is within the Central Library in Ilford. While Redbridge is now a London Borough, it was part of Essex until 1965 which is why the museum is taking part in our project.

 

The museum hosts a range of permanent displays and temporary exhibitions, runs an active schools programme and is open Tuesday to Saturday.

Red Mus EdwardianRm low res

There is a varied range of volunteering opportunities available with Redbridge Museum through Snapping the Stiletto. You could research local suffrage campaigners and the museum is offering training in the use of microfiche readers to find these stories hidden in old newspapers.

The museum is also helping Woodford County High School celebrate its centenary in 2019. They want to know what happened to the school’s first female graduates who went on to attended university in the 1920s.

They have several hours of oral history recordings which reveal local women’s stories in their own words that need to be transcribed. This can be done in your own home as the museum will send you a copy of the recording. Topics include moving from the Caribbean, nursing, the NHS, dating, sexism, racism and living in Ilford, Wanstead and Woodford.

Finally, there is also an opportunity to go behind the scenes at the museum and search their archive for information about local women’s groups and societies.

 

All of these and other volunteering opportunities can be found here.