Monday, 16 April 2012

Braintree District Museum

I spent an enjoyable morning at a volunteers get together at the Braintree Museum this morning. (Where most of the pictures come from) Delightful to see so many willing to do something to aid the town's history.  We had an lovely time attempting to decide what we liked and disliked about the museum.  Small groups gathered to discuss the various sections, I managed to claim one Warners section was not my favourite, it just happened to be the company the lass next to me had worked 28 years for!  I meet people when I am rude.....

It was generally agreed the outstanding aspect of the museum was the Victorian school room.  This receives groups of young folks (children were considered 'small people' not 'children' in Victorian days), dressed in period costume, who endure a Victorian type education for an hour or so before experimenting with this or that elsewhere  Playtime features suitable games, no iPads allowed!  As the building was a school built by one of the Courtalds in the late 19th century it seemed an obvious idea.   

My primary had desks like these!  The teachers however had more appropriate 1930's style desks, containing a 'strap' (a Lochgelly Tawse) for punishment.  I am not quite sure where the spears at the back came from.  There are shields and drums of an African origin elsewhere and I wonder if these are the fruits of English imperialism?  We heard of future projects and priorities for the museum, and the Warners Archive, for which we were shown the new website.  Warners had a large mill nearby and the archive not only keeps alive the history it is an active producer of material.  Silk manufacture is a highly skilled affair and designs and materials are still produced and sold there today.  Not quite the same volume as in times past of course.  Warners Archive

Note the obvious mistake with this Victorian tableau!

I love the Victorian era, especially as I did not live through it, but my aged family were close to it, one uncle being born in the 1890's.  The attitudes of the day was seen to some extent in the family members throughout the seventy years or so they lived.  Much of Victorian infrastructure lies about us still, railways, buildings, crowded High Streets, churches for a sample.  We are much closer to Victorian days than we realise.  

However I also like the distant past and artifacts that reflect life here from 2000 BC or thereabouts are very interesting.  To be in possession of a daily object from so long ago releases a strange emotion.  I am not sure what it is, maybe I had too much porridge for breakfast.  Anyway I love bits of aged pottery, a coin or an axe head from the distant past, it connects us to those who lived and died here so long ago.  Why should people be forgotten?  I am frequently amazed at how little information appears concerning men who lived, worked and served in this are from a mere hundred years ago.  Many of their houses remain but just as many have long since been demolished, and with the house goes the memory of the individual.  It often appears as if they had never existed, but an effect of their life remains with us all, usually never realised.

When the school took us to the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh as kids we were forced to sit in front of a large glass display and listen to a wifie discussing the stuffed birds found therein!  How enthralling!  At least on one occasion we were confronted with a Japanese crab with claws six foot long.  Why I have absolutely no idea, there were few of those around our way.  Some people find Museums to be boring and kids need to do something, not be lectured about stuff.  Make them enjoy something, even if it appears to be boring, and they will remember it.  Folks remember humour better than dullness.  Dressed up like 19th century waifs, but smelling much nicer (well up to a point), the urchins have a more 'hands on' affair in the museum today.  The RSM had one or two very expensive machines that revealed the working of coal mines and the likes, but miserable teachers insisted we ignored those and stopped sliding along the polished floors and sit down and belt up.  I am happy to report no miserable, bullying, harridan like witches were found teaching there today.  Instead I found a group of interested knowledgeable volunteers who wish to discover more and make the towns history known.  I myself am happy in a dogsbody role, to me this is a promotion, and I am learning from those that really know.  I am well impressed with the knowledge found here amongst professional and volunteer workers.  

So that's where my old bike got to!



Gail said...

Love this post, I enjoy museums. Thanks for helping.

bigrab said...

You'd enjoy the McIntosh Scotland Street School Museum in Glasgow.

Adullamite said...

Gail, Museums are good. I love them.

Rab, I would like that.

Jenny Woolf said...

I love museums. I agree that the way to bring them to life is to get the kids involved, funny how nobody used to think that in the olden days, except people who had natural gifts for teaching.

I went to lots of different schools and swear I sat in plenty of classrooms like that, without spears though but with ink wells. When I was 10 we had a very traditional Scottish teacher who insisted we learned to write with steel nibbed pens and spent hours teaching us a sort of copperplate. (He was quite young, too, wss obviously just a traditionalist.) He said learning to write with steel nibs would give us good handwriting for the rest of our lives, but in my case he was so wrong!

Adullamite said...

Jenny, Ah yes, steel nibs! We were taught that way also when joined up writing came along. Clearly part of Scots education. Not sure it helped but the keyboard has ruined my writing now.

A. said...

I would love to work in a museum. That would be so interesting. Sometimes I think they've gone a bit too far with their efforts to make things interesting. A little too much Disney. Maybe I'm just an old curmudgeon and should be sitting back in my schoolroom with inkwells and wooden benches. I was ink monitor once.

A. said...

Is that boy in the tableau wearing trainers?

Adullamite said...

A, Old? You? Never! I would not like to see a 'Disney style museum.'

A, I knew you would be the only one to notice. However it is not trainers, it is boots! Kids did not have shoes in those days, bare feet the norm. In fact my dad was similar in his first couple of years,(born 1908) shoes were for Sundays he said.