A perfectly packed first aid kit

by Laura Reeves

My favourite thing about working with collections is that you never quite know what objects you will come across, and sometimes an object really strikes you as something special. Whilst accessioning donations at the Museum of Norwich, I was lucky enough to have one of those WOW moments.

One of our donations was an Air Raid Warden’s first aid kit.

The first aid kit contained 27 different pieces and a Warden’s Report Form. This object wowed me for two reasons. Firstly, I have been working in Collections Management for 7 months now and in that time I have built up a strong adoration for a nicely packed box, and this first aid kit is a fine example of efficient use of space. Secondly, my Great Grandpa was an Air Raid Warden in the Midlands and I’ve never known much about his role, and this box uncovers some details about Air Raid Wardens’ work.

ARP wardens did an awful lot more than enforce the Blackout and issue gas masks. Wardens had posts set up in purpose built facilities or they would use houses, shops or other offices – each post would then be split into sectors, and three to six wardens would be responsible for each sector. In these sectors wardens would sound air raid sirens, marshal people into the shelters and watch out for any bombs falling in their sector. This work would be carried out during air raids and was therefore very dangerous as they would be at risk from bombs, shrapnel and falling masonry.

ARP wardens had to be local to their sector, because they needed to know a huge amount of detail about the people living there. Wardens needed to know how many people lived in each house, where they all slept and what their air raid precautions were, so should the worst happen, they would know who to look for in amongst the rubble and where they were most likely to be. Wardens would always be first on scene. They were required to administer first aid for minor casualties, put out small fires and organise the emergency response.

First aid kits like these were owned by air raid wardens, but also families during the war as advised by the Home Office. They were designed to help people cope with injuries before ambulances were able to arrive, they contained bandages, safety pins, tweezers, iodine and an array of burn dressings. There was a variety of these kits available, and many were issued by “Boots”. Each bandage is labelled with clear instructions on how to treat patients.

This kit was donated alongside a Wardens Report Form, these were used to feedback information to their posts, and they were vital for saving lives and protecting important buildings from damage. This form provides details of an air raid that took place on 12th August 1944 on the Cromer Road and Reepham Road junction. The attack took place at 3:37am and claimed one casualty who died from shock.


This donation was a real privilege to document, it demonstrates the power of museum collections to open up opportunities for conversations and personal discovery. Everyone has a story to tell and museums have an important role in protecting these for the future.

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How to Accession an Object

By Wayne Kett

Last week a few of us from Collections Management joined forces with one of our social history Curators and a couple of volunteers to accession into our collection a variety of recent donations to the Museum of Norwich.

These included a first aid kit used by air raid wardens in Norwich during World War Two, four copies of a fanzine about the alternative music scene in Norwich during the early 1980s called the Blue Blanket and a couple of boxes of crackers made in Norwich by Tom Smith crackers.


One of the objects accessioned last week – NWHCM : 2016.386.2 (Childs boot made by Norvic Shoes)

Do watch this space because there will be a future blog about at least one of the objects mentioned above. But for this blog I thought I would explain the process by which we accession an object into our collection.

The first thing to say is that all of our museums have very strict collecting policies and as such will only accept objects that fall within the scope of their policy. Even when objects are appropriate for a particular collection we may still decline the object if we have duplicates in the collection, if it’s in poor condition or if we have any doubts about its provenance. These decisions are all expertly made by our curatorial staff.

Once an object has been accepted it is essential we diligently complete various documentation tasks that help to ensure we can properly manage the object for the long-term.

Step one is to assign each object with an accession number, this is a unique number that allows us to identify the object among the many hundreds of thousands in our collection.


Another recent donation – A UEA gig ticket from 1977, given the accession number – NWHCM : 2016.378

Step two is to mark the object with its accession number so wherever it goes in the future it can be matched to its documentation. We use various different methods to mark objects, in the case of the gig ticket above, I can simply mark it discreetly on the back in pencil.

Step three is to create an entire object record in our object database called Modes. This records information such as the object name, a brief description, measurements, an image, acquisition, association and production details and its location. Some of this information is gathered from the entry form we ask all donors to complete.


The top section of the Modes record for the gig ticket.

Finally, a basic record of the acquisition will be added to our accession register. This is a paper record of all acquisitions. In the case of our Norwich museums, an accession register has been maintained since Norwich Museums were founded in 1825. So in the event of a Zombie apocalypse and the subsequent loss of all IT systems we would retain a paper record of everything in our vast collection of objects.


A page from the 1845 accession register, they are thankfully no longer hand written.

Why not take the opportunity to explore our collections for yourself. Many of our collections are available to search on our collections online website norfolkmuseumscollections.org

Or for more insights into Collections Management you can follow us on Twitter @NMSCollMan

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The New Game of Virtue Rewarded and Vice Punished

By Wayne Kett

In the year 1818 parents wishing to ensure their children grew into virtuous adults and free from vice, were given a new tool, in the form of a board game. To give it, its full name: The New Game of Virtue Rewarded and Vice Punished, For the Amusement of Youth of Both Sexes, was a game invented by Thomas Newton and published by William Darton. It sought in the words of its inventor to ‘promote the progressive improvement of the juvenile mind and to deter them from pursuing the dangerous paths of vice.


NWHCM : 1956.133.21: The New Game of Virtue Rewarded and Vice Punished for the Amusement of Youth of Both Sexes

The game is laid out as a spiral of circular pictures each numbered and given a title, either a vice such as ‘anger’ or ‘sloth’ or a virtue such as ‘temperance’ or ‘faith’. The game was played with a teetotum which was an early form of dice. Interestingly the teetotum was chosen as dice were associated with gambling which was obviously seen as a vice.


NWHCM : 1975.390.10: Pair of Teetotum from Strangers’ Hall collection

The game commences on the House of Correction square and ends with the winner reaching the 33rd and final square ‘Virtue’. There are however pitfalls along the way, for instance if you have the misfortune of landing on square 17 ‘carelessness’ your punishment is to return to square 2 ‘prudence’. Virtuous behaviour is rewarded as the pious (square 24) are rewarded with a jump up to temperance (square 31).


Square 1, the House of Correction. A place to be avoided.

What interests me about the game is what it tells us about how attitudes to good and bad or vice and virtue have changed in the 200 years since the game was published. Much of what the game has to teach is compatible with modern notions of vice and virtue. We all surely agree that truth and friendship are to be admired whilst hypocrisy and malice are to be disapproved of.

However there are some notable differences, luxury for example is presented as a sin. Do we still consider luxury a sin in the 21st century or is it something to aspire to? Regardless of your answer to this question, one thing is certain – even those of modest means enjoy luxuries in our lives that our 19th century counterparts could only dream of.


Luxury, depicted as a well fed man enjoying a large feast.

Whether the game was successful in achieving its intended aims is uncertain. I do think there is a certain irony in using a game of chance to teach children about the importance of choosing the correct path in life. So much of life is purely down to chance and the path we end up on does sometimes feel like it was decided by the throw of a dice or the spin of a teetotum.


This game forms part of Strangers’ Hall stored collections. Visit the Strangers’ Hall website for more information about this fantastic museum.

Visit our Collections website for a closer look at our stored collections: norfolkmuseumscollections.org

Follow Collections Management on Twitter @NMSCollMan

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By Wayne Kett

How do you add and subtract numbers? Hopefully if you were paying attention at school your answer will be ‘in my head’. However for many of us I suspect the truth is we reach for our smart phone and use the calculator.

The smart phone may be new technology, but even when I was at school in the 1980s it was possible to buy a calculator that could fit in my pocket. If however you wanted to find the answer to 8 x 22 in the 1950s you would not have enjoyed such luxury. The image below is a 1950s mechanical calculator and is part of the Museum of Norwich’s stored collection.


NWHCM : 1985.234.6: Calculator made by the Friden Inc, San Leandro, California, USA

This calculator was used in Norwich at the Rowntree Makintosh chocolate factory, first in their accounts department and then, from the mid 1950s in their laboratories. It’s very heavy and not exactly practical to bring along to the supermarket.

Devices for economising basic arithmetic have been used throughout history, although the technology behind the mechanical calculator can be traced to the early 17th century. First invented in 1642 by a nineteen year old French mathematician and physicist called Blaise Pascal.


Five of Pascals ‘Pascaline’ calculators on display at the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers in Paris

These early calculators were given the name ‘Pascaline’ and used a series of numerical dials in order to add or subtract two numbers (they were not able to handle division or multiplication). Sadly for Pascal his calculator did not prove to be a commercial success. Unlike our mechanical calculator which was first manufactured in 1949 and proved so successful that production of the model continued until 1966.

The humble mechanical calculator was however living on borrowed time. Advances in technology in the 1960s led to the first electronic calculators being introduced. By 1970 Sanyo had released the world’s first portable calculator – the Sanyo ICC-0081 ‘Mini Calculator’.


An early electronic calculator manufactured by Friden Inc, this one is part of the collection at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

These advances signaled the end of 328 years of people using the mechanical calculator to compensate for not paying attention to mental arithmetic at school!

Why not see what else we have in our stored collections by searching our Collections Online website: norfolkmuseumscollections.org

Follow our Collections Management department: @NMSCollMan

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A blazing blog post

What would you do if you discovered fire? Dial 999 and wait for the fire brigade to come and save the day? Things haven’t always been like that, and these fire buckets help to tell the story of how firefighting has changed over the course of history.

In the Middle Ages, Britain did not have a formal fire service. Some parishes would have groups of volunteers to tackle fires – but armed with little more than buckets of water, they weren’t very effective when faced with wooden buildings. So if your house caught fire, it would probably have burned to the ground.

It wasn’t until The Great Fire of London in 1666 that firefighting became more formalised, with private insurance companies providing fire brigades. Buildings that paid for insurance would be marked with the company logo and provided with leather fire buckets to show that you had paid for firefighting services should they be needed. The handshake logo on the 19th century buckets at the beginning of this blog belonged to the ‘Mutual Assurance Company.’

Leather fire buckets would be filled with sand or water to act as the first line of defence before your insurance company arrived to extinguish the fire. Other insurance companies could extinguish the fire if they wanted to, but would later charge a fee for their services. If your building wasn’t marked as insured, it would still have burned to the ground. As time passed, some private brigades would put out fires at uninsured buildings if there was a risk that it could spread to insured buildings. If you couldn’t afford private insurance you would have to rely on local parish volunteers to save your property.

In 1938 The Fire Brigades Act mandated that local authorities would provide a free fire service funded by the taxpayer. This finally removed the responsibility from private insurance companies to make sure that your property was protected from fire!

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Around the World in 5 Jigsaw Puzzles

By Wayne Kett

One of our current documentation projects is to complete an audit of our amazing toy collections at Strangers’ Hall. This in essence means I am literally being paid to play with toys, which I think is something my 6 year old self would be mightily impressed with.

The toy collection is extensive and covers everything from alphabet blocks to yo-yos. There are also 18 boxes containing 131 jigsaw puzzles. I recently started working my way through these boxes. I was surprised to find jigsaws puzzles from as far back as the 18th century. Being naturally curious, I utilised the font of all knowledge (Google) and discovered that jigsaw puzzles were first sold commercially in 1760 by the cartographer John Spilsbury.

His puzzles were all maps, cut along national boundaries and were intended as an educational tool.


John Spilsbury – Europe Divided into its Kingdoms (1766)

Whilst we do not have any of the original Spilsbury puzzles in our collection, we do have a selection of map based puzzles from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The map of Europe (below) was produced in around 1810 by John Wallis a noted publisher of children’s games and based in Ludgate Street, London.


NWHCM : 1922.93.5: A Map of Europe agreeable to the latest Authorities, John Wallis (1810)

We have maps covering the rest of the world including this one (below) of Africa.


NWHCM: 1922.93.3: Africa Divided into its Several Regions, Robert Sayer (1772)

There is a vast swath of land in the middle of the continent of Africa classified simply as ‘unknown country’. It was of course before Africa had been fully explored by Europeans.

We also have maps covering the continents of Asia and North America.


NWHCM : 1922.93.2: A New Map of Asia, John Wallis (1790)


NWHCM:1922.93.1: A General Map of America, North and South, and West Indies, Robert Sayer (1772)

Closer to home we have a map featuring the counties of England and Wales. My geography skills were fully tested here as I needed to assemble this puzzle in order to get a photograph for its Modes record. With a little help, I was eventually able to slot the pieces into their correct positions.


NWHCM: 1922.93.4: England and Wales, with the principal Roads, and Distances of the County Towns from London, R.Rowe (1810)

There are sadly a few pieces missing. Is anybody able to fill in the blanks and guess the missing counties?

There are many more jigsaw puzzles in our collection. Why not have a look for yourself via our Collections online website norfolkmuseumscollections.org

Follow our Collections Management department: @NMSCollMan


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An ‘Ace’ Find

By Laura Reeves

Strangers’ Hal1l is home to our Toy Collection, a fascinating and sometimes nostalgic mix of books, games, puzzles and toys. There are some absolute gems in amongst these stores, and today I want to share with you a truly ‘ace’ discovery – apologies for the terrible pun.

We currently hold over 70 packs of cards, but one deck in particular really stood out to me as something extra special. Whilst the artwork on the reverse of these late 19th century cards is undoubtedly beautiful, it’s the other side that warrants a dedicated blog post.

In this deck each card has been hand decorated, using the suit as a focal point for the drawing. Clubs are used to make faces, hearts used as hats, diamonds as watering cans, and spades as tennis rackets. Some of the drawings have writing on them as well, with a few of the hearts playing cards referring to ‘The Queen of Hearts’ poem.




‘The queen of hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer’s day
The knave of Hearts
He stole those tarts
And with them ran away:
The king of hearts
Call’d for those tarts,
And beat the knave full sore;
The knave of hearts
brought back those tarts
And said he’ll ne’er steal more.’

These drawings are the work of Norwich born artist Minna Watson (nee Bolingbroke). Watson was a keen painter of views and animals, some of which were exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts between 1905 and 1926.

We might never know why Minna decorated this deck of cards, maybe they are just private doodles, a way of making a normal pack of cards personal to her or a gift for a friend. Whatever the reason behind these drawings, to have something so personal to the artist is a privilege.


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For a chance to explore our stored collections please visit our Norfolk Museums Collections website.

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