Monthly Archives: January 2013

Emptying Aladdin’s Cave

Our industrious curatorial team has been even busier than usual recently; since November 2012 a steady stream of remarkable objects has been coming through our doors. Everything from taxidermy and shop fittings to road signs and pianos has been arriving by the vanload – where’s it all coming from?

All of these amazing objects are coming from Beamish’s huge off-site storage facility in County Durham – it’s a treasure trove of well over 2,200 historic objects, and we are emptying every single item out of it.

Last year we were awarded a special grant of £87,000 from Arts Council England to help us empty the old store and transfer the objects in it to better storage here at the museum. Every single item is being taken out and brought to Beamish for assessment, research, cleaning and conservation – it’s certainly keeping us occupied!

Stores are always an essential part of the way in which museums work: whenever you visit a museum of any kind, you’re usually only seeing a selection of the objects in the museum’s collection – the rest is usually in storage. Our stores help us to conserve and look after our collections properly and to use them more effectively. We’ve moved on since the old days though – the first storage facility Beamish used was an army camp!

Beamish's  first Director, Frank Atkinson, carries a bed end through Brancepeth Camp, 1966

Beamish’s first Director, Frank Atkinson carries a bed end through Brancepeth Camp, 1966

We are bringing those collections to the museum now so we can use them in some exciting future developments. These include a 1950s and 1980s area at the museum, new buildings for our Pit Village, and an open store where visitors can explore our incredible collection.

Getting everything out is a big and complex operation and everything has to be moved very carefully, but once it is all here at the museum, we can start using it.

There are some incredible objects in the stored collection, including John Walker’s apothecary shop from Stockton: Walker invented the friction match inside this very shop in 1826. There are also some eerie, mysterious things – like this little weighing machine with a wicker child’s seat attached. This is one of the objects that will be sent for special conservation work.

Weighing machine with child's seat

Weighing machine with child’s seat

Small or large, all of these objects are a valuable part of the history of the North East, and will help us tell this story to Beamish visitors. The team will be posting regular, detailed updates on the blog to give you a look behind the scenes of this project. We’ll be picking some of our favourite objects and telling you some stories about them, and showing you how we’re getting around some of the challenges of moving some very awkward things.

It’s an epic task, but it will definitely be worth it!

Laying Out the Welcome Mat


Proggy mat from Beamish collection, 1956


Hello and welcome to our new Beamish blog! My name is Cheryl and I work in the curatorial team here at Beamish, as Assistant Keeper of Social History. We work with the collections here at the museum – our job is to use objects and stories to help us tell the story of the North East here at Beamish.

We’ve called this blog ‘Adventures in Collecting’ – doing this job is definitely an adventure. It’s a great, interesting job and it is a fascinating time here at the museum – we’re busy working on a lot of projects at the moment and we would like to tell you about some of them in this blog over the coming weeks.

2013 is a busy year: we are building a bakery and a band hall, moving a huge store full of fascinating objects and exploring the 1950s through our Category D project, and that’s just for starters!

We’ll be using this blog to give you a sneaky peek ‘behind the scenes’ of what we do. If you’ve ever wondered how and where we find the things you see when you visit Beamish, how we look after our collections, and what surprises are lurking in our stores, this is the place to find out.

It’s your blog as well – we’d like to you to join in the conversation, and we would love to know if you have questions or comments about the work we do. If you would like to know about a project, a building or an object at the museum, let us know and we will try and write about it.

Oh, and that lovely rug in the picture above? It’s one of the many proggy mats in our collection – it was made by Mrs Platten of High Spen in the 1950s. Today it welcomes you to our new blog as our first featured object – we hope it’s the first of many.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you come back to join us soon – watch this space for some Adventures in Collecting!