Ladies of Quality and DistinctionūüďćFoundling Museum, London

Hey all, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope you had a wonderful festive season and are enjoying your 2019 so far.

This week I visited the magnificent Ladies of Quality & Distinction¬†exhibition at the fantastic Foundling Museum in London. The exhibition, part of a vast programme of displays marking 100 years of the Representation of the People’s Act 1918 in the UK, reveals stories about the incredible women that established, worked at and lived in the hospital. Like much of history, the role of women has been excluded from the Hospital’s narratives, until now. The exhibition, curated by Kathleen Palmer, highlights the vital role that women played as nurses, teachers, cooks, artists, carers and supporters of the institution.

Highlight objects and stories:

1. ) Frances Flint (1839? – 1944?)

Frances Flint was, according to the 1891 census records, a foster mother who took care of some of the children from the Foundling Hospital. Records also suggest that Frances may have been illegitimate, much like the foundling children she fostered. This photograph shows Frances with children, may be some of those that she had in her care.

fullsizeoutput_d19Frances Flint, archive photograph, c.1900, courtesy Coram.

2.) Servant’s register, 1925

This servant’s register records the reasons that staff at the Hospital gave for leaving. It also includes brief descriptions of the work the women carried out in their roles. This kind of register would have been used to give character references for new jobs.

s6%vt39+qpslibqjlmp9qa© Coram, 1925

3.) Instructions to Wet Nurses, 1861

Jane Fisher was given these notes when she took foundling, John Harvey, into her care in 1861. It sets out the allowance that Fisher will be issued to look after the child as well as outlining the expectations of the Inspector.

fgxtebcgq62jc6usfe+dzqInstructions to Wet Nurses, 4th February 1861, Coram/City of London, London Metropolitan Archives

4.) Letter written by Hannah Johnson, 1812

On 1st April 1812, as she entered her 20th year of service as the Foundling Hospital, Hannah Johnson wrote to the Governors of the Hospital requesting a (well deserved) pay rise. She was successful and her wages were increased to match those of the Steward, who headed the Boy’s Wing.

mkhhszwtqi+n7s8glxnclqLetter, Hannah Johnson, 1st April 1812, © Coram

5.) Blanche Thetford (1758 – 1833)

Blanche Thetford lived at Foundling Hospital and although she was “incurably blind in both eyes” she was incredibly talented in needlework. Whilst at the Hospital she trained in music alongside another blind girl named Mercy Draper and became an incredibly talented musician. Aged 21, the Hospital employed Blanche as a singer in the Chapel, paying her 6 guineas a year to do so. As well as being a singer, she was given 10 guineas a year for “the care and assiduity of teaching music” to younger foundlings. In 1813, she was gifted ¬£25 (the equivalent of¬†¬£1,721.93 in 2019), on top of a silver teapot for her teaching work. Blanche lived at the Foundling Hospital her whole life and when she died in 1833, aged 77, she was buried in the Hospital’s Chapel.

fullsizeoutput_d2cFoundling Hospital: The Chapel, 1808, John Bluck, after Pugin & Rowlandson. Aquatint, hand-coloured.

The exhibition shines a light on some of the marvellous, hard working and life changing women who played a vital role in the running of the Foundling Hospital and the care of the children living there between 1741 – 1951. It closes on the 20th January so you only have a few more days to view it so hurry if you don’t want to miss out on these stories.

Happy Museum Musings!

Em xo



ūüďćPoster Girls: A century of art and design, London Transport Museum

Poster Girls: A century of Art and Design at the London Transport Museum celebrates a century of exceptional poster art created by women. The exhibition shines a light on the incredible contribution that female designers and artists made to the world of poster design, with over 150 colourful, fun and unique pieces of artwork on display.

As you would expect from an exhibition at the London Transport Museum, the majority of the posters on display were designed for use on the London Underground, with many of the artists commissioning pieces for London Transport and Transport for London.

Posters are displayed chronologically from 1910’s to the present day; with a focus on how each new era offered changing styles, approaches and designs which are reflected in the artworks. The display also focuses on the positive impact London Transport had in showcasing female talent in an industry that was, like many others, predominantly male.

Creative minds such as Ella Coates, Nancy Smith, “Herry” Perry and Dora Batty created bold, colourful, eye-catching posters to advertise the London Underground as quick and cheap transport choice. Many of the posters would market the Capital’s main attractions, like the ones below.

Foxgloves; Kew Gardens by Dora M Batty, 1924 (1983/4/1639), Country Joys from Camden Town Station by Herry Perry, 1930 (1983/4/2940), Bluebell time in Kew Gardens by Margaret Calkin James, 1931 (1983/4/9210), Travels in time on your doorstep by Clifford Ellis and Rosemary Ellis, 1937 (1983/4/4963) and Regents Park Zoo by Arnrid Banniza Johnston, 1930 (1983/4/3038) 

The exhibition continues downstairs; documenting posters from the 1950’s to the modern day. The first thing you see is a wall covered in miniature versions of underground posters which was truly sensational.


As you look closer you can pick out posters marketing everything from London Zoo to Borough Market, Hampton Court to London Museums. Below are a few of my favourites:

Top left:¬†Hampton Court by Hanna Weil, 1963 (1983/4/7458), Bottom left:¬†London’s museums by Carol Barker, 1979 (1983/341), Right:¬†We Londoners by Dorrit Dekk, 1961 (1983/4/7270)

Although there was a lull in female representation during the 1940’s-50’s (possibly due to World War II), in the 1980’s, London Transport ran 2 major campaigns to reignite the fire for women in the Poster design market. Art on the Underground and the Simply series was influenced a lot by women and they play a major role in poster art and design. My 3 favourite contemporary posters were:¬†Simply East London by Tube and bus by Sarah McMenemy, 2000 (2000/14610),¬†Borough Market by Ruth Hydes, 2010 (2017/444) and¬†Winter fun – shopping by Anna Hymas, 2016 (2017/380)

Aside from the #Vote100 Suffragette displays that keep popping up across the UK to celebrate 100 since the Representation Act 1918 was passed, Poster Girls is the first exhibition I’ve been to that it is solely dedicated to the work, perspectives and successes of women. Isn’t that absurd?! I felt pretty overwhelmed walking around & taking notes knowing that everything I was seeing was created by a woman, every name I wrote down belonged to a woman.

I think the sector could learn a lot from the London Transport Museum in terms of how to create exhibitions focused on underrepresented groups in society. From writing more inclusive interpretation, doing more in-depth research into collections, looking at how exhibition content is developed, who/what is represented and ultimately, who at the top of the organisation, is making the decisions about what is exhibited…

Poster girls: A century of art and design, located in the Exterion Media Gallery, is on display until January 2019.

Happy Museum Musings!

Em xo

Tony Vaccaro: From Shadow to LightūüďćGetty Images Gallery, London

Last week I was exploring London and stumbled across this little gem whilst walking in the autumnal sunshine. The Getty Images Gallery¬†is London’s largest photographic archive, holds one of the greatest collections of photos in the world. For context, Getty Images, the head US company founded in 1995 by Mark Getty and Jonathan Klein, has a collection of 80 million photographs and more than 50,000 hours of film stock.

The current exhibition on display at the London gallery is¬†Tony Vaccaro:¬†From Shadow to Light.¬†This is Vaccaro’s¬†first exhibition in the UK in over half a century and includes photographs taken during his time serving in World War II, living in post-war Europe alongside those he took of celebrities, artists and creators for global media.

Born Michelantonio Celestino Onofrio Vaccaro¬†in Pennsylvania, December 1922, “Tony” Vacarro, is an Italian-American photographer who is well-known for his photographs taken during the Second World War when he served in the US Army. Against orders from army officials, he smuggled his beloved camera into battle. He would strategically position his camera lens through a torn button hole on his jacket to take images. He would also¬†salute with one hand whilst secretly pressing press the shutter with the other to capture an image!

During ‘down time’, Vaccaro would take photographs of his fellow Infantry members which led to numerous reprimands¬†but after an Army Major expressed an interest in his work, Tony was allowed to continue with his photography; under one condition – gun first, camera second. During this time, he produced almost 8,000 photos and went to extreme lengths to produce his images stating: ‚ÄúWhen I was not on a night mission, I processed my films in four army helmets and hung the wet¬†negatives from tree branches to dry.‚ÄĚ Many of his photos were destroyed or seized by authorities so only 25% of them still survive.

Unfortunately the lighting in the exhibition meant that there were reflections on all glass surfaces so the photographs I took (below) aren’t very good but I have found the best online links to the photographs which are included in the photo caption:

Firing Line in the Hurtgen Forest, Germany, 1945

Upon being honourably discharged from his position in 1945, Tony decided to stay in Europe rather than move back home to the US to begin a careers a professional photographer. During this time, he captured life in post-war Europe; covering issues across Germany and Western Europe.


Kiss of Liberation, St. Briac Sur Mer, France 1944 –¬†‚ÄúSargeant Gene Costanzo kneels to kiss a little girl during spontaneous celebrations in the main square of the town of St. Briac, France, August 14, 1944.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Tony Vaccaro

With post-war America came a new age of popular magazines and celebrity; which Vaccaro took full advantage of. He travelled the world for 30 years, taking some of the most recognisable photographs of the 20th century; working with public figures from Sophia Loren and Pablo Picasso to Georgia O’Keefe and¬†Hubert de Givenchy.

Top left: Picasso, Mougins, France, 1966. Bottom left: Marimekko Umbrella, (Tony ended up marrying the model at the bottom of this image)
Top right: Georgia O’Keefe with Cheese, New Mexico, 1960, Bottom right:¬†Sophia Loren, actress, New York City, NY 1959.

The exhibition was curated by Shawn Waldron, a Curator at¬†Getty Images, who worked alongside Tony Vaccaro’s studio to create this wonderful exhibition which showcases some of the finest photography I’ve ever seen. The humility and connection Vaccaro captures in his images is really special and his personal relationship with subjects is very apparent. The exhibition has just been extended for another month so you can catch it until 28th October. I’d recommend you make a detour if you’re in Central London before it closes.

Happy Museum Musings.

Em xo

Votes for Women – Museum of London

Hi all, happy Tuesday!

Earlier this month, I spent the day exploring London with my Mum; looking around Borough Market, eating lots of Thai Food and visiting the Votes for Women display at Museum of London. My mum is undoubtedly the strongest, most hard-working and courageous woman I know and so I felt anything related to women’s rights and suffrage would be perfect.

The display focused on the 100 years since the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1918 was passed in the UK. The act granted women over the age of 30, who had property rights, the right to vote. (The act also gave¬†all men over the age of 21 the right to vote but we won’t tackle that inequality today!)¬†The women’s fight for the vote was won by the courageous and determined suffragettes/suffragists across the UK – fronted by my heroine and namesake, Emmeline Pankhurst. This year there have been lots of wonderful events, exhibitions and museum projects connected to the centenary and as a proud feminist I am excited to explore as many as possible.

I will start by saying, the Votes for Women display is a lot smaller than I’d imagined it would be… I think because I’d seen so much advertising and online marketing I was envisioning something a lot bigger and grander but what we found was a relatively small room (which was poorly signposted) and a handful of objects related to the 1918 campaign.¬†Nevertheless, the objects that the Museum had selected to highlight, were powerful.

Along one side of the room there are cases exhibiting delicate, individual objects such as Emmeline Pankhurst’s Hunger Strike medal and a silver necklace commemorating Emily ‘Kitty’ Willoughby Marshall’s three terms of imprisonment in Holloway prison.

Right:¬†Emily ‘Kitty’ Willoughby Marshall’s¬†silver necklace¬†Left:¬†Emmeline Pankhurst’s Hunger Strike medal.

Projected on the opposite wall is a powerful film commissioned especially for the exhibition, which looks at how the Suffragette’s fight impacted Britain – both positively and negatively – and how their militant campaigns impact and influence fights for women’s rights in today’s society. Although Votes for Women wasn’t as fulfilling as we’d hoped, the Museum of London does also have an incredible permanent display of suffragette material in the People’s City gallery. This part of the Museum was by far our favourite and includes plenty of suffrage related objects to satisfy your needs!

My ‘People’s City Gallery’ highlights:

fullsizeoutput_3b9Suffragette panel, Janie Terrero, 1912, on display:¬†Museum of London: People’s City: Suffragettes

This beautiful piece of tapestry is decorated in purple, white and green embroidery and was made in Holloway Prison by an inmate called Janie Terrero. It is embroidered with the names of hunger strikers imprisoned at Holloway with Terrero. The women had been arrested for their involvement in smashing windows as part of a suffragette campaign in March 1912.

IMG_5892Various suffragette pin badges, medals, photographs and event memorabilia¬†on display in People’s City gallery, Museum of London

In the People’s City gallery, and briefly in the centenary¬†exhibition, the Museum of London explores the Hunger Strike campaigns carried out by suffragettes in the early 20th Century. ¬†The badges, medals and artwork are made using the recognisable green, purple and white colours associated with the Suffragettes.

Of course, the themes and stories shown in this display are incredibly important to exhibit in our museums as are the events being held throughout the year. 2018 seems to be shaping up as the year that we are telling local, national and international stories of courageous women who fought and continue to fights for women’s rights in the UK and around the world. I feel very lucky to be living in London right now to be able to participate in a variety of events, attend talks and visit centenary exhibitions to honour the incredible women who changed women’s lives in the UK.

However, I would agree with many others who argue that these kinds of displays and events should not be ‘special’ or ‘one-offs’ or curated just when an important date is impending. Instead, they need to become embedded in our museums, galleries, libraries and heritage spaces and we, as museum workers, collectors and heritage organisations should be documenting and collecting the work, stories and history of women to make it part of the norm. Uncovering stories that we are maybe not aware of, showcasing women that aren’t well-known and continuing to shine a light on women in fields that we have failed to do so up until now is just as important as having centenary exhibitions to celebrate famous women’s achievements.

Perhaps following the suffragette’s motto of ‘Deeds Not Words’ would be a good start for the sector…

Keep fighting!

Em xo



Teeth: Wellcome Collection

This week I visited the new exhibition at the wonderful Wellcome Collection, Teeth.  The show, which is on display until 

The space used for this exhibition is one of my favourites – so spacious, clean and open. It feels very modern although many of the objects being showcased in the gallery are centuries old. Teeth explores many themes including technological advances, dental care and hygiene, health campaigns and toothbrushes through the ages. It was fascinating seeing all of the ways that toothache had been treated in the past, the variety of toothbrush design available and the ways dentist instruments have developed over time. The exhibition showcased objects from “collections assembled by Henry Wellcome, alongside loans from key Northern European collections including the substantial holdings of the British Dental Association in London” – Wellcome Collection press release, 24th January 2018.

My exhibition highlights:

IMG_6065Ghent, Belgium. Late 19th Century, Thackray Medical Museum.

This framed dentist’s window display was a real stand out object for me – the gold framing, ivory tools handled and the symmetrical positioning of the dentistry equipment was very aesthetically pleasing. The display showcases the beautiful tools and skills of dentist JJ Rosseeuw and it is thought that it would have been displayed in his surgery window. I love the fact that dentists in the past were so proud of their professions – they would showcase their talents and skills for all to see. I feel as though this is the historical equivalent of selling your skills and abilities on LinkedIn – a physical advert for others’ to view what you’re good at in your job! Those pearly white dentures are also very appealing!

fullsizeoutput_3a9Binaca toothpaste advertisements, 1944-45, colour lithograph, Wellcome Collection

These beautiful posters were commissioned in the 1940’s to advertise the toothpaste Binaca and I think they are absolutely exquisite. Both were designed by Niklaus Stoecklin, a Swiss artist. I just find the posters so striking that they would definitely have drawn my attention to the product in a positive way. Personally, I find modern day toothpaste adverts quite cheesy – always think to myself “Why is this advert so dramatic? It’s only toothpaste” – but with these the simple message of Binaca as a natural product that will give you pearly white teeth is subtle and elegant.

Dental Instruments: Presentation case, 1871-1900, Wellcome Collection/Science Museum Group, Scalers and chisels, c.1920, Thackray Medical Museum, Travelling technician kit, c.1907, British Dental Association Museum

Even though I’m not scared of the dentist (in fact I quite like it!), these dental instruments sent a shiver down my spine. They reminded me of instruments you use in art class when you’re working with clay! The idea that these tools were used in people’s mouths centuries ago and were the instruments of choice is fascinating to me.

Other exciting objects include a set of dental instruments used by Queen Victoria’s dentist, Napolean’s toothbrush and dentures worn by King William IV!

Napolean ToothbrushNapoleon’s toothbrush, Wellcome Collection/Science Museum Group, Thomas SG Farnetti. Source: Wellcome Collection.

The exhibition was really refreshing as it displayed historical objects alongside modern apparatus but there seemed to be a sense of similarity flowing throughout. The shapes and styles of instruments, the messages being presented through Healthcare Campaigns and the societal focus on teeth = good looks has been present since the 18th century through the present day.

The exhibitions and displays ¬†that I have seen at the Wellcome Collection all have a medical subject running throughout and this one was no different – the medical aspects of dentistry were covered as was the dangers of bad hygiene and healthcare which I think really adds another layer to the objects and narratives which is really engaging and stimulating.¬†Teeth is on display until 16 September and I would definitely recommend if you like a display that is a little different. It showcases objects that you wouldn’t usually think about – but trust me, after this, you will (every morning and night when brushing those gnashers!)

Em xo

British Museum traineeship

Last week I wrote my first post about the first job role I had in museums which was as a Training Museum Trainee (TMT)¬†Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service (CIMS).¬†So this week I’m going to focus on my second. One that I still can’t actually believe happened…

In March last year I was job-hunting and came across a entry level role within the Development Department at the British Museum. It was a role centred around Fundraising which I have experience¬†in; formally volunteering at the NSPCC and UNICEF UK as a Community Fundraising intern and then carrying out a fundraising placement at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester whilst at CIMS. The job was everything I had wanted as it seemed like the only aspect of museums not covered in my TMT. I honestly thought the interview had gone dreadfully; I remember phoning my mum and just cringing at how bad it was but laughing it off by saying at least I wouldn’t have to face the interviewers again! But somehow, on a sunny day in May, I got a phone-call offering me the role… I have never been so shocked in my life!

Fast forward 1 month and I was living in London, commuting on the grossly hot Central line and walking in to this magnificent view on my first day! What a dream! I still pinch myself thinking about how quickly my career in museums has excelled in 3 years.


My role at the BM was within the Major Gifts team of Development; with main responsibilities including writing donor reports, carrying out research projects, maintaining the donor database, sending communications to ensure high quality stewardship and any ad-hoc administrative tasks. I also had the opportunity to attend training sessions, conferences and staff events which really shaped my understanding of a large, international museum. Over the year I also supported a number of donor events including Private Exhibition Viewings, Young Friends Sleepovers and gallery openings which were all very exciting.

20-12-2017 15.40.03

I am truly grateful that I have been able to work at one of the BIGGEST museums in the world so early on in my museum career. And although I have decided not to pursue a career in Fundraising, the people I have worked with, skills I have gained and lessons I have learnt along the way have taught me so much. I am most happy working with objects and engaging visitors though interpretation, events and outreach so I am looking for more Learning and Collections roles (but before then I plan to do an museum tour around Europe!) It has been a marvellous, challenging but invaluable experience and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Here’s to the ‘Museum of the world, for the world’ giving me my biggest museum opportunity yet!

Em x

Museum beginnings…

Hi, I’m Emily, an early museum professional, documentary enthusiast, proud feminist and David Attenborough lover.

Museum Musings is my first solo blogging project and I’m excited to document the museum experiences I have, the stories I learn through exhibitions, events and programming as well as the challenges I have seen within the heritage sector. As an EMP I am on an exciting journey, developing my skills in the heritage sector, learning a lot of new ways of thinking (and reinforcing how not to!), as well as allowing me to see some of the most beautiful, inspiring and thought-provoking exhibits and places I have ever seen.

My first few entries will look at my museum journey so far and some of the exciting projects I have been involved with over the past 3 years.

Training Museum

My museum journey began in 2015 when I joined Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service (CIMS) as part of the first cohort of the Training Museum; a programme funded by Arts Council England with the primary aim of diversifying the CIMS workforce.

Rewind to October 2015, I was unemployed after deciding not to return to university to do my Teaching degree. It was a massive decision to make as I’d wanted to be a teacher for such a long time and all work experience, employment and volunteering I had done up until then had been with the aim with pursuing a teaching career. So deciding not to continue this career was a tough one but I’m so bloomin’ glad I did!

The interview process for the traineeship was a strenuous one but after submitting a written application, doing a video interview and participating in a group assessment day, I somehow got one of the 6 positions available. The traineeship was a way to diversify the the museum services workforce, with the trainees there to bring new ideas, different experiences and a variety of skillsets to the team, an idea that is something that needs to be rolled out throughout the whole sector. Over the year was based at Ipswich Museums, working across their 3 sites: Ipswich Museum, Christchurch Mansion and Ipswich Art Gallery.

Throughout the traineeship I worked on some incredible projects including reinterpreting the Victorian Gallery,  co-curating a Battle of the Somme display and re-designing a museum trail alongside delivering a Supplementary Schools programme, presenting at two major conferences and working visitor service shifts at the 3 museum sites.

F0ED2377-B209-4056-BF1B-E5327FFA7EE3Each week I also attended in-house training with taught me fundamental museum skills including object handling & packing, documentation essentials, marking & labelling, fundraising, museum audiences,

My year on the Training Museum taught me so much and I am so proud that I was part of the first cohort that (I hope) helped to shape the way that CIMS recruits its staff, the programming they plan and potentially influence the ways that different skills are viewed within the museum sector.

I am looking forward to developing my career in the heritage sector, particularly museums and documenting the exhibitions, events and buildings I visit along the way!

Ciao for now.

Em x