Tag Archive: social history

  1. Holiday At Home: Anyone got a stamp?

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    Just a few lines about Postcards…

    Although pre-paid lettercards had been around for some years, both here and on the continent, the picture postcard as we know it today really began life at the dawning of the Edwardian era. Before then, the Post Office insisted that the address took up one whole side of a card. Then, in 1902 a new size (5½ inches x 3½ inches) with a ‘split back’ was introduced. This allowed one side for the address and a message and the other for a decent-sized picture. Almost overnight, a new craze for sending and collecting these little splashes of warmth and colour was born, as postcards represented a revolutionary, quick, fun and cheap way of sending messages; much as texting and social media has over the last 25 years.

    Anybody could send a card (they cost just a ha’penny to post) and in a world without telephones, or cheap, portable cameras, the idea of somebody getting your message and picture the next, or even the same day, must have seemed amazing. Just as ‘whatsapping’ someone on the other side of the world does today, at least to those of us over 40!

    Telephones and telegrams were only available to the wealthy, so it was the postal system that really made the world work. It was a vast operation and larger towns and cities enjoyed the luxury of several collections and deliveries per-day. Meaning that if you posted your message early enough it was, pretty much, guaranteed to arrive the next, or even the same day.

    The arrival of postcards coincided with boom years for industrial, mill towns like Oldham. Alongside industry, consumerism grew apace in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, with more products, popular publications and eye-catching advertising appearing across the country. Photography, in terms of snap-shots, did not truly arrive until the 1920s, so postcards frequently had to do; sent from the seaside, or perhaps just up the road. Stuck up on workbenches, mantlepieces or kept in albums, they became the must-have souvenirs of precious leisure time in an era when work was back-breaking and poverty widespread. Of course, holidays, were taking off too and in the North of England in the early 1900s a Wakes week away to Blackpool, Southport or even ‘abroad’ to the Isle of Man was finally becoming an affordable possibility, at least while trade was booming.                 

    Although Wakes have their origins in religious custom, most of us associate them with industrial towns. They developed as unpaid holidays when mills and factories closed for maintenance.  By the 1860s, between June to September, mill towns across Lancashire all had their own holiday week or fortnight. In Oldham the season began with Mossley Wakes in early July and continued at the rate of one or two a week throughout the summer; with Hollinwood, Shaw, Crompton, Lees, Newton Heath, Milnrow, Middleton, Saddleworth (Uppermill), Saddleworth (Delph and Heights) and finally on the last Saturday in August, Oldham itself.

    For two weeks the spinning mules fell silent and the smoke briefly cleared as mill workers headed to the seaside in droves while the town virtually closed down. Briefly, people shook of their drab workwear and sent jolly, cheeky, or even saucy cards back home. Those ‘holidaying at home’ often reciprocated, sending cards to those lucky enough to be away, in the safe knowledge that workmates and family would get their good natured, if slightly jealous ribbing the very next day. ‘Beautiful’, or ‘Smokey’ Oldham cards were popular amongst those ‘holding the fort’ back home and the humour of the mill often appears, with chimneys, clogs and shawls, or the cardroom frequently making an appearance. Just to remind everyone, in case they needed it, that the good times couldn’t last forever. 

    Postcards proved equally popular during the First World War, as thousand found themselves forced apart from their loved ones and continued to be popular for many decades after. They enjoyed a brief resurgence as people started to holiday abroad in the 1960s and ‘70s, when larger, colourful ‘continental’ size cards started to flood onto the market. However, it was really the rise of social media that spelled the demise of the postcard.

  2. Waiting for our ship to come in….

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    Join us for a journey of discover as Bill Longshaw our Social History Collections Assistant puts the wind back in the sails of this beautiful model ship.

    When we suddenly went into lockdown in March, I spent a frantic couple of hours selecting things from the Gallery Oldham stores that would make good home-based projects. This model galleon had always intrigued me. When I found it, tucked away on a shelf, it was in a dilapidated state, with its masts and rigging hanging off, almost as if this was the only way of fitting it into its anonymous box. It immediately made me think… if only I had the time, then perhaps I could find something out about it, or even restore it to something like its former glory.

    The Galleon as I found it

    One of my jobs at Gallery Oldham is to assess our social history collection, looking particularly at things that, in many ways, exist on its margins. These are objects we might want to retain, but really need more of a steer on, in order to make an informed decision on their future.

    They are generally things that, on first appearance at least, have no connection with Oldham; often because they appear to have none of the paperwork designed to record who owned an object, where it was made, what it was used for and who donated it.

    The key to my work is finding ways to add value to these ‘waifs and strays’ and this has made me into something of a detective. When I first saw the galleon, it did ‘ring a bell’. I recalled seeing a picture of a model ship somewhere and was relieved to find that I wasn’t going mad when I rediscovered a photograph of the old Children’s Library at Oldham in the 1970s.  Lo and behold, there on top of bookshelves in the background, fuzzy but still discernible, was a model galleon.

    The Children’s Library was part of Oldham’s original 1883 Central Library and Museum, a building currently being redeveloped as a new Arts and Heritage Centre. Other photographs revealed a model fire engine, a lifeboat and a totem pole, all displayed in a way that reminded me of the shelves of the Blue Peter studio. An important part of my own 1970s childhood.

    Hobbies Weekly

    The galleon was, almost certainly made using a plan supplied by Hobbies Magazine in the 1920s or ‘30s. The ‘Hobbies’ company began trading in the 1890s and has continued to supply generations of modellers with tools, equipment and projects ever since. The craze for hobbies took off in middle-class homes after the First World War and Hobbies Weekly, “A Weekly Journal for Amateurs of Both Sexes” became a leader in what, even today, remains a male-dominated field.

    More leisure time and disposable income gradually became available; allowing those inclined to take up a fret saw, build a crystal radio set, pipe-rack, or perhaps even a scale model of a galleon. A quick look on the internet indicated that the model was probably the Santa Maria, flagship of Christopher Columbus who sailed to America in 1492.

    The Brighton Toy Museum even had a copy of a 1937 Hobbies Weekly that advertised a design, although sadly when I contacted them, it turned out that the pull-out plan itself had long since disappeared. Fortunately, I am quite handy and as the father of a five-year old, have had a lot of practice at piecing together tiny fragments of broken toys. So, in April, using images from the internet and the time on my hands I never expected to have, I was finally able to make the Santa Maria ship-shape again.

    The restored model

    Sadly, we still don’t know how Oldham Museum and Art Gallery came by the model ship, or who made it. However, it does now have a value and the newfound power to unlock several stories. It reminds us of the children’s library and its Blue Peter-like displays in a building we hope to resurrect and celebrate in the near future. It also says something about the rise of the hobby craze in the 1920s and, just as importantly, how people adapted to life in lockdown one hundred years later by doing lots of things they thought they’d never have the time for. It’s a story that all museums are anxious to tell.

    Find out more about our social history collection.

  3. Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

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    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards.
    Talks are given by gallery staff or guest speakers. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Upcoming talks:

    Wednesday 25 March, 1pm
    Find out more about Syn Shelton’s work documenting Rock Against Racism.

    Wednesday 15 April, 1pm
    Take a close look at the images in Matisse:Drawing with Scissors.

  4. Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Comments Off on Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards.
    Talks are given by gallery staff or guest speakers. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Upcoming talks:

    Wednesday 25 March, 1pm
    Find out more about Syn Shelton’s work documenting Rock Against Racism.

    Wednesday 15 April, 1pm
    Take a close look at the images in Matisse:Drawing with Scissors.

  5. Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Comments Off on Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards.
    Talks are given by gallery staff or guest speakers. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Upcoming talks:

    Wednesday 25 March, 1pm
    Find out more about Syn Shelton’s work documenting Rock Against Racism.

    Wednesday 15 April, 1pm
    Take a close look at the images in Matisse:Drawing with Scissors.

  6. Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Comments Off on Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards.
    Talks are given by gallery staff or guest speakers. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Upcoming talks:

    Wednesday 25 March, 1pm
    Find out more about Syn Shelton’s work documenting Rock Against Racism.

    Wednesday 15 April, 1pm
    Take a close look at the images in Matisse:Drawing with Scissors.

  7. Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Comments Off on Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards.
    Talks are given by gallery staff or guest speakers. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Upcoming talks:

    Wednesday 25 March, 1pm
    Find out more about Syn Shelton’s work documenting Rock Against Racism.

    Wednesday 15 April, 1pm
    Take a close look at the images in Matisse:Drawing with Scissors.

  8. Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Comments Off on Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards.
    Talks are given by gallery staff or guest speakers. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Upcoming talks:

    Wednesday 25 March, 1pm
    Find out more about Syn Shelton’s work documenting Rock Against Racism.

    Wednesday 15 April, 1pm
    Take a close look at the images in Matisse:Drawing with Scissors.

  9. Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Comments Off on Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards.
    Talks are given by gallery staff or guest speakers. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Upcoming talks:

    Wednesday 25 March, 1pm
    Find out more about Syn Shelton’s work documenting Rock Against Racism.

    Wednesday 15 April, 1pm
    Take a close look at the images in Matisse:Drawing with Scissors.

  10. Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Comments Off on Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards.
    Talks are given by gallery staff or guest speakers. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Upcoming talks:

    Wednesday 25 March, 1pm
    Find out more about Syn Shelton’s work documenting Rock Against Racism.

    Wednesday 15 April, 1pm
    Take a close look at the images in Matisse:Drawing with Scissors.

  11. Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Comments Off on Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards.
    Talks are given by gallery staff or guest speakers. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Upcoming talks:

    Wednesday 25 March, 1pm
    Find out more about Syn Shelton’s work documenting Rock Against Racism.

    Wednesday 15 April, 1pm
    Take a close look at the images in Matisse:Drawing with Scissors.

  12. Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Comments Off on Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards.
    Talks are given by gallery staff or guest speakers. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Upcoming talks:

    Wednesday 25 March, 1pm
    Find out more about Syn Shelton’s work documenting Rock Against Racism.

    Wednesday 15 April, 1pm
    Take a close look at the images in Matisse:Drawing with Scissors.

  13. Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Comments Off on Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards.
    Talks are given by gallery staff or guest speakers. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Upcoming talks:

    Wednesday 25 March, 1pm
    Find out more about Syn Shelton’s work documenting Rock Against Racism.

    Wednesday 15 April, 1pm
    Take a close look at the images in Matisse:Drawing with Scissors.

  14. Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Comments Off on Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards.
    Talks are given by gallery staff or guest speakers. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Upcoming talks:

    Wednesday 25 March, 1pm
    Find out more about Syn Shelton’s work documenting Rock Against Racism.

    Wednesday 15 April, 1pm
    Take a close look at the images in Matisse:Drawing with Scissors.

  15. Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Comments Off on Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards.
    Talks are given by gallery staff or guest speakers. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Upcoming talks:

    Wednesday 25 March, 1pm
    Find out more about Syn Shelton’s work documenting Rock Against Racism.

    Wednesday 15 April, 1pm
    Take a close look at the images in Matisse:Drawing with Scissors.

  16. Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Comments Off on Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards.
    Talks are given by gallery staff or guest speakers. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Upcoming talks:

    Wednesday 25 March, 1pm
    Find out more about Syn Shelton’s work documenting Rock Against Racism.

    Wednesday 15 April, 1pm
    Take a close look at the images in Matisse:Drawing with Scissors.

  17. Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Comments Off on Gallery Talks Series (Cancelled)

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards.
    Talks are given by gallery staff or guest speakers. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Upcoming talks:

    Wednesday 25 March, 1pm
    Find out more about Syn Shelton’s work documenting Rock Against Racism.

    Wednesday 15 April, 1pm
    Take a close look at the images in Matisse:Drawing with Scissors.

  18. In conversation with Mahtab Hussain

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    This FREE event celebrates the launch of our latest exhibition. From 1pm you can meet artist Mahtab Hussain and learn about the portraits in his ‘You Get Me?’ series. There will be an ‘In Conversation’ discussion of the exhibition from 1.30pm.

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and there is always time for a discussion and questions afterwards.

    Saturday 9 March, from 1pm

     

     

  19. Gallery Talks Series

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    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Wednesday 30 January, 1pm
    Join our Natural History curator Patricia Francis to find out more about the wildlife on display in the Oldham Stories exhibition.

     

  20. Gallery Talks Series

    Comments Off on Gallery Talks Series

    Our free lunchtime talks are informal and last around 40 minutes with time for a discussion and questions afterwards. All talks are drop in, no need to book.

    Saturday 12 January, 1pm
    Enjoy a guided tour around the Peace and Plenty exhibition with our social history curator and learn more about life in Oldham during the First World War.