Oh dear me…it’s a sair fecht!

Cooking, cleaning, shopping, working, looking after bairns and auld folks, blethering with neighbours, paying the electric and gas, rent and insurance…it was all in a day’s (or week’s) work for our mums and grannies. One of the corners of our wee museum that gets a lot of attention is the one packed full of the paraphernalia of housework. From packets of Fairy Snow and Persil to blocks of Carbolic or Sunlight soap, our visitors recognise and remember a lot of the objects on display and can immediately recall seeing many of them being used on a regular basis.

Do you remember your mum or granny wearing this kind of pinny?

Wash day blues

Although we don’t have any copper boilers for washing, or early twin tubs, we do have a lot of other objects that were regularly used either in the local steamie or the outside wash-house before most households had access to washing machines. We have lots of wash-boards (although it is surprising how many visitors still want to donate them) which were used every wash-day – possibly at the big Belfast sink which was a feature of most tenement flats or single ends. We often use a selection of twentieth-century boards in our reminiscence sessions to spark a debate about the perceived merits of the glass ones over the Zinc or galvanised steel ones – we don’t have any all wooden ones which are even older. It is not quite clear if one was better than the other, but perhaps a compromise was the Duplex variety which combines both glass and steel. Of course the other use for washboards that some visitors demonstrate is as a musical instrument – often associated with the skiffle music of Lonnie Donegan.

Washing and cleaning materials, including a Duplex washboard.

Of course using a washboard required the use of solid soap blocks. We have a variety of soap blocks which are still recognisable – some have never been used; others have had a bit of use. Familiar brands such as: Lifebuoy, Knight’s Family Soap, Nubolic, Fairy, Wright’s Coal Tar, and of course, Carbolic and Sunlight. Many of these hardened blocks have retained their distinctive aroma and picking them up and sniffing can evoke memories of wash days – but also bath nights when the soap was also used to wash children!

Some younger visitors wonder what Orlando Jones Cold Water Starch or Colman’s Azure Blue were used for. Starch was recommended for ‘imparting a creamy colour to laces, muslins, frillings, and curtains…’, and once applied to the material would be ironed, resulting in a stiffened texture. Azure Blue – or perhaps more commonly Reckitt’s Blue Bag – was added to white washes to cancel any yellowness which developed on older white textiles.

Persil and Fairy Snow soap powders; Orlando Starch
and the familiar round canister of Vim.

We do have packets of Persil – ‘For your whitest white wash’ – and Fairy Snow washing powders for use in machines. Fortunately we also have a copy of ‘The Persil Plan for Home Washing’ booklet, which is full of handy hints about how to plan a weekly wash with or without a washing machine! Mrs Holiday of the Persil Home Washing Bureau can also be contacted for further advice…

She wis down on her knees scrubbing…

Washing the family’s clothes was a weekly chore but there was also the house and stair, close or step to maintain. Scrubbing the dirt with a bucket of water and a handbrush was how it was done. Cleaning was done using abrasives such as Chemico Household Cleaner. Vim or Ajax, and Flash powder – ‘The Cleaner for Every Task’ – came in later. Cardinal (green or red) tile polish were quite familiar brands for many households and were used for polishing the tiles at the doorstep. Silvo, or more often Brasso, was used to polish the brasses on the front door – shiny letterboxes and bell-pulls would stop any criticism from nosey neighbours. It was also the responsibility of all those living in a stair to clean and maintain common areas – the ‘It’s Your Turn’ card would be passed round each flat to remind them to sweep and clean the common stair.

Taking turns at cleaning the common stair card and weekly thrift box.

Beaters and sweepers…

Thrashing the carpets and rugs was another regular feature of keeping the house clean. Rugs would be thrown over the washing line and beaten as hard as possible with cane beaters. These beaters come in a variety of shapes and sizes (again despite visitors claiming not to have noticed any, we do have quite a number on display). The beating of rugs was sometimes allocated to children as a task that they could do without causing too much damage. Of course, the beaters also had another less pleasant application: some visitors recall them being used as a form of painful, corporal punishment.

A selection of our carpet beaters – sometimes used for corporal punishment.

The cane carpet beaters were then replaced by carpet sweepers – familiar to many by the brand name – Ewebank. These were developed in the late nineteenth century – the oldest version we have is made of wood. The more modern red Ewebank Major still works and was regularly used in the unit by one of our older volunteers. With electricity, the introduction of vacuum cleaners to households was a major social and culture change. Many were made by Hoover – ‘It beats as it sweeps, as it cleans’ – and the Junior models are recognised by many visitors who describe emptying the bags and patching frayed holes in the fabric of the bags with parcel tape, making them last as long as possible rather than replacing them with a new one. Heavy and cumbersome they may appear now, but they were a labour saving device that were much appreciated by many.

Some examples of carpet sweepers and early Hoovers.

Housework was hard, physical work – many visitors comment on how heavy many of the appliances or tools are and how strong their mums and grannies must have been. There was no need to go to the gym when there was housework to do, they say. It was hard work indeed, and many labour-saving devices have made our lives easier, but being reminded just how much ‘work’ our mums and grannies had to do should make us appreciate them even more.

School corner…from Cuisinaire rods to calculators.

Here in the Wee Museum we have objects donated from all aspects of our lives, from home and work life to technology and toys. Throughout the museum, tucked away in a corner or on a shelf, there will be something, often a small thing, that resonates immediately, and sometimes quite emotionally, with a visitor. All our memories are stored but are not always present in our mind – they seem hidden and not brought out regularly as we rush through the passing years, leaving the twentieth century behind. But then a picture on a box, the feel of a pram as it bounces on its springs, or the sound of the typewriter ping, reminds people of their favourite toy or biscuit, pushing their babies and messages down the street or learning to type at work.

School Corner.

Our school corner is a wee tableau of memory; a snapshot of changing teaching equipment and methods between the 1950s and 1980s. From writing out sums (simple additions and subtractions) in a jotter – pre-decimal – to working out calculations for trigonometry using slide rules. Just at the side of course, the teacher figure stands, well-equipped with gown, mortar board and a tawse or leather belt for the administration of corporal punishment. Physical punishing in schools was made illegal in Scotland in 1987, although it had stopped in most public schools before then. Many leather tawses were manufactured in Lochgelly, Fife, and some visitors refer to the straps as Lochgellies. It is interesting, and not a little disconcerting, to note that quite a few visitors can recount their memories of getting the strap – describing the thwack of the belt on the teacher’s desk, and the pain as they held out their two hands for the required number of strokes. Hands were held out together, palms up, one under the other, which was more painful than a single hand. Another form of punishment was the use of blackboard dusters which were thrown with painful accuracy at the heads of pupils. Experiences of being disciplined, perhaps because it was painful, embarrassing, a bit shocking, deserved or undeserved, have left acute and vivid memories with visitors who often describe them in detail.

On display, and we have more than one set in the collection, is a box of Cuisinaire rods. This was a system of learning to count in decimals using different coloured wooden blocks for each number up to 10. The idea was developed by a Belgium teacher, Georges Cuisinaire, in the 1950s. Cuisinaire felt that some students found traditional methods of teaching arithmetic difficult but using a system that was both visual and physical enabled some pupils to understand how numbers were connected by addition and subtraction. The system was not universally used in Scotland but was used in some schoolds in the 1960s and 70s. Again it is surprising how often visitors will exclaim excitedly ‘Oh I remember using those in primary school! Hadn’t thought about them for years…’. Tactile and colourful, seeing and feeling the rods prompt very immediate and powerful memories. These little blocks of wood can take people back to being aged 5 or so, first year in school, a time of change and new experiences.

Slide rule, jotter and Cuisinaire rods.

Scots mathematician John Napier’s work on logarithms (Napier’s bones) in the seventeenth century provided the basis for Englishman, Reverend William Oughtred to develop the instrument known as the slide rule. A basic slide rule helped solve complex problems as it was ‘relatively’ easy to use and was not expensive. It continued to be used to teach mathematics in schools, and by scientists and engineers, into the 1950s and 1960s as the use of computers was still very limited. An alternative to using the slide rule in school (I would question the use of the term ‘relatively’ as it proved beyond my ability) many people also remember Logarithm tables – probably the four figure version. These slim paper-covered booklets were helpful when required to do calculations involving large numbers, by using the log and then the antilog. It is a strange but little known fact that I can still remember the log for pi or 3.14 is 0.873, which is not been something I use much these days. Both systems of calculating mathematics might seem complicated for today’s generation but school day memories are jogged when visitors see them on display and can prompt an attempted explanation – especially if there are grandparents and grandchildren in the group. Cheap, handheld, calculators contributed to the decline in use of slide rules and log tables in schools and the workplace, although perhaps because they were solidly made we have several examples of slide rules in our collection.

Warwick Set of Mathematical Instruments. slide rule and jotter.

Maths class was something that not everyone enjoyed but it did at least involve extra equipment to help with drawing perfect triangles or circles or part circles. The set square, protractor, and compasses were needed to help show angles in geometry – acute, obtuse or right – or radius, diameter and circumference – that’s of course when 3.14 or pi comes into play – multiply the diameter by 3.14 to get the circumference. The geometry set that we have is The Warwick Set of Mathematical Instruments – A Complete Geometry Set, in a little tin box. Maybe you remember something similar?

If you would like to see our school corner pop in to The Wee Museum of Memory and share your own memories…

What will we do when we run out of space…?

When we opened up as a pop-up in Ocean Terminal we did not anticipate that we would have so many objects and memories donated by our visitors. At that time our policy was never to say no and to try to accept all donations ranging from the smallest bible which required a magnifying glass to read the print to a wardrobe and cabinet made by a local joiner; a 1950s kitchen cabinet to an empty cardboard box of Smarties; an early 1940s television to an Amstrad Notebook, as well as numerous early mobile phones. Lots of Singer sewing machines: treadle versions, hand and electric ones, as well as paper sewing patterns. Vacuum cleaners: Hoovers of all shapes, sizes and eras. Washboards: we’ve got glass ones and galvanised steel ones, and some that are a combination of the two. Typewriters, telephones, irons (flat, steam, coal, gas, paraffin and electric), kettles, teasmades, rolling pins, biscuit tins, iron shoe lasts aplenty (single and multiple ones), as well as stone hot water bottles of various sizes. Silver Cross carriage-built prams, dolls’ prams, and push-along and sit-on horses (as well as rocking ones). Boxes of Meccano, board games, desks with school books and jotters, and shelves of Ladybird early reader books. Guide and Brownie uniforms, BB and Scout uniforms, as well as canvas rucksacks and camping gear. Wedding dresses from the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Cameras galore, from Box Brownies and Kodak Instamatics to cine and video cameras. Think of any one thing from your life, from childhood to adult age, and it’s likely we will have it somewhere!

The Wee Museum of Memory

We started off in a unit on the ground floor of OT, then progressed up a level; we’re now in a much larger space on the second floor – and even here we do not have enough space to store and display our donations. Moving to an even bigger space seemed unlikely, but when Debenhams closed we came up with a cunning wheeze that we could move into it…a lunch time chat which had us all laughing! All the more disbelievingly when OT then actually approached us about running it as a community hub space…and so now we have The Wee Hub as well as The Wee Museum

Some of our collection on display in The Wee Hub

The longer-term objective to have The Wee Museum of Memory recognised as an accredited museum means, that we have had to review how we accept and record donations; as well as how we store and look after them. This means that we have to make sure our improved records are kept up-to-date with information not only about the donor but with photographs, and descriptions about the appearance and condition of the object. Donations have to be quarantined before they are processed in order to ensure that they do not introduce any infestations (such as moths – always a major concern for collections with textiles) or bookworm, which could spread to the rest of the displays. The next stage is recording where it will be stored or displayed (or loaned). Some donations have been moved back into storage to improve the displays in the public space and to make it easier for visitors to appreciate the objects when they are visiting the museum – we now also have an audio tour which includes descriptions and recordings of personal reminiscences which can be accessed via a Smartphone or using one of our MP3 players. And as we are a ‘hands-on’ space, a lot of our collection is handled by visitors – or borrowed by other groups for reminiscence. This means we have to record any change in condition – breakages or deterioration.

The Wee Museum of Memory collection processing and storage space.
It was a kitchen!

These procedures are all necessary so that we can achieve the required Spectrum standard for museum collections. The processing of ‘donation to display’ now takes much longer and it also means that individual donations have to be considered more carefully. Should we take another shoe last, stone hot water bottle, iron or camera? Can we find space for more sewing machines, prams and record players? Are boxes of miscellaneous objects going to be accepted?

More displays of our collections
in The Wee Hub

Without our donations we would not have any collections to display. Visitors have created this museum, but we now need to consider changes in policy going forwards. What do we do with donations in the future? How can we process and store them? This is a dilemma faced by virtually all museums. At the moment we are in the fortunate position of having the Wee Hub as extra space for displaying some of the collection. However this will not be permanent so there is no doubt that we will need to consider how and what we can realistically manage in the future… otherwise we might just burst at the seams!

We appreciate receiving donations very much, but what we love most are the memories that go with the donations – what made it special to your life, your family, your home. As we review our donations and collections, the importance of memories will continue be at the heart of our policies.

From Leith to Livingston

Although we are based in Edinburgh, we are not only an Edinburgh-focused organisation. In fact most of our collections – objects and memorabilia, photos, reminiscence recordings – contain material that resonates with people from all the ‘airts and pairts’. From Leith to Morningside, from Dundee to Musselburgh, from Glasgow to Manchester, and even further afield. For many of those who work at The Wee Museum and our visitors, our home lives, school lives, and work lives have more in common than we might at first think.

However, there are also location specific experiences that may be particularly unique to an area or community. LMA have worked with a number of local projects over the years, including Gala Days and Brass Bands in West Lothian. As well as The Wee Museum we have The Wee Hub in Ocean Terminal, but we are also working with Spirit of Leithers on their ‘Leith 1924’ project. Photographs of Leith Streets and those living there taken in 1924, which survived accidentally and have been recently digitised, are the framework and impetus for a project to record memories associated with the streets and digitise more photos of the area.

Cover of LMA/Spirit of Leithers 1924 booklet.
Photos of St Andrew Wynd and detail of Edinburgh (Leith) Improvement Scheme 1924 plans.

Another project we have running is the Wee Museum of Memory in West Lothian. This is based in the Centre, Livingston and the collection displays are similar to our unit in Ocean Terminal, although on a smaller scale. The window displays are often created by a volunteer Cathy, who has been doing this for a number of years. She particularly likes the fashions of the 1950s and 1960s and has often used material from her own collection to supplement objects from the museum.

Window display in Wee Museum of Memory in Livingston.

Other exhibition material at West Lothian varies, and did feature panels from the ‘Strike up the Band’ Brass Band project. Currently the wall exhibition focuses on celebrating the 60th anniversary of the creation of the new town of Livingston. Emma, from West Lothian Museum Services, has been interviewing and recording memories about the early decades of the town – and also the changing look of the shopping centre itself. Some of the panels on display were part of the marketing campaign – Make it in Livingston – that was used to promote businesses in the new town: Cameron Iron, Norville Optical, and Yale etc.

‘Make it in Livingston’ panels.

Part of the marketing scheme was a television advert promoting the benefits of moving to the developing new town. The short film is accompanied by Brass Band music, and some of the memories of being involved in the filming were shared when we were interviewing banders for ‘Strike up the Band’. Although many bands were associated with the older, mining villages, Brass bands are an important cultural influence throughout West Lothian.

Television advert promoting Livingston featuring brass band music.

Enjoy a visit out to West Lothian!

Wee Museum of Memory – focus on collections…

This month’s blog will focus on a selection of objects from our collections and how we are starting to collate and catalogue data.

Collections management system

Since the end of last year we have been working on developing and updating our policies and procedures in order that The Wee Museum of Memory can apply for accredited museum status. One of the most crucial areas that needed work was the collections management system (SMS). The photos that have been donated have been entered into an online searchable archive for a number of years. However, although the majority of our objects donated by members of the public often have some personal or family information, we have not previously used any formal collections management system for our physical objects and materials.

Our online photo archive – hosted by Edinburgh Collected.

We lacked the courage to attempt anything for the huge amount of social history objects and ephemera that comprise our displays – the task was way too daunting! However, we are very fortunate to be able to employ two new members of staff – Louise and Naomi – to update our administrative systems, research the objects and start inputting data into an online archive that will be searchable once it has gone live. The data input is being done by Louise and Naomi supported by a small team, some of whom are working remotely.

Our online collections catalogue – hosted by eHive (currently not live).

Forms, forms, forms…

The data that is entered onto the eHive catalogue includes descriptions, dates, object types, and images, as well as using the Social History and Industrial Classification (SHIC) system which means objects will be indexed under: Community life, Domestic and family life, Personal and Working life.

New donation forms.

Upgraded donation forms have been introduced and we have a safety procedure for new objects which are quarantined before they are processed. This is to minimise the potential spread of moths, bookworm or foxing or any other form of infestation. Louise is improving our storage system as well … the opening and dressing of The Wee Hub downstairs has enabled us to free up storage space in the Wee Museum.

Collections storage system…

QRs and virtual tours …

One of the reasons that the collections needed to be managed more effectively is so that the objects, their history, and any associated personal history (sometimes as a recorded reminiscence) can be accessed by visitors more easily – including those who may not be able to visit in person. Barry, our IT expert, has introduced QR codes for some of the collection as well as creating our first virtual tour. Using the wonders of modern technology, visitors can be guided by his dulcet tones, interspersed with recordings of stories and memories from past visitors and regulars.

Visitors can now take a virtual tour of the Wee Museum of Memory.
Or they can find out more using QR codes…

Focus on…tea and coffee

We have so many interesting and varied objects which may be quite ordinary but are sometimes unique; bring their own personal stories or might connect with the lives of many visitors. The personal, as well as the social, history available using our CMS might be a potential research resource for particular objects or themes, particularly once the collection is available on-line.

Let’s look at some objects more closely. Here are some of our mid 20th-century tea and coffee utensils…

Goblin teasmade – 1970s.

Making its first appearance in the 19th century, the ‘alarm that makes tea’ reached its peak in the 1960s and 1970s and many were produced under the Goblin trademark. The example we have is typical of the time and style and may be very familiar to visitors.

Insulated ceramic teapot, 1950s.

This 1950s’ insulated teapot, made of ceramic with a chrome cover, was part of a wedding gift given to the donors. It came with an insulated water jug. It was donated to us by the couple who wanted it to be displayed so that other people could see it and share its memory.

Traditional aluminium teapot, 1950s.

This example of a small aluminium teapot with clear handle and Bakelite button on the lid, is evocative of many a family’s memories. Was the tea made with tea leaves, and how strong did your granny make it? This teapot was made in Stratford upon Avon; the products were known as Sona ware and were made by N C Joseph during the 20th century. With a small spout and a raised decorative trim round the middle, and stained with tea inside, this is nice example of a well-used teapot.

1970s Russell Hobbs coffee percolator

The Russell Hobbs coffee percolator from the 1970s conjures up memories of the plop plop gurgling sound, as it sat in the corner brewing fresh hot coffee to be served in the special small coffee cups which would be produced from the back of the cupboard at Christmas and New Year – or at least that’s my personal memory. Made of stainless steel, with a wooden handle and button on the lid, this style of coffee maker is still in vogue today but for many visitors – and staff – it reminds them of their own childhoods.

1970s coffee pot made by Picquot.

Picquot ware was made from a magnesium-aluminium alloy, called ‘Magnaillium’ in Nottingham between 1947 and 1980. The handle was made of sycamore wood and the tea and coffee pots were cast in one piece. Although this is listed as a coffee pot it might also have been used as a hot water pot along with a teapot. Perhaps you remember this type of coffee pot or maybe you got some Picquot ware as a wedding present?

LMA @The Wee Hub

Things are happening @The Wee Hub…For the last few weeks we have been working hard to clear and re-organise what was Debenhams in Ocean Terminal, into a usable space for community and heritage groups, as well as create an interesting venue for visitors of all ages. Our team of hubbers – Miles, Caroline, Lexi, Ewan, Ruth and anyone else who happened to be around at the time to lend a hand at furniture moving, painting, design and printing (a special thanks to Delphine for her signage and design) – have done an amazing job turning what was two very large floors filled with shop fittings and furnishings into manageable and identifiable themed areas and group spaces.

The Wee Library.

The first groups have been in…We are now beginning to open up and welcome groups to the hub. The first groups to use the Wee Hub have been Sikh Sanjog for a book launch; ‘Giraffe about Town’ a studio space where artists are painting giraffes for Edinburgh Zoo’s newest sculpture trail; Pianodrome who are turning old pianos into sculptures and installations, and a crafting workshop with House of Jack.

Over the next few weeks Salle Holyrood Fencing, Thistle Model Railway Makers, Think Circus, Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, Tinderbox, Citadel Youth, and Street Soccer will be bringing their equipment and setting up their group spaces either on the ground or on the first floor. Newhaven Heritage are also moving into an area near our own Wee Hub Library.

Wee areas…Other sections on the first floor include: a play area and an art area showcasing art work done by David Nicol during lockdowns and also by Ewen one of our young volunteers who is creating his own ‘Superheroes’ Space…

David Nicol’s artwork.
The Wee Hoppers play area.

There is also a dance space – we are hoping to arrange a tea dance soon – as well as for performance: music, singing etc. We have a number of dance outfits from different eras: formal dances in the 1950s, disco numbers from the 1970s and a lycra outfit which was very much the fashion for disco workouts in the 1980s (thank you Caoline!). We are looking for more dance hall fashions – particularly men’s ones – so if you have a Zoot suit or a pair of Oxford Bags hiding away in your attic we would love to dress up a mannequin and add it to the display!

The Wee Theatre and Dance area.

Although the Wee Hub is still in its early days and is still evolving, we are open for visitors to explore the space – as well as see the work being done by groups.

Decorate a Mannequin…There were quite a few naked and abandoned mannequins left in the unit so we would like community groups or individuals to paint, dress or decorate them in any way they want which can be included in our display. Get in touch if you would like to pick up one and let your imagination run free…!

We are open daily, 11.00 to 4.00 pm so pop in and have a look round.

Welcome to the Wee Hub.

Blethers and Biscuits…

Although The Wee Museum of Memory/Living Memory Association was able to open up and welcome visitors once Lockdowns were lifted, it has not been possible – for Covid safety – to have groups in for reminiscence sessions – blethers and biscuits and cups of tea!

However we are delighted to be open for groups again. A group from Pilmeny came along last week, many of whom were Leith born and bred. However even those who were not were able to share memories about doing the washing – or watching their mums do it. A few remembered going to the local Steamies and shared those experiences, as well as debating the relative benefits of carbolic soap, Persil, Dreft or Fairy Snow. Although most of the group were ladies, the couple of men who were present demonstrated how to play the washboard with thimbles. Everyone knew about skiffle music although no-one admitted to being in a band.

Wash day equipment.

Memories about which scone recipe was best, saving money for rent and insurance and getting money back when the man emptied the electric/gas meter were shared, but the final test was a quick check on who remembered their mum’s co-op number – almost all the group did.

Getting the teas and coffees sorted!

Before the group started we were a wee bit anxious about how it would go: would we have forgotten how to reminisce? Our fears were needless as once we managed to sort out all the teas and coffees: milk, no milk, two sugars, no sugar, we were off! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and a big thank you to the Pilmeny group and Mary for coming along.

Who remembers Carbolic Soap?

Today we reintroduced the Melodies and Memories sessions with a selection of familiar tunes from a few popular musicals: My Fair Lady, Oliver, Oklahoma, South Pacific, The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz. It was fun to reminisce about these films as well as share stories about trips to different parts of America. Although it is not ideal singing while wearing a mask, it was therapeutic to breath deeply and sing out loud: no-one cared if you didn’t know the words – or even the tune. We were all laughing and smiling and glad to have been singing about beautiful mornings as the sun shone over the Firth of Forth.

Consider yourself part of the furniture…

Although it was just a small group of some of our regulars for our first session, we look forward to welcoming others next month – new visitors welcome! It will be on Thursday 21 April at 11.00 am.

Oh what a beautiful morning!

If you would like to bring a group for blethers and biscuits – or join in the singing session get it touch: comhist@googlemail.com

If it wasn’t for our volunteers…

Where would we be…? This month’s blog celebrates the much-appreciated contribution to the work of Living Memory Association and the Wee Museum of Memory by our volunteers, some of whom have been part of the team for many years.

Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, ages and experience. They can come along for a couple of hours a week or for a couple of days. Some of our volunteers are retired but they bring to our organisation their life stories and skills. In our current location that can mean a connection with Leith or Newhaven. Whatever their background, they bring their family history or knowledge, as well experiences from their working lives to share with us and our visitors.

Stan and Maureen have been with us since we moved to Ocean Terminal. Both are born and bred in Leith, and they are a source of local knowledge, history and stories. They have contributed to reminiscence sessions and their photos have been donated to our archive and have featured in a number of displays and other projects. But, very importantly, they welcome visitors to the museum and encourage sharing of other people’s memories and reminiscences. Covid, associated restrictions and health issues have meant that neither has been able to help recently, but we hope they will both be back in some capacity soon – even if it is just to visit.

1st Leith Boys’ Brigade camp, 1948 with Stan.
Maureen aged 5.

John is another local volunteer who started with us when we moved into Ocean Terminal. As we are open seven days a week, we do need help to cover weekend days and John comes along on Sundays as our welcomer and guide. His stories and photos have also featured in our reminiscence work, in particular his love of cars and motorbikes.

John on his Lambretta, 1964.

Volunteering tasks can vary depending on personal taste and skills and Mark’s previous work experience with Edinburgh City Libraries means he is a whizz with indexing and cross indexing (by title and artist) and keeping our record index catalogue neat and tidy.

Mark, with Louise and Delphine.

Caroline is a relative newcomer to our team. Her first task was to tidy up the storage of the ever-increasing record collection. This meant she hid out in the dedicated record cupboard with boxes and labels and organised them neatly, sensibly using an A-Z system! Her current task is helping co-ordinate potential users and space in the empty Debenhams. She can be found enthusistically sticking post-it notes onto A1 floor plans and, hopefully, we will see some of these start up properly next month. Look out for model trains, painted giraffes, fencing, Newhaven history, and many others. She is also one of a group of staff and volunteers who are starting inputting data onto our online collections catalogue.

Caroline helping with collections database.

Over the years we have had a number of other volunteers. Donald brought his years of administrative experience and helped organise our filing systems. Jean, who had worked in banking until she retired, helped with the photographic archive and also used her artistic and design skills to produce booklets and displays, as well as the miniature models of the tenement flats, the 1940s house and the pub. These models continue to attract a lot of interest and are regularly tidied up by some of our younger visitors. Stefan and Darren who were in S4, also came in on Fridays and Saturdays for a couple of years. They took on small projects: photographing some of the collection or doing a bit of research. They also did some work in our recording studio.

Evelyn cutting labels for vistor feedback.

However the LMA/Wee Museum of Memory team would not be complete without Evelyn. She has volunteered since we were based in the south side of Edinburgh and has stuck with us, from then until now. She is the epitome of volunteering and helps out with any part of our work: reminiscing with groups of older visitors or school children (she was a teacher), interviewing, proof reading booklets (she is a harsh marker when it comes to commas), making tea, cutting up paper, collating feedback and anything that needs done. Since Covid she has posted photos from our archive on our FB page on a daily basis: the comments these generate have been used in our themed newsletters which have been going out to carehomes.

For everyone who works or volunteers at the Wee Museum, a cheery face to welcome and engage visitors, flexibility, and a very good sense of humour, are crucial to working at the Wee Museum of Memory. If you think you might fit in then do get in touch.

Some of our staff and volunteers making music with bits and pieces.

It’s 2022 and there’s lots to do!

Exciting news for LMA/Wee Museum of Memory, Ocean Terminal and the local community…

We can confirm that LMA will be running the empty Debenhams unit as a Community Heritage and Culture Hub. The unit is very big – two large floors and a restaurant area – so we hope that it will provide space and opportunities for a whole range of community activities.

This once was Debenhams.

When we sat down to discuss the possibilities our list grew quickly… At the moment we plan to use the ground floor as a heritage centre for Leith, working with Spirit of Leithers to expand their displays and organising themed areas for people to sit and watch films or slide shows about local history. Over the coming months we would love to work with any Leith-based group: perhaps art projects painting scenes of Leith streets on the walls or exhibitions by any community/culture groups in Leith. Even as a starting point for guided tours of Leith…

Ground Floor – Leith Heritage area.

We intend the upper level to be less Leith focused and available for any groups who need space and have little or no finance to pay for hire of halls etc: it’s free! Youth groups, choirs, theatre, bands or art groups could use some of the space for rehearsals, workshops, and performances or displays. We are planning a dedicated stage area with seating and floor space for audiences and dancing – tea dances or themed events based around the music of different decades and style – wartime, 1970s disco, ceilidhs…

Space for dances – or giraffe painting?

We have worked with a range of other groups in the past, including Leith Labs and Citadel Youth, and hope that these collaborations will continue and expand, as well as develop new projects with some of the other organisations in Ocean Terminal such as House of Jack dance studio, Projekt 42, Leith Collective, Street Soccer.

Working with such a vast space and a lot of different groups will mean there will be plenty of opportunities for volunteers of all ages and backgrounds. We also hope we will be able to offer a number of Kickstarter employment opportunities for young people.

There’s lots to do!

If you are interested in helping or need some space for your project/group get in touch…

Happy New Year

Behind the scenes at LMA/Wee Museum of Memory.

We have reached 2022 and hope that, despite worries about Covid, this will be another exciting year for LMA and The Wee Museum of Memory.

We have a lot going on behind the scenes at The Wee Museum which is usually not seen by visitors to the unit. In the office, our archivist David has systematically worked through and updated the records for our photographic archive. There are over 4000 photos in the collection and the online version is hosted by Edinburgh Collected. He is also responsible for maintaining a level of tidiness in the office – and the kitchen – that puts the rest of us to shame! Thank you David.

The photograph archive.

We also have a large – and ever increasing – collection of records. Mostly 78s (a few 45s and 33s in the mix) and mostly Shellac which is both more brittle and heavier than vinyl. The storage of the record collection has proved challenging but the creative hands of Miles and the organisational skills of volunteer Caroline have worked wonders in making the collection much more accessible. It is now possible to find particular recordings on request. There is always work to be done however, and there are still some letters to be organised – as well as incorporating new additions. As well as storing the records, they have also been indexed by another volunteer Mark; both tasks have taken many hours of patience. Thank you Caroline and Mark!

Kermit trying to help with the record collection.
The sound studio

Of course the records need somewhere to be played and this is our recording studio space with two decks and sound proofing. It is here that Miles spins his selections and records podcasts. The studio is also used when we record reminiscences.

Staff and volunteers alike contribute in lots of different ways to our work and as a charity we rely on grants and donations and are very grateful for the support we have been given and continue to get. Thank you to all our funders and also to visitors who have helped. Every penny helps!

Our current funders.

Looking forward to new and exciting news in 2022: work is continuing with our application for museum accreditation and we are expanding our physical space, as well as increasing our remit, to co-ordinate the space that was previously Debenhams, into a community heritage and cultural hub. We’ll keep you posted on future developments!