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!

December guidance for Omicron variant

Due to the increasing spread of the Omicron variant, the Scottish Government has introduced new guidance to maintain a safe environment for staff and visitors. Most visitors have been wearing masks, as have staff and volunteers, but we are reminding people that they must be worn and to avoid crowded spaces and maintain social distancing during their visit. We have not re-introduced a one-way system yet but we may do so at some point.

Covid guidance for visitors.

The Wee Museum has been a wee bit quieter the last few weeks but we are still seeing a reasonable number of visitors per day. Again to keep the museum a safe space – and allow people to view our materal comfortably – we may limit numbers at times, if necessary.

We hope to remain open with a small number of staff over the holidays, but Government guidance may change and we may have to close to the public. Please do check our social media for information before visiting.

Even if we are not open, our staff and volunteers will continue to work from home: FB posts, designing booklets and newletters, planning new projects, applying for funding, collating information about our collection, updating the photo archive, recording and editing podcasts, and, of course, continuing our knitting project. We’ve completed a few squares – of varying sizes – and hope to start joining them together in the New Year

Knitted squares: completed and in production.

The uncertainty about the new variant means that we all have to be sensible and ensure everyone is as safe as possible. If we do close you can follow our work on our social media, and we look forward to welcoming visitors to our Wee Museum and to some new and exciting projects in 2022. Watch this space!

These are a few of our favourite things…

We put out a sweetie jar for visitors to leave their comments about their favourite objects in The Wee Museum of Memory and have had lots of interesting comments from people of all ages.

Wee Museum of Memory favourite object sweetie jar.

The Viewmaster has been described as having great 3D images. The Creamola Foam tin was named by a few people and someone even noticed their favourite Smiths Crisps packets.

Creamola Foam and Smiths Crisps packet.

The beauty and the hairdressing displays were also popular, in particular the heater rollers were a favourite with someone. The Daktari Album was the choice of a couple of visitors and brought back many memories for one in particular. The Cuisenaire counting rods reminded a visitor that they demonstrated how to use them to a school inspector when they were at Wardie Primary.

Dolls, the dolls’ house, toys and more dolls, and even more toys, as well as the reading sofa and balloons, are well-liked – and played with – by quite a few of our younger visitors. As are the old-fashioned Hoovers, typewriters and phones, which regularly receive hands-on investigation. One of our visitors was on the design team for the Viscount phone between 1979-1982 so this was his favourite in the collections.

One of our typewriters and a Viscount phone.

Changes in technology seem to intrique visitors – from early Hoovers and washing boards to rotary dial phones – and one noted that they found the Macintosh Classic interesting to compare with the newer IMacs. Perhaps because the screen is so small?

Macintosh Classic computer.

It’s always a pleasure to get this kind of feedback; it shows that our visitors respond to our collections and find objects in the our Wee Museum that they find interesting or remember. A couple of visitors loved everything …what more can we say to that?

Thank you to all our visitors who have supported us during 2021.

It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas…

We’re now in December so The Wee Museum of Memory is getting ready for Christmas with trees, tinsel and presents…

This week we had a visit from a group of lottery jackpot winners organised by Camelot, who brought us a new tree, decorations, presents and hampers for some of our regular users. Due to concerns about the new Covid varient, we decided not to hold a party as we had planned, so will give out the hampers individually. We’re sure that they will still be much enjoyed. May was delighted with her one yesterday.

Jackpot winners with some staff and volunteers.
Hamper with festive treats.

Kermit has been having a look at some of the presents under the tree and wondering if there is one for him…Maybe one of them might be a selection box or a Beano album? We’ve been sharing memories of our childhood Christmases with visitors: treats, family rituals, favourite foods…

Kermit with our new Christmas tree.

Some of our visitors have added their memories to our Christmas Memory Tree… ‘Dressing the tree and eating Christmas lunch together and then showing Granny my presents from Santa.’; ‘Making trifle on Christmas Eve with my dad and eating all the sponge fingers!’ ‘ Leaving my dad’s long woolly scout sock at the side of my bed. Having a good feel of it in the morning before starting to empty it. Always had a pack of chocolate cigaretts, a mandarin and a threepenny bit among other things.’ ‘Kids wanting to get up at 4.00 as Santa had been…LOL.’

There’s still room on the tree for your memories if you are passing.

Christmas Memory tree.

We are also pleased to have two new members of staff working on cataloguing our collection of objects: Louise and Naomi. This is going to be a mammoth task, as regulars will know our museum is packed with donations. Louise started earlier this year to help co-ordinate our application process for museum accreditation and Naomi started last month as part of the Government Kickstarter programme. Welcome and good luck!

Naomi and Louise starting work on our collections.

Welcome to The Living Memory Association blog…

Keep up to date with what’s been happening with LMA/Wee Museum of Memory.

Now that November has arrived and the Christmas decorations adorn Ocean Terminal it’s time for a few changes.

Coming soon: Bobby’s Christas trail. Bobby’s Heritage Trail which we ran during the summer was a great success so we are starting a new one for Christmas…Look out for more information on our FB pages.

Bobby in his Santa hat

We will also be putting up our Christmas memories tree and hope that our visitors will decorate it with their own memories of Christmas.

Christmas memory tree

Get out the knitting…

The knitting bug has continued to spread with Thursday mornings coffee and knitting with May had Louise, Delphine, Evelyn and Joyce picking up their needles while May gave Barry a lesson. Even Miles has been inspired to give it a go…

Miles getting a knitting lesson from Delphine