Results of The Object of the Year competition 2022
WWII Baby’s Gas Mask
Royal Naval Patrol Service Museum
The British government issued gas masks for everyone to wear in the event of an airborne gas attack by Germany. The baby’s gas mask causes a lot of comments from people of all ages, especially children, which helps bring them into a serious, adult subject. We have found that even a lot of adults do not know about these and you can see families discussing it and the young children becoming more interested than they were when they first arrived. The fact that we display a life-size doll inside the gas mask really brings home the grim facts of war.
Harden ‘Star’ Fire Grenade
The Long Shop Museum
The grenade always invokes curiosity and engagement because at first glance it seems like a contradiction in terms. Why would you throw a grenade on a fire? Grenades like this were originally filled with a mixture of 72% water, 19% common salt and 9% ammonium chloride. When thrown on a fire, the ammonium chloride would heat to boiling point and produce fumes to ‘blanket’ the fire. In practice, this was not very effective.
Our display incorporates an example of the dramatic Edwardian advertising material for the grenade and, as it contains a potentially harmful substance, our warning labels and safety-centric method of display lend a frisson of danger to the object. Entire examples like ours are relatively rare – they were made to be broken, after all. The object also has a strong and slightly humorous connection with the museum. The grenade was one of a rack of eight that were installed in one of the Garrett workshops. Upon his departure from Garretts, a local employee ‘liberated’ a couple of the grenades, presumably to safeguard his home at the expense of his former employer. One of these grenades survived as an unlikely heirloom and was ‘returned’ to the museum by the descendants of the light-fingered employee.
West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village
We have chosen this skull as it has enabled us to gaze upon the face of a young Anglo-Saxon man who lived at West Stow around the year AD700.
At West Stow visitors can walk where Anglo-Saxons once walked, enter houses built on the same spot as their houses, see their tools, possessions, even the remains of their meals. However, it is only now that visitors can come face-to-face with the past – an Anglo-Saxon from West Stow!
That’s not all. This skull presented new opportunities to engage with the public through community involvement and the application of archaeological evidence and scientific research. Visitors to our Museum and Facebook site voted to name him Beornwine (warrior-friend). Examination of his remains revealed Beornwine was aged 16-20 years when he died. Archaeological evidence showed he was buried in the settlement alongside a young woman, flanking an entrance made by ditches. The facial reconstruction was completed by the world-renowned Face Lab research group based at Liverpool John Moores University. Community, archaeology and science working together to reveal the human face of West Stow.
The tiring and time-consuming task of shredding peel for marmalade was accelerated by the use of this handy Victorian kitchen gadget. Peel was pushed through the funnel at the back, using pressure applied with the wooden plug and was then cut by sweeping the blade side to side. The marmalade cutter in the Food Museum collection was made by Follows and Bate Ltd and spent most of its life in Aldridge and Bryant grocers in Rickinghall where it was rented out to customers for around sixpence per day. This ended in the 1950s, but the object continued being used at the grocers until the 1970s before coming to the Food Museum.
The marmalade cutter is now displayed clamped to a table inside the Domestic Life Victorian Kitchen. Popular with families, the unfamiliar object intrigues and fascinates visitors. It’s a great talking point, with staff asking visitors to consider what it might have been used for.
Making lockdown marmalade has been one of the top pandemic crazes, along with banana bread and sourdough starters, but most techniques require the maker to use a knife to carefully slice the peel. So perhaps it’s time we bring back these labour-saving peel cutters?
Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum
The Vickers Valetta is the largest aircraft in the museum collection and is located outside on the grass. It is an old military VIP transport aircraft that has both local and national connections. Remarkably, this is the last completely intact Vickers Valetta MK2 left anywhere in the world!
About a dozen members of the public can get on board at one time so families with young children can have a good look around. For example, she is unusual in that her passenger seats face rearwards unlike in a conventional airliner.
When she ended her RAF career, she was used at Norwich Airport by the Air Scouts. She became part of the museum in 1985 and has been popular ever since. She was ferried in by air under a Chinook helicopter as part of an RAF training mission. She has an unusual history in that this aircraft saw service in the Suez when our then Prime Minister Anthony Eden was flown out in her to sort the troubles. Younger members of the public thoroughly enjoy hearing the stories related to this aircraft.
The ‘Disgusting Spectacle’
Tim Hunkin, engineer and cartoonist, now living in Suffolk, is famous worldwide for his unique and eccentric collection of interactive machines. He has kindly loaned Southwold Museum one of his earliest penny arcade constructions. A reminder of seaside fun, past and present, the ‘Disgusting Spectacle’ is enjoyed equally by adults and children, so much so that we have a special collection of 20p pieces at the ready for people to make the sculpture do its disgusting deed!
Tim Hunkin wanted to find a face that looked naughty and impish and he has certainly achieved this by the remarks we hear from the visitors: ‘Great fun’ ‘What a lovely surprise’ ‘It is nice to see something quirky in the museum’.
The reason why we have chosen this item is because it puts a smile on people’s faces and seeing it encourages visitors to see the other gems we have on display in the museum.
Wind-up Electric Shock Swiss Cheese
The Red House
When we think about classical composers we tend to think of them as serious figures. Suffolk-born Benjamin Britten, perhaps this country’s greatest composer, had his serious side but visitors to the Red House, the home in Aldeburgh that he shared with his partner Peter Pears, see another side of him: home-loving, domestic, a lover of board-games and pranks, someone who in his own words remained about twelve years old in some respects.
This seemingly innocent piece of Swiss cheese symbolises this other side of Britten: it’s a joke, wind-up electric shock cheese, made in Germany in the mid-20th century and doubtless tried out on Britten and Pears’ guests. The Queen, and the Queen Mother, both visited the Red House: could they have been on the receiving end of this prank? We can only wonder…
Halesworth & District Museum
This coin is one of the finds of Iron Age gold coins discovered in Blythburgh, which the Museum purchased last year and has put on display this year.
From a distance the coin, due to its size, appears unremarkable, but when looked at closely and especially through a magnifying glass, the true skill and artistry in its creation is evident.
In a recent visit to the Museum by children from the Edgar Sewter Primary School, as part of Suffolk Artlink’s Special Delivery project, the children were asked about their favourite exhibit in the Museum and one that they would recommend to others. Nine-year-old Freya said that hers was the “coin with the monkey face”.
The “coin with the monkey face” is the unique Blythburgh Iron Age coin from 60-20BC. It is the only known example of this type of coin. Even the British Museum does not have one. Its strange patterns and images look abstract to modern eyes but they clearly meant something to the Iron Age people who used the coin.
Looking at one side you can see faces in the design, including the monkey face Freya could see. These abstract designs excite the imagination, especially in children.