My week at the People’s History Museum

A guest post by work experience placement Matthew Heywood

Nottingham City NALGO banner

As a student entering my second year of college and with university applications coming up, work experience is a very useful process to get involved in. And with a desire to take up a degree in history, the People’s History Museum was the ideal location for a relevant, engaging and insightful work placement.

During my week here I have taken part in many of the activities which constitute working life at the People’s History Museum. These include making a display for the ENGAGE 25th anniversary meeting, photographing objects for the archives and evaluating visitor comments.
A notable experience was researching a banner from the 1989 NALGO strike in Nottingham, which took place in protest against the anti-union actions of Margaret Thatcher’s government, to produce a label for the 2015 banner display.

My week here at the People’s History Museum has proved highly insightful and demonstrated the hard work and dedication that goes into its day-to-day functioning and maintenance. For anyone looking for work experience, interested in social history or curious about how a museum really works, a work placement at the People’s History Museum is something I would highly recommend.


PHM summer holiday fun!

FF Cafe basketThe summer holidays are here and to celebrate we have a brilliant family friendly basket in The Left Bank cafe bar.

Filled to the brim with exciting things including copies of our museum book Mr Ordinary’s Prize, bee finger puppets, colouring sheets, crayons, jigsaws, and game sheets!

Also on at the museum this summer is a free Stag & Lion treasure hunt, free family explorer bee bags and free craft table.

We also have story sessions and pARTicipate art sessions for a small donation. These events are bookable via Eventbrite. See our what’s on for details.

With free museum entry and free picnic spaces there is no excuse not to come along and join in the PHM summer family fun!


Family memories and objects from World War I

A post from our Curatorial Assistant, Josh Butt

People's CaseAs the commemoration of the beginning of World War I fast approaches we will reflect on the far reaching consequences of the war. Nations were shattered, governments overthrown and millions of people’s lives were changed forever. With such great global cost, the personal impact of war is often brushed over. Yet the history of World War I is in the family stories and memories of thousands of people around the world.

With this in mind we have been asking people to contribute their objects and family memories to our ‘people’s case’ which sits in A Land Fit For Heroes: War and the Working Class 1914-1918 exhibition. So far visitors have contributed several stories of soldiers who fought in the war and the women who anxiously awaited there return.

Harold William Melville WattsOne of those who returned was Sue Watts’ Grandfather Harold William Melville Watts. Harold was born in India to Anglo-Indian parents. He arrived in England for the first time in 1914 as part of the Cheshire Regiment and while he was stationed in Cheshire he met his wife Amy; he kept a photo of her through the entire war.

Although Harold fought in a British regiment many soldiers came from the Commonwealth to fight. The contribution of Commonwealth troops is often neglected in our commemoration of the war, yet by the end of the war the subcontinent supplied 1.4 million men to the war effort which was more than Scotland, Wale and Ireland together.

The last items of Thomas Walter DavenportOne of those who didn’t return from the war was Martin Faulkner’s Grand-Uncle Thomas Walter Davenport. In the case are Thomas’ remaining items including the shrapnel that ended his life, his cap badge, his dentures and his spectacle lenses. These items were returned to his mother by the nurse who was with Thomas in his final hours. Like so many others he was wounded at the Somme in 1916; he later died in a military hospital behind the lines. Thomas was one of the hundreds of thousands of men to die at the Somme, yet to see and hear his story is to understand what one death meant to a whole family, who go and visit his grave in France every year.

If you have a story or object about a family member involved in World War I in any way, be it conscientious objector, munitions worker or member of the armed forces and would like to see them in this exhibition then let us know. Please email with details of the object, the story behind it in less than 50 words and we’ll select the most appropriate and put it in the case for a short period while the exhibition is up.

Work in Progress – the first week

work in progressMy first week of essentially being a museum exhibit has been slightly surreal!  My office is now based in our Work in Progress exhibition and I’ve been struggling to come to terms with leaving the hustle and bustle of the office and being ‘on show’.  One of the main challenges has been feeling quite lonely without my colleagues, but I’ve had a few visitors come and say hello.  Not as many as I expected, however, so if you are in the building I’m happy to answer any questions about the project.

We kicked off the week by hosting our Acquisitions meeting in the Studio space. Members of the Collections and Engagement team met to discuss potential object and archive donations to the museum. We decided to acquire material from the public sector strikes on 11 July 2014, including leaflets, a placard and even a NUT hat. If you’re interested in donating any objects to the museum, you can find out more here.

Curated Placed launched our workshop programme with their Secret Cities: Immersion – Manchester Cityscape Workshop 1 on Monday.  The workshop was sold out and I’m excited to see how the project develops.

We’ve confirmed details of two new workshops as part of the programme. In Art of Protest on Tuesday 5 August artist David Perkins will help you to create your own protest art.  Re-Telling: Scapegoats, Media & Politics on Thursday 4 September will explore the impact of scapegoating in politics and the media.  No More Page 3 also popped in to start planning a workshop that they’ll be hosting on 13 September.  Full details to follow soon. If you’d like to host a workshop as part of Work in Progress then please get in touch.

To fill the gaps between all our exciting workshops and meetings we’ve created some activities for you to do.  Hold the Front Page! lets you create your own headlines of what you think is newsworthy. Every day I’ve printed off the front pages of all the national newspapers, and there’s been a very interesting mix of stories. Unsurprisingly, the only day all the papers agreed was Friday, with near-identical front pages reporting the atrocity of the MH17 crash.

Unfortunately our badge machine was a bit poorly so has had to be sent to machine hospital.  Once it’s been discharged you can make badges telling us how you’ve Played Your Part or plan to Play Your Part.

Debate chalkboardWe’ve been asking you to contribute to the debate and we’ve had some interesting responses on our chalkboard.  We’ve also set up a suggestions box, and comments have included ‘slavery should stop’ and ‘cool! I love it!’.

We met Harriet Andrews from Uprising who told us about their fantastic leadership projects for young people, including My Voice My Vote, a year long project in the run up to the general election.  Hopefully there will be lots of scope to work together on our Election! exhibition.

We also had a meeting with Jeff Evans from LGBT History Month to discuss plans for Manchester in Love, a groundbreaking LGBT history conference in February.  Jeff has also been helping to develop our LGBT history tour, which you can come along to on Friday 22 August.

Jamie from Friends of London Road Fire Station popped in to drop off some photographs, campaign materials and artwork.  I’ll be putting them up this week.  If you’re interested in highlighting your campaign in this way, then please get in touch on 0161 838 9190 or email

We rounded off the week with a visit from Sheng-Wei Chang, a researcher from the 2014 International Human Rights Exchanging Program in Taiwan, who was interested in finding out more about the museum as they are setting up a Human Rights museum.

I’m excited to see what this week holds – lots more meetings, our engage NW Area meeting and the first of our Microresidencies.

Work in Progress has begun

12 July - 14 September 2014, Work in Progress @ People's History Museum (4)

Find out more about our Play Your Part project in our Office Space. Come say hello!

12 July - 14 September 2014, Work in Progress @ People's History Museum (20)

Our Workshop Space will hold events, activities and meetings

I’m very excited to be writing this blog in my new office, right in the heart of our new Work in Progress exhibition.  We’re going to have an exciting, experimental nine weeks. There’ll be workshops, meetings, artists, activists, badgemaking, debating and much much more!  Find out what’s coming up on our website here.  We’ll be adding more to the programme as we go, so keep checking back.  So pop in, say hello and Play Your Part!

12 July - 14 September 2014, Work in Progress @ People's History Museum (15)

Discuss current events and historical campaigns in our Debate Space

12 July - 14 September 2014, Work in Progress @ People's History Museum (14)

Three artists will base their studios here during their Microresidencies


Meet the artists…. Sashwati Mira Sengupta & Jaydev Mistry

Sashwati Mira Sengupta & Jaydev MistryIn a series of blog posts we will get to know the artists who will be taking part in our Microresidencies project a little better.  First up are Sashwati Mira Sengupta & Jaydev Mistry who will be resident in Work in Progress from Fri 25 – Tues 29 July.

Have you collaborated together before?

No, we have known each other for a long time and we both have a shared political interest in our diverse communities and the struggles they have faced and their collaborations with the working class movement in the UK. Through the residency we are both looking forward to finally be working together.

What attracted you to apply for the Microresidencies project? Have you done anything like this before?

We have always enjoyed our visits to the PHM, the history of the lives of working class people is of great importance to us and helps us better understand the struggles that people face today.  The Microresidency is an opportunity to explore the museum’s archives and tap into the expertise that exists there.

Jaydev has been artist in residence at the Contact Theatre: Jaydev’s project there looked into the connections between Manchester and India relating to the cotton trade, India’s Independence struggle and how the warehouses that once stored cotton from the Indian Sub-continent have and still are used for hosting musical events such as club nights and gigs.

Sashwati sees this as a perfect way to combine her interests in music and trade-unionism and she has never done anything like this before

Can you tell me a bit about what you’re planning on doing for your Microresidency….

We shall be exploring the museum’s exhibits and archives and create a soundscape/musical composition and visual response relating to Migrant communities and how they have helped change the course of workers rights in the UK.

What should our visitors expect when they come to your studio?

Visitors should expect objects, documents, musical instruments and a mobile recording facility. They will be able to observe the creation of a soundscape/composition responding to the material we uncover. Also, we shall be encouraging victors to contribute their thoughts and/or experiences, which we shall record and possibly include in the composition.

Do you have a favourite object/display in the PHM?

Jaydev: I love the trade union banners because to me they are a window into the hopes, struggles and lives of the working class.

Sashwati: the section on the Spanish Civil War because it represents Internationalism and the lengths that people will got to for solidarity across the world.

If you could meet any person living or dead, who would it be?

Jaydev: Stephen Hawking

Sashwati: Mangal Pandey who led the 1857 Indian uprising that the British referred to as the Sepoy  mutiny.

If you had a time machine that could only go forwards or backwards in time, would you like to see the past, or visit the future?

Jaydev: The future.

Sashwati: the past, to the 1926 General strike.

What’s your idea worth fighting for?

The ongoing global fight for equality.

Was the “real” Anzac biscuit … a gingernut?

One of my best friends from uni has been living in New Zealand for the past few years and now has a very exciting job at the New Zealand Sound Archive.  She posted the story of Mrs Banard and her biscuits (with the recipe!) on Facebook a few weeks ago.  In her interview Mrs Banard said ‘please pass on the recipe’ and so we’re thrilled to be able to share it on this side of the world. I made the biscuits this weekend and have shared them with PHM staff. This guest blog is by Camilla Wheeler and Sarah Johnston of Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero and is very kindly republished courtesy of Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero and The New Zealand Film Archive.

A 1965 radio interview held in the collection of Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero has shed light on the home-baking sent by New Zealand women to our soldiers during World War I, and the incredible baking and fund-raising efforts of one woman in particular.

On Gallipoli, food parcels from home must have been one of the few bright points in the Anzac soldier’s generally abysmal diet, which largely consisted of fatty, salty, tinned “bully beef” and rock-hard ship’s biscuits.

New Zealand families and the Red Cross organised parcels containing tinned luxuries such as condensed milk, coffee and cocoa, as well as home-made biscuits and sweets. Most famous of course, is the Anzac biscuit, and with the centenary of the 1915 Gallipoli landings fast approaching, the debate over its origins seems set to rival the Great Pavlova Debate .

Food historians on both sides of the Tasman have been delving into vintage recipe books in a bid to see whether Australia or New Zealand can claim to be the originator of the rolled oat and golden syrup concoction:

(For the record, New Zealand is ahead in the race, with a cookbook published in 1919 featuring a recipe for “Anzac Crispies,”  two years before Australia’s earliest entry in a 1921 cookbook.)

But whether it was baked first in a kitchen in Kerikeri or Coolangatta, the Anzac biscuit as we know it was most likely too fragile and perishable to last the long sea voyage to the distant Dardanelles. Instead, it is believed its name came from marketing-savvy home-bakers, who attached the name “Anzac” to their oaty biscuits to promote sales at Red Cross fundraising stalls, sometime after the 1915 landings.

One home-baked treat which was actually enjoyed by soldiers in the trenches from Gallipoli to the Western Front, was the gingernut biscuit – and most likely it was baked to a recipe made famous by a Taranaki woman, Helena Marion Barnard, who received the British Empire Medal for her efforts.

Mrs Barnard, originally from Nelson, was living in Eltham with her husband, daughter and eight sons when World War I broke out in August 1914. Six of her boys were to serve in that war, three of them on Gallipoli. Two of them were to die in the conflict, with the other four suffering illness, shell shock or serious wounds.

In this recorded interview made at the time of her 100th birthday in 1965, Mrs Barnard talks about how she first started making gingernut biscuits prior to the war, for her sons to take tramping, or “pioneering,” as she puts it.

[Listen to the audio on the Sound Archives blog here –]

 Interview with Helena Marion Barnard, 1965.
[Archival audio from Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of Copyright. To request a copy of the recording, contact SANTK.]



Helen Marion Barnard in April 1965, on her 100th birthday, with her surviving sons, Frank, Jim and Joe. [photo courtesy of Winsome Griffin]

Helen Marion Barnard in April 1965, on her 100th birthday, with her surviving sons, Frank, Jim and Joe. [photo courtesy of Winsome Griffin]

With the advent of World War I, she again baked the long-lasting biscuits and packed them into tins to send to her sons and other soldiers overseas. Her biscuits were unusually small – about the size of a shilling, so the men could fit a handful in their pockets. She says she packed them into cocoa or golden syrup tins lined with newspapers, so the boys would have some reading material as well, while they ate.


Throughout World War I, Mrs Barnard baked hundreds of pounds of the treats which were distributed to New Zealand and other Empire soldiers through the Red Cross. As well as baking, she knitted socks and balaclavas for the troops and raised money to buy a motor-ambulance for the Army.

An article from the local newspaper in 1916, gives some insight into how the women of the Eltham district were raising money for the ambulance, and the sort of foods and other “comforts” they were sending to their boys, including “Mrs H.J. Barnard 15 lbs home-made gingernuts, 4 pairs mittens.”

["Hawera and Normanby Star," 17 August 1916. Reproduced courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.]

[“Hawera and Normanby Star,” 17 August 1916. Reproduced courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.]

After the war, Mrs Barnard purchased a bell for Wellington’s National War Memorial Carillon, which was erected in Buckle Street in 1932.  She had the bell named “Suvla Bay” and dedicated it to her two lost boys:


In recognition of their war-time fundraising and baking efforts Mr and Mrs Barnard were presented with this beautifully illuminated scroll by the citizens of Eltham, when the family moved away from the district.

[Reproduced courtesy of Winsome Griffin]

[Reproduced courtesy of Winsome Griffin]

It features photographs of Mr and Mrs Barnard in the centre, the motor ambulance at the bottom and her six sons who served in WWI around the frame, including the two who were lost: Henry, at top right and Charles, bottom left.


When World War II started in 1939, 80 year old Mrs Barnard was a widow, living in Island Bay in Wellington. With two sons as well as grandchildren now serving overseas, she once again tied on her apron. Food rationing meant it was hard for her to obtain the enormous quantities of butter and sugar needed. However, she managed to get a special permit from the Food Controller for extra rations and went on to make nearly a million gingernuts during the five years of this war, which she once again sent to New Zealand and other Allied troops overseas.

Mrs Barnard ended her baking career having made an astounding four and a half tons of gingernut biscuits in total. She was awarded the British Empire Medal and received thank-you letters from grateful service-men and their mothers, all over the world.  The letters found their way to her often simply addressed to: “Mrs Barnard, The Gingernut Maker, Wellington, New Zealand.”

One which was published in the local newspaper, contained the thanks of a WWII midshipman, Peter S. Burns of the Merchant Navy:  ”… allow me to assure you when I am freezing to death standing on the bridge… in the middle of the Atlantic and whenever my hand goes frantically into my coat pocket to get a gingernut, my thoughts go to the kind person from whom I received them.”

As you hear in the interview, Mrs Barnard was fond of sharing her recipe. Throughout both wars, she built up a correspondence with other soldiers’ mothers, sharing the recipe and samples of her biscuits. In the spirit of this, Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero cataloguer Camilla Wheeler and client supply archivist Sarah Johnston have been baking Mrs Barnard’s recipe. Camilla converted the large quantities into proportions more manageable for modern bakers (the original recipe calls for 2 ¼ pounds of flour and 2 pounds of golden syrup!) and they have experimented with different methods and baking times.

Sound Archives staff have been taste-testing the results over the past few weeks and are happy to report the 100-year old recipe withstood conversion very well, producing a very tasty, dense, chewy biscuit which keeps well and is perfect for dunking in a cup of tea.

You can read Mrs Barnard’s original recipe and our modern conversions here.


Thank you to Barnard family researchers Winsome Griffin, Christine Clement and Louise Mercuri for permission to reproduce material from their websites:




Some of SANTK’s batches of gingernuts – both Mrs Barnard-sized and regular-sized.