Local history comes to Life – Enfield Life

Enfield Life Exhibition at the Dugdale Centre. copyright Kathleen McIlvenna

Enfield Life Exhibition at the Dugdale Centre. copyright Kathleen McIlvenna

Recently the Enfield Life exhibition, looking at the history of the modern London Borough of Enfield, which includes the historic boroughs of Edmonton, Southgate and Enfield, was officially launched. It was curated by Enfield Museum Service and has been open and receiving visitors for a number of months, but as part of the redevelopment of the first floor of the Dugdale Centre in Enfield Town, it was officially launched with the availability of meeting rooms and community spaces in the heart of Enfield Town.

Enfield Life exhibition including room sets. Copyright Kathleen McIlvenna

Enfield Life exhibition including room sets. Copyright Kathleen McIlvenna

Now, I should immediately admit my bias to this, and declare that I was part of the team that put this exhibition together. It is something I am immensely proud of and can only claim to be a small part of the team that put it together, my two other colleagues, who were full time, put in a lot of time and effort and I think this is evident in the final display.

The exhibition is generally chronological, using aspects of life across Enfield to draw out themes. It largely follows a standard panel and case format, which results in the first couples of cases looking at the pre-history, ‘Early Life’, and also the Early Modern or ‘big house’ era called ‘Aristocratic Life’. However, I think a few touches have gone a long way to make the display more dynamic drawing visitors into and through the space. It was also a great excuse to exhibit some of the larger gems in the collection. A Roman coffin sits in the middle of the floor and two room sets demonstrate changes and continuity from Georgian to 1930s homes.

Community Life case in Enfield Life exhibition. Copyright Kathleen McIlvenna

Community Life case in Enfield Life exhibition. Copyright Kathleen McIlvenna

The people of Enfield are at the heart of this exhibition and the cases looking at the later history of the area become more thematic looking at Suburban Life, Industrial Life, Municipal Life and Community Life (not in that order). Most of the objects in Enfield Museum Service collection were donated by local residents and hopefully the exhibition will facilitate a connection between the people of Enfield through the ages by translating how life has changed. From the Belling cooker, to a 1930 Toucan dinner gong and from a turn of the century silk women’s cooperative banner to a t-shirt created by the Enfield Island Village Mothers and Daughters group to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee in summer 2012.

The exhibition was also a great excuse to put up some of Enfield’s art collection depicting various aspects of Enfield’s people and places, and most of the press coverage of the exhibition has focused on the Constable drawing that has also been put on display. I won’t say much about that as it has been said elsewhere, but I will urge to take the trip to Enfield Town and the first floor of the Dugdale to have a look.

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Enfield Exchange project

Enfield Exchange in Dugdale Centre, Enfield

How many phone numbers do you remember? Probably not many. Personally, since I started to use a mobile phone in my teens I rarely remember numbers. I just have to remember names or the name I’ve allocated a particular number (did I save my local hairdressers number under ‘hairdressers’ or its business name?). Our phones are becoming so intelligent that soon I don’t think I’ll even have to remember these small details, I’ll just take it out of my pocket and say I want a haircut and it’ll probably phone and make an appointment for me.

I digress, my main point is that in a short amount of time technology has developed to an astounding degree and though it is easy to forget, numbers are still a central part of this. Nothing can make this point more obvious than a large section of a manual telephone exchange. Manual telephone exchanges provided the friendly voice that introduced many to a telephone. They provided an immediate voice when a subscriber picked up the phone and helpfully asked ‘Number Please?’ ready and willing to connect your call to the number you required.

Recently a piece of Enfield’s telecommunications history, a section of the manual exchange, has returned in the hope of sparking memories and connecting those memories with one of the county’s largest depositories of the history of science, the Science Museum. This exchange was the last manual exchange in Greater London and was taken out in the 1960s. So there are people still alive who manually connected calls and could be using phone you don’t even have to touch to make a call.

It’s return is part of a Science Museum led project that is being hosted by the Enfield Museum service and hopes to find stories related to the old Enfield manual exchange. Through events, a website and a facebook page they want to those local stories to come alive – have a look and pass on the details to anyone you think would be interested, or just pop down to the Dugdale Centre and see the exchange for yourself.

Enfield Exchange project webiste: http://enfieldexchange.org.uk/

Enfield Exchange Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Enfield-Exchange/307731015977708?ref=tn_tnmn

Enfield Museum Service: http://www.enfield.gov.uk/museum

Becoming part of the British Library’s collection

Evolving English exhibitiona the British Library

Evolving English exhibition at the British Library

Yesterday I went to the British Library to do some reading. During my lunch break I decided to pop in to the new Evolving English exhibition.

For a start I was surprised at how busy the exhibition was considering it was a Tuesday lunchtime. Thankfully it wasn’t too busy and I was still able to pause at the many displays and exhibits. I admired the copy of Beowulf and listened to an analysis of the language used in the Canterbury Tales.

Having spent the morning in the reading rooms and planning on returning in the afternoon, I was very happy to wander between the recordings, enjoying the opening of Shakespeare’s Richard III and the interactive map to Britain and Ireland sampling accents over time.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (11th c.)

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (11th c.) from the British Library

The sound archive has a collection of over 3.5 million recordings that vary from oral histories (the British Library is currently working on a very interesting oral history project relating to the history of science) to performances of music and drama, to recordings focused on accents and dialects. It is certainly an archive I’d love to explore more, but I never imagined I could be part of it!!

At the end of the exhibition there are some small phone booths inviting visitors to sit down and make their own contribution to the British Library’s collection. You can contribute in two ways; you can read an extract of the children’s book Mr Tickle used to record our different vowel sounds. The Evolving English Exhibition blog discusses the reason for using Mr Tickle in more depth, suffice to say a children’s book is used so as not to intimidate the reader and to encourage a constant flow of words and record an accurate pronunciation.

Or you can contribute by recording any words that you consider slang, funny or particular to your family or group of friends, this I assume will help identify any trends developing or the influx of outside influences.

Mr Tickle himself

Mr Tickle the subject of your contribution to the British Library's Sound Archive

I contributed in both areas, unashamedly getting into a jackanory style reading of Mr Tickle and I also contributed two words that I considered everyday and common until I used them outside of my family unit.

These were ‘foundered’ meaning feeling cold, for example ‘I was foundered’, and (I was laughed at a lot for using this) ‘bumfled’ which I generally use in reference to being uncomfortable specifically with too many clothes on, ‘I’m really bumfled’ or ‘this is really bumfley’. Has anyone else heard of these, or is it just my family???

Language is a very personal thing and a person’s use of it can tell you a lot about them, but it also seems that the evolution of our language can teach us a lot about the history of England and all the people in this country and those further afield that speak the English language.

Easter Island Exhibition at Canning House

I went to the private view of the new exhibition at Canning House on Easter Island, Myths and Popular Culture on Tuesday night.

Poster from the Easter Island, Myths and Popular Culture Exhibition

As with many private views it was a bit difficult to make it round all of the panels and take in the whole exhibition amidst the wine and nibbles, but from what I saw it looked really interesting.

The exhibition mainly focuses on the myths and popular culture of the island and in particular the famous Moai, but there are a couple of panels that look at the history of the island to satisfy history geeks like me. There is also an interesting section on the written language of the people of Easter Island, Rongorongo, which has never been translated! The Curator of the exhibition said that when the exhibition tours one of the school activities is going to invite children to try to translate the language – hopefully one of them doesn’t crack it and embarrass the academics!

Hoa Hakananai'a at the British Museum

Though the main focus is the island’s and the Moai’s appearance in popular culture, spurred on by the myths surrounding it. That the Moai heads could walk, that they were put in place by aliens, the usual really. There is an examination of how they have been used around the world to intrigue and entertain audiences.

It’s definately worth a look, and is in Canning House until the 26 November so catch it while you can.
Friends of the north, don’t fret as it is heading up to Middlesbrough and the Captain Cook’s Birthplace Museum.

If you’re interested in the Moai, the British Museum featured it in their brilliant History of the World in 100 Objects, which gives a concise history.