Training event: researching museum objects

Our first training afternoon took place last Monday at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes. Five people joined us, with one other not able to come but interested in coming along on another day.

The aim of the session was to introduce people to the dairying collections at the museum and then look at the ways we might research the stories, people and places behind a selection of them.

We started with a brief introduction to the Dairy Days project and then we had a look round the ‘Life and Tradition’ exhibition and discussed the materials and makers behind items like the tin back can and a pottery stand churn.

We also had a look at the permanent displays and talked about the farms and families associated with some of the items.

We then settled down in the research room where Fiona Rosher talked about the museum’s collections and the MODES software system we operate with all of the museum objects recorded on it. Finally we handed over to Bob Ellis who is one of the people responsible for the Macfie & Calvert collection – an amazing library and archive resource held in the museum’s research room. He talked through all the different sources of information that people might use to research an object such as tithe maps; census records; wills and inventories and old newspapers such as the Wensleydale Advertiser.

The collection also includes many old publications including a copy of George Walker’s (1813/14) ‘Costumes of Yorkshire’ from which this illustration of ‘The Milk Boy’ comes.

The accompanying text is fascinating.

There’s a long tradition of using donkeys to carry milk in Wensleydale as we see from several photographs in our collection and we’d love to know more about them and their owners. We found that the museum has a pair of wooden donkey panniers used to carry these back cans full of milk.

Jenny (Jane) Metcalfe with a donkey carrying tin back cans or budgets. Collection of the Dales Countryside Museum

We also found out that the museum has a set of four trophies won by a Mrs Edith Bushby of Swinithwaite for her cheeses. We’d love to know more about these competitions.

Here she is with her daughter Yvonne in 1956 having won the championship cup outright at Aysgarth Show that year.

Collection of the Dales Countryside Museum

The accompanying newspaper article includes the following description of the show:

“A feature of the show was the winning, outright, of the Ralph Daykin cup for the best Wensleydale cheese. Some of the older members recalled that the late Mr. Daykin, who farmed at Ballowfield, won the cheese cup outright some 17 years ago, but replaced the trophy with another, which was won by Mrs. H. G. Bushby, of Swinithwaite, who had won it in 1928, in 1930 and in 1931. In 1929 she gained two first prizes but not the cup, otherwise she would have won it outright in 1931. The judge for the produce section, Mr. E. S. Tennant, of Middleham, had high praise for the winning exhibit. He described it as ‘a first class home made farm cheese, which is blue moulding naturally.'”

Darlington & Stockton Times – Ripon & Richmond Chronicle August 18, 1956

There follows a short interview with the winner:

“Mrs Bushby, asked the secret of the blue moulding, said it was chiefly due to the noted Swinithwaite pastures which have always produced blue moulded Wensleydale cheese. She recalled that her husband’s grandmother won two cups at the Leyburn show years ago, and that her cheeses were blue moulded. Mrs. Bushby said her cheese making equipment [was] dilapidated and that the Wensleydale-shaped cheese (she also won the Stilton-shaped Wensleydale cheese class) was made in a cheese vat tied up with baling wire. Mrs Bushby was especially pleased that she won the cup as the late Mr. Daykin was a relative of hers.”

ibid

We certainly hope that one of our new researchers might try to find out more about this champion cheesemaker and her farm.

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