Monthly Archives: December 2014

A sure-fire way to cure Christmas boredom!

Hello All

A final message from Shed HQ for the year and just to let you know that THe Shed is very much open over Christmas (with the exception for Christmas day, Boxing day and New Year’s day) and there is plenty to see and do.

Today we’ve installed the Video Shed back in the gallery and set up a screen for you to record your own videos.  We’re asking ‘What object sums up Carlisle now?’  As some of you may know, there’s an exhibition in the summer called Carlisle in 10 Objects and we want everyone’s thoughts about an object that can represent Carlisle in the present and into the future to put into the display.  So your chosen object may well end up in the exhibition!

Also, there’s still time to book onto the Make a Festive Exhibtion of Yourself workshop on Sunday 28th December.  Call Reception on 01228 618781 so that you can see your festive objects and stories on dispay in the museum!  The first workshop was on Sunday and was a great success – you can still see the results of their work if you visit the Shed in the next week.  Check out the Evening News and Star today (Tuesday 23 December) for some pictures of the workshop.

If you don’t have the opportunity to take part in this way, then you can see what other people have been up to and maybe leave a Christmassy drawing on the drawing wall.

And, we still have our glimpse into the Tullie House stores with objects on display that haven’t ever been publically shown or been out for a long time.

Thank you everyone who has visited the Shed, left a comment or particpated in a workshop this year.  We’ve plenty more planned for the New Year so I hope to see you all again soon.  If you’d like to share your comments with me about the space then I’m happy to receive them at

Have a very merry Christmas and happy New Year.



Guest Post – A busy term for our Primary Programme!

School’s out for Christmas and our Primary Education department are celebrating the end of a brilliant term, Anna has written a guest post to give you an insight into what the Primary programme is all about here at Tullie House. My name is Anna Smalley and I’m the Programming Manager for Learning & Events at Tullie House. As part of my role I manage the very popular Primary Schools programme. We offer a menu of workshops focussing on the history curriculum, from the Ancient Egyptians and Prehistory to the Victorians and the Second World War, along with Special Event Weeks and Outreach sessions. We provide a much-loved service for our community, and our quality and passion has recently been recognised on a national level – in 2013 we were one of the recipients of the prestigious Sandford Award for Excellence in Heritage Education, a quality badge that will last for the next five years. We think giving children opportunities to get up close to and handle our amazing collection is the most important thing we offer, and all of our workshops have object handling at their heart. We also bring in other subjects too, like Art, English, Maths, Science and Drama. In our Viking session, for example, we get our pupils to act out the story of what happened when the Ice Giants stole Thor’s Hammer, with one lucky pupil dressing up as Thor himself disguised as a bride! This term has been our busiest ever, with lots of new workshops being offered to our schools. These have included Africa Week (where Museum staff were kept entertained with the sound of drumming for five days!), Christmas through the Ages with storyteller Ian Douglas and a new session focussing on the lives of ordinary men, women and children during the First World War. holding handsWithout a doubt though, our most popular new session has been Prehistory – schools have been very excited about the opportunity to handle real prehistoric artefacts from thousands of years ago. As well as handling objects in the session, pupils also explore our galleries, build a Stone Circle using their bodies and create their own Bronze Age lunula! 1926_25_1_group_view1 For more information about these or any of our other sessions, please get in touch using

Highlights of 2014 – The Steampunk Circus

Every May there is a national programme of activities in museums, art galleries and heritage organisations called Museums at Night. Here at Tullie House we love to get involved and take the opportunity to try something different to attract those who wouldn’t ordinarily visit, and give those who do visit a new and exciting experience.

In 2013, Museums at Night fell during the changeover period in our large temporary exhibition space, and so ‘The Art Gallery Takeover’ was born. We transformed the space into a creative nightclub to show that the fun at Tullie House isn’t just for kids.
We had a great night and our most successful Museums at Night event up to that point. So when it came to thinking about Museums at Night 2014, the Art Gallery Takeover was an idea we wanted to run with once again. One problem … the weekend of events fell a couple of weeks too early and rather than being a huge empty space, the Art Gallery was home to our brilliant ‘Mechanical Circus’ exhibition.

Not to be put off by the presence of 5 circus tents, housing over 150 automata and historical science equipment, we worked with our exhibition partners, Museum Boerhaave and Cabaret Mechanical Circus to create activities and events which were mindful of the collections. Surrounded by cogs, gears and Victoriana there was only one way to go, and before we knew it ‘The Steampunk Circus’ was coming to Carlisle for one night only!

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Image credit, D + H Photographers

The Steampunk Circus spoke to a niche audience and was an ambitious idea, and like most museums, we do not have a huge budget for events. However, we as museums do have, creative, dedicated staff with the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to create great events. So our family learning team manned craft tables heping people to ‘steampunk up’ their outfits.

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Our Visitor Services Manager and Family Learning Officer teamed up to act as our Tiffin and Kettle Masters and oversee the tense and thrilling sport of Teaduelling!

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Our Secondary Learning Officer teamed up with one of our freelance practitioners to deliver a lesson in Fancy Dress Life Drawing, which had been so popular in 2013, this time with a Steampunk Twist. They encouraged people to dress up and strike a pose, or for those less fond of the limelight try their hand at drawing – with some brilliant results!

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Image credit, D + H Photographers

There were so many other people involved who helped to make the night really special, not least our friends at Warwick Tower for bringing by some of their amazing stock, DJ Oldboy for providing the soundtrack, Astral Circus for entertaining and astounding and Chris Cook, our magician for the night.

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Image credit, D + H Photographers


A great night was had by all – starting to look forward to the next one all ready!

Keep an eye out at for events coming up here at Tullie and other museums and heritage venues on the weekend of the 14-16 May 2015!

Guest Post – ‘Dazzle’ When Painting Went to War

Mark Gibbs our Secondary Learning Officer gives us an update on one of his projects with local Secondary schools.

“This week one of the things I’ve been getting ready for is an Arts Award workshop for 15 year 7s from William Howard School. I’m really looking forward to it, particularly as it coincides with some of my own artistic interests. The workshop combines a number of subjects that are particularly current; the First World War commemorations, our visiting War Games exhibition from the V&A Museum of Childhood, and the upcoming ARTIST ROOMS: Anselm Kiefer exhibition [7th February- 7th June].

On Friday 5 December I lead an art workshop called ‘Dazzle – When painting went to war.’ It is a workshop which seeks to mix art and military history, followed by a visit to War Games.

With U-Boats around, how do you camouflage a huge ship, especially when the pesky sky keeps changing colour? One minute its grey then a bit of blue- you could splash a bit of everything on and hope for the best, or choose an average. Thing is, even if you are lucky with your colour choice, First World War ships were powered by coal, so there’s a huge smoke plume acting as a signpost for every periscope around.

Artist Norman Wilkinson, inspired by bird plumage came up with Dazzle camouflage- you don’t try and hide the ship, you try and to make it difficult to tell how far away it is, and even, which direction it’s steaming in. So this is why ships appeared in zebra-like, migraine inducing stripes as so;


USS West Mahomet 1918 in dazzle camouflage Photo #: 19-N-1733, Naval History and Heritage Command website

In fact if you look closely it’s difficult to see where the ship ends. As an artist I’ve become a bit obsessed with these patterns and a have made a series of sculptures inspired by them and by the historic photographs of the ships. As so;

Dazzle- image embedded in resin on raku ceramic Mark Gibbs 2014 Detail

dazzleSo inspired by Wilkinson and his team of artists our students camouflaged some ship cut outs- learning about colour mixing, contrast and pattern, as they went. Then we held a competition, comparing designs against a selected sky colour [the carpet colour actually!] Only the most confusing survived, and here were our winners.

The Winning DesignsThis workshop was followed up by a full day outreach workshop lead by myself and artist Celia Burbush, focussing on Kiefer’s work. For day 2 we  made our own version of one of Kiefer’s monumental; ‘ploughed fields of history- splash it on an inch thick’ paintings…. That’s an official art historical term.

dazzle workshop 2

Many thanks to Celia and the students from William Howard School.


Help Tullie get festive!

We need your help to get Tullie ready for Christmas.  Our guest blogger Geoff tells you how you can put your own fesitive exhibition in THe Shed.

Our tree’s looking a little bare so we need you help!
Making a Festive Exhibition of Yourself, 16th December 2014 – 4th January 2015
With Christmas literally on our doorstep and schools on the verge of breaking up for the festive period, this time is always important for museums such as Tullie House. Families are often looking for things do both before and after Christmas Day itself. So with this and our Shed exhibition project in mind, a family exhibition about Christmas seems an excellent fit.
When planning any activities, families or otherwise, it is important to consider engagement. This can vary depending upon the audience you are catering for and with families, interaction and the provision of fun things to do is paramount. Families often like interaction where they get involved and afterwards, a legacy for their work is often a great means for each family to look back at the activity and say “We did that!!!” Additionally, when working with families, we must think of the children, but also toddlers, teens and of course adults, whether they be parents or grandparents. Any combination of these people can form a visiting family. It’s therefore important that we try and engage with all family members with each group. It’s not always an easy task.
So our Christmas exhibition will allow families to work together to produce something, in this case an exhibition, that they can take pride in. This will be done through a series of family workshops, one for our Tullie Toddler group, the other two for visiting families over the Christmas School Holidays. The families will also have the opportunity of displaying their own Christmas objects. These could range from old presents, decorations or a turkey roasting tin!!! Whatever they choose, we’re hoping there are stories linked to the objects; each family will have the opportunity to share those stories not only with each other in the workshops, but also on the labels they create about their own objects. Stories are something we can all relate to and families are often full of them.
For other families visiting in between the workshops, they can also contribute by adding Christmas artworks to our exhibition banner. As with the workshops, we’ll ask them to draw something important to them and to tell us why that object is so special to them.
In taking part in these activities we’re hoping to give the families a great opportunity to find out some behind the scenes tips and secrets about how we put on an exhibition, whilst at the same time, giving them a fun family visit to Tullie House.
If you would like to book a place on one of the family workshops, call us now on (01228) 618700. We look forward to seeing you.

Tullie Time Travellers: Viking Christmas

Today was our last Tullie Time Travellers session of the year, so we spent the afternoon learning about the Viking festival Yule and learning how to write in a Viking runic alphabet known as Futhark!



We started our session by having a look at the Viking objects on display in the Border Galleries and taking rubbings from the replicas of the Bewcastle Cross, to learn more about the Vikings in Cumbria.

Then after a quick trip to the badger sett (because no Tullie Time Traveller can resist a wander through the badger sett) we headed back down to the Community Room to learn more about the Vikings, the traditions of their winter festival that many people still follow at Christmas-time and pick up the basics of Futhark!

The group learned that the Vikings did not celebrate Christmas, as pagans they worshipped many gods, including Thor, Loki and Odin (other Marvel characters are available) but they did have a celebration at this time of year, celebrating the Winter Solstice. The festival of Yule lasted about two weeks, and people feasted and told stories (not unlike Christmas party season now!)

One of the Christmas traditions that may have had its origin in Viking times is that of the Yule Log, some historians think a log was burnt on the fire during Yuletide and people made wishes for the coming year. So the Tullie Time Travellers wrote their own wishes for the coming year on our very own Yule logs!


For those of you whose Futhark is a little rusty, the Tullie Time Travellers wished for all sorts in the next year, from I-pods to health and happiness to success in exams to gaining First Class Cadet! Thankfully we didn’t have to burn these logs – the chocolate type are much nicer to eat!


As well as the Yule log, we learnt about where the Vikings came from and what they traded for and what they traded with – by decoding a world map written in Viking runes. Did you know that the Vikings reached the Middle East, trading some of the furs and walrus ivory they had at home for silver, spices and even slaves?!


Finally our Vikings dressed up and throught about what they might have wished for on the Yule Log over 1000 years ago – our warriors wanted new swords and boats, whilst the ladies of the group prefered gold and necklaces and the sheep on the end, well he wanted more food!


Happy Yule from the Tullie Time Travellers and hope all your wishes for 2015 come true!

Highlights of 2014 – The Crosby Garrett Helmet

In January we bid a fond farewell to The Crosby Garrett Helmet which had been on display alongside our Hartnell to Amies exhibition since November and was seen by over 20,000 people!


One of our Gallery Assistants, Eloise has put together some answers to the most frequently asked questions about the helmet.

How old is it?

This is one of the most difficult questions! Because the metal analysis showed that the metal percentages varied across the Helmet, we think it was made from scrap or recycled metal, which is common. However this makes it hard to date, because it the material has many lives. However judging from the style, this Helmet is probably 3rd century AD, at the height of their development, owing to the intricate details and irises in the eyes.

Where was it found?

The Helmet is named after it’s origin at Crosby Garrett, in South East Cumbria . It was found by two amateur metal detectorists on the boundaries of some farmland. It is a bit of a mystery how it came to be there! Face down in the soil, the rest of the Helmet was crushed on top, although nearly all of the pieces were there. It was also miles from the nearest Roman roads and settlements, and the archaeology showed it to have been an Iron Age native farmstead at one time. Perhaps it was lost on the way up to the Wall, buried for safe-keeping, or even stolen and hidden! Only two small Roman coins would suggest a Roman presence in that area.

The Crosby Garrett helmet, late 1st-2nd century AD (bronze) (see also 396159 & 413093)

How do you put it on?

The Helmet has a clever hinge mechanism concealed just above the hairline. This allows the face to lift like a visor, and close snugly over the face and head. This was then fastened by leather straps under the chin, for which there are little loops behind the ears. Many of these helmets were leather lined for comfort, and re-enactors have also suggested how mint leaves might have been used to keep these helmets a bit fresher during use!

What would have looked like when it was new?

The Helmet is green, because it has such a high copper content- about 82%, with 10% zinc, and 8% tin. When it was new it would have shone a brilliant gold-brass colour.
We also think the face was tin-plated, from a small residue around the eyes. This would have shone a silvery colour to contrast the brassy gold of the rest of the helmet. It would have looked God-like in the sun!

Why didn’t Tullie House get the helmet when it was found?

Because the helmet doesn’t qualify as treasure trove, the Government couldn’t claim it, and it was therefore sold at auction. Tullie House raised a large amount, through sponsors and fundraising but unfortunately we were outbid and it went for a staggering £2.2 million to an anonymous buyer. The owner kindly consented to loan the Helmet to Tullie House and the British Museum to allow the public to share this wonderful piece.

Treasure is defined as a single item made of a precious material like gold or silver, or as a hoard of many related items. The Helmet, being a single item made of a copper alloy didn’t meet these criteria.

What is the significance of the griffin/flower motif/hat?

The helmet has a moulded hat, called a Phyrgian Cap, a type of felt hat associated with the Middle East in Roman times. These might have included embroidery, and possibly the flower or star shaped motifs around the back of the helmet signify embroidered patterns. This type of hat is often used in depictions of the God Mithras, or even Paris of Troy, and it is possible that the Helmet was designed to look like a God or hero from classical times, perhaps to stage mock battles, or demonstrate the superior prowess of the wearer.


On top of the hat is a Griffin, a mythical beast, half lion and half eagle. This is a symbol of protection, both for the wearer and for his belongings. This is the only part to have been moulded or cast; the rest of the helmet is beaten from very thin sheets of metal.

Who would of worn this and why?

We sadly don’t know who owned the Helmet, unlike other helmets there are no names or marks engraved inside. We do know he was fairly wealthy and probably a cavalry officer, since the Crosby Garrett Helmet is a Sports Helmet, designed to be worn during the Hippika Gymnasia, or Horse Games. These were mock battles and demonstrations of skill on horseback and were popular from the 2nd to the early 4th centuries. The location of the Helmet suggests that these games reached as far as Hadrians Wall.
We do know that this was not designed for battle. The metal is very thin, and the loops and hooks, together with the beautifully detailed face and hat suggest it was for display, and might even have had streamers or feathers as added decor. There is also a small oval indentation on the Griffin ornament, suggesting that a gem or glass stone was displayed.

It is very unlikely that the faceplate shows us what the owner really looked like. It is very heavily stylised, as are many of the others. They are all however very unique designs!

Are there others?
Only two other helmets of this type have been found in the UK; the Ribchester Helmet and the Newstead Helment in Scotland. This is a rare find, and unique in design! They are more frequently found in mainland Europe.

How much does it weigh?
The curator who installed the Helmet said it was ‘surprisingly light’. The metal has been beaten very thinly. Following our display, the helmet was 3D imaged together OTH the Ribchester Helment in London. They weighed it as just 1.29kg! The Ribchester Helmet was slightly heavier at 1.31kg, but these are very ergonomic for their use!

Despite its realtively lightwieght, I imagine the Helmet would still have been very claustrophobic to wear!

If you have any other questions about this amazing helmet, feel free to ask in the comments below.

Job well done!

Enjoying the special view of the exhibition.

Guest blogger Mary, Project Co-ordinator of Treasures of Cumbria, tells us about the latest exciting milestone from her Cumbria-wide projects.

On Friday 5 December volunteers travelled from as far as Barrow-in-Furness for a special view of the One day in Cumbria exhibition at Tullie House.
After enjoying scones, cake, tea and coffee, the volunteer researchers were thanked by Director Hilary Wade for the special contribution they made to the project. She acknowledged that without their skill and enthusiasm, the exhibition would not have been possible. Hilary also thanked Cumbria County Council archives and libraries and partner museums, Lakeland Arts, the Dock Museum, Penrith and Eden Museum, Beacon Museum and the Haig Pit Mining Museum for their support.
The group made their way up to the exhibition and admired the timeline and items from the collection. They filled out their own updates of what they’d done on 5 December 2014 for inclusion on the contemporary timeline.
Both the 1914 and 2014 timelines are now on show.
Project coordinators Mary Ann Lancaster and Stuart Appley said a few words in the exhibition, sharing what an enjoyable experience it had been to work with such talented participants.
There was also an opportunity to attend a first screening in the Lecture Theatre of Your Country Needs You, a film created for the project by Comely Media. This film responds to research into life in 1914, and follows one man in Dalton-in-Furness as he struggles to decide whether to enlist.
The event was a lot of fun, with many people enquiring when we’ll be getting started on A day in 1915!
There are only 4 days remaining of the exhibition, which now features both the 1914 and 2014 timelines. The project will be published online at this week.

Weekend of Film – Watching Film discussion

Photo credit, Tracey Walker

Photo credit, Tracey Walker

On Saturday 15 November, as part of our Weekend of Film, we welcomed Andrew Elliot (Penrith Lonsdale Cinema), Jill Jones and Jane Sedgwick (Brampton Film Club) to discuss the world of independent cinema screening, the current film landscape, audience numbers and the future of cinema.
Making money from films is a tricky business, as both Brampton and Penrith know well. As well as charging for individual tickets, Brampton have an annual membership scheme which contributes to overall running costs, free tickets and subsidise trips out. They offer refreshments at screenings like tea and coffee, and ask for voluntary contributions. Andrew was surprised about this – he revealed that people buying food and drink is where cinemas make their money, as most venues only receive 10-20% of ticket sales with rest going to the film production and distribution companies.
We asked Andrew about the change in how films are screened, from projection reels to hard drives and now downloading from the internet. Andrew revealed that he trained as projectionist at the start of his career and actually managed to set a film on fire in his early days! He’s found that sound quality has dramatically improved with the move to digital but admits that he misses the unpredictability of watching a projected film – from the jumps and scratches on the picture to the missing bits where the projectionist hasn’t joined the reels together properly.

We discussed how the digital revolution has impacted on audience numbers and how people watch film. We all agreed that it’s great that viewers can watch incredible work cheaply and conveniently but this was no match for experiencing a film at the cinema. This is especially true at the moment, when film companies are bringing back spectacle to encourage people to part with their cash, through 3D and huge action experiences like the Marvel films and the recent Godzilla re-boot. Jane and Jill emphasised the social benefits of watching films together – sharing the experience, emotions and ups and downs of the production then discussing it afterwards.

Live event cinema seems to be the way forward for independent cinemas, particularly through schemes like the National Theatre Live and the new series of the New York Met Opera. These events are particularly popular at Penrith where audiences have an appetite for cultural experiences that are difficult to access in the North!

Andrew, Jane and Jill all expressed concerns about the future of independent cinema in light of uncertain audience numbers and the expense of screening films. The key message from both organisations was for people to support their local independent and get involved – donate, volunteer, spread the word and sustain your support, not just in times of crisis but as often as you can.

The results are in…

How many of you voted for the Roman object to be included in Tullie’s big summer exhibition ‘Carlisle in 10 Objects’?  The results are in and are shared by Tim, our Curator of Archaeology, below:

Roman Altar Represents Romans in Summer Exhibition
As part of the preparation for next summer’s exhibition which will illustrate the history of the city in 10 objects, one of the first projects in THe Shed was to ask our visitors to decide which object from our large Roman collection sums up the impact of the Romans on Carlisle.
Each object was chosen to illustrate an aspect of life that was introduced by the Romans when they arrived. Six ideas were selected and information about them, along with a picture of the object that would be in the exhibition. These were made into posters and put up on the wall in THe Shed. Voting papers were supplied along with an authentic ballot box. Visitors were asked to vote for their favourite. The voting period was between October 20 and November 10.
A big ‘Thank You’ to all who voted. Here are the results:

Altar to Mars Barrex
As can be seen, writing was seen by nearly a third of the voters as the most important thing the Romans introduced into Carlisle. This means that the altar dedicated to Mars Barrex that was found in English Street, Carlisle in 1861 is the object that will represent what the Romans did for Carlisle next summer.

If you didn’t get to vote on this one, don’t worry, there’ll be another opportunity to have your say in what will be shown in the Carlisle in 10 Objects exhibitions very soon.  Watch this space!

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