Monthly Archives: February 2015

Behind the scenes – A dusty task!

Tullie House has a wonderful collection of just about everything, and with spring just around the corner we have been doing a ‘Deep Clean’ in the stores. Our Museum Assistants have been helping out the curators, going through the stores armed with our vacuum cleaners to make sure everything is dust free and ready for duty.


Eloise, one of our Museum Assistants has written a guest blog to let us know what a ‘Deep Clean’ involves!

The start of the week began in Archaeology, gently brushing down stone altars and carvings, some of which are around two thousand years old, telling the stories of the Roman occupation of Cumbria. There are some unusual faces and carved figures, but an especially elaborate one is a wonderful large tombstone sitting on the bottom shelf. With a representation of a girl in a very fashionable dress, it tells a slightly sad story of a child just three years old when she died.
Over the next two days, face- masks on, we progress through the many boxes of iron work, bronze, wood, leather and pottery. Museum work isn’t always very glamorous! But we do feel a sense of achievement as we make good progress.

Round the corner later in the week we find something too large to box; a curious large leather artefact, looking like two riding saddles sewn together. We ask Curator Tim. Apparently it is a medieval pack for a mule that fell into a midden or pond, and was never recovered by its owner. This was found during the excavations for Debenhams in Carlisle several hundred years later.

Simultaneously, part of the team is busy in Natural History; re-shelving a variety of birds, beetles and other animals. Having just got a new shelving unit, it’s a great opportunity to re-pack some of the insects. Our collection is an important archive of nearly two hundred years of Cumbrian wildlife, and environment.

By Wednesday we switch to Social History. After two hours I forget to be surprised anymore at what comes off the shelves. We vacuum everything from a toy Ghostbusters tower, to vintage lampshades, keys, stained glass windows, medical equipment, and a Victorian toilet so willow-patterned that you can hardly tell it was a toilet at all! Ironically at one point we find ourselves vacuuming a vacuum cleaner.
On Thursday, the collection of glass plate photography is a real workout! Lifting the shoebox sized boxes of plates out and back into the racks is an exercise in weight training.

Friday is the final day, and we begin to look forward to the weekend! But we head back to Archaeology to finish off, getting to grips with the final touches.

All in all, a busy week and a tiring one, but none of us could say it’s been boring! It’s been an excellent opportunity to get a closer look at some of our collections. It takes all sorts of jobs to keep the museum going behind the scenes, but all the same, I might give vacuuming the house a miss this weekend!


Your Art Space – Half Term Family Fun

Print, splodge, spray, kneed, shape, stick, paint, fold and fun time comes to Tullie House this half term. Our Family Learning Officer Geoff lets us know what our family visitors have been taking part in this week.


Just over a week ago our ARTIST ROOMS Anselm Kiefer exhibition opened in the Art Gallery. We’ve got lots of exciting events linked to the exhibition, including some family friendly activities over the half term holidays.

‘Your Art Space’ is our weeklong series of art and craft based family workshops running every afternoon this week until Sunday. I write this as we hit the half way mark of the event, which has been hugely popular with visiting families.

Producing family friendly activities linking to Kiefer’s often controversial work was initially a little tricky, but the problem was solved by local artist Helen Walsh, who came up with the idea of basing the workshops on Kiefer’s mixed media approach and materials rather than the subject matter of his work.

Each workshop is based upon a different artist technique. We kicked off on Monday and Tuesday with clay, which as anyone who has worked with children in any clay based event will tell you, is immensely popular. The two days did not buck this trend with over 200 people through the door making tiles, pots and a whole host of animals as well.

Art6On Wednesday we replaced clay with recycled materials, with families creating printing blocks using a range of materials and then to use them to print. As I type my trusty team of staff and volunteers are working away on the last of recycled sessions.

Starting today we finish the week off with a weekend of painting and drawing workshops.

Kiefer uses many materials in his work, including real plant material so Helen decided to use this to try to tie all seven workshops together. So far this has had mixed results; many families inevitably will do there own thing and others will push the envelope in directions we couldn’t even hope to imagine. This approach is never to be discouraged as family fun and creativity is something we encourage in all our visitors.


Linking to the Artist Room aspect of the exhibition, we’ve been displaying the work of our families as they finish it, both print works and the clay creations from earlier in the week. Not only will the display help us to record what our visitors have done here, but more than that, families will hopefully see their work on display, take pride in their achievements and take a little ownership of their museum too.

If you want to get involved our drop-in Paint and Draw sessions are on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 1pm-4pm. Come by anytime and drop-in for FREE.

THe Shed – Entertain us!

What is THe Shed?  Click and find out.

What is THe Shed? Click and find out.

A few posts ago I mentioned that we’re putting together the plans for THe Shed end of show party.  We could do things the conventional way and ask an entertainer to come in do their stuff, but we do things THe Shed way so we’re handing over the entertaining to you!

What is your talent?

What’s your talent?

Do you (or someone you know) have a talent that you’d like to showcase at THe Shed party?  Perhaps you’d like to show a piece of your art work, perform with your a cappella group or play some original acoustic music.

Maybe you’re an actor and can perform a dramatic monologue or poetry, or are part of a dance troop.   Or something much

more interesting I haven’t thought of.  Whatever it is you can do – we want to help you to celebrate it.

Are you part of a dance group?

Are you part of a dance group?

Maybe you rap

Maybe you rap

So if you’d like to get involved this is what you need to do:  Make a video or take a picture and tweet it using #THShed.  If we, or @tulliehouse followers, really like what you’re doing you can come and take part.  If your talent relates to Carlisle and/or Tullie House then all the better.


There are a few things to note:

I’ll tweet from @tulliehouse on Thursday 12 March to ask if you’d like to come along and perform on the party night on Monday 23 March.

There isn’t a lot of space and we can’t make lots of noise so bear this in mind.  We can make room for up to 7 people in a group and please assume there will be no access to electricity or a PA system.

Don’t be shy, entertain us!

If you don’t want to get involved in this way then you can follow the videos on @tulliehouse or come and see our brand new exhibition Roman Photobomb in THe Shed.

Bye for now.  Claire.



Object of the Month – February

Every month our curators choose an object from our stores to put on public display in our Object of the Month case, in the Rear Atrium (by the back doors into the gardens).

February’s object is … Jerimiah Whirlings’ Watch

Jeremiah Whirling's Pocket Watch

A highly decorative pocket watch made from shark skin and gold by Thomas Nash of London. This watch belonged to Jerimiah Wherlings who was Mayor of the city seven times between 1770 and 1801 and was linked to the Earl of Lonsdale’s Tory interests. Sir James Lowther, Earl of Lonsdale (1736-1802) may have presented this decorative watch to Wherlings as a token of thanks for continuing political support in the 1780s..

Lowther was known in Whig circles as ‘Wicked Jimmy’ and the ‘Tyrant of the North’ due to his manipulation iof local elections and his reputation as a dueller and womaniser. In the 1785 election Mayor Wherlings admitted 1,443 mushroom (bogus) voters as Freemen of the City to secure a victory for the Tory part. None of these men were qualified to be Freemen either by birth or occupation. Instead all worked in lord Lonsdale’s West Cumbrian coal mines. In symbolic terms mushrooms were seen to corrupt the tree of libery and illegal voters, thus obtaining this fungal nickname.

A Parliamentary Select Committee overturned the results of this fixed election in 1785 and others in 1786 and 1790. The third ‘mushroom’ election of 1790 led to an angry mob of Whig supporters partially demolishing Sir James Lowther’s townhouse on Fisher Street, Carlisle.

Because of these electoral scandals and his association with the Lowther political campaigns Jerimiah Wherlings was given the nickname ‘Red Nosed Jerry’ in Carlisle.

THe Shed – All change (again)

As ever there’s another quick turn around happened and another round the corner.  So I would encourage you to come and see the wonderful work presented by the Great Art Quest in its last week and our apprentices’ display in its first.

Our ever-changing Shed

Our ever-changing Shed

I’ll start with Great Art Quest, as it’s been on display for a little over two weeks now and it’s fair to say that there’s been a very warm response from visitors to this project, one visitor stating:

Well done to all the talented children who made the fantastic art work for Art Quest.  Love them all x

This enthused response is reflected by the guest blog post by the project’s lead, Anna.  See if her enthusiasm for the project can tempt you to come along.

The Great Art Quest exhibition in THe Shed is up and running! On the 26th January we had a Celebration Day with all the teachers, pupils and artists involved in the exhibition – the children had the chance to see each other’s work and perform their storytelling pieces in our Lecture Theatre.

Visitors have been so impressed with the quality of the children’s work, and we’ve had some great comments left for us.  Five primary schools took part in the project and created these pieces:

Morland Area C of E Primary School

Morland Area C of E Primary School’s multimedia work

Morland Area C of E Primary School created this amazing sculpture inspired by one of the paintings in our collection, ‘The Rift within the Lute’ by Arthur Hughes. Listen carefully when you visit and you’ll hear the lady’s thoughts!

Newtown Community Primary School

Newtown Community Primary School’s chimney


Newtown Community Primary School made Dixon’s Chimney out of wooden printing blocks, with the words printed on the hanging related to industry and Carlisle’s history.

Alston & Nenthead Primary Schools’ mobile




Alston & Nenthead Primary Schools were inspired by Edward Burne-Jones’ ‘The Battle of Flodden Field’, and made this set of pieces made from paper pulp and metal foil, along with this beautiful mobile.

Kirkby Thore's fabulous textile piece

Kirkby Thore’s fabulous textile landscape

And finally, Kirkby Thore used our collection of landscapes as inspiration for this incredible textile piece showing the view of their local area.


The exhibition will be on display until Sunday 15th February, so if you’ve not had a chance to take a look you still have a few days left!


If you saw yesterday’s Meet the Staff blog then you’ll know that Cassie and her colleagues have been hard at work this week installing their own display in THe Shed.  As part of the Work In Progress area Cassie, Claire and Katie reveal their insights into life as a Tullie House apprentice.

Apprentices hard at work

Tullie’s apprentices hard at work



Meet the Staff – Cassie Smith – Apprentice Curatorial Assistant

IMG_0876Cassie Smith, one of our apprentices, gives us an insight into what she does here at Tullie House. To find out more about the apprentices they currently have a display in THe Shed.

How long have you been working at Tullie House?

I’ve been the Curatorial apprentice at Tullie house since the end of March 2014.

Talk us through your average working day.

On a day-to-day basis I research moments in history – at the moment it is World War One, I do my apprenticeship work, create graphs and input data. I also work in other areas of the organisation for example helping out at events and creating ‘treasures’ on the Treasures of Cumbria website.

What is the best part of your job?

My favourite part of my job is when I get to handle the artefacts. To me, it’s something so special as I never thought I’d get to do something like this.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

As I’m an apprentice, I think the hardest and most challenging part of my job would be balancing my apprenticeship work and my job. It can sometimes get out of hand if you’re given a lot of work to do and you have assignments to write up as well.

Do you have a favourite spot in Tullie House?

My favourite spot is, and always has been ever since I was little, the Wildlife Dome. I love the changing sky and the sounds. I used to sit on the benches for what seemed like ages watching the cycle over and over again.

What is your best Tullie House memory or experience?

I have many memories of Tullie House by my favourite one is a recent one. I’d just started my job here and was asked if I could help out at the Steampunk night. I think that will always be my favourite memory as there was so much going on and I loved being a part of it and helping out.

Outside of Tullie House, what is your favourite thing to do/favourite place in Cumbria?

I think my favourite thing to do outside of Tullie House is cycling or reading graphic novels.

Do you have any advice for people interested in pursuing a career in a museum?

Being able to work and learn at the same time has been very beneficial for me and before this, I had no idea I wanted to work in a museum. Being able to gain a qualification through an apprenticeship I think, is the best way to go as you’re not only gaining skills and a qualification, but you also have a job and are gaining experience as you learn.

Describe Tullie House in five words.

I would describe Tullie House in 5 words as: Unique, fun, friendly, entertaining and interesting.

Join in our celebration

Remembrance 100 - Our first Shed project co-curated with students from Trinity School.

Remembrance 100 – Our first Shed project co-curated with students from Trinity School.

Although there are a couple of exciting displays still to come, we’ve been putting the finishing touches to our plans for the End of Show party.  (Not to give the game away, but there’ll be a shed theme!) This will be our opportunity to celebrate with and thank everyone who got involved in some way.  Perhaps you lent us an object, participated in a project or told us about your favourite object when you’ve visited the gallery – if we can, we’ll be in touch.  So, as long as you have left us your contact details then you will receive an invitation to our party.

A Day in Cumbria built a timeline comparing events in Cumbria on the 5 Dec in 1914 to the 5 Dec in 2014.

A Day in Cumbria built a timeline comparing events in Cumbria on the 5 Dec in 1914 to the 5 Dec in 2014.

Another way to get involved is if you’ve seen a Shed exhibit that you’ve enjoyed – why not share your comments, pictures or videos with us.  You may have the opportunity to be included in the end of show event!  You can leave a comment below or send them via

Over Christmas some families joined us to 'Make a Festive Exhibition of themselves'

Over Christmas some families joined us to ‘Make a Festive Exhibition of themselves’

If you don’t have the opportunity to join us for the party, not to worry, we’ll have a new display and ‘happenings’ from 16th March for all to get involved with in the Work in Progress area.  Watch this space.

All this talk about endings is a little premature as there are many fab things we can still get to see right now.  This is the last week to see Georgie Clough’s work in situ, the Great Art Quest is on this and next week and new information is being added about or collection objects all the time.

Young local artist Georgie Clough's work was displayed in THe Shed.

Young local artist Georgie Clough’s work displayed in THe Shed.

We’d love to see you there!


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