Category Archives: Education

Amati Violin and Friends

Fiddle.  Some would say we have one in the foyer of the Old Tullie House; the one that was made in the 1560s by Andrea Amati.  Some violinists might be quite indignant if they heard it called a fiddle.  Most seem not to mind and many call their own instruments fiddles.

ViolinsOK then. Fiddle – a word developed slowly through the medieval period that can mean any bowed instrument.

It appears that the Arab world gave us the kick-start on fiddles in the 8th or 9th centuries in the shape of a gourd with strings stretched over it – the ‘rabab’ or ‘rebec’.  In Europe it was carved from wood.  Maybe all that carving effort was too much and gave the luthiers of old the idea to make a built-up wooden box instead.


If it hadn’t been for that leap forward the Old Tullie House might be graced with something rather different by Andrea Amati.  The five instruments – all fiddles if we go by the definition above – that have joined it there might have been all rather different too.  But no, the viola, the viol da gamba, the viola d’amore, the pochette violin and the tiny violin are all wonderful wooden boxes of maple, spruce, pine, ebony, ivory, bone and boxwood.  Boxes, but ones of just the right shape, weight, thickness, density to be quite wonderful things.

Violins2Andrea Amati’s violin, which has stood alone in Old Tullie House for a good number of years, is an amazing survivor from the court orchestra of King Charles IX of France.  That it is 450 years old almost beggars belief.  When it was made; Elizabeth I had been queen for eight years, the Spanish Armada was not even a glint in Philip II’s eye. It is one of the oldest violins in the world, and it survived the French Revolution.

The five instruments new to Old Tullie House are all rather younger, three of them 18th century, the viola is early 19th century, and the tiny “toy” 16cm-long violin late 19th.  All survivors, if only from the ravages of children.

The miniature violin is included in the display to represent the local makers of Cumbria in the Tullie collection – Maghie, Birtles, Scott.  I wish we could tell you the names of the luthiers who made the elegant viola d’amore with its 13 strings, the rather rustic viol da gamba that at one time had ten strings but now has just four, and the pochette violin (somebody said “dinky” the other day) which would have been played for the better off as they honed their ballroom skills – but not one of those instruments has a maker’s mark that can be seen.

They are on show now for the first time in more than 20 years.  To add to the spectacle, a new Collection Conversation has been developed around them.  You can find out more about how a violin is made; what Mr Amati came up with that makes the violin different to its contemporaries, and more about the origins of the instrument, with a replica soprano rebec that you can handle.  You can even try to play it if you feel bold and want your cat to write a sympathy card.

For their help in putting these instruments on show, and developing the collection conversation, Tullie House would like to thank:


Anthony Calvert, of the Early Music Shop, Salts Mill, Saltaire, W.Yorks
Corrie Schrijver, violin maker and restorer of Brampton, Cumbria
James Rawes, violin maker and restorer, of Cotehill, Carlisle, Cumbria



The Family Friendly Museum Award 2015: The Winner

Some brilliant words from Jack about our recent win at Kids in Museums – a great blogger about museums – thank you Jack!

Jack's Adventures in Museum Land

The scores are in, the families have spoken, and the time has come to crown a new holder for the title of Most Family Friendly Museum in the UK. Previous winners have included museums such as the wonderful Horniman Museum in South London, the Haselmere Educational Museum in Surrey and everyone’s favourite conjoined museums, the Pitt Riverls and the Oxford University Natural History Museum.

Kids in Museums

That list alone should give you an idea of the level of overall awesome-ness that families and the team at Kids in Museums are looking for in their winners. The winners would have to be awesome, because this is the biggest museum award in Britain and the only one to give a powerful voice to families.

Before I tell you who won, I’d like to remind everyone of the shortlist from the length and breadth of the country:

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Tullie House heads East…

Since 2013, we’ve been working with the Zhou family, owners and operators of the Imperial Decree Museum (IDM) in Xuzhou and the No. 1 Scholar Museum in Suzhou, both in Jiangsu Province in China.

In June of this year we were invited over to show museum staff how objects from collections can be used to engage and inspire. Andrew Mackay (Head of Collections & Programming) and Anna Smalley (Learning & Engagement Manager) made the 7,700 mile journey to Shanghai and this is what happened on their trip…

Group pic

Han Tom picAfter a very long journey we arrived in Shanghai and hopped straight on the famous Chinese Bullet Train to Xuzhou, a relatively “small” city for China with a population of 10 million and rising! We spent the first few days of our trip getting to know the Guishan Hill Scenic District where the Imperial Decree Museum is located. Along with IDM, the area also has a beautiful garden sculpture museum and an amazing Han Dynasty tomb of national importance. The tomb dates back to 116BC and is the resting place of the Emperor Liu Zhu.

Kid pic 4On our fifth day we ran our object handling workshop for 21 local primary school children (10-12 years old) who luckily for us were selected for their English abilities! We created a session based around three activities: firstly, the children took part in an object handling session using the Roman artefacts from our collection which were split into categories of Technology (pottery, glass), Jewellery (brooches and bracelets) and Coins. Secondly, the children explored Latin and Roman writing using real wooden writing tablets and metal styli, having a go at writing in Latin and comparing the results with English and Chinese characters. Thirdly, the children looked at Roman costume, handling real Roman footwear and dressing up in replica costume. The pupils then created their own role play about daily life in Roman Carlisle, using the objects they had handled during the session as inspiration.

Kid pic 2The children found the experience of object handling incredibly inspiring: none of the pupils had ever handled real historical artefacts before, and the added factor of them being from a country thousands of miles away was even more exciting! We adopted the same object handling techniques as we would in our primary workshops in Carlisle, telling to the children not to worry about giving wrong answers: we wanted their ideas and to know how they felt about the objects. We encouraged them to use their senses, looking closely with magnifying glasses, feeling for different textures and even smelling the objects.

Tullie House China 4Next we travelled to Suzhou, known as ‘the Garden City’ and just half an hour by train from Shanghai. Our workshop here was for university students so we adapted our Romans workshop and added comparisons with Han Dynasty technology and costume. Once again the object handling was the most popular activity: the students loved wearing the gloves and handling the objects directly, and were particularly impressed by the jewellery. We also gave the students opportunities to try on the replica costume we brought, working with Han Dynasty re-enactors to compare the different types of male and female clothing. For the writing task the students wrote Latin and Chinese phrases on traditional fans.

As well as delivering workshops, presentations and meeting lots of new museum colleagues, we also worked on our plans for Chinese New Year 2016 – we hope to borrow items from the Imperial Decree Museum’s collection so keep an eye on the Tullie House website for more details!


Keep an eye on the blog for part 2 of our round up of the trip as Andrew continued to explore the culture and history of China, coming soon.

Tullie Time Travellers – Springwatch

We were promised sunshine for today’s Tullie Time Travellers session so we planned to head out into the gardens and look out for signs of spring. Not to be put off by cloudy skies we headed out anyway to see what we could find.

We started by splitting into 4 teams and doing a Spring Flower Scavenger Hunt. Our teams had to find and photograph 8 flowers – first team to get all 8 wins the scavenger hunt and gets themselves on the Tullie Shield.

Ladybirds 005

Rose, Izzie and Sammy (aka Team Ladybird) tracked down a patch of Daffodils in the Tullie House Garden

Team Lily (Charlotte, Maria and Lily) got a beautiful close up of the Helibore.

Team Lily (Charlotte, Maria and Lily) got a beautiful close up of the Helibore.

Mungo and Leon (aka Team Snail) knew their Miniature Narcissi from their Daffodils!

Mungo and Leon (aka Team Snail) knew their Miniature Narcissi from their Daffodils!

Team Paper Towel (we felt it best not to ask) snapped this pic in the Crocus patch

Team Paper Towel (we felt it best not to ask) snapped this pic in the Crocus patch

All the teams put in a lot of effort, but in the end it was down to the two teams of girls Team Labybird were off looking for green buds, when Team Lily headed back having found all 8!

After doing such a good job tracking down some spring flowers we set our nature hunters off to see if they could get photos of any of the birds or insects that call in to the gardens here at Tullie House. However, we soon realised that birds and sometimes even insects move a little too fast for our photographers in training!

"There was a bird there, honest!" Team Paper Towel (we're still not gonna ask!)

“There was a bird there, honest!” Team Paper Towel (we’re still not gonna ask!)

Team Snail didn't manage to find any of their namesake but they did find this lovely Woodlouse!

Team Snail didn’t manage to find any of their namesake but they did find this lovely Woodlouse!

Team Lily found the Lesser Spotted Lily crouching amongst the Daffodils

Team Lily found the Lesser Spotted Lily crouching amongst the Daffodils

Team Ladybird found these two cheeky monkeys hanging around by the Japanese Dogwood!

Team Ladybird found these two cheeky monkeys hanging around by the Japanese Dogwood!

When it got a bit cold we headed back inside to test our Time Traveller’s nature knowledge in our animal quiz – how would you do?

1. Can you name two of the three species of snake native to the UK?

2.The slow worm is a type of lizard with no legs, true or false?

3. The average mole weighs 80 grams, how many earthworms do they have to eat everyday? 5g, 20g, 50g or 100g?

4. What is the name for a group of cows?

5. All blackbirds are black. True of false?

6. Which of these animals is the fastest? A cheetah, peregrine falcon, snail or rabbit?

7. What type of animal is a barracuda?

8. What is the name for a group of toads?

9. What is the longest species of snake?

10. What is a vixen?

11. What do you call where an otter lives? A sett, a holt, a drey, or a nest?

12. Where are a grasshoppers ears located?

13. Which animal can sleep standing up? A cow, a horse or a sheep?

14. What is a baby kangaroo called?

15. Can ostriches fly?

Three of our teams tied for second place with 10 correct answers out of 15 – but the winners with an amazing 13 right answers was Team Paper Towel (better known as Bert and Matthew!) getting their names onto our Tullie Shield!

To finish off the session we stayed in the warmth and headed up to the Border Galleries to see if we could spot any animals amongst the objects on display, not including the natural history collection of course!

Team Lily got this great shot of our Flying Reiver on his horse.

Team Lily got this great shot of our Flying Reiver on his horse.

Team Paper Towel found this bird adorning one of the objects in our Medieval Carlisle display!

Team Paper Towel found this bird adorning one of the objects in our Medieval Carlisle display!

Team Ladybird spotted this great dish in Carlisle Life!

Team Ladybird spotted this great dish in Carlisle Life!

Team Snail spotted this miniature Border Reiver herding livestock in the Pele Tower diorama in the Reivers gallery!

Team Snail spotted this miniature Border Reiver herding livestock in the Pele Tower diorama in the Reivers gallery!

Don’t forget, the next Tullie Time Travellers is on Saturday 18 April and we’ll be looking at our ARTIST ROOMS Anselm Kiefer exhibition and making some of our own Kiefer inspired masterpieces. If you are or know a child aged 8-13 who would like to join the Time Travellers contact

Answers to the quiz: 1. Grass snake, Adder or Smooth snake. 2. True. 3. 50g. 4. Herd. 5. False. 6. Peregrine Falcon. 7. Fish. 8. Knot. 9. Python. 10. Female fox. 11. a holt. 12. On its knees. 13. Horse. 14. Joey. 15. No.

Tullie Time Travellers: Come Tek A Deek

Today was the first Tullie Time Travellers of the New Year, we started the session by taking a last look around our War Games exhibition, which closes tomorrow, and then we headed up to THe Shed, to look at the new ‘Come Tek a Deek’ exhibition.


TTTs in Come Tek a DeekCome Tek a Deek

THe Shed is the gallery up on our Border Galleries, and ‘Come Tek a Deek’ has been put together by our Community Engagement Officer and 5 Carlisle based sports clubs, Northbank FC, Carlisle Rifle Club, Border Wheelers Cycling Club, Carlisle Cricket Club and Carlisle United.

We explored the exhibition, learning about the stories behind the objects on display, like how a Northbank player once held the world record for the longest headed goal scored and that George V visited Carlisle Cricket Club at Edenside in 1917.

Trophy Cabinet

We also took a good look at the Trophy Cabinet which holds some of the trophies our clubs and their members have won, some of them dating back to 1880!

Before we left THe Shed we took the opportunity to record our thoughts about the question of ‘What object do you think represents Carlisle in 2015?’ in the video shed, being the Time Travellers we had to do this together obviously!

How many TTTs can you fit in a shed

After our visit to THe Shed we headed back to the Community Room and came up with some of our own games to start filling up our new trophy the ‘Tullie Shield’.

The games included:

Bowling (won by Burt, with an amazing 50 points after scoring 3 strikes out of 3!)

TTT bowling

Cup and Ball (won by Leon, after we stopped counting once he reached 25 catches in a row!)

cup and ball

… and Throw the Bean Bag at Jill (won by Charlotte, when a well placed rebound hit my arm for 50 points!)

Lily takes her shot

Lots of fun was had all round, and hopefully we can come up with a few more challenges to fill up the ‘Tullie Shield’. Don’t forget the next TTTs is on Saturday 7th February!

The Tullie Shield

Tullie Time Travellers is our group for 7-13 year olds, we meet once a month – for more information please contact

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

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.


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!

Remembrance 100 opens in THe Shed

The first of our series of seven exhibitions opens in THe Shed tomorrow.  The co-curator of Remembrance 100 Mark Gibbs is our guest blogger today who shares his expereince of creating an exhibit from such thought-provoking subject matter.

Remembrance 100   6 Nov- 23 Nov
A big part of my job is to build connections between schools and Tullie House, so I’m delighted with how Remembrance 100 has turned out. It’s a show in Tullie’s new experimental Shed space, where we try to do displays differently. The project is a partnership between the Museum and Trinity School in Carlisle. It combines student artwork, powerful artefacts, a web based archive and an interactive peace wall.  Continuing the theme of collaboration, I’ve enjoyed working closely with the Curator of Social History Edwin Rutherford.
The background to the show comes from Tullie’s interest in marking the 100th anniversary of the War’s outbreak, and the research two Trinity teachers carried out.  Trinity’s Head of History, Linda Hodgson and maths teacher Sarah Lee-Adamson researched the service history of the school’s old boys who were killed in the First World War. Through this they found three names not recorded on the school’s memorial plaque, and so these were added in a dedication service led by the Bishop of Carlisle this October. Their research is recorded in Trinity’s Memorial website, which visitors can access in the show or at home. The school’s year 9 (13-14 year olds) were then asked to design an image to use for the invitations to the event.  

Eloise helping out

Remembrance 100 combines this display of 100 of these student artworks with artefacts from our collections, including a set of letters from Lance Corporal Joseph Hall, who was killed in action at Arras in 1917. We have his last letter home, family photograph and death notification telegram.  This is powerful stuff which made a big impact on the group of eight Trinity students who came over to design the labels and information boards: ‘Our first impressions were indescribable’ said one student pair.  That’s where the innovation comes in.  One group of students designed most of the text in the show and a second group of six students came over to install the show – Museum Assistant Eloise Stott helped us to put the display up making sure everything was level – no mean feat with 100 small artworks!

So Remembrance 100 is a jointly curated show, with student artworks, powerful stories,
and the Memorial website providing a digital element. There’s also an interactive part; a peace wall where visitors are encouraged to think how we can all promote peace, and post that thought on the wall. Suggesting perhaps that Remembrance can be active, and continuing the interest that Tullie has already shown in conflict resolution with the Living Wall display, in the Roman Frontier Gallery (this reminds viewers that border walls are still very much part of our world). It also connects with the debate on the ethics of war themed toys in our current Wargames show.
A short documentary film will provide a permanent record of the show.
Filmaker Paddy preparing for the big shot

Mark Gibbs
Secondary and post 16 Learning Officer

Tullie House
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