Blog Archives

Volunteers – Working with collections

Helping give access to collections

21115_1Collections Access is a new, exciting strand of volunteering projects working with collections.  These activities help the museum make better use of stored material and make them more available to greater numbers of people.

The Head of Collections and Programming Andrew Mackay tells us a little more about the background to the projects:

“Tullie House has outstanding collections – we know because we are regularly told by this by external experts. There is very little point in having such important collections if we do not share them, so Tullie House has made a commitment to making the collections more accessible and we are delighted that we are able to work together to develop a range of collections based projects with a dedicated team of volunteers.

The ideal arrangement sees projects being developed that benefit both the museum and our volunteers. The volunteer provides time, enthusiasm, knowledge and commitment in exchange for hopefully developing their own skills and understanding by working closely on the collections with specialist museum staff. The collections become more accessible (and therefore more usable) by being catalogued, photographed, better stored and researched.

An ongoing project is undertaking an inventory of all of the archaeology stored at Shaddon Mill. This essential work allows the museum to better understand what it has in store (which in turn can help with exhibitions, research and engagement activities) and it also provides key information which will help assess future storage requirements.

We are therefore very grateful to the volunteer workforce for being so committed to helping make our collections more accessible. Without this invaluable help the level of engagement activity we can deliver by using the collections at Tullie would be so much harder to achieve.” 

191015 (5)Over the last few months two further projects have begun.  The Costume Collections Audit is a project to condition check and ensure correct data for every single item in the costume store.  The team has also been involved in preparing the costume for the Pages From History exhibition opening on 14 November which we’re all excited to be sharing with visitors.

Secondly, the First World War project is bringing together documentation, images and research for the major Carlisle at War exhibition opening in autumn 2016.  We’ve already found some telling and often poignant images of many different people involved in the war effort, not just service personnel.  These images give me (and hopefully other non-specialists too) a different and locally-focused perspective on this tumultuous period of history.

Kirsty, a volunteer on both projects says:

“It’s given me a real insight in the work behind the scenes of the museum that you don’t get as a visitor.  It’s great experience too for helping me get a job in museums after my Masters degree.”

kirsty31115 (2)Not only is Kirsty benefiting from this experience but she is helping Tullie maintain the collections for future generations.

If you’ve been inspired and we’d be delighted to welcome you to the team .  If would like to get more involved with these projects or volunteering then please visit the volunteering page.  Here you can sign up to our mailing list that lets you know about all projects first, more information about our existing projects and how to join the team.  We’d love to welcome you.


Claire, Volunteer Co-ordinator


Object of the Month – August

The winner of this month’s object of the month vote is…


Flight Lieutenant Tadecusz Felc’s Royal Air Force Uniform

This object is an iconic symbol of allied forces in the Second World War and has a great story attached to it. Curator of Social History Edwin Rutherford gives us the low down on the uniform and the man who wore it.

“Tadecusz Felc (1919-1964) was a Polish Spitfire Pilot of 317 (Polish) Squadron. His squadron flew from many British airbases throughout the Second World War (1939-1945), but RAF Kingstown near Carlisle became its main base.

The bands on the tunic’s arm show his rank, while the coloured bars above the right pocket show which campaigns the owner fought in. The distinctive RAF eagle badge can clearly be seen above the the campaign bars along with the Polish Air Force medal below.

Tadecusz Felc’s war started in Poland when the airfield he was training at was attacked by the German air force, the Luftwaffe. as his home country was overrun he volunteered to join the allies, and completed his pilot training in Britain.

He joined 317 Squadron which had several duties:

  • Protecting convoys of supply ships to Britain
  • Provideing air cover against German bombing raids
  • Providing fighter protection to allied bombers

IMG_0190During one of these bomber escort missions his Spitfire was shot down. Captured by the Germans he was taken to the prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III where he assisted in the Great Escape by depositing soil from the tunnels Tom, Dick and Harry.

After surviving an infamous forced march Tadecusz Felc was liberated in May 1945. He went back to Cumbria to the Carlisle girl he had married three weeks before he was shot down.”

New Aquisitions : The Jacobites

We have recently acquired some iconic new material relating to the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. Our Curator of Social History, Edwin Rutherford, has written a short blog to introduce the new objects to the collection.

jacobites1“These exciting acquisitions will open up new opportunities to examine the secret world of clandestine rebel support in Northern England and the movement’s use of covert symbolism. Two miniature portraits of Prince Charles Edward Stuart will be used to examine the cult of ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ and analyse Carlisle’s capture from a Jacobite perspective.

jacobites2A 1746 map by George Smith shows Carlisle surrounded by Jacobite forces and positions of men such as Lord George Murray and the Duke of Perth. A large symbolic soda glass also enables us to examine the secret toasts to ‘The king over the water’ and the ‘Little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat.’ This material is integral to new interpretation and can be the basis to develop a new Jacobite display in the future.”

Edwin Rutherford – Curator of Social History

Keep an eye on the blog for more updates on how we use and expand our collections.

Object of the Month – April

As we hop into April, we have a new Object of the Month on display in our Rear Atrium, this month’s object from our stores is …

State Management Beer BottleIMGP6227

This bottle of Nut Brown beer was sold in Carlisle during the era of State Management (1916-1971).

Edwin, our Keeper of Social History tells us a little more about the fascinating history behind this month’s Object of the Month.

IMGP6234The Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic) was set up during by the British Government during World War I to regulate alcohol consumption in areas near major munitions factories and naval docks. In 1915 the Board took over ownership of Carlisle’s pubs, hotels and breweries nuder the defence of the Realm Act.

Carlisle had 119 public houses and 4 breweries serving a population of 50,000. There was also a surge in the population of the city due to an influx of labourers building the vast HM Gretna Munitions Factory. Many of these navvies visited the local pubs and there was a rise in drunkeness and anti social behaviour. In 1916 the Carlisle State Management bought up all the existing pubs and breweries. Pubs were closed down or reformed and managed by the State.

‘The Carlisle Experiment’ lasted until 1971 when the state-owned breweries and pubs were sold off. The legacy of the scheme lives on in the New Model Inns designed by Harry Redfern during the 1920s and 1930s; pubs like the Apple Tree and the Cumberland Inn in the city centre and others in the suburbs.

Next year is the 100th Anniversary of the start of State Management in Carlisle – if you have any objects or stories from this fascinated era of our history then please get in touch with the museum via

You can now vote for the Object of the Month at

Meet The Staff – Ed Rutherford – Curator of Social History

How long have you been working at Tullie House?

I have been working at Tullie for 7 years and 11 months.

Talk us through your average working day.

There is no average working day in my role as a Curator. I am consistently working on a diverse number of projects including managing, researching and developing a collection of 16,000 objects and 9,000 images, planning content and producing interpretation for temporary and permanent displays, delivering presentations and assisting the public with historic enquiries.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is undertaking the historic research of collections and producing the interpretation that will bring these objects to life. I enjoy creating subsets of objects that will form the basis of an exhibition and then establishing a display project that integrates social history collections with the other disciplines of the museum. Using a range of different techniques to engage the public with history including sound and moving film are all part of this creative and rewarding process.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Every exhibition project presents new challenges. It might involve solving a practical problem during a display installation or considering the ethical questions around interpretation of a controversial subject. In my role as a project manager I work with my colleagues to overcome these hurdles and move forward. Historical enquiries can also present challenges as they vary enormously in scope.

Do you have a favourite spot in Tullie House?

My favourite spot has to be the museums stores. This is where I can work with the collections and prepare engagement projects with the public. I do love the Victorian Clock Tower on Castle Street which I walk under every day on my way to work.

What is your best Tullie House memory or experience?

I have many fond memories of Tullie House. Curating Carlisle Life in 2007 was a brilliant experience as a museum professional. Developing and Curating Reivers in 2011was long term ambition that I turned into reality. Other highlights have included holding the oldest surviving FA Cup in 2010 and handling Charles Edward Stuarts Diamond ring in 2012. Georgian Carlisle was a pleasure to curate and received a wonderful reception from the Carlisle public. Receiving my AMA from the Museums Association and being selected in Carlisle Living’s top 100 influential people was also a good autumn in 2013.

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

I enjoy spending time with my family and going on day trips around North Cumbria/Scottish Borders and Northumberland. Carlisle has much to offer and has superb parks, interesting architecture and a real sense of place.

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

A career in museums is very rewarding and is all about public service. If you are passionate about history, nature or art and want to work in a museum – get some voluntary experience. There are also several courses in Museum/Gallery Studies and heritage management that are worth considering.

Describe Tullie House in five words.

Informative, Collections, Inspirational, People, Community

Needing inspiration for a sportier New Year you?

Happy New Year!  There has been no slowing down over the festive period and it’s all change again in THe Shed with a sports exhibition taking shape as I type…

Come Tek a Deek is now open. 

Below is the blog from Claire, Come Tek a Deek’s Co-ordinator, who reveals some fascinating facts about our local sports clubs and has infomation about how you can come and meet the people behind the exhibition.  Over to Claire.

Come Tek a Deek evolved out of us wishing to reach into the Sporting Community. We have many different sports clubs and groups in Carlisle who have long histories and their own collections of objects and memorabilia. THe Shed is all about involving the wider community in the museum so we put a call out to sports clubs across the city to get involved in creating an exhibition that celebrates the history of sport in the county. 

We attracted a wide range of interests, from football clubs to a rifle club, each with their own objects and stories to share. Did you know that members of the Border City Wheelers used to cycle as far as Preston, compete in competitions and then cycle back? Or that the Northbank Football club has a member who holds the world record for the longest header? Are you in the picture? Come tek a deek at our local clubs, their stories and history and share your sporting memories too! We have folders around the gallery with photos from the clubs along with pictures on the wall, so take a look and see if you are in the picture!  

As project coordinator I have learnt something new about each of the clubs and the sport they are involved with. I was surprised to learn that to race as a cyclist you needed a licence for example. I had not realised that this is an important part of being able to race legally on the road. Club member Andy told me this was not an issue when the club first started but as the roads became busier with traffic that it became important for the safety of other road users and the cyclists.

Did you know that the museum has an arms licence but for our historic and decommissioned weapons? For this show we had to talk to the police and ensure we were covered legally and that we had any arms displayed securely locked in special cases! 

If you wish to find out more…
Join us here for a Gallery Conversation at 1pm on Tuesday 13 January – meet some of the club members, talk to them about their sport and find out more about the people involved in the exhibition.

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