Coming Back! – Part 2: How do we look after our collections?

After hearing about our new displays in the previous blogpost, we thought you might like to know a bit more about how we look after our collections.

We have a very varied range of collections from natural history to fine art, archaeology to costume and almost everything you can think of in between.

  • A hippo skull with visible teeth
  • Two open pocket watches so you can see the golden, cog-like interior.
  • 33 small metal coins. Roman emperor heads can be seen stamped on some of the coins. Some are tarnished.

To make sure our objects can be enjoyed for as long as possible we have to keep a check on the environment we keep and display them in.

We were delighted to obtain a grant recently from Museum Development Yorkshire to purchase new WiFi digital monitoring equipment to help us do this exact task.

Image of a black data logger with a grey screen display. The display reads 23.5 degrees and 63% relative humidity. There is an image of a phone and a desktop screen in the background.
EasyLog WiFi datalogger to measure temperature and relative humidity

With these digital monitors we will be able to track the temperature of the air in the cases and in our stores so we know the temperature of the environment that the objects are in.

We can also measure the amount of moisture that the air can hold at that temperature. This is called relative humidity (RH).

The two measurements are linked, as warmer air can ‘hold’ more moisture than cooler air. We want both of these measurements to remain as stable as possible to prevent any damage to the objects.

We will be training our staff and volunteers in what changes to look out for using the new monitors.

How do we monitor the collections environment?

For mixed collections like ours we normally aim for around 18-20 ˚C and 50% RH. Some collection items need a lower RH level than this.  We can use separate boxes, cupboards and display cases with absorbent silica gel to create ‘microclimates’ for these items, like Shakespeare’s First Folio, which has its own conditioned case.

Close up shot of Shakespeare's First Folio. Open part way through the book. The left hand page says 'The Actor's Names'.
Shakespeare’s First Folio, 1623

If it gets too cold and damp, metal items like our lead mining tools would develop rust. Mould might grow on the leather items.

If it’s too warm and dry, wooden objects like the Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson furniture might shrink and crack.

A wooden carved mouse on the top of a piece of furniture in the Council Chamber at Skipton Town Hall.
A Mouseman carving in the Council Chamber at Skipton Town Hall

High temperatures and damp air together can also encourage insect pests like carpet beetles, clothes moths and silverfish to breed. They can cause damage to lots of different types of objects, like silk and wool items and even the glues in things like books and furniture. We definitely want to avoid these pests.

Creamy white silk wedding dress displayed on a dress stand with pink flowers and green stems visible down the left hand side. The dress is floor length with three quarter length sleeves and a pointed collar. Buttons run down the front.
Silk wedding dress, 1944

So you can see why it’s important to get the display and store environments just right!

What does this enable us to do better?

Our new monitors will mean we can track our cases and storage areas in real time. Alarms and graphs will let us know if there’s a rise or fall in temperature and relative humidity outside the boundaries we set.

Having a good idea of the environmental conditions in the cases will also help us share fragile and special objects like the 2,000 year old Flasby Sword which has an iron blade inside a copper alloy scabbard. It is a very difficult object to get the environmental conditions right for as it needs a low RH to prevent the iron blade rusting further.

Detail taken from the scabbard of the Flasby sword. The metal is slightly rusty and looks fragile. There is some damage visible.
Detail of the Iron Age Flasby Sword

If we find out there’s an environmental problem in the cases or in the stores through our monitoring, we can often use simple solutions such as adjusting the heating or using moisture absorbing products like silica gel. That’s why it’s good to find out about an issue early on before it causes damage to an object.

Monitoring the environment might not be something you ever think about when you visit a museum, but behind the scenes work like this is vital to help our objects survive to be enjoyed into the future.

Thank you Museum Development Yorkshire!

Black logo banner with the words 'Supported by Museum Development Yorkshire' in white

Make at Home: Spring Bouquets

What you will need:

Salt-dough or Ready-made clay

Food colouring



Step 1: If you have ready-made clay, you can skip to step 3. Measure out one cup of flour and half a cup of salt. Slowly add warm water and mix together to make a firm dough.

Step 2: Knead the dough out on a lightly floured surface until smooth

Step 3: Separate your dough into 4 balls, add the food colouring and mix well.

Step 4: Divide each ball into 6 smaller balls.

Step 5: Arrange 5 small balls around one central ball to look like a flower. Press them together to stick them to each other.

Step 6: Insert the stick on the lower side of the flower to make a hole and remove it.

Step 7: If you are using shop-bought clay, follow the instructions on the packaging. For the salt-dough, place your flowers into the oven- ask an adult for help with this! Set to very low heat (120 C) for approximately 2 hours or until hard (keep a close eye on them over this time).

Step 8: Decorate them with paint if you don’t have food colouring. Insert the stick back in the hole and glue it if you like.

Step 9: Now you have a lovely bouquet of Spring flowers!!

Fun Fact: The most popular flower for Easter is the Lilly and it symbolizes virtue, hope and innocence.

Meet the Team: Daniela Lorente University Student Placement

This week’s blog has been written by our new University Placement Student Daniela. Read on to find out more about her placement……

I have been taking part of my Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology degree placement year with Craven Museum since February.

As the museum is still closed, I have been working mostly remotely, but this does not mean there is not much to do! On the contrary, I have been involved in a series of different tasks from different projects.

I have been taking part in data checking on accession cards and working with the accession register. This involved checking a list of provided data against the records on the accession register, and as the materials are in storage, it has mainly consisted of reading the data and checking they have the correct numbers and descriptions in the museum database. It has been a long task, but very interesting, given that some objects in the database have pictures and, even though I could not see them live, I could look at them through the register pictures.

I have also worked on typing the different stories from the people that helped to create the bunting for the new Celebration exhibition. Some of them really caught my attention: One of the bunting flags was made by 3 generations of women (grandmother, mother and grandchild), another told the story of a lady remembering her childhood in town, and another told how this little project made them forget about the current situation for a couple of days. They were all celebrating and appreciating the museum, their town and their history. I cannot wait to see the exhibition when the museum opens!!

Besides all these, my main project at the moment is creating an inventory and organising a series of new lithic materials donated by the Kingsdale Head excavation for future handling sessions.

This job consists of analysing every individual piece, making an inventory with numbers and descriptions of them and taking pictures. Considering that these items are going to be used for handling sessions with children and adults, I am working on potentially creating workshops on how they were produced and how they evolved and changed through time (more on this in a later post!!).

Working with the museum’s team has provided me with an insight of what their job involves on a daily basis, and the different skills one can develop in such a rich environment. I have also gained experience on the rich heritage and culture of the region.

Coming Back! – Part 1

We have a behind the scenes blogpost for you this week with a glimpse into the new stores and displays at Craven Museum!

When the museum team moved the collection out for the refurbishment of Craven Museum at Skipton Town Hall in December 2018 we had to pack up the museum’s entire collection of around 60,000 objects. You can read about how we did it on the blog here.

We are now at the exciting stage of bringing all the objects back to make our new displays and put into our new stores.

  • A stack of boxes and packing materials in the old Craven Museum, with a desk to the right of the boxes and empty museum cases behind.
  • Multiple stacks of cardboard boxes of different shapes and sizes.

We are having our objects mounted for display by specialist mount makers, Rutherford and Wheeler.

6 pieces of brownish pottery with diagonal markings forming patterns. They are mounted on metal poles.
Collared Urn pieces, Elbolton Cave, Bronze Age

Some large items need scaffolding to get them into position!

Scaffolding supporting a wheel from the collection.

We are really enjoying seeing the display cases come to life with favourite objects from the old museum as well as new objects that we are collecting from the wider community in Craven.

In the stores we have new moveable shelving which means everything now has a place and we can fit more in!

Empty roller racking in the new museum

And when we re-open later this year we hope to run bookable store tours so you too can see behind the scenes!

Woodland Owl Family Activity!

Watch the video below or keep reading for tips on creating your own special Woodland Owl!

You can also find the video here

What you will need:

  • Toilet roll tube
  • Pens
  • Anything you can find to decorate your owl such as paint, paper, feathers, glitter, buttons, sequins, glue…

Step 1: To make your owl’s ears, start by gently folding over the top of your toilet roll

Step 2: Gently fold over the opposite side. It should now look something like this:

Step 3: It’s time to decorate! You can simply decorate with pens if you don’t have many materials to hand. Or you can really get creative and add paint, paper and sparkles to your owl!

We would love to see your creations. Share with us @SkiptonTownHall

Autumn Garland Family Activity!

It’s already October half-term and the days are getting shorter. So why not make a fun Autumn Garland to brighten up your home during the colder months?! Watch our video below to find out more:

What you will need:

  • Print out our template here: Autumn Garland Printable  (Don’t worry if you don’t have a printer, you can draw your own or you could even collect leaves, acorns and conkers that have fallen to the ground to decorate your garland)
  • String, ribbon or wool
  • Sellotape
  • Scissors
  • Coloured pencils

Step 1: Colour in your woodland images

Step 2: Carefully cut them out

Step 4: Your garland is now ready to be displayed!

We’d love to see your creations, so share your photographs @SkiptonTownHall

Exploring the Collection: Richard Ryley

This week’s blog was written by our volunteer Joe during lockdown…

Richard Ryley worked as a weaver based in Barnoldswick. The following three ‘Treasures in Store’ are some objects which focused on Richard’s life as an historian and diarist. Richard died on the 3rd September 1864 aged 43, possibly due to famine.   

Treasure 1 :- Richard’s Diary 

Richard kept his own diary from 1st January 1862 to 11th June 1864. Richard’s diary provided a unique insight into the social and cultural history of Victorian Britain and details issues such as poor working conditions. Poverty and regular bouts of ill-health were commonplace and detailed throughout with the diary. In this particular section of the diary, Richard details how the American Civil War caused problems in the supply of raw cotton. 

The two photographs show the diary when opened measured 44.6cm (width) and 16.5 cm (height). When closed the diary measured 22.3cm (width) and 16.5cm (height). I recently helped to transcribe pages from the diary and one quote from Page 60 (Dec 25-27) which really stands out for me is:-

“It is now Christmas Eve and with a thankful heart I am enjoying a good fire. I have selected for my Christmas reading ‘Marmion’ by Sir Walter Scott. When past 12 o’clock my Brothers John, Jerry, and James came to the door and John sang a verse of ‘While Shepherds’, after which we all sat down to a cup of tea, some cheese and Christmas loaf”

This really captures the spirit of Christmas as well as Richard’s religious values.

Treasure 2:- Poor Relief Book

This poor relief book belonged to the Skipton Workhouse and Poor Law district 1826 – 1869. Due to increased poverty and illness, Richard had to sign this book to apply for out-relief and further assistance. This gave Richard special permission to live at home rather than at the workhouse so he could gain further payments. This was referenced in Richard’s diary via the following excerpt:-

“Aug 4th At work all Day, though I feel very unable. Mr Bracewell and Doctor Parry called at my house in the forenoon, and told my Wife that I must apply for Parochial relief on the following day, and expressed their surprize that I had not applied before”

When opened the book measured 42 x 2 x 33cm.

Treasure 3:- Book of Common Prayer

Richard visited the church at least once a week on Sundays. This particular book was dated 1809 and measured 11 x 4 x 17cm (when closed). In the excerpt from his diary, despite gaining strength from religion, Richard documents pessimism and hints that he has not got long to live.

“Jan:5th . Sunday. Went to St. James’ Church in the Morning, Text, Job, chap7. Ver6. An excellent sermon. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope”

Activity 7 Creating Craven

Every Thursday throughout the summer holiday we will be bringing you a new fun activity to try at home. Using simple, everyday objects from around the home, you can follow our lead and get crafty with your family without having to leave the house!

It’s our final week of summer crafts and today we are…..Creating Craven!

Craven has some amazing landscapes and iconic attractions. Join us in making a collage of somewhere you love in Craven or beyond.

What you will need: Paper or card, old magazines or catalogues, found objects (such as leaves, petals, dried pasta, cotton, wool) glue, scissors

Step 1: Think of a place, real or imagined, to create in collage (we chose Skipton Castle!)

Step 2: Cut out or tear small pieces of magazine, photographs, newspapers or other objects. Start to arrange them on your paper

Step 3: Once you are happy with your layout, glue everything down

We’d love to see your creations! Share with us @SkiptonTownHall

What to try next: Make a picture frame for your collage using materials in your home. Construct a 3D model of a Craven landscape such as Ribblehead Viaduct or Skipton Castle using found objects.

We welcome your feedback!

Activity 6 Patterns & Prints

Every Thursday throughout the summer holiday we will be bringing you a new fun activity to try at home. Using simple, everyday objects from around the home, you can follow our lead and get crafty with your family without having to leave the house!

In week 6 of our summer crafts we are experimenting with….Patterns & Prints!

Decorative patterns can be found everywhere around us. There are some surprising patterns and mark- making in the museum collection.

What you will need: Something to print with (there are hundreds of possibilities! Potatoes, fingers, forks, cotton reels, leaves, coins, dominoes, Lego bricks….)

Paint (If you don’t have any paint, you could use paper and coloured pencils to take rubbings from different places around the home or garden, to find and create patterns instead!)

Step 1: Gather as many printmaking ‘tools’ as you can from around your home. There are so many possibilities! We used bubble wrap, buttons, coins, cotton reels, leaves, our fingers, potatoes cut into different shapes and even a potato masher!

Step 2: Dip your tools into paint. You can also use a paintbrush to help you apply the paint

Step 3: Create a basic pattern using your tool

Step 4: Start to build up your print using different colours and tools. What patterns can you make?

We’d love to see what you have created. Share with us @SkiptonTownHall

What to try next: Make a picture frame for your prints using materials in your home. Can you curate your own exhibition of prints for family and friends?

We welcome your feedback!

Activity 5 Discovering Shakespeare Part 2

Every Thursday throughout the summer holiday we will be bringing you a new fun activity to try at home. Using simple, everyday objects from around the home, you can follow our lead and get crafty with your family without having to leave the house!

In the early 1930’s, a Shakespeare First Folio was donated to the museum by Miss Ann Wilkinson, daughter of a local businessman. At the  time of Shakespeare’s death, in 1616, 18 of his plays had not reached print. They only existed in handwritten actors’ stage notes and Shakespeare’s own drafts. Included in these unpublished works were some of Shakespeare’s most popular plays such as Macbeth, Twelfth Night and the Tempest. It is unlikely that any of these plays would have survived without the Folio. It is for reasons like this that it is thought of as the most important book in English literature.

This week we are making our own finger puppets of William Shakespeare himself! Plus two of his most famous characters- Romeo & Juliet!

What you will need: Paper, scissors, colouring pencils

Step 1: Print out the finger puppet template: Craven Museum – Shakespeare Finger Puppets

Don’t worry if you don’t have a printer, you can just draw your own! Remember to add two small holes to put your fingers through.

Step 2: Cut out your finger puppets

Step 3: Get colouring!

Step 4: Now your finger puppets are complete you can create your own Shakespeare performance!

We’d love to see your creations! Share with us @SkiptonTownHall

What to try next: Make your own puppet theatre using a cardboard box!

We welcome your feedback!