27 April 2011

Royal weddings: souvenir mugs

Royal souvenir mugs are one of the ways in which the English have made tea drinking their own. Royal marriages, coronations and even divorces and deaths are all marked by a proliferation of porcelain.

No sooner had William and Kate announced their engagement on 16th November 2010 than the rush to produce memorabilia began. Many producers already had designs ready and waiting in anticipation of such an announcement, and in some cases mugs were available almost overnight.

As a museum of the home, the Geffrye’s collections reflect the nation’s tendency to commemorate royal events with homewares. We were allowed into the museum stores to investigate some of the objects from their collection of royal memorabilia.

Royal memorabilia in the Geffrye Museum stores
This beaker commemorates the coronation of George V in 1911, and includes a local commemorative inscription, in which Bethnal Green is represented as a rural idyll.

Coronation mug of George V, 1911. Geffrye Museum, London

Coronation mug of George V, 1911. Geffrye Museum, London
Many would say you can’t have tea without biscuits – never fear, the royal souvenir market has that covered too, as this commemorative biscuit tin, from the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953 demonstrates.

Biscuit tin commemorating coronation of Elizabeth II, 1953. Geffrye Museum, London.
One could have enjoyed dunking a nice biscuit from one’s coronation tin (preferably something involving chocolate) into one’s coronation mug.

Coronation mug of Elizabeth II, 1953. Geffrye Museum, London
Memorabilia of less popular royals is rarer and therefore more valuable today: mugs marking the coronation of the philandering, gambling George IV in 1820, for example, can fetch £3,500. Far more numerous were mugs marking his death, worth around £700 today.

While royal memorabilia was not common until Victorian times, its roots can be traced back to the reign of Charles II (1660-1685), when royal pomp was encouraged after eleven years of royal exile following the execution of Charles I in 1649. The ceramics collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum includes a colourful little mug bearing a picture of Charles II. Tea at this time was hugely expensive, and this cup was probably meant for display or for drinking strong ale.

From one of the earliest royal commemorative mugs back to the most recent, we're betting that in the long run, these mugs accidentally depicting Harry alongside Kate rather than William will turn out to be the most sought-after souvenirs of the occasion.

Manufacturers of William and Kate mugs do not just have their eyes on the British market, but the international market. Memorabilia connected with the British royal family is popular the world over, especially in the USA.

As Asda put it: ‘Nothing says congratulations like your face on a mug.’

It’s just not official unless we can drink tea out of it.

25 April 2011

Mystery Object No. 4 - the Solution

This week, we asked you to guess what this object would have been used for in the eighteenth century:

Hot water urn, c.1790 (c) Geffrye Museum, London
When first seeing this object in the Geffrye Museum, we did something of a double take. It looks familiar – rather like a sporting trophy – yet the tap sticking out of it would suggest that it is intended for something quite different.

It is, in fact, a hot water urn, to be used to replenish a teapot without the need to interrupt a tea party by calling for a servant, made in around 1790.

When tea first started to be drunk in English homes from the late 1600s, it was hugely expensive. In the 1690s, the Countess of Argyll paid over £10 for 6 ounces of tea. That’s £26 per pound, at a time when her estate’s lawyer earned £20 a year.

Given the expense and mystique of the imported oriental leaf, tea was not kept in the kitchen stores but in the mistress’s closet in a locked canister or caddy. When tea was to be drunk, it would not be prepared in the kitchen, but in the room in which it was to be served. Servants would bring the required equipment to the room, and the lady or gentleman of the house would brew the tea and serve it to their guests or family.

Hence the need for our hot water urn; a servant would deliver the crucial supply of boiling water and pour it into an appropriate vessel, to be used as required.

See the real thing in the Geffrye Museum, in Information Bay 4.

For more on the history of tea in English homes, look out for our digital story, which will be available on the Geffrye Museum website from early May.

23 April 2011

Mystery Object No. 4 - Something Shiny

Have you been missing our mystery object posts? If so then we have excellent news - we have a new mystery object this week!

Can you tell us what this object would have been used for?

(c) Geffrye Museum, London
It is made of silver-plated copper and dates from the eighteenth century.

Answer in the blog comments of via our Twitter feed, and we'll post the solution on Monday. Happy guessing!

21 April 2011

World at Home for the Family

Lots of pictures for you today! Tuesday and Wednesday saw our The World at Home family days take over the Geffrye Museum, and I think we can safely say that a good time was had by all. Here is a sample of what went on:

Scents of the World - making pomanders to take home
Mixing fragrances in Scents of the World

Tales from the Deep - handling 300 year old tea bowls and saucers (lucky children - we haven't been allowed to do this!)

Tales from the Deep - retelling the story of the Ca Mau shipwreck using shadow puppets. Truly impressive.
Tales from the Deep - concentrating hard at the OHP
Lunchtime at the museum in the sunshine
Company's Coming - baking Turkish biscuits. They smelt amazing!
Company's Coming - tasty biscuit mixture
Company's Coming - the finished product!

Printed Patterns - making prints using fabric paint

Printed Patterns - even our youngest visitors joined in

Printed Patterns - some of the finished prints. They will all be stitched together to make a banner

Fantastic Fans - remember we told you about Japanese uchiwa? Some of the children at yesterday's family day made their own to take home with them

Another Fantastic Fan

Tea Leaf Reading - enjoying a nice cup of Early Grey

Tea Leaf Reading - finding out what different symbols in the tea leaves mean
 There are more photos over on our Flickr site. Were you there? See if you can find yourself!

18 April 2011

Two Weeks of Tea

Update: We've decided to give you some extra time to get your favourite mug photos in - the photo event will now end on Tuesday 3rd May and that's when we'll be posting our favourites.

For the next two weeks, the World at Home blog will be running under the theme of tea!

Drinking tea is often associated with the English, yet it's something which is not originally English at all, which makes it the perfect way to explore international influences in the home.

If you want to find out more about where tea comes from and how it ended up in English homes, look out for our Digital Story called 'The History of Tea in English Homes' which will appear on the Geffrye Museum's website in May.

Your Favourite Mug

As part of our 'two weeks of tea', we've decided to run another photographic event!

Drinking tea is often considered a very 'English' past time, but we know that not only does tea get taken in many different ways all across the UK, but people from all over the world drink it too. After all, the English weren't the first people to drink tea.

Once tea started to be imported into Britain in the late 1600s, people here took to it very quickly, but drinking tea meant they needed to have something to drink it from. As well as tea, ships started bringing in the delicate china it was drunk out of - first tea bowls, then tea cups! Now, the range of things you can buy for drinking your tea out of is huge, and cups and mugs are made from many different materials.

We want to see what it is you drink your tea out of. Maybe a picture of your favourite mug or tea cup, or the one you use most often. Maybe you have one that was imported, just like they were first imported to Britain from China.

Once again, you can send us your photos by adding them to our Flickr group. Once you've uploaded your images to your Flickr account, join our group and click 'add something' to contribute your images. Tell us all about your mug in the photo's description.

This way, we can collect your images and make our own online gallery of favourite mugs.

Here are a couple of our favourite mugs to get you started:

"My mum bought this mug for me after I got my GCSE results. I'd been really ill during the exams and was so worried about how the results would come out! They turned out all right and this mug helps to cheer me up when I'm worried about something."
"Yes, this is actually a mug! I saw this camera lens mug on the internet and wanted it for a long time before my boyfriend bought it for me as a Christmas present. I love it because it looks so real, people always give me a funny look when I start pouring boiling water into it. Plus, it matches my real camera lenses."

You don't need to be a professional photographer, or even have a camera - a mobile phone shot will do, or maybe you could even draw us a picture! We want to get as many people as possible exploring their home for international influences, and then let you share them with people all over the world! If you can't get us a picture, tell us about your international objects in the blog comments.

Our favourite images and/or stories from the group will be posted here on the blog next Saturday (30th April). Check back to see if yours makes it!

16 April 2011

Tales from the Deep

On both of our Stories of the World Family Days next week (Tuesday 19th and Wednesday 20th April), families can take part in our Tales from the Deep storytelling activity.

Tales from the Deep is based on the story of a shipwreck discovered by fishermen in 1998, off the Ca Mau peninsular in Vietnam. The wreck was of a Chinese ship known as a junk, which sank in about 1725, laden with cargo destined for the European market. There was great demand for Chinese porcelain in Europe at this time, especially to equip people to drink the newly fashionable tea.

The junk was carrying thousands of pieces of Chinese porcelain, probably ferrying them between Canton (Guangzhou) and the Dutch trading post of Batavia (now Jakarta). It is clear that much of this porcelain was destined for sale at European ports such as London or Amsterdam; some pieces are decorated with elements of traditional Dutch fishing villages, but executed in the Chinese style. As well as this intermingling of decorative influences, there were objects of European form, such as beer mugs.

Saucer, c.1725 (c) Geffrye Museum, London
Tea bowl, c.1725 (c) Geffrye Museum, London
The tea bowl and saucer pictured above were probably made in the city of Jingdezhen, China, which is famous for its porcelain production. Their decoration shows a scene in a garden with a pavilion and three figures, a man in military clothing walking with a woman, and a man in scholarly official robes emerging from behind the pavilion.

After 250 years on the seabed, much of this cargo has now been recovered. In fact, you can see some of it on display in the Geffrye’s 1745 parlour.

Even more excitingly, families taking part in our Tales of the Deep activity will be able to handle a tea bowl recovered from the wreck. Children can then make their own shadow puppets to retell the ship’s story.

Find more information about the tea bowl and saucer pictured in the Geffrye’s collections online here.

13 April 2011

Fantastic Fans

Next week, at our second Stories of the World Family Day on Wednesday 20th April, children can join in with our ‘Fantastic Fans!’ activity.

Fan, c.1890-1950 (c) Geffrye Museum, London
‘Fantastic Fans!’ is based on the Japanese fan pictured above, on display in the Geffrye Museum’s 1890 drawing room. The 1890 room is decorated in the style of the Aesthetic Movement, which was strongly influenced by Japanese art and design.

These traditional Japanese round hand fans are known as ‘uchiwa’, and they have a very long history. They came originally from China, and were made from bamboo and ‘washi’ paper. They have had many uses: as far back as the Heian period (794-1185), fans were used as ceremonial items at the Imperial court, later they became common props in performing arts such as Japanese classical dancing, and in the tea ceremony. They were also a necessity amongst ordinary people for keeping cool in the summer, and for stoking cooking fires. They are still in use today, to fan charcoal on barbeques or to cool hot rice when making sushi, and also as cheap, practical promotional items, distributed in cities in the summer.
Tradition in Kyoto holds that uchiwa are properly used not to fan oneself, but to fan others, as a way of expressing respect and appreciation.
In our ‘Fantastic Fans!’ workshop, children can make an ‘uchiwa’ fan of their own design to take home with them. See here for the programme of events.
See the real thing in the 1890 room!
See here for more information from the Geffrye's collections online.

For more on Japanese homes, see the Geffrye Museum’s exhibition 'At Home in Japan - Beyond the Minimal House', running from 22 March to 29 August 2011.

11 April 2011

Stories of the World Family Days

Do you have restless children to entertain over the school holidays?
Bring them along to the Geffrye Museum for our Stories of the World Family Days for fun craft workshops, stories and more, based around some of the different cultures that have influenced English homes over the last 400 years. Children can try their hand at some Turkish baking, make shadow puppets to perform their own puppet show, or perhaps even see into the future reading tea leaves!

Family day (c) Geffrye Museum, London
Scents of the World
All Ages
10:30-12:30, 2:00-4:00 (24 places available)
Sweeten your home with sachets of exotic herbs and spices.

Wish You Were Here!
All Ages
10:30-12:30, 2:00-4:00 (24 places available)
Design a postcard to share your dream home with the world.
Tales From the Deep
All Ages
10:30-12:30, 2:00-4:00 (24 places available)
Handle objects from the Ca Mau shipwreck and retell the story using shadow puppets.
Company’s Coming
12:00 and 2:30 (14 places available - register when you arrive)
Bake your own traditional Turkish tea-time treats.
Fantastic Fans!
All Ages
10:30-12:30, 2:00-4:00 (24 places available)
Explore Japanese design to create your own fan.
Printed Patterns
All Ages
10:30-12:30, 2:00-4:00 (24 places available)
Be inspired by 1960s textiles to produce a group piece of art.
Tales From the Deep
All Ages
10:30-12:30, 2:00-4:00 (24 places available)
Handle objects from the Ca Mau shipwreck and retell the story using shadow puppets.
Tea-leaf Reading
12:00- 1:00, 2:00-3:00, 3:15-4:15 (14 places available - register when you arrive)
Try your hand at the popular Victorian parlour game of tea leaf reading.

Family day activities (c) Geffrye Museum, London
We hope to see you there!

9 April 2011

Your International Home

Last week we asked you to tell us about international objects in your home and we loved seeing the international objects from around your homes! Here are some of our favourites:

Doug Ellertson shared this photo of Japanese Asahi which he has been enjoying in his Canadian home:

Close Up of Asahi Beer! :)

Plenty of the food and drink we take for granted has made long international journeys: in recent decades, food and drink have travelled around the globe far more than ever before.
Of course, when food is imported from other countries, often the country it's being imported to doesn't have the accessories to go with it - they need to be imported too.
team_nuwanda showed us this pretty little rice bowl that has come all the way from Hong Kong to England:

Rice Bowl

Some of our very favourite photos were of two different objects, both made from scrap metal, and brought back from different parts of Africa.

Steph-Nut showed us this very cute little warthog (made from spare metal shavings) from Zimbabwe:


While lolamaxx contributed this model racing car, made in South Africa:

Scrap Tin Car, Cape Flats, Cape Town

But if we were giving out points for the number of international objects contributed, the first prize would have to go to barefootfiona, for this impressive haul covering 11 countries in 5 continents!

Foreign Souvenirs

Even the blanket they are sitting on here started its life in Africa.

Thankyou to everyone who contributed to the Flickr group!

If you enjoyed contributing this time around, keep your eyes peeled for our next photographic event to run through our Flickr group, which will start on the 20th April.

7 April 2011

Project update: in which we get to travel back in time

No mystery object this week, I'm afraid. They'll be back soon! Instead, we thought we thought we'd give you an update on some of the other things we're working on.

As well as writing this blog for you, we've been busy preparing some permanent resources which will eventually appear on the Geffrye's website.

The Geffrye is a museum of English homes, but not everything in its collection is English. We're putting together an interactive map of the world which will show you where objects in the Geffrye collection started their lives, so you can explore the world at home for yourself.

We've tried to do a little of this on the blog already, which is why we've been asking you where things are from and asking you to look for international objects in your own home.

This week, we've been finalising our designs for the map and collecting together some photographs of the objects. Early one morning the Geffrye's curators kindly let us into the galleries to take some of our own...

For a few brief minutes we got to pretend that we had travelled to English homes of the past! (With a digital camera, of course.)

Our permanent resources should be complete and on the website for you to enjoy in early May!

5 April 2011

The New Adventures of Sam the Dog & Other Stories

Along with a gallery display in the Geffrye Museum, our project team is also creating a ‘World at Home’ experience for young visitors!

As well as two family days held over the Easter holidays (more information on this coming soon!), the Feely Box and Sam the Dog children’s trail are undergoing a World at Home makeover.

The Feely Box is an opportunity for families to handle objects linked to the museum, but without being able to see them. There are information cards so you can check whether you guessed correctly what the objects are. It’s a bit like our blog mystery objects but you get to actually touch the real thing! Each object will have some multicultural link, so as well as guessing what the object is, you can work out how it links to another culture.

The Geffrye Museum Feely Box
From 11th April you will be able to feel our 14 new objects in action, and learn a bit more about how different cultures have influenced the English home.

As an extra treat, the Geffrye’s Sam the Dog trail is being redesigned to get children thinking more carefully about how English their homes are.

Sam will appear in each of the Geffrye’s period rooms to ask and answer questions about where things came from.

Do you know where mirrors were being made in the 17th century? Or where chess comes from? From the start of May, children (and the young at heart) can join Sam as he goes on new adventures around the world to find out the answers!

4 April 2011

Remembering Your Travels

This week we're asking you to show us photos of international objects in your own home. If you're having trouble thinking of anything you have that fits your description, consider your souvenirs!

Souvenirs have been a way for people to remember things for a long time. Wherever you live, people who visit can probably find a souvenir to take home with them. You might buy one to remember something you did, somewhere you went, or something that happened, but the point of them is usually to remember.

Whether you buy them yourself or get given them as a gift after someone you know has been on holiday, souvenirs mean there are often many objects from many different countries in your home. I love to collect things when I visit new places, so I have quite a few souvenirs. Even things which weren't intended as souvenirs I love to think of as reminding me of the place or time I bought them, so they become just as meaningful.

We've explored the Geffrye's stores to show you some of the objects bought as souvenirs of travel that ended up in English homes.

This dish was originally sold as a souvenir in Malta, a country located just South of Italy and Sicily. It's made of real shells, with a small painting of the island at the centre.
(c) Geffrye Museum, London
It might not be to everyone's taste, but it's a good reminder of a summer's beach holiday and there are probably many places souvenirs just like this can still be bought.

Souvenirs have been around a lot longer than many people think. This gorgeous money box was probably made in Italy around 1860. It's decorated with some very pretty scenes of British sailing boats, including a steamer with flag flying at full mast, but it's inscribed 'Florence'.
(c) Geffrye Museum, London
It was made in Florence, Italy, as a souvenir, and was bought by someone who brought it back to their English home. Maybe they were an English person who liked the thought of their own country's boats being active in Italian trade, or maybe they just thought the images were pretty.

Here's an object you might think was a souvenir, but was actually made in England:
(c) Geffrye Museum, London
(c) Geffrye Museum, London
This folding mirror may look like it travelled from Asia but, as some of you might have learnt from our last mystery object, looks can be deceiving. The mirror was made in 1976, at a time when Japanese arts and styles were very popular in England.

For the middle-class English person, it might be considered very impressive to have something hanging on your wall which looked like it had travelled from far off places - it made the owner look a bit more important - and most people would never be able to tell. Souvenirs can be a way to show off as well as remember!

Speaking of looks being deceiving...
(c) Geffrye Museum, London
This is an earthenware oil lamp from the Mediterranean. You might be forgiven for thinking it's almost 2000 years old and was around during the Greek or Roman period! However, experts have looked at this lamp and discovered it's likely to be a modern 'pastiche' made only partly of ancient lamp pieces, designed to sell to tourists as a souvenir.

And lastly, a souvenir everyone is probably familiar with, the postcard:
(c) Geffrye Museum, London
I love looking at souvenir postcards when I go on holiday, and usually I try to send one back to friends or family at home. It seems whoever sent these 'Best Wishes from India' felt the same way.

But the thing I look for most when I'm visiting somewhere new is a souvenir that can be found in many tourist destinations, usually in the gift shops:

This is a small selection of my souvenir shotglass collection! These examples are all from a trip to Memphis, Tenessee, although as you can see there's one from neighbouring state Mississippi that snuck in there too. I love my shotglasses as I think they're a fun (and kind fo pretty) reminder of places I've visited and the things I've seen and done.

What kind of souvenirs do you have in your home? Do you always buy one when you go away, or do you ask people to bring them back for you? Do you collect a certain type of souvenir? Tell us about them in comments, or add a photo to our flickr group as part of our photo event!

2 April 2011

Mystery Object No. 3 - the Solution

This week we asked you where this object was made:

Corner cupboard, 1720-1760 (c) Geffrye Museum, London
Lose ten points if you said Japan (sorry). Congratulations to those who answered with European countries!
Despite its oriental appearance, our mystery object was actually made in Europe sometime between 1720 and 1760. Experts can't tell exactly where because these sorts of objects were so popular throughout the continent.
Oriental lacquer objects were first imported into Europe in the late 1500s, along with spices, silks and porcelain. Such goods were only imported into Britain in large quantities after the formation of the East India Company in 1600.
As demand for oriental lacquer objects outstripped supply, European craftsmen began to experiment with their own materials to imitate the style, producing a technique known as ‘japanning’. This is a finish achieved by applying several layers of varnishes and glazes.
Attempts at japanning were first made in England in the early 1600s, but the boom in popularity of oriental and japanned objects started during the reign of Charles II (1660-1685). The style was applied to all sorts of things, from tea trays to coaches. At the height of its popularity, japanned ware was present in every middle-class home.
The scenes picked out in gold leaf and bronze paint on our cupboard are not an accurate imitation of the pictures on Asian lacquer, but a fanciful European version of them. The cupboard was originally blue, but the layers of varnish have discoloured over time. The original gold leaf picking out figures, foliage and decoration, however, is still largely intact.
Even though this object itself did not travel from Asia, it’s a good example of how techniques and practices can travel across the globe.
See the real thing in the Geffrye Museum’s 1745 parlour.

1745 parlour (c) Geffrye Museum, London
See here for more information from the Geffrye's collections online.