Assistant Curator of Social History Nicola Pullan reflects on the many unnamed women in the collection on ‘Stories’ day of Museum Week.
It’s that time of year at Abbey House Museum where we are starting to research our next temporary exhibition. In January 2018 we will be looking at women’s lives and how they have changed over the last 150 years. This is partly in honour of the 100th anniversary of the first women getting the right to vote in general elections. The exhibition itself will look at lots of different aspects of women’s lives including health, education and work.
We have begun looking more closely at our collections to pull out some great stories to share. However, yesterday, I was struck by the numbers of stories we will never be able to get to the bottom of. We have a large number of photographic postcards of a wide variety of Victorian women. In many cases we know who took the photograph, but we rarely know who the women themselves were and have very few clues about how to find out more. This brought to mind the Virginia Woolf quote from A Room of One’s Own: “I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.”
Studio image of an anonymous woman, taken by Albert Sachs, Bradford based photographers between 1873 and 1900.Sadly, we’ll never get to find out more about the lives of these women, who they were and how they lived. We do, of course, have unidentified men in our collections too, but that’s a post for another day!
By Nicola Pullan, Assistant Curator of Social History.