Social History Curator Kitty reveals a newly identified object in the collections.
One of the main challenges of curating a large museum collection is the haphazard documentation left behind by one’s predecessors. When I have a spare moment, I try and match up information from old donor correspondence with our collections database.
Often this is frustrating and impossible – letters may refer to vague donations of ‘various toys’ or an ‘old chair’ – but occasionally you stumble across something so accurately described that there can be no doubt, and suddenly an unidentified object in store has a story and provenance that justifies its place in the collection. It can also shed new light on an object that you have passed many times in the store and wondered how on earth you might be able to research its history.
In a letter to the museum dated August 1968, Miss Eleanor G. Lupton wrote:
‘Our chauffeur here (Frank Buck by name) living in one of our cottages, has a piece of Roundhay antiquity, in which I think you may be interested – It is a keystone of the arched doorway to the blacksmith’s forge which stood at Oakwood till nearly the end of the last century, & from which the present “Oakwood Lane” took its name of “Horseshoe Lane” by which it was still known in my childhood.
‘The stone is carved with blacksmith’s emblems – hammer, tongs, horseshoe – & was presumably the work of the local stone mason of the Nettleton family, a member of which removed it to his home at Ash Bank, Wetherby Road, when the forge was demolished. Mrs Frank Buck is a member of this family, & she and her husband would willingly present it to the old blacksmith’s forge at the Abbey House Museum, Kirkstall if you would care to accept it and fit it in there.’
The keystone was definitely collected but never seems to have been properly accessioned, catalogued or even displayed at Abbey House Museum as was clearly intended. However, it is now catalogued with its full story and can be seen as part of store tours at the Leeds Discovery Centre.
Kitty Ross, Curator of Social History