Is Craven Arms Shropshire’s Best Kept Secret?

A sign about mammoths lured me into this little town I’d never heard of.

Why have I never heard of this town before?

I had no intention of going there (obviously, as I’d never heard of it), but ended up spending two nights. Continue reading “Is Craven Arms Shropshire’s Best Kept Secret?”

People’s History Museum, Manchester

The People’s History Museum documents the history of ordinary working people with posters, banners and artifacts.

I’ve been to this museum a few times before, sometimes for talks and sometimes to just look around it. I always manage to learn something new.

This time I was looking around with a friend’s daughter who is currently studying in Manchester. As she was originally from Manchester, but moved away as a child, this was a good place to re-introduce her to her roots. Continue reading “People’s History Museum, Manchester”

Fusilier Museum, Bury

You don’t have to be a military history buff to be fascinated by the many stories told in this museum.

I’m not particularly into military history which was a bit of a problem when I was given a unit of local history to teach. The unit  included lessons on the Lancashire Fusiliers which I was expected to plan myself. Fortunately Bury is home to the Lancashire Fusilier Museum so I took myself along one Saturday to do a bit of research and recce it for a potential class trip. Continue reading “Fusilier Museum, Bury”

Freud Museum

A visit to the final home of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

Sigmund Freud, Austrian Jew and renowned psychoanalyst, fled the Nazis and arrived in London in 1938. Until his death the following the year he lived in a large house in North London, just off Finchley Road and not far from Finchley Road underground station. Continue reading “Freud Museum”

A Sunday in Umeå

I had just one day to explore this small city in the north of Sweden.

I only had one day in Umeå and wanted to make the most of it. I’d arrived late the evening before and though I hadn’t had chance to really take it in, I’d liked what I’d seen. Continue reading “A Sunday in Umeå”

Västerbottens Museum, Umeå

This museum is about everything Västerbotten

I was only in Umeå because that was where the bus ended up and it was where I could pick up the night train back to Stockholm. I’d spent the summer walking northern Sweden’s Kungsleden trail and now I was on my way home. Continue reading “Västerbottens Museum, Umeå”

The British in India Museum

Entrance to British in India Museum
Spot the museum

The British in India Museum is hidden away in a warehouse in Nelson (Lancashire). It’s not signposted and is difficult to spot. We drove past it several times before we spotted the sign over a side door to the warehouse reception area. As it’s closed at the weekend I’d already waited a long time for the chance to see it and so was determined not to let its camouflaged location beat me. Hardly surprising really that it ranks at one of the top five least visited museums in Britain.

inside the British in India Museum

The museum started life as the private collection of Henry Nelson who had served in India in the 1940s. He came home with a suitcase of souvenirs and continued to develop his collection and his interest. By 1972 he had enough to open a museum.

Tiger skin

The museum is as museums used to be. It smells musty and is crammed with artifacts and memorabilia; everything from a tiger (complete with black and white photo taken of the party who shot it) to medals, newspaper cuttings to weapons and clothes to model soldiers. There’s a lot of information to read and even more to see. We walked round several times, each time seeing things we hadn’t noticed first time round.

soldiers on stilts
The Indian Princely States could not afford war elephants, so they trained infantry on stilts to combat the elephants of their wealthy neighbours. The officer is on foot.

Originally the museum was housed in a building in Colne and it moved to its present location a few years ago after the death of its founder. His son now runs the museum, but it is a sideline to the warehouse. The entrance is shared with the warehouse reception. The man on reception walked us through to the museum and from then on we were left to our own devices. He told us that there are a lot more artifacts in storage, but it’s a massive job searching through everything and getting it all catalogued.

collapsible camping chair
A rather ornate, but completely collapsible camping chair. It puts my canvas camping chair to shame.

Although it seemed obvious that the museum could do with a full-time curator and a new roof, as well as a bigger space, part of me hopes it will never change. There aren’t many museums left like this and visiting it is an experience in itself. And I like that I’ve been to one of the least visited museums in the country.

ornate chair
Detail from the top of a carved chair

detail from ornate chair

I wonder what the number one least visited museum is? Maybe I could go there next?

Sambo books
I’m sure I had some of these as a child. They seem so politically incorrect now.

Here’s a short clip of the museum I found online.

Can you recommend any unusual or little-visited museums?

Friday Flickr – Skansen Open-Air Museum

My first Friday Flickr album is from Skansen Open-Air Museum in Stockholm. It was the world’s first open-air museum and is huge. AND it has bears!

As part of being super-organised with my new website (and being super-enthusiastic) I’ve decided to have a regular feature.

Yes, just like the real bloggers.

As I have an abundance of photos that I’m slowly trying to upload to Flickr, I thought I could do myself a favour and make my Flickr albums multi-functional by using them on here.

I’m also thinking that linking my social media accounts in this way might generate more readers and be good for my SEO. I sort of understand what SEO is and why it’s important, but actually I don’t really. Pearls of wisdom in the comments section below will be welcomed.

So, onto my first Friday Flickr (drummm rollll) …

It’s an album filled with the best of my photos from Skansen, a photogenic place if ever there was one.

Skansen can be found on the outskirts of Stockholm and was the world’s first open-air museum. It was opened in 1891 and has been growing ever since.

It showcases historic buildings from the full length of Sweden and also has a zoo and an aquarium. People dressed in periodic costume demonstrate crafts from times gone by like breadmaking and glass-blowing.

But best of all, I got to see bears. Real ones! They looked so cute and cuddly. Well, except for their huge claws. I think I’m probably glad I didn’t meet any in the wild when I walked the Kungsleden.

Fika

I spent a very long day wandering round and only stopped for one quick coffee (couldn’t miss out on fika, especially when it looked like this). I saw pretty much everything except the aquarium, but felt like I was rushing. I would have liked to have taken it slower and had more time to watch the animals. Two days would have been much better, but there were so many other things to see in Stockholm and my time was running out, so I couldn’t really justify it. I’d definitely go back again though.

Click on the image below to access the Flickr album.

Skansen Open-air Museum, Stockholm

The website for Skansen can be found here.

Selma Lagerlöf in Falun

Following in the tracks of Selma Lagerlöf.

Selma Lagerlöf is one of Sweden’s classic authors. She lived from 1858 to 1940 and worked as a teacher until the Swedish royal family persuaded her to give up teaching and supported her financially so she could develop her writing career. (Note to self: write to Queen and ask her to support me to give up teaching so I can write full-time).

Selma Lagerlöf
Portrait of Selma Lagerlöf in the Dalarnas Museum

Although she’d been writing since childhood, she wasn’t published until 1890. Once published there was no stopping her and it was only five years later that the royals began supporting her along with the Swedish Academy.

Selma Lagerlöf
Sculpture of Selma Lagerlöf outside the Dalarnas Museum

She travelled and some of her novels are set in the places she visited such as Italy and Jerusalem. In 1909 she became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

I first came across her when I was researching my trip to Sweden and looking for books to read by Swedish authors who write outside of the Nordic-Noir genre (of which I’d already devoured massively).

The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, published in 1906, tells the story of a young boy who misbehaves and is rather nasty. He is shrunk by a passing elf and ends up on the back of his famly’s white goose just as it decides to join a flock of passing wild geese and migrate to the far north of Sweden.

Selma Lagerlöf on 20 Kronor banknote
Selma Lagerlöf is featured on one side of the 20 kronor note. Nils riding his white goose is on the reverse.

The book is all about the adventures he has travelling the length and breadth of Sweden with the geese.

Lagerlöf was commissioned to write the book by the National Teachers’ Association and it was intended as a geography reader for schools. She spent three years researching wildlife, geography and folklore before eventually publishing the book in 1906.

Although the book was intended for children, its remit made it a useful resource for me. I learnt a lot from it, as well as enjoying the story and her style of writing. It was in this book that I first heard of Skansen, a place I made sure I visited and spent a wonderful day at when I was in Stockholm.

Dalarnas museum
Dalarnas Museum in Falun
Dalarnas museum
Dalarnas Museum from across the river

Selma moved to Falun in the Dalarna region of central Sweden in 1897. Consequently, the Dalarnas Museum in Falun has a permanent exhibition on her and her work, including a replica of her study.

Selma Lagerlöf's study Selma Lagerlöf's study Selma Lagerlöf's study Selma Lagerlöf's study Selma Lagerlöf's study Selma Lagerlöf's studyHow wonderful is this study? I want one just like it.

She lived on the hill overlooking the town on what just happened to be the street where the prison I was staying in was. I tried to find her house, but as far as I can make out it no longer exists. Which is probably why her study is in the museum.

As well as the exhibition on Selma Lagerlöf, the museum gave an interesting overview on the culture of the region.

paintings, Dalarnas museum paintings, Dalarnas museum paintings, Dalarnas museumpainting of mine, Dalarnas museumPaintings pictured different aspects of the culture and daily life. There were some great ones of the mine in Falun.

local costume, Dalarnas museum local costume, Dalarnas museum

The local traditional costume is so colourful and detailed.

painting Dalarnas horses, Dalarnas museum Dalarnas horses, Dalarnas museumDala horses are iconic images of this region. They have been made and sold since the 17th century. Even today the genuine articles are still hand-carved and hand-painted in the traditional colours.

paintings, Dalarnas museumThe horses are decorated in a folk art style known as kurbits. This style was used on material, walls, crockery … just about everything that could be painted or printed really.

But back to Selma … the more I learn about her, the more I think I have in common with her. I made a list:

  • We’re both teachers
  • We both like writing
  • We’re both interested in the culture, folk tales, geography and wildlife of Sweden
  • We’ve both been to Italy and Jerusalem
  • We’ve stayed on the same street in Falun

So to continue following in her tracks, I just need to:

  • Get the Queen to give me money
  • Get my picture on the £20 note
  • Win the Nobel Prize for Literature

Don’t mock! It could happen!

The Blue Tower – home of August Strindberg

A chance to nosey around the old home of one of Sweden’s most loved writers.

I didn’t know much about August Strindberg – I’d seen one of his plays, Miss Julie, performed last year – but that was about all I knew. So I can’t say I was going to visit his old apartment because I’m a big fan. The real reason was because I’m nosey and love seeing how other people live.

Over the years, August Strindberg occupied 24 homes in Stockholm. He moved into the Blue Tower shortly after it was built and stayed for four years. Even though he didn’t stay long, this is the home he’s probably most associated with as it’s the only one open to the public.

The Blue Tower
The Blue Tower isn’t blue.

As a new-build, the apartment was full of mod-cons like a toilet and central heating. He didn’t have a kitchen, but his building did have a lift.

Lift in the Blue Tower

The original lift is still there and taking it is quite an experience. There are no automatic doors here. The passenger (is that what you call someone who takes a lift?) is responsible for sliding and locking into position the doors and gates. The dark wood panelling, pull down seat and gold mesh made me feel as though I was a character in an old film.

Lift in the Blue Tower Lift in the Blue Tower Lift in the Blue Tower

The rooms of his apartment are pretty much as they were in his day with most of the furniture having been his own.

Strindberg's apartment
A mask of Beethoven, his favourite composer, hangs over the piano
Strindberg's apartment
The rooms were similar in style to the sets in his plays
Strindberg's apartment
Strindberg called the wicker furniture ‘Lagerlunden’ (The Laurel Grove) after a cafe popular with writers and actors
Strindberg's apartment
I alway like a nice coffee pot

As the apartment had no kitchen he either ate out or had food delivered.

My favourite room was his study. If I love noseying around people’s homes, I love even more seeing their desks. Unfortunately, this was the only part of the apartment behind glass. I still got a good look though.

IMG_8559
His desk is laid out as it was when he died

Even though electricity was included amongst the mod cons in the apartment, Strinberg didn’t use electric lighting. His lamps were powered by kerosene and he was partial to candlesticks in the shape of naked female bodies.

He used the highest quality writing implements – his pen nibs were made from British steel, his ink was French and his paper hand-made.

As well as writing plays and novels, he was interested in science, astronomy, occultism, painting and photography.

The apartment adjoining his also forms part of the museum and this is set up like a ‘real’ museum with lots of artefacts and pictures and plenty of information about his life and work.

The street outside his apartment looked worth exploring too, but I had other places to be. I think this is an area well worth coming back to though.

Street outside Strindberg's apartment Street outside Strindberg's apartment