Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project – Session Two

This blog is part of a mini-series of updates about the Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project. To keep up-to-date with all the latest programme activities, please visit the ‘Battle Bus’ section in London Transport Museum blog.

Session Two

Visit to the Imperial War Museum and the National Army Museum

This week the group visited the First World War galleries at Imperial War Museum and the Society and the War gallery at National Army Museum. Here, volunteer Eithne Cullen, talks about her experience of the day.

At the Imperial War Museum, the number of deaths and the awful conditions endured by the soldiers and civilians who lived through the First World War make visiting the exhibition an emotive and powerful experience. All the people in the group felt they had the chance to examine artefacts and get a sense of the sights and sounds of war, with sympathetic lighting and a variety of hands-on displays.

The opportunity to learn about individuals’ lives and see artefacts as varied as china and crockery, newspaper headlines of the day, propaganda posters, empty bullet shells, uniforms and a reconstructed trench – all made this come to life. Individual lives were opened up too, from Edith Cavell the heroic nurse, to Siegfreid Sassoon the officer-poet who spoke out about the conditions his men experienced. Other letters and diaries provide vivid records of individual service, like Gabrielle West whose diary tells of her role in a special police service set up to supervise women workers.

Museum visit

By way of contrast, the exhibition at the National Army Museum seems like an attractive cinema entrance, where there is generous use of colourful posters and bright display cases. We saw the cultural influence of the army on our lives in a display looking at everything from representations of the army in cinema to the way army language and slang has entered everyday speech. The use of a film about the conflict in Northern Ireland know as the Troubles made some of the group feel uncomfortable because it was unexpected and felt out of place in this gallery considering the other themes. The small exhibition about the symbol of the poppy was interesting and provoked some thought about how the poppy is used for Remembrance.

National Army Museum Visit

These two contrasting displays gave us lots to think about when considering how we react to the way information is presented to us and the way we respond to it.

I was very taken by the stories of the women who worked in the munitions factories, the munitionettes. I wrote this poem in response.

Munitionette        

On Monday she’s a  munitionette

packing shells and placing wicks

the powder makes her hair and skin  yellow.

Canary girl in an opera of canaries.

 

On Monday she’s in drab brown clothes

mob cap on her head, trousers like a man

she’s not allowed a buckle or a badge

one spark and they’d be off, all blown away.

 

The men look at them, with contempt

they’ll cut our wages, take away our jobs

no place for a woman in our   factory…

but the women fill the orders in this

hour of need send plenty to the front to

beat the Hun.

 

The men look down on their yellow faces

their tunics a mockery of battledress and frontline uniforms.

 

But on Sunday she puts on a dress

it’s white and it’s embroidered at the front

her sash of green and purple like her hat

and the metal brooch she wears a badge of honour

a medal for her service at the front and times in Holloway.

 

On Sunday in the park with crowds of women just like her

The explosives in this case are powerful words –

speeches and glorious cries of ‘Votes for Women!’

and the songs they sing block the awful factory sounds.

 

The men look at them, with contempt

they’ll cut our wages-take away our power

the ballot box is not the place

Advertisements

Late Debate: Women of the Future

Written by Volunteer, Carrie Long

C21st Suffragists: Time Travelling Feminists

C21st-Suffragists

“Well done Sister Suffragette! … We’re clearly soldiers in petticoats” was the uplifting tune that rang out as I entered London Transport Museum for its Late Debate: Women of the Future, celebrating the centenary of (some) British women gaining suffrage.

The Museum after dark offered a unique experience, with historic London buses and trains, once driven by a predominantly masculine workforce, now providing a striking backdrop to an empowering exchange of innovative women.

London Transport Museum’s focus on ‘Women of the Future’ made it stand apart from other centenary events. Historically embedded in the impact that the emergence of public transport had on women’s emancipation, the museum turned our attention to the present and the future, with informative topical discussions, combined with fun creative workshops and the chance to network with modern day feminists. The event transported me on a journey through time, bridging the history of women’s suffrage with today’s continued campaign for equality.

First Stop: 1890

My journey of discovery started with Victorian women inventors and their extraordinary cyclewear. As well as giving guests the chance to try on outfits, Kat Jungnickel’s research project – Bikes and Bloomers – insightfully and playfully highlighted the important role women played, not only as feminist campaigners, but as Victorian engineers, designers and radical feminist inventors.

Bikes and BloomersFawcett-Society
Women-InstituteUnderwear-bunting

Next Stop: 1918

More untold stories from feminist history were revealed in a series of PechaKucha talks, celebrating the achievements of women from Millicent Fawcett to the all-female builders of Waterloo Bridge. I was reminded how important it is to look beneath the surface, especially as I found out that statues memorialising women make up only 2% of monuments in London.

Next Stop: 1968

Inspired by a legendary protest by nearly four hundred second-wave feminists in 1968, some allegedly burning their bras, London Transport Museum invited visitors to write their feminist fury on paper pants and bloomers, in a workshop run by feminist campaigner and underwear designer Rachel Kenyon.

#BehindEveryGreatCity2

To the Future:

Modern day feminist, founder of the Women’s Equality Party and author Catherine Mayer, dressed in a space outfit to present her vision of future called ‘Equalia’ – an alternative world in which men and women have achieved full equality. Meanwhile, an expert-packed panel discussed how to achieve this future. With a definite focus on the transport industry, they still touched on a lot of the same themes, such as the need for equal parental care. Less pressure on men to ‘wear the trousers’!

A commitment for the future…

Having travelled and considered many costume changes through time, I know that the mission for equality is far from over. But having been surrounded by a community of inspiring women and men fighting for equality at this event, I am committed to keeping the conversation going, challenging gender stereotypes and facing obstacles with innovative ideas. I hope you’ll join me sister (and brother) suffragette?

www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/events-calendar/shaping-ldn 

introducing our new gallery, Digging Deeper

Written by Simon Murphy, Lead Curator of Digging Deeper

In our new permanent tunnelling history gallery, we set ourselves a number of challenges. At the most basic level we needed to bring the tunnelling story up to date to include the Elizabeth line opening later this year. The main display was ten years old, but a large part of it – a full-size representation of a tunnelling machine from 1890 with three mannequin figures, was first installed more than twenty years ago.

Elizabeth line construction

We also wanted to highlight the individual contribution of the engineer James Henry Greathead to tube tunnelling from 1870 right up to the present. What made the project a challenge was that we wanted to tell the story succinctly in a series of videos and key objects in a new tunnel-shaped space, without the need for traditional text panels.

An additional consideration was that the tunnelling story is only one part of the larger narrative of the growth of tube railways, alongside the development of electricity and lifts/escalators. Whilst these other display elements stayed mostly the same, they were spruced up, and we added floor graphics to help visitors distinguish the different story strands.

To create a more immersive experience we built an enclosed tunnel space, that visitors enter through an arch resembling an arch from the first tunnel under the Thames, dug by Marc Brunel between 1825 and 1843. The new tunnel space extends four metres out from the original period tunnel mock-up, using theatrical lighting effects to first mask and then reveal Greathead’s 1890 tunnelling shield.

Immersive tunnel display

The main narrative video is projected into the circular tunnel shape, with three shorter videos focussing on more specific object-related stories appearing on the sides of the tunnel. Broadly, these cover Greathead’s first shield and the Tower Subway tunnel it built in 1870, the refinement of the shield from 1890 and its use on the expanding tube railway network, and the era of computer-guided integrated Tunnel Boring Machines (or TBMs) used on the extension of the Jubilee line in the 1990s and on an unprecedented scale on the Crossrail project from 2012 to 2015.

www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/year-of-engineering/digging-deeper

Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project – Session One

This blog is part of a mini-series of updates about the Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project. To keep up-to-date with all the latest programme activities, please visit the ‘Battle Bus’ section in London Transport Museum blog.

Session One

This year the Battle Bus project is focussing on ‘London’s Memories’. We are starting the programme of activities with a research volunteer project, to uncover stories of transport workers involved in the First World War.

Marta Kronberga, one of our research volunteers, describes what happened in the project’s first session:

This week we were based at the Museum Depot at Acton. We started the morning with some group activities to get to know each other better and discussed what makes good presentation skills. We then went to explore the famous Battle Bus, with curator Katariina Mauranen, who worked on the bus restoration project.

Battle Bus group activity

This amazing B-type bus was introduced in London in 1910, and was operated by the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC). More than 1,000 of these buses were sent to war, many with their bus drivers. They were used to transport troops to and from the front lines. After the war, only around 400 buses came back to London and many were in such bad condition they were just used for parts.

It was such an interesting experience. We got to hear about the story of the Battle Bus, sit on the top deck, see all the little details and some of us even got a chance to sit in the driver’s seat!

Behind the wheel of Battle Bus

After lunch it was time for some more group activities. This time each group created a presentation from documents we were given, to get us in the mood to start thinking about the Battle Bus research project. We discussed the First World War in general, remembrance of the war and stories of individual transport workers. Everybody was really interested in the postcards and letters sent from or to soldiers, and the personal stories they showed.

Battle Bus group activity

At the end of the day we were given a tour of the Depot by Keith Raeburn, the Depot Supervisor. It was a great chance to see the development of London buses. We saw everything from horse-drawn omnibuses to ones that are almost the same as the buses on London streets today. We also saw posters and objects from the collection and of course Underground trains that were used throughout the 20th century.

At the end of the day it was clear that we have a great group of volunteers with different interests and backgrounds. Hopefully this will give us some fascinating outcomes at the end of the project. Let’s see where this research will take us!

Comeback every week to read the latest instalment on how our volunteers are getting on with their Battle Bus project.

The bright young things who put women centre stage

Written by David Bownes, co-curator of Poster Girls – a century of art and design and Director of twentiethcenturyposters.com

Of all the designers featured in the Poster Girls exhibition, none were as glamorous as the Scottish-born sisters, Doris and Anna Zinkeisen, whose precocious talent, beauty, and modernity propelled them into the centre of interwar London’s fashionable art scene. Typically described in the pages of society papers as ‘extremely pretty’ and ‘brilliantly clever’, it would be easy to view the sisters as the epitome of the entitled ‘bright young things’ parodied by Evelyn Waugh in Vile Bodies (1930). But there was so much more to Anna and Doris than this, as their extraordinary body of work testifies. And as the posters in London Transport Museum’s exhibition show, it was a body of work that put confident, independent, women firmly on the centre stage.

Born in 1898, Doris was the elder of the two by three years. Despite the age gap, they trained together at the Royal Academy Schools and by the mid-1920s were sharing a studio in London. The range of their work was dazzling, including book illustration, publicity for railway companies, murals for the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth ocean liners, and society portraits of the fashionable ‘set’. Doris also developed a hugely successful career as a stage and costume designer for theatre and films, working alongside Noel Coward, Charles B Cochran and Cole Porter.

But it is their depiction of women that strikes the viewer as truly modern. Take, for example, the panel posters produced by Anna for the inside of Tube carriages. These show dynamic, active, women who are not defined by their relationship to men – a far cry from most commercial art of the time. Similarly, Doris’ unpublished poster of female theatre goers (1939) depicts a group of young women enjoying a night out without an obvious male chaperon (shown above). And the subject matter, too, is far removed from traditional ‘feminine’ commissions. Anna’s output for the Underground included motor shows, air displays and military parades. There was also something distinctly racy about their portrayal of the modern woman. The scantily clad revellers of Anna’s Merry-go-round poster (1935) would raise eyebrows even today, while Doris’ costumes for the West End play Nymph Errant (1933) were regarded as so revealing that the chorus girls refused to wear them. In the changed circumstance of the Second World War, their work became less frivolous but no less assertive, as their moving depictions of female war workers demonstrates.

  

Image: Merry-go-round (1935) Anna Zinkeisen

Inspired by the Zinkeisen sisters and their female design contemporaries, London Transport Museum is hosting a very special evening event this Friday celebrating the Golden Age of the 1920s and 30s poster design.  Experience vintage girl power and iconic art movements through curated lectures and workshops and discover Poster Girls after hours. With music, dancing and bars it promises to be a fun night.

Full details can be found here: https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/friday-lates