A History of the North in 100 Objects is a website-based project intended to showcase the pioneering spirit and impact of the North of England’s inventors, artists, scientists and designers as part of Great Exhibition of the North, 22 June – 9 September. It is funded by the National Lottery and developed by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM).
Nominated by staff from museums and galleries across Northern England, A History of the North in 100 Objects brings together objects that illustrate the richness that comes from this region and its peoples, such as the creation of railways, a flourishing artistic life, the drive for social reform, and the sheer breadth and depth of world renowned inventions. These 100 objects tell just some of the inspiring stories that reveal the North’s ability to reinvent itself, to survive, thrive and create new futures for itself and others.
The North East of England is the only region in the country to have its own musical instrument, the Northumbrian small pipes and you can discover these in Morpeth. The item featured in the 100 Objects is an early ivory and silver set commissioned by the wood engraver Thomas Bewick for his son, Robert Elliot Bewick. Robert’s music books contain a repertoire of tunes which were played at this early stage of the instrument’s evolution; many of them are still popular to this day. The Chantry’s collection is based on that of local pipe enthusiast William Alfred Cocks. After initially being housed in Newcastle’s Black Gate, it was moved to the purpose-built museum which opened in 1987.
Museum visitors will also discover Shepherd’s plaid, Northumbrian tartan or Border Drab. This style of tartan is one of the oldest in existence. Much plainer in design than Scottish tartan, the modern Northumbrian plaid is a black and white check. Older examples are made from sheep’s wool coloured with simple vegetable dyes, resulting in a softly coloured fabric which would have blended in with the northern landscape.
Piper to the Duke of Northumberland, a position which dates back to the mid-18th century, wears the plaid as uniform. His main duty is to play at the Shrove Tuesday football match in Alnwick.
An interactive and engaging website has been specially created where these fascinating objects and others from Museums Northumberland can be viewed: www.100objectsnorth.co.uk. Users can search for objects by location, time period, size (represented by animals) or theme. The ten big themes explored in the project are: Travel & Transport, Art & Design, Work & Industry, Religion & Faith, Inventions & Innovations, sport & Leisure, Music & Entertainment, Landscape & Natural History, Politics & Protest, and Words & Literature.
Visitors to the website are invited to curate their own collection by saving up to 10 objects into a personal ‘exhibition’ which can then be shared via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn or email. Users can vote for their favourite exhibitions and the most popular will be displayed prominently on the website. A key feature of the Great Exhibition of the North, A History of the North in 100 Objects is also intended to act as a legacy for the Exhibition, as the website will be kept live for the foreseeable future.
The development of the website has been made possible thanks to money raised by National Lottery players and awarded through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).