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Pin of Design

: Museum


RIGHT MoDiP know that this unusual handheld vacuum cleaner was made by Streetly Manufacturing Company in the 1930s, but they would love to find out more about who designed it.

and artefacts that are constantly being revealed by tidal scouring. MOLA hopes to work in partnership with the Council for British Archaeology and the Nautical Archaeological Society.

Ten ‘most wanted’

Another innovative project that harnesses the power of volunteers is the ‘Ten Most Wanted’ website (, which has been set up by the Museum of Design in Plastics. The website features ten items from the collection that the curators would like to know more about – often asking questions as simple as ‘Who designed this Dustette hand-held vacuum cleaner with fishtail attachment, made of phenol formaldehyde by Streetly and sold by the Co-operative Wholesale Society in the 1930s?’.

Once questions are answered, they become a ‘solved case’ and new questions take their place; if not, they become a ‘cold case’. Sleuths who regularly help to resolve the arcane mysteries of plastics design get to be featured in the museum’s Hall of Fame. This is an idea that could easily spread – other museums and art galleries could surely benefit from asking keen researchers whether, for example, they can identify the buildings or landscapes shown in sketchbooks or old photographs and postcards.

As for the Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP), it really does exist. Housed by the Arts University Bournemouth, it features 10,000 predominantly 20th- and 21st-century mass-produced artefacts that, in the words of the museum’s own website, ‘provide a comprehensive history of the use of natural and synthetic plastics in design’.

Codebreaker required

Quite a number of distinguished archaeologists spent their time during the Second World War in codebreaking and surveillance work. Sherds has a huge admiration for them, and for their astonishing ability to keep silent about their work, having signed the Official Secrets Act. Keith and Mavis Batey (who featured in CA 287’s article on garden history) met at Bletchley while working as codebreakers, but never spoke even to each other in the post-war years about what they had done together.

But if any former codebreakers are reading this, York Castle Museum needs you to break your code of silence and help them decode a diary discovered among papers given to the museum by the East Riding Yeomanry Old Comrades Association. The diary was kept William (‘Wass’) Reader, of the 1st East Riding Yeomanry C Squadron, and it appears

| Issue 289

to record his experiences of the Palestinian campaign of the final years of the First World War. Katie Brown, assistant curator of history, is hoping for first-hand accounts of battles against German and Ottoman forces in Gaza, Nazareth, and Jerusalem. She would also like to hear from anyone who might have known William Reader.

The perplexing Mr Pickles

Eric Pickles, currently Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, is a villain in the eyes of many heritage campaigners because his department has presided over the systematic dismantling of planning policies that have formed an essential protection against urban sprawl and the exploitation of greenfield and green-belt land since the 1930s. Now those same campaigners are hailing him as something of a minor hero because he has taken issue with local authorities who want to abolish the apostrophe from place-names. Although they have now backed down and reversed the policy, Cambridge City Council had refused to punctuate King’s Parade, Scholars’ Walk, and Pepys’ Court, thus removing not only a vital link with the past, but also creating ambiguity where clarity had once ruled.

Cambridge had blamed both the Government and ‘Health and Safety’ for this, saying that they had been ‘forced’ to remove apostrophes because the satnav systems used by the emergency services could not cope with punctuation or diacritical marks. Pickles described this as ‘disingenuous and unnecessary’, saying that Her Majesty’s Government (note the apostrophe) had issued no such diktat.

Apparently unaware that his Government is doing everything possible to prevent citizens from making their views clear (water cannon at the ready), Pickles wrote to the Daily Telegraph urging the people of England to rise up in revolt to defend their traditional street names, pointing out that ‘numerous Acts of Parliament have required the consent of local people before a street name could be changed’, and that ‘extant legislation from 1907 clearly states that councils cannot change a formal street name without the consent of two thirds of the street’s ratepayers’. Somewhere in that big bruiser of a politician (once described by David Starkey as ‘John Prescott with a brain’) there beats a human heart – will the real Eric Pickles please stand up?


BELOW Grammar guerrillas: street signs in parts of Cambridge have been ‘corrected’ by marker pen-wielding campaigners who object to their apostrophes being omitted.

their apostrophes being omitted.



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IMAGE | current archaeology