Phyllis Wager's typewriter

When Phyllis Wager travelled to East Greenland as part of a British expedition in 1935, it was so unusual for women to travel to the Polar regions that special permission was needed from the Foreign Office.

What can her Remington Home portable typewriter, which travelled with her on the expedition, tell us about the contribution of women to polar science; the untold stories of the Inuit people who travelled and worked alongside the British team; and how we think of polar expeditions more generally? 

Charlotte Connelly, Curator of the Polar Museum, tells us more.

The Hume diamond collection

In the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences is a collection of 144 uncut diamonds. It is likely that these were excavated in Brazil by enslaved miners at the turn of the nineteenth century.

How can we tell the diamonds' horrifying story? And what parallels can we draw with the exploitation of child and enforced labour today to fuel the consumer demand for high-status electronics?

Dan Pemberton, Collections Manager at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, tells us more.

Ibo maiden spirit mask

This carved wooden mask was made around a hundred years ago by the Ibo people of Nigeria.

While we know a good deal about the British anthropologist who collected it in southern Nigeria, we don't know the names of the Ibo people who made it, saw it, wore it to dance, or made the music for the performance; or of the maiden spirit the mask represents. The mask also tells of the negotiation of gender roles, as the mask was worn by a male dancer to evoke a feminine ideal.

Necklaces from Mount Carmel

Two artefacts from Mount Carmel, Israel, speak of a twelve-thousand-year-old mystery - and two trailblazing archaeologists.

A pair of shell and bone necklaces in the collection at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology date to around twelve thousand years ago - before people began to settle down to farm. How can we use these objects to highlight the stories of their excavators, pioneering archaeologist Dorothy Garrod and her colleague and gay rights campaigner, Francis Turville-Petre? And were they really necklaces at all? 

British Sign Language alphabet plate

This small, rather damaged child's plate is a recent find. It was excavated in the centre of Cambridge in the mid-2000s.

It features two alphabets, British Sign Language and English, and hints at the rich and complex history of Deaf culture not often explored in archaeology museums.

Eleanor Wilkinson, Teaching and Collections Assistant for Archaeology at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA), tells us more.

Charles Elcock's microscope slides

Meet Charles Elcock, a man whose profession is now mostly forgotten.

As a professional "microscopist", Elcock built his career on his ability to produce microscope slides. His microscopy kit and slides, now in the Whipple Museum reveal his incredible skill. But Elcock and craftspeople like him don't often feature in the stories we tell about scientific discoveries. 

Alison Giles, Learning Coordinator at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science, tells us more.

 

Queen Victoria

This larger-than-life portrait of Queen Victoria, ageing, careworn, and sad, was sculpted between 1887-1889 as she celebrated 50 years on the throne.

As a portrait of an obviously older, powerful woman (Victoria was aged 68), it's unusual in a museum gallery, where the walls are covered with young beauties. But she is also a powerful symbol of the British Empire. Portraits in museums allow us to think about who was celebrated in the past, and how our opinions of them may have changed over time.

Woman elbowing centaur

A battle is taking place between humans and centaurs: a wedding party gone disastrously wrong.

A woman fights off a centaur - a creature that is half-man, half-horse - with a well-placed elbow. This monumental sculpture decorated the temple of the king of the ancient Greek gods, Zeus, at Olympia. It's been well-studied, in other words. But no one studies it from the woman's perspective. 

Justyna Ladosz, Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Museum of Classical Archaeology, tells us more.

"Man from Tutuila with hair bound [and] unbound"

A pair of studio photographs from colonial Samoa, taken in the 1870s, speak of complex colonial histories and different understandings of race, gender and gender fluidity.

We don't know the name of the subject of the photographs: the labels simply say "man from Tutulia with hair bound [and] unbound". 

Anita Herle, Senior Curator at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, tells us more.