Skip to content

By Stewart Emmens on

Objects With A Story To Tell?

I’ve previously posted of how our feelings about objects can be influenced by associated stories or by knowing who once owned them. Such links can provoke powerful responses, but perhaps none stronger than when objects have personal links to us. This is why family heirlooms are so treasured – they allow you to make a connection, to hold the same thing that a long dead ancestor once held.

Gold mourning ring
What's the story behind this ring? (Science Museum)

At the Science Museum we like to consider that, potentially, every object can tell an ancestor’s story. And of course, our collections are littered with objects associated with named and identified individuals. But others offer tantalising clues that, with further research, could reveal some intriguing stories.

One of many such is the small, well-worn gold ring picture shown above – which featured in one of the Christmas posts. This was made to mourn the passing of one Augusta Bruce. Somebody thought enough of her to wear this memento mori. But as yet, we don’t know who Augusta was or even when she died. Her story is one yet to be revealed.

Surgical instrument set
Surgical instrument set, 1812 (Science Museum)

Similarly, this surgical instrument set carries the following inscription on it’s wooden lid:
    Brass plate
The dates place it in Napoleonic times, but the set hardly looks battle-scarred. Was it presented to Ward for his services in the Peninsular War? Hopefully, in time we can reveal its story – but then we have many thousands of objects with stories to reveal.

Silver Medal
Dr Houlston's silver medal (Science Museum)

One final object. A medal awarded by The Royal Humane Society to a Dr Houlston who “restored” a Mr W Young on 22nd August 1781. Such medals were often given to individuals who saved lives, especially when reviving those who had apparently drowned. 

Houlston strongly advocated a tobacco enema in such situations, so chances are he employed its supposed restorative powers on this occasion. Perhaps smoking really can be good for your health sometimes. A bracing little chapter in Mr Young’s hopefully long life? Though perhaps not one he regaled his grandchildren with.