READING Museum is celebrating national ‘Explore Your Archive’ week, with a focus on a particularly poignant piece of personal memorabilia from World War I.
No 4 H&P Army Biscuit is a Huntley & Palmers Army Biscuit, used as a make-shift frame for a photograph of soldier, Rifleman George Mansfield. He mounted the biscuit frame and heart-shaped portrait inside an old, wooden cigar box with a glass cover.
The object is a young soldier’s touching gift home to his mother when he was far away from his loved ones. Aged just 17, Private Mansfield served with the 60th Battalion (London Division) of the 2/21st London Regiment in Palestine and on the Western Front.
Jeremy Collingwood, George’s maternal grandson, donated the family heirloom to the museum in 2013. He said: “My grandfather survived the war, but he never spoke about his experiences. His homemade gift brings home just how young he was when he served for his country and the impact the experience must have had on him at such a young age. I donated this item because I think it helps bring the history of WWI alive.”
George’s biscuit is one of many First World War army biscuits in the museum’s collection that were put to interesting uses other than which they were originally intended. The collection is on permanent display in the museum’s Huntley and Palmers gallery. Find out more www.readingmuseum.org.uk/your-visit/permanent-galleries/huntley-and-palmers-gallery
Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, said: “I’d encourage young and old to visit the museum during National Explore Your Archive Week and celebrate the wonderful treasure-trove of history Reading Museum has to offer.
“We are also always keen to hear from members of the public, like Mr Collingwood and his family’s generous donation, if they have objects of historical interest suitable for our collection. As this example shows, it isn’t just rare archaeological items we treasure, but very personal objects that tell a unique social story and bring history alive. This support can help us enhance our unique collections and provide opportunities for people’s learning, inspiration and enjoyment at Reading Museum.”
Images available on request or available for download here. All images ©Reading Museum/Reading Borough Council All Rights Reserved
Explore Your Archive
Explore Your Archive is a campaign coordinated jointly by The National Archives (UK) and the Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland), with and on behalf of the archives and records sector, across the UK and Ireland which aims to raise awareness of archives, their value to society and the impact they have, every day, on individual lives.
The campaign runs from Saturday 18 November to Sunday 26 November with archives all around the country putting on exhibitions, having open days, hosting seminars and talks and allowing communities to “explore” the amazing things they hold. For more information, please visit www.exploreyourarchive.org or www.nationalarchives.gov.uk