Who Made This?

Sewing Work-box made by H. Michael George (My Grandfather)

Collecting history and information about the origins of artifacts is fabulous…. with research you can understand the country where it was made, the artist or company that made it and often its date too!

So, who has wonderful family artifacts that were hand-made by a family member or ancestor?  Is it signed and dated? Often it is not.

It’s time to write down the knowledge you have today, to preserve this story for the future. Below I’ve detailed three family-made items that are precious to me.  By taking a photograph, describing them and adding the information about their makers – Voila! You have created a little piece of history worth keeping and sharing forward to your grandchildren and beyond.

This wooden sewing box was made by my Grandfather, H Michael George (1899-1961). He made it for my mother Joyce Muriel (Bake) George (1925-1999) during the early years of his marriage to my father Peter C George (1926-2008).

Dovetail joints

It is well used and the outer surface has many scratches, the stain has been refinished. However, the box is stable, with joints, metal hinges and sections still firmly in place. Date: ca 1952, Measurement: 11″ wide, 8″ deep, 4 3/4″ high.

Interior segments secured by nails.

The work-box came into my possession in the 1970s, when I had become our family seamstress.

Cot blanket knitted by Irene E George (My Nanna)

Next is a particularly precious item. Many women in our family are keen knitters, and it was my Grandmother “Nanna” – Irene E (Symes) George (1903-1996) who taught me how to knit and sew. Over the years we all received Arun jumpers, baby blankets and more made by “Nanna”. This is a baby blanket made for my son,  which time “Nanna” was in her 90s and had very poor sight, close to blind.  She would knit all through the evening, and the next morning she inspect her work with a magnifying glass, and the morning sunlight. Spotting mistakes, she proceeded to unpick the knitting back to that spot. I am sure this wonderful item was knitted one hundred times over, making it all the more precious. It is more loved because of the stoic effort and care she put into producing it.

White wool yarn baby cot/crib blanket. Hand-knitted. Slightly loose at edges through washing and use. Date: 1994, Measurement: 26″ x 36″.

Pottery by Lesley (George) Johnson (My Sister)

My final piece is a hand-made pottery table lamp holder. This was made for me by my younger sister Lesley Karen (George) Johnson (1959-2001).  Around 1975 she attended Highbury Technical College, near Portsmouth to complete her English A Level, plus art and pottery. She was a skillful artist on many levels and different media, but creating one-off pottery items was her passion. I have a few of her pieces with me here in Canada. Perhaps one day I’ll return them to England for her children and grandchildren.

Flat, rolled and textured pottery, brown textured glaze. Date: circa 1976, Measurement: 4″ square base, tapering to 1 3/4″ top, 13″ high.

Do you have a family items that needs to be ‘documented’, their story noted, so it’s story is noted and origins remembered?



Preserving A 1970s Music Poster Prompts Memories

12th National Jazz Blues and Rock Festival, Reading

Do you have old posters rolled up and stored in tubes?  If yes, then it’s time to flatten them out. Paper holds its form and becomes permanently curled if stored rolled up for too long.

After flattening and weighting this poster, (a museum colleague used to call this ‘relaxing’ the artifact) I have encapsulated it with Mylar (inert acid free, non-sticky plastic) front, with an acid free card backing.

This encapsulation will keep the poster flat, and protect it from the environment.

Reading Festival 1975

What is the story behind this poster? This artifact prompted many memories for me.

…. and just look at the price!

“Portsmouth Airport, Reading Festivals, George Melly and Mud!”

The 1975 line-up included George Melly (1926-2007) and the Feet Warmers, who later performed at the Portmouth Arts and Festival in 1979, when I worked in the Festival office. We had brought “The Waverley” an operational paddle-boat to Portsmouth and five jazz bands performed on board.

I have many memories of Reading Festivals. I first one I attended was in August 1973. Traveling to the event was an adventure – that I undertook alone!  I had just returned from visiting a friend in Guernsey, arriving back to the long-gone Portsmouth airport.

This tiny airport in the centre of the City (Island of Portsmouth), closed in December 1973. The first flight I took on my own, was usual. To get board the plane, we were each given a number, and had to enter via a specific doors when called, ie one and five in this door, two and eight over there etc. I was further surprised when the air hostess, left the plane after giving her talk about emergency exists and life jackets!

Arriving safely back in Portsmouth, I caught a train from Portchester village station to Reading, then walked to the festival ground. To meet up with my friends, I was to find a rented Southern Self Drive pale blue Ford Transit van.  Well, I couldn’t believe just how many similar vans were there! It was Friday evening, and the bands were still playing so I waited at the exit gate and watched as hoards of people poured out.  I was beginning to believe that I would spend the night alone curled up with only the blanket I had bought with me…. then, I saw a very tall chap with a mop of curly hair towering above the other heads…. Lucky for me it, was a friend’s brother and I was able to connect with my buddies.

Among the many live music outdoor festivals Knebworth, Milton Keynes, Donnington Park, Blackbush, and more….  I attended Reading several times.

Another memory… in 1977 the weather was particularly wet, even for England! That year my transport was on the back of a motorbike. The camp ground was soggy and wet, making camping in tents and keeping the bike standing upright a challenge.

The concert grounds turned into liquid mud several feet deep. The heel of my boot broke off, and we had to watch out for glass bottles and beer cans under the layers of mud built up each day. There was no sitting down to watch the music that year! The festival management kindly handed out two black bin-liners with pieces of string to us all. These acted as make-shift waders!  I found this image on the internet, and sharing it below, for fun!

Fond memories…..


Archival-Style Supplies

Each Fall I seem to have a run of bookings for talks and hands-on workshops at various organizations. This blog is in response to questions asked at recent events!

How to achieve museum-style archival wrapping with affordable supplies purchased locally.

You may wish to wrap items with:

  • Card folder, taped at who sides
  • Card book cover, closed with Velcro button
  • Encapsulated Mylar sleeve, closed on three sizes with double-sided tape
  • Photograph sleeves and albums
  • Tubes to roll textiles
  • Bankers boxes
  • Acid free file folders, sleeves, envelopes
  • Tissue papers

Acid free card/art paper – Michael’s, Curry’s, Maggiolly Art in Orangeville.

Strathmore art paper series 500 is best, but series 300 acceptable and acid free.

Artist tape (to close the sides of a folder), made by Artist’s Loft, a non-staining and PH neutral tape….  spotted at Michael’s.

Normal poster tubes and coat hangers can be used for textiles, they need to be wrapped and covered with acid free tissue or white unbleached cotton. Covers in similar fabric.

Photograph albums and sleeves marked PHP neutral, lignin and PVC free are available at Michael’s.

** A note of caution from my Museum colleagues.  When purchasing albums and paper in stores, you will see many are made in China. Although marked as PVC free etc., be mindful to keep an eye on the plastic over time, if it yellows it will need to be replaced, as it may have degraded and off-gas. Not all is, as it seems in this modern world. **

Pigment pens can be found in art stores. They are permanent archival ink, use with caution, but the ink will not permeate to through to objects.

Storage boxes are best from Carr McLean, various sizes and types. Some are buffered (for extra protection, and use with wool items  etc)

Archival quality file folders, tissues, PHP testing pens, and envelopes are also best from museum suppliers, Carr McLean, Brodart, Currys etc. Have fun searching on the archival sections of these websites.

As mentioned in a previous blog, I discovered Mylar map protectors to use for encapsulating at Carr McLean. A perfect weight and size.

So, use everything with care….  no ink, sticky, or cutting near the artifacts please!



Business Timeline – Are You Ready?

As a semi-retired museum worker, I am keen to see business history captured for the future. Creating your ‘archives’ as you go, whether paper or artifacts…. can help you be ready when your company’s anniversary comes around.

Capturing your business history contributes to the historical knowledge and the local business footprint of activity for your area. As time goes on and new families come to town…. a little of the past will remain for them.

Artifacts can take any form…. often promotional items sporting your logo…. pens, give-aways etc. Do you have an old ink blotting pad, an old paper wall calendar, a desk diary, or a calculator?  These type of  items are already obsolete in this modern day of technology.

Items in the picture above: company register and minute binder, corporate stamp/seal; unused IBM punch cards (circa 1970); vintage IBM flow chart template for use in preparing system and program flow charts by computer programmers; address book; ink and ink fountain pen; letter openers; staple remover, business folder (1991).

Maybe you have items that relate to your business activity? Found at the historic Alton Mill, (which was one of 8 mills in the village of Alton, Ontario, during the early 1900s), are these fascinating balloon moulds…. they relate to the Western Rubber Company, a latex business run on the site by Frederick Stubbs in 1935. Before this textiles were produced by Alton Knitting Mill (1881) run by John A Dods, then his sons until the early 1930s.

Over the years your graphic and logo may have changed. Noting when these changes took place, is useful to date your artifacts. A stationery set of business card, brochures and letterhead paper filed in chronicle order will do the trick.

Your official company seal is likely the first and main artifact to be cared for, along with your corporate articles, minute book and indenture papers.

Among your photographs will be staff, colleagues and customers too, people connections may have changed over the years, make a note of the names and dates on the back of photographs.

Notable documents might include certificates, awards, plaques and more.

Shared below are some recent business anniversaries I have spotted in local advertising. Congratulations go to:

Butcher Furniture – celebrating 60th anniversary

Dufferin Board of Trade – celebrating 110 years

Glen Echo Landscaping – celebrating 40 plus years

Start your archive now…. and write-up your business timeline ready for your next significant anniversary. Let me know if you need some help – it’s what I do!

PastPerfect Ontario-based User Group

In order to share information and have a central depository for documents, past-minutes and previously asked questions among our group, we have run an open public forum for the last few years.

The free software wasn’t very user-friendly, and we attracted a huge number of spammers to the site.  The forum will now close.

Going forward, to help share questions, see past-minutes and more, we have started a CLOSED / PRIVATE Facebook Group – Midwestern Ontario PastPerfect User Group. Drop an email to Alison or Patti with a note of your work or private Facebook info and we will invite you to join.

See you there……

Alison Hird

Ink, Dip Pens and Calligraphy

This blog post was prompted by a colleague sharing an picture of ink pen cartridges online….

As a lover of stationery and all things connected to pens and art, I pulled out my calligraphy box. Yes, I discovered there is a fine selection of Osmiroid and Parker ink cartridges, and much more.

My Grandfather gave me his dip-pens and nibs sometime in the 1960s. Quite fascinating collection when you look closely, many with maker’s marks.

To explain: the tiny (1″ long) lightweight silver box and lid has intricate detail around the top, and centre. There is no maker’s mark on it. Within the case are three unused nibs. They are gold plated, and stamped with J (the size) and A & N.C.S. Ltd (the maker), and date to circa 1900.

The others are well-used ink-stained pen nibs, which push into the metal tops of basic wooden pens. Some wooden handles are stamped “Made in England”. The nibs include single and double style with a back plate to hold more ink. The nibs are stamped with various  markers marks. Each has a letter or number to indicate its style or nib-width. Brands include:

  • The Haymarket Metallic Quill, 28 Haymarket, S.W. 1 (London),
  • William Mitchell’s Poster Pens, England, and
  • Reeves manuscript pen, oblique, Made in England.

With cursive handwriting being taught and practices less, calligraphy as an art form has become more popular. My first ink fountain pen used at primary school was an Osmiroid.  Over the years I have bought nib attachments (for various calligraphy styles – copperplate, italic, Gothic etc.,) and a variety ink plungers too.

So, the history…. Osmiroid pen nibs were originally created by James Perry about 1819, an educationalist who patented his nib in 1830. A meandering history continued until eventually a factory was build in Gosport, Hampshire in 1953, which is where the popular Osmiroid 65 pen was designed. E.S. Perry adopted Osmiroid as the company name. The company was sold to  Berol UK in 1989.

Popular in my home-town area in southern Hampshire and available from several small town art shops and newsagents, my favourite calligraphy pen set was made by E.S. Perry Limited, Gosport in 1981. The packaging promotes the set as “easy-change” with “hand-finished nibs with 22 carat gold plating”. I had purchased in a newsagent and tobacconist on Cosham, High Street who were Osmiroid suppliers.

The packet of cartridges, noted as “international” size, was bought in nearby from Russell’s (Havant) Ltd, an art shop.

The bottle of ink has been bought after 1989 as it is marked “Osmiroid is a registered trade mark of Berol Corproration Berol Ltd. Kings Lynn, Norfolk. Empire Berol USA, Brentwood and Berol Canada Inc, Montreal. Made in England” This black water soluble ink, has a health label, and noted in US fluid ounces and millilitres.

The above two calligraphy dip pens, are more modern. The wooden posts are stamped with a size, and “Automatic Pen, Made in England”, likely as the double styled nib holds plenty of ink! These were purchased in the mid 1980s from an art shop and gallery on Stanley Street, Southsea (now called the White Dog Gallery). These wide nibs are used for much larger poster designs and can be used with ink or watercolour paints.

I have been practicing calligraphy for many years and sharing with friends, family, with primary school students, March break camps…. and more recently with seniors at local lunch and learn sessions.

Let’s keep the skill of handwriting going….

Did you know?  A pen knife is folding pocket-knife used to cut and shape the tip of a natural feather quill, to use as a dip-pen.

Sad Demise of Thomas Cook Travel after 178 Years

Above: William and Jessie Parker

With the current news about Thomas Cook & Son closing their doors, I thought I would take a moment to share forward a connection to my family.

The company was originally founded on 9 June 1841 by a 32-year Thomas Cook (1808-1892) of Market Harborough to the nearby town of Leicester to attend a temperance meeting. His son carried on and expanded the firm that went on to become world-famous tour operators.

My Great-Grandfather, likely contributed to Thomas Cook’s early years of success. He worked as a manager/partner with Thomas Cook and family folklore tells how he was responsible for establishing their offices in Italy.

William Brewster Sidney Parker (1875-1940) was married to Emma Clayton, and they had three daughters, the eldest daughter was my Grandmother Agnes Ida (Parker) Bake (1899-1949), my Great Aunt Queenie, Gladys (1897-1980) and the youngest my Great-Aunt Margie, Margaret Cecilla (1909-1985).  Margie was in fact born in Italy in 1909, setting a date when the family were living broad.

Sometime later William married a younger woman Jessie Parker (photographed above), who lived on many years after his death, so I am told, lessening the residue of the family fortune!  However my Mother was proud to receive a small inheritance many years later when Jessie died. A legacy from her ‘famous’ Grandfather!

She often shared stories about his travels abroad. I recall my Great Aunts too discussing their experiences too. They both remained spinsters and lived near Brighton. Great Aunt Margie often visited us, she was an interesting lady, with a definite ‘Italian’ olive skin tan, and the family always wondered if she was in fact half Italian. She was active and outgoing, she danced, travelled, was way ahead of her time with knowledge about health and healthy foods. She was also the first person we knew who owned a colour box Brownie camera.

So, over the years we have always been proud of our connections to Thomas Cook & son.  During WWII the company which was owned by a Belgium company was bought back by Britain and became part of British Railways…. after the war, sold on again to a German bank. Although founded by a pioneering British gentleman, the father of touring and travelling, the company always sporting his name Thomas Cook…. I fear the company had not truly been a British affair for some years.

I was saddened to hear of stranded passengers, the many redundancies and job losses, even private investors (some 20%), but for me fondly remembering my Great-Grandfather (whose picture has become the company logo for my business Treasured Collections) and our family connection to Thomas Cook in the years gone by.

For interesting reading….  BBC Article

Family Artifact – Super Mario Egg Cup, 1990s


Artifacts and heirlooms can sometimes be an insignificant ‘every-day’ item, and not always valuable jewellery or special ceramics.  Here is such an instance.

Although not particularly old, this Super Mario egg cup has an interesting history (provenance) of its own….. it is well-traveled too!

Originally purchased by my younger sister, Lesley K (George) Johnson (1959-2001), for her children, the Johnson family of Portchester, Hampshire, England, this was one of several held in her kitchen cupboard in the late 1990s.

Following my move to Canada, bringing only essential possessions, I discovered I couldn’t find an egg cup in the local shops at that time! When visiting with my sister, she kindly shared one of two from her collection, selecting items she felt my young son might enjoy.  This is one of them.

Recently my grown nephew, his wife and teenage children visited us in Canada – the family still enjoy a keen interest for comic-style cartoons…. the egg cup has therefore returned with them to England.  A family keepsake, the Johnson’s will again enjoy!

This Super Mario Bros (TM) egg cup circa 1992 originally came in an Easter egg box with chocolate egg and sweets.  The Super Mario Bros (TM) game (1989) on NES – Ninendo Entertainment System was popular in the 1990s and still has a strong following.

This egg cup was part of a broader collection which included: Garfield, Postman Pat, Thomas the Tank Engine, The Magic Roundabout and The Fimbles. Image from the Internet shown below.

Artist Tom Thomson Family Link

Recent local travels took me to the village of Leith, near Owen Sound, Ontario.  I was thrilled to visit for two reasons – personal interest of local artists and family connections.

  1. World-famous Canadian artist Tom Thomson, my particular favourite, connected to Group of Seven had roots in the village of Leith, Ontario, Canada.
  2. My paternal Great-Grandfather Bertram Henry Symes (1976-1918) who died at the end of WWI is buried in Leith, Scotland.

The visit, however uncovered some interesting facts and local folklore!

The tiny church – Leith Church, erected 1865, closed 1969, Church of Scotland – United Church of Canada.  As the memorial plaque states right in the churchyard there is a grave for my favourite Canadian artist… Tom Thompson.

A few years ago, our family took a trip to Canoe Lake, and rowed to various memorial points there….. I had always thought he was buried at Canoe Lake.

However, local Leith village folklore tells us differently. We heard from family members from farms neighbouring the Thompson farm, that when Tom’s coffin was returned to the village, it was opened and several locals confirmed he was inside!

Tom Thomson Art Gallary Biography states…..

“…… Thomson was initially buried in a small cemetery up the hill from Mowat Lodge, overlooking Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. But at the request of his family, the body was re-interred in the family plot beside Leith United Church.”

It’s a mystery and part of a local folklore.

I was thrilled to notice that among the graves in the churchyard were many marked for the McKeen family, including one for Isabella Thompson Ross, (1827-1917) who originally came to Canada from Leith in Scotland.

By chance my Great-Grandfather Bertram Henry Symes (1976-1918), who died in the Leith American Hospital, near Edinburgh, Scotland, while trying to return home at the end of WWI. He is buried in a communal grave, a sad end to his many years serving in the British Royal Navy, and WWI. He joined the Navy in January 1899 as a carpenter’s mate, he was a ships diver until 1906 and went on to become a Chief Shipwright after getting the bends.

Artwork and reference information about Tom Thompson can be found at:

Tom Tompson Art Gallery

McMichael Art Gallery

Leith Church

Treasured Collections helps local people, groups and businesses document the history behind their artifacts.  Follow this blog for interesting historical snippets…..



Daily “Tot” – Pusser’s Rum (1640-1970)

What’s this all about… a daily “tot” issued to Royal Navy Sailors for more than 330 years?

Treasured Collections is proud to share a story of all things nautical – sailing, yacht racing, RN, traditions, and more! Capturing the story behind a family artifact is fun and yet important to record known information, knowledge and past experience to share with future generations.

British Navy Pusser’s Rum (R) is the Single Malt of Rum that was issued daily on board ships of Great Britain’s Royal Navy for more than 330 years.  From about 1640 until 31 July 1970, a daily rational of rum was issued to sailors on board ship. Known as the “tot” it became the longest unbroken tradition of the history of the sea.

Being from a family with long traditions with the British Royal Navy, I was very aware of “Pusser’s Rum”. Imagine my surprise when in the local LCBO (our Canadian liquor store), I spied this wonderful decanter of Pusser’s Navy Rum!  Evidently with the Admiralty’s blessing this rum became available to the consumer! The Royal Navy Sailor’s Fund, a naval charity, more commonly called the “Tot Fund” benefits from the sales.

This particular ceramic decanter celebrates the magnificent sport of yachting and sailboat racing. The three images include

  1. The Schooner America August 1851 when she won the Hundred Guinea Cup (which later became the America’s Cup),
  2. Jolie Brise, a 56-foot pilot cutter winner of the first Fastnet Race in 1925, Jolie Brise is still sailing today and went on to win the 2000 Tall Ships Race Overall.
  3. A tiny sloop Spray, which wailed around the world single-handed by Captain Joshua Slocum , leaving Boston April 1895, he returned to Rhode Island June 1898.

For me, being from Portsmouth, Hampshire the home of HMS Victory, flagship of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson…. it was also fun to see the  the slogan “Nelson’s Blood”.

By chance, to add to the fun…. a Portsmouth area chocolate company offer Pusser’s Rum Truffles… neat!

You can see more about Pusser’s Rum and the traditions on their website or just do a Google search!