Surge in donations to Prescot Museum

Published on: Friday, 26-September-2014

As this year is the centenary of the start of the First World War, history seems to be at the forefront of the minds of many. People are starting to think more about the importance of memories, family stories, photographs and ephemera, and seeing the value of museums where such memorabilia can be shared with the wider community.

There has been a massive increase in donations to museums across the country, and Prescot Museum has also had an influx – people have realised that by donating or loaning items to their local museum that more people will benefit from being able to see them in exhibitions or by request for research.

The Local Heroes, Distant Voices exhibition encouraged the families of servicemen from Knowsley to share their stories and highlight the impact that war has had on the local area and its communities. The items on display are a combination of artefacts already in the Museum collection, pieces donated after the exhibition was announced, and photographs and objects loaned specifically for the exhibition.

As well as the nine servicemen the displays focus on, the stories of dozens of other local people are told through individual objects and audio interviews. Some of the exhibits have brought family members together, reconnecting long-lost relatives through their links to the men whose achievements and sacrifices are celebrated in the exhibition.

Joseph Bray enlisted for duty in the First World War claiming to be 19, the age at which soldiers were entitled to fight overseas. However, 18 months later, it was discovered that he had been 16 when he signed up and he was sent home to England. He then re-enlisted with a different battalion. Whilst fighting in the Somme, he found a book containing poetry on the battlefield. He copied one of the poems and sent it home in a letter to his mother. He was killed weeks later, on 15 October 1918. This letter is one of the items on display, along with his medals, photographs and memorial scroll.  They have been viewed by many different branches of the family as his descendants have looked into their connections to the First World War through and found out about items held in Prescot Museum's collection.

The Local Heroes, Distant Voices exhibition will continue at Kirkby Gallery until 14 November.  The exhibition is also available at Prescot Museum.