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OBJECT OF THE YEAR: County’s unique history showcased in museum competition

 Published on: 23rd January 2024   |   By: Bryn Holmes   |   Category: Uncategorized

Every year, the museums of Hertfordshire each enter an item into the annual Object of the Year competition. Residents across the county are then invited to vote on what they think is the best one. Here is a rundown of the entries for 2024.

Bushey Museum has put forward a plaster death mask, which is said to have been modelled on a suicide victim found in the Seine river in France in the 1880s. Students at Bushey’s renowned Herkomer Art School once used it to draw their own casts.

Dacorum Heritage has entered images of the Ovaltine maid, an advertising icon for the world-renowned product, which was created in Kings Langley in the 1910s.

Frogmore Paper Mill has presented original wooden beams from the 19th century paper stores. This entry displays the resilience of the site following devastating fires in both 1942 and 2022.

The Natural History Museum of Tring is showing off a taxidermy southern elephant seal, collected off the coast of the Falkland Islands in 1908 and transported 8,000 miles to Tring. How the employees managed to get the item into its current position in the museum remains a mystery to this day.

Verulamium Museum has put forward an ancient bowl fragment excavated from St Albans’ Roman ruins. Inscribed with ‘Sabina’ and made from Samian ware, a type of pottery imported from Gaul, this is the only item found in the area that explicitly references a woman.

Three Rivers Museum Trust has also gone with an Ovaltine theme, displaying 1950s promotional Ovaltine mugs. However, they were never used due to concerns over thermoplastics at the time.

Tring Local History Museum has presented a Gibson ticket machine, which were the first hand-operated ticket machines issued to bus conductors that could print tickets for a variety of destinations from a blank paper roll. They were first manufactured in Tring.

Watford Museum is showing off a bizarre, handcrafted love token created by local cobbler William Longland for his wife Bessie. Made with the hooves and horns he had access to through his profession, it is inscribed with the couple’s initials in beads.

North Hertfordshire Museum has put forward penguin models, made to represent an Adélie and African penguin respectively. The models travelled up and down the county, being used to teach children about wildlife, before coming to rest in North Herts.

Other items that have been entered include:

> A draft maquette for the National Firefighters Memorial in London, entered by Ashwell Museum.

> A medieval seal matrix found by metal detectors, entered by Bishop’s Stortford Museum.

> The desk of Major Frank Halford, a pioneer of early jet engine technology, entered by the Bunker Museum at Hatfield Police Station.

> The popular Broadway painting by Sylvia Malloy, entered by Letchworth’s Garden City Collection.

> Some parish records damaged during an air raid in the First World War, entered by Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies.

> A cat painted on wall plaster dating from the 17th century, entered by Hertford Museum.

> Some hand-drawn playing cards dating from the Georgian era, entered by Knebworth House.

> A Bakelite hot water bottle, entered by Redbourn Museum.

> A Second World War-era painting titled Spitfire over Bassingdon by E.H. Whydale, entered by Royston Museum.

> A badge for the Stevenage Superbus celebrating its introduction in 1971, entered by Stevenage Museum.

> A grotesque made of Pulhamite rock, found by Ware Priory and entered by Ware Museum.

Voting closes at midnight on Monday, February 5, with the winner being announced at the annual Hertfordshire Association of Museum Awards on Thursday, February 15. To vote, visit

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