Over the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of looking through some of our royal memorabilia with our Museum Studies work placement students from the University of Manchester. Louise Boursier and Weronika Bargiel helped to select some the objects currently on display in our new Jubilee case in the Gallery Oldham Foyer.
This year we’re celebrating 70 years of the Queen’s reign. She came to the throne in 1952 on the death of her father, King George VI, and was crowned Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953. In our new displays we’ve selected some objects that give a glimpse of what life was like at this time and how people celebrated.
The Coronation provided a welcome boost to the morale of post-war Britain and the 25 year-old Queen became a beacon of hope for its future. Magazines and programmes from the time show the excitement around the event. The brightly coloured stickers were created for children to help them understand everyone’s role and what was happening in the ceremony.
The Coronation was ground-breaking as it was the first ever to be televised. 27 million people in the UK (out of the 36 million population) and millions more audiences around the world watched it on black and white television. 11 million people in the UK listened on the radio. Here you can see the Radio Times listings as well as a View Master with picture reels of the Coronation.
Food is important in any celebration, but it is easy to forget that there was still rationing in the early 1950s. In 1952 the news of the end of tea rationing meant people were able to enjoy unlimited “cuppas” for the first time in 12 years. Sweets, eggs and cream had only just come ‘off the ration’ in 1953 and the Coronation provided advertisers with an opportunity to sell TV-friendly snacks.
One object that didn’t make the cut is this commemorative chocolate coin produced by Nestle. We consider many things before placing objects on display. These include an object’s condition, light and UV levels in the space, pest prevention and security if items are going on open display as well as mounts to make sure that objects are supported properly. It’s been a first for me to consider melting! – we didn’t think that this coin would survive a few months under glass in Oldham’s hot summer sunshine.