Family Heirlooms: From Cutlery to Adornments

Who else has a relative who collects spoons?  In many instances these relatives tend to be older, female, and the spoons tend to be hanging in a wooden/glass display case of some sort.  My mother, grandmother and a number of aunts all collected spoons at one point or another. 

Theses spoons were often purchased while away on vacation or as a gift when someone else went away.  The spoons come in all shapes and sizes, but most tend to be silver and have a delicate look about them.  They are clearly decorative and not your everyday soup spoon.

Often a spoon collector has a personal story or memory associated with each spoon.  These stories are rarely recorded and often not remembered by anyone other than the collector.  Following a death, many children have given away spoon collections that once represented pieces of family history and material culture. 

I think the lack of appeal of spoon collections to younger generations is one of the reasons why I was so interested by the idea of spoon jewelery.  This Christmas my Mother gave my sister and I spoon bracelets.  These bracelets weren’t made from her spoon collection, but I’d like to think that they were made out of special occasion cutlery that once held a place in a family’s life.

Evening Star Spoon

Each bracelet was accompanied by a card which detailed the make of the original cutlery and a short history of spoon jewellery.  My bracelet was made from a 1950s Evening Star, Oneida Silverplate spoon (pictured at right).  The Evening Star spoon is definitely not as decorative as many of those in typical spoon collections, but it does look as though it belongs to a ‘nice’ antique silverware set, that was maybe only used on special occasions.  

So why make jewelery out of spoons? Spoon jewelry isn’t a new fashion trend, but apparently dates back to the 17th century.  Early spoon jewelry is said to have been predominately rings and was made by servants who had stolen flatware from their masters. Another history claims sailors in the navy would sneak silverware away from a ship galley to make engagement rings for their girlfriends. 

Personally, I like the idea of reusing objects that once held significance to make an item that is cherished by someone else.   Jewelry made out of antique objects that are no longer valued by a family seems like a great way to provide a second life to a family heirloom.  It makes me wonder about how other family collections could be re-purposed—eg. that overwhelming set of teacups your aunt has been storing for years.

Engaging Corporate Heritage: Struggling to Cultivate Institutional Memory

My most recent post, Corporate Heritage: Struggling to Cultivate Institutional Memory, can be seen over on the Active History group blog.  My post looks at the reasons why institutional memory is non existent in so many institutions, why organizations should care about institutional memory, and how to foster a culture which cultivates institutional memory.

Remembrance Day in a Digital World

Each year it seems that the amount of material available to commemorate remembrance day and Canadian soldiers, grows tenfold. The mass amount of information available makes it easy to get lost while looking for relevant information. Below is a list which compiles some of the more educational and historically relevant sites I have come across.

The Veterans Affairs Canada site includes a wide variety of information on Canadian soldiers and commemoration. Some of the more noteworthy parts of this site include:

  • Heroes Remember–a video archive of personal recollections of various war efforts. This archive is searchable by both name and hometown.
  • The Canadian Virtual War Memorial–a registry of information about the graves and memorials of more than 116,000 Canadians who served. The interesting part of this being that the site also digital images of photographs and personal memorabilia about individual Canadians. Users can also contribute photos or information they may have about family members who served.
  • Diaries, Letters, and Stories–This is a collection of WWI and WWII solider diaries and letters, all of which have been transcribed and made available to the general public online. These first hand account of the potential to be used by students as primary sources.
  • Books of Remembrance–Many community libraries still house traditional books of remembrance. This archive features digital copies of many of the Books of Remembrance in the Memorial Chamber on Parliament Hill, and contains the names of many of those who participated in WWI and WWII.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) also features a number of online resources relating Canadian presence in various wars. These resources include:

  • A selection of War diaries, featuring excepts from soldiers diaries from WWI.
  • A virtual exhibit on WWII, “Faces of War.” The exhibit also allows users to explore photos from both the LAC collection and the collection held by DND.
  • Military Personnel records are also searchable via LAC. These records can be searched via names, location, military medals, war diaries, and war graves.

The Canadian Military History Gateway also features a number of interesting resources and ways of exploring Canada’s military history.

  • Canadian Military Reference Book–available in full text online, simple resource for anyone looking to gain a basic background in Canadian military history.
  • A number of lesson plans and educational suggestions relating to Canadian military history.

Lastly, From Colony to Country: A Reader’s Guide to Canadian Military History is a great resource for anyone looking for a comprehensive guide to the written material on Canadian military history. The site is divided up by military campaigns, and then each military campaign is divided into thematic subsections. The guide has been compiled by LAC and noteable military historians.

Day 2: Memory and Commemoration

The two sessions which I attended on Tuesday morning both contained an emphasis on commemoration and the act of remembering. Commemoration is something which appeals to both historians and the general public, and is something which public historians can play a role in.

Session 1–Private Voices, Public Display. All three presenters examined history’s role in presenting the memory of individuals. Katherine J. Taylor examined “War Bride Commemoration” and the way in which commemorative events impact the way in which people remember. Taylor suggested that memory was greatly impacted by place, people, and that collective memory was often created by the gathering of groups. Similarly, Jennifer Wilhelm examined the NFB film “City of Gold.” This film examined the Yukon and created a specific gendered and racialized interpretation of the past. Both Wilhelm’s and Susan L. Joudrey’s papers highlighted the constructed nature of history. Joudrey examined the Indian Village at the Calgary Stampede and the way in which heritage was used as tourism. The use as history in popular film, or history as tourism is something which is still prevalent in today’s society and which public historians play a large role in.

Session 2–Memory and Authority in the North Atlantic World. All of the presenters in this panel examined different aspects of memory. Chris Tait looked at the way in which the 24th of May became a holiday, and the impact of the tensions between imperialism and Independence played on the holiday. Both Lee Slinger and Valeries Deacon examined memory in France. Slinger looked at how the PCF employed the memory of the revolution of 1789 to encourage communism in 1939. Whereas, Deacon examined the act of forgetting in France, and the degree to which people have often forgotten the participants in the French Revolution who belonged to the political right. Overall, this session linked subtantial events in our past to the act of commemoration and memory, it highlighted the impact whcih memory can have on political events and society in general.