5 great Cambridgeshire life museums you’ll also find on Twitter

Alongside genealogy, sits my interest in local history, and so I’m no stranger to many of the great museums we have here in Cambridgeshire – as they are incredibly insightful on the historical context in which my ancestors lived.

Many museums have adopted social media, seeing its importance in connecting community to its history, and using it to promote events and give behind the scenes glimpses of their work and activities that would otherwise go unseen by the public. Many are using multiple channels like Facebook, Google+ and YouTube, and some are also blogging.

Here’s 5 of my favourite Cambridgeshire Museums that are also using Twitter. They’re in no particular order, as i have no wish to be barred from these great places!

1. Denny Farmland Museum and Abbey

There’s lots to be found at this part-English Heritage site. The Farmland Museum acts as a great reminder of the lives of my agricultural ancestors, with the fantastic backdrop of an Abbey.

Eternal teatime (perfect!) in the period cottage at Denny Farmland Museum and Abbey.

The period cottage is a great place to explore, and really reminds me of some of the ‘gadgets’ that my great grandparents had.

2. The Norris Museum

The Norris Museum sign
The Norris Museum, St Ives, Cambridgeshire.

The Norris Museum is my closest museum. It’s a little tucked away through a doorway, and across a garden, beside the river in St Ives, but once inside, you’ll find that the museum is packed with local artefacts – ranging from dinosaurs, Romans, Oliver Cromwell, those witches of Warboys, and ice skating. There’s much more too, and a regular series of events and exhibitions.

You can find them on Twitter at @TheNorrisMuseum

3. Peterborough Museum

Edwardian Operating Theatre at Peterborough Museum
The Victorian Operating Theatre at Peterborough Museum – the museum was once a hospital, and so this room has been returned to look like it once did.

I first visited Peterborough Museum with a couple of the team from Living TV’s Most Haunted show, as part of an overnight ghost hunt event! There’s no better way of getting to know a museum, than being locked in the cellar in the pitch dark at 2am.

Since then, the museum underwent a year-long radical remodelling with a £3.2m price tag – and is now vastly improved (although I can’t vouch for that cellar yet). New rooms and displays, with greatly improved cabinets and touch-screen information points, make the museum much more interesting and interactive. They’ve even added a cafe.

The Changing Lives collection documents Peterborough’s 200 year evolution from village to industrial city – using film, audio, and a range of objects – and is a useful reference point for anyone researching family life in this area.

You can find them on Twitter at @Vivacity_Museum

4. Ely Museum – at The Old Gaol

I’m a Friend of Ely Museum, and have been for a few years. There’s a couple of reasons behind this, and they’re both through my genealogical research.

Firstly, during the 1816 Littleport Riots, one of my 5x Great Grandfathers (John Goltrip) was arrested and accused of stealing some silver spoons. He would have been held prisoner here, in this old gaol. The museum has mocked-up what the cells would have looked like, along with the restraints that the prisoners would have been constrained with.

Inside the Cells
A recreation of what conditions would have been like inside the gaol. My ancestor would have spent some time here in 1816 after his role in the Littleport Riots.

Secondly, in another room there’s a ventriloquist’s dummy and a series of theatre posters – these relate to my distant cousin Vernon Cross (3rd cousin, once removed no less!) – who not only ran the family bakery on Forehill, and was a ventriloquist and magician, but he also founded a huge collection of antiquities, which have since gone on to form an important part of the museum’s collection. A function room at the museum was named after him.

The museum is new to Twitter, but you can find them at @ElyMuseum.

5. The Cambridge & County Folk Museum

Cambridge & County Folk Museum
The Cambridge & County Folk Museum. Photo: Janet Swisher via Creative Commons.

The Cambridge & County Folk Museum stands not far from the Cambridgeshire Archives. It is home to a great collection of local artefacts that depict every-day life in the city and in the surrounding fenland. It’s been a while since i’ve visited, but I remember walking in and spotting many items that I remember my grandparents and great grandparents having in their homes.

You can find them on Twitter at @FolkMuseum.

What about the rest?

There’s around 30 museums in Cambridgeshire. Some of them are also using social media. Aside from Following or Liking them, why not visit when you’re next in the area?

Check out my Twitter list of Cambridgeshire Museums.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011

The fifth Who Do You Think You Are? Live runs from 25th-27th February 2011 at London’s Olympia.

The fifth Who Do You Think You Are? Live runs from 25th-27th February 2011.

This was actually the first time that I had been to Who Do You Think You Are? Live. I thought that I would go along to find out for myself what it was like, to catch a talk by Monty Don, and also ‘entertain’ my Twitter followers for a few hours live from the event.

After quite an early start from Huntingdon station, I got down to Earls Court in good time. The train for Olympia seems to take an age to arrive, but thankfully once you’re on it, it’s just a short trip. I knew that I was on the right track as this train to Olympia was packed at 10:30am.

I’ve been to Olympia loads of times before for marketing/technology shows, so pretty much know my way around the place. Upon arrival, i nipped upstairs to the gallery to take the above photo and a couple of others before checking out where the Who Do You Think You Are? Theatre was (it’s upstairs), where I had my ticket to see Monty Don.

I was pleased to look out across the hall to see some very familiar brands – of course the Who Do You Think You Are? magazine team were there, but also Ancestry.co.uk, FindMyPast, FamilySearch, Society of Genealogists, and a fantastic Victorian set, complete with staff in period costume belonging to Genes Reunited.

Amongst them were an array of other organisations that provide information on DNA testing, Caribbean ancestry, the fantastic Cassini Maps team and many many others.

The Society of Genealogists had paved the way for a plethora of local family history societies to hold stands there too – I was pleased to stumble across my chums Cambridgeshire Family History Society (CFHS) and Parish Chest – both of whom I regularly shop with.

Up on the gallery level could be found other organisations – identifying/dating photographs, war medals.

Celebrities at WDYTYA Live

I stumbled across Eric Knowles – the legendary antique expert. I swear he didn’t leave his little stand for a second! And caught some fleeting glimpses of Nick Barratt.

Monty Don’s talk was both fascinating and funny. You could tell that he had enjoyed every moment of his adventure with WDYTYA, and even told the stories of the bits you didn’t see in his episode, and about further research that had taken place after the episode.

I had planned to catch Tony Robinson talking with Ancestry.co.uk but by this time I was already flagging on my feet so decided to start my journey homewards.

I think it was well worth the trip and I had a really good day. I didn’t go there looking for any particular information though, but there were plenty of people with notepads and folders – perhaps making use of the Ancestry.co.uk advice, or the Ask The Experts team upstairs.

I would definitely go again, but maybe not annually unless there was something specific I wanted to see or buy.

A few bits of advice:
They were allowing re-entry as long as you kept your ticket, so by lunchtime when i was starting to get a bit hot, i was pleased to grab some fresh air and a little walk over the road to get some lunch.

It can get quite hot in there, but fortunately i’d put my jacket in my rucksack… and there was a stand selling icecream.

The queue for the Who Do You Think You Are? theatre gets quite long quite quickly, so give yourself plenty of time if you fancy getting a really good seat.

There’s quite a lot of seats upstairs if you fancy taking the weight off your feet for a few minutes.

Using Twitter in genealogy

There are loads of articles written about the popular micro-blogging tool Twitter, but I thought that I’d try to share a couple of interesting and handy hints that I have picked up over the last few weeks that has resulted in finding new connections and increasing followers.

1. Connect

The most important thing about Twitter is that it is a social tool. Therefore, you need to socialise to get anything out of it. The more you ‘Tweet’ (the term given to your 140 character or less statement) the more people can find you and the more people will interact with you.

2. Hashtags

You might use good words in your 140 character limit that include things like ‘familytree’ or ‘history’ or ‘Cambridge’ etc but by adding some hashtags to your comment will help you to turn up in searches. You should enter phrases such as #genealogy or #familytree or #census. Don’t put spaces in.

3. Follow

Follow people. Follow people that say things that you’re interested in. 9/10 they will follow you too… and so every time they tweet @you, other people can see it – and therefore find you.

A combination of Follow and hashtags is used each week with Friday’s being recognised as #followfriday – a hashtag to go in your tweet along with a list of your friends (typed like ‘@username’) to encourage your friends to follow some of your other friends – thus building up the social networking idea.

4. Searching

While you can do a general search, you can also do a specific search by doing the following:

Go to the search screen and type your search word – e.g. “cross”. Then type near:CambridgeEngland to tell the search engine to search for Cross from near Ely, England (in this case the Cambridgeshire one). Then, still without having clicked the search, you can even add a distance within:15mi (for miles) or within:15km . So, this gives you a line of text in the search box reading:

“cross” near:CambridgeEngland within:15mi

Click search, and Twitter’s search engine will bring up all posts that contain the word Cross, tweeted from Cambridge and a 15 mile radius.

You may be able to tailor the word, location and distance to your needs. Have a play around with the location field. If I had put just ‘Cambridge’ and not ‘England’ alongside it, it would have defaulted to the USA. You can always check that you’ve got the right location in the search results because a map of the area that you’ve searched is shown on the right of the results screen.

Have fun and let me know if you find any leads!