Last week I spent a couple of days in Leeds as my favourite band were playing there. In my free time I had a wander round the city centre and came across so many beautiful Victorian era buildings and some fabulous architecture. I also managed to squeeze in a visit to Leeds City Museum, housed in the former Leeds Institute building. During Victorian times the building was used to provide education for workers and host lectures and large events, as well as being the Civic Theatre.
Starting off on the ground floor there was an exhibition on collectors in Leeds, showcasing the highlights of their collections. I thought it was great that there was a cabinet set aside for current local residents to share their collections with visitors on a regularly changing basis. It would be an amazing opportunity to have your collection displayed in this way! My favourite part of this exhibition was the cabinet about the Leeds Savage Club, which ran from 1898 to 1912. The club members were from the arts, and liked to dress up in costume as ‘Red Indians’ at their meetings, where they sang, danced and recited poetry. I really liked that the club sent out invitations to the members for each meeting and they all followed the club’s theme.
Upstairs there was an ancient world exhibition with Roman and Egyptian artefacts and lots of information on Egyptian burial traditions. The centrepiece of the exhibition was the 3000 year old mummy Nesyamun and a collection of canopic jars, used to store organs removed from Egyptians before mummification. I particularly liked the jewellery, like this amazing beaded necklace, I could imagine myself wearing it to a very glamorous occasion as a real statement!
There was a large gallery covering the history of Leeds since the industrial revolution, which had a wide range of artefacts and interactive games for children and adults alike. I played a game of ‘Whose Shoes?’, where you had to press the button beside a pair of shoes and then select the button beside the person you thought would have worn the shoes. If you chose the correct answer then a little light trail lit up between the shoes and the owner. It appealed to my love of fashion as well as my love of shiny lights!
I discovered a cabinet of colourful clothing and textiles relating to the suffragettes and the efforts of women in the Leeds area to gain equality for women. This banner from the early 1900’s is from the Leeds Labour Party’s womens section and was a lovely rich red velvet with striking metallic threads embroidered into a design symbolizing freedom for women.
Leeds City Museum had a lot of child friendly exhibits that could be touched, and offered plenty of hands on activities, such as building your own Roman structure. My husband had an attempt at this and has gone for an asymmetrical version!
The museum has a great collection of animals, lots of birds and butterflies arranged around the edge of the room with the bigger animals in the centre. There were lots of interactive discovery points for children to make them think about different animal diets and physical features. I thought the animal dress up costumes were really fun, and if there had been adult sizes no doubt I would have been dressed up as a zebra!