Volunteer session with the Cuming Museum

Our second session with research volunteers took place at the Wells Way old library on 31st August 2017 and introduced us to the Cuming Collection. It was led by Judy Aitken, curator of the Cuming Museum. Judy introduced us particularly to the WW1 items in the Collection. During WW1, the Cuming curator, Richard Mould, responded to a Ministry of War directive to collect items to commemorate the war from Walworth residents – to reflect all aspects of the war. Quite an enlightened request when one considers it. Continuing after the war, through the 1920s and 1930s, items such as letters, photos, diaries, flags, recruitment records and many other items were collected, together with lots of ammunition (some live!), such as hand grenades, stick bombs and items collected from battlefields. The collection includes parts of Zeppelin shrapnel including from 1917 raid.

As a taster of the Cuming’s photograph collection, we saw some slides including fantastic images from the era.

Camberwell Gun Brigade passing town hall in June 1915 © Southwark Local History Library and Archive

We had great fun investigating some objects up close, which was a wonderful opportunity for all. Items included things made from bullets, letter openers made from bayonets (?), postcards with elaborate hand stitching.

Letter opener fashioned by a German prisoner of war

Letter opener fashioned by a German prisoner of war

Judy also mentioned Edward Lovett, a collector of unusual items from WW1 at the front.
Consequently the Cuming has a wealth of objects from the era – which is fantastic news for Zeppelin1917!

Gun metal and case approx 5 x 8cm, with brass relief plaque of stags in a forest

Handmade cigarette case

In terms of the Home front – this is also well represented – for example, War flags – which were sold as fundraising drives. It is important to note that Bermondsey Council was the 1st Council to institute Air Raid signals. The actual methods were decided by local Committees (Susan Crisp wondered if Dr Salter was involved as he was a prominent Bermondsey councillor of the era and a massive figure in local history etc).

It has a sculpted / manufactured figure of Christ on the cross

Crucifix made from cartridges and a bullet

You can find many items in Cuming Collection online here.

Posted by Sam Tilling

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