Lady Jane’s Museum
In the mid-nineteenth century Lady Jane Franklin had a ‘museum’ at home, a display of treasured mementos that reminded her of her and her husband’s adventurous lives. Some of these are now with us at Derbyshire Record Office, kept all jumbled up together in a box, along with a few objects that belonged to the Gell family. We’d like to buy special boxes to keep these cherished objects safe and easier to display.
These are just a few of her treasures:
Lady Jane and her husband adopted an Aboriginal girl called Mathinna when they lived in Tasmania. We know Mathinna had a doll which matches the description of this beautiful doll we’ve found alongside other Tasmanian mementos – could this be Mathinna’s doll? The Franklins left Mathinna behind when they returned to England; you can read more about her tragic story on our blog.
Royal Wedding Lace
This piece of lace, with a fabric flower sewn into it, is from the wedding of Alexandra of Denmark to the future King Edward VII. We know Lady Jane was in England at the time, so it’s likely she attended the ceremony and collected this souvenir herself. See a detail of the inscription on our blog.
Kalli's last letter
Kalli was an Inuit guide who helped in the search for Sir John Franklin and his missing ships. He visited England and clearly met Lady Jane and also Eleanor, Sir John’s daughter, as they entered into correspondence. Kept as part of her museum is his last letter, which included two drawings of ships and a drawing of polar bears. There’s more about Kalli’s extraordinary life on our blog.
Why save these objects?
According to Emeritus Professor of Archaeology from the university of Western Australia, Sandra Bowdler, this collection of objects is of major 'historical significance for Australian history and for the history of Arctic exploration, because of the importance of Sir John and Lady Jane Franklin'.
Who were Sir John and Lady Jane Franklin?
Sir John Franklin (1786-1847) was Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) between 1836 and 1843 and led the famous Franklin Expedition to discover the Northwest Passage in the Arctic. Two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, set off from London in 1845 with a crew of 129 men.
When they reached Canada, the ships disappeared in the ice and their crew all perished under mysterious circumstances. Lady Jane spent years organising expeditions to find her husband and his crew, but they all failed. The ships were finally discovered by Canadian marine archaeologists in 2014 and 2016 and are now being examined.
Discovering Franklin Project
Sir John’s daughter from his first marriage, Eleanor, married into the Gell family of Hopton Hall in Derbyshire, whose family archive is kept with us, at Derbyshire Record Office. This includes many letters, diaries, notebooks and the ‘museum’ objects that Eleanor kept.
Volunteers are helping us to catalogue this collection in detail, thanks to a grant from Archives Revealed, and we are packaging the documents with a grant from The Pilgrim Trust and The National Manuscripts Conservation Trust.
Saving Lady Jane’s treasures
Our box of gems contains some amazing items, including the small doll from Tasmania, pieces of mummy cloth from Thebes, those drawings from the Inuit guide, a palm leaf manuscript from Madras, a sample of ‘free labor’ cotton, and much more. You can find out more about some of the objects, including their significance to Indigenous heritage, on our blog. All these lovely mementos are currently falling over each other in an archive box – we are after all an archive, and any objects we have we’ve tended to treat as ‘archives’.
But now, in order to stop these precious items getting damaged, we’d like to store them all in individual enclosures, which means buying special museum boxes and trays. That’s where you come in! Your contribution will help us not only keep these treasures safe for generations to come, but the new boxes will also make it much easier for us to display and share the objects, so they’re no longer hidden away.
Sharing with the world
As much as we’d love to welcome you all to Matlock and share these gems in person, we know that for most of you – as well as for many of our researchers - that’s a bit too far to travel. So you’re also helping us hire a professional photographer to take images of all the objects, which we can then add to our online catalogue for everyone to see.
Even more objects
Should we manage to exceed our target, we have other objects in our collection, such as an Ashbourne Shrovetide football, a Victorian death mask, and various locks of hair, which would also be much happier in specialist packaging…