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Hertfordshire Association of Museums

Museum Object of the Year 2023

Hertfordshire County Council’s Museums Development Team are delighted to launch the Hertfordshire Association of Museums Object of the Year 2023 Award.

You can vote for your favourite object from the selection below, each nominated by one of the county’s fantastic museums.

Hertfordshire museums collect and care for an enormous catalogue of objects of cultural, artistic, scientific, or historical interest and make their collections or related exhibits available for public viewing. They are centres for learning and discovery for all generations, each providing personal, community, social, wellbeing and economic benefits through learning, volunteering, creative projects, and partnerships. Most of all everyone from Hertfordshire is welcome to visit and explore each of the museums.

Voting has now closed.  The winner will be announced on the 24th February. Check back soon to see who won and view highlights from the awards.

Dolls House Chamber Pot

Ashwell Museum

Dolls House Chamber Pot with the inscription ‘Morning Exercise’

More about the Dolls House Chamber Pot 

Dolls House Chamber Pot with a gold interior and the amusing inscription: Morning Exercise on the exterior. Image shows two views of the same object.


Click the Kodak Kolorkin

Dacorum Heritage

The Kodak Kolourkins were creatures from the planet Koloron in search of colours that didn't exist on their own planet.  These toys were sold to help promote and sell Kodak products.  

More about the Kodak Kolourkins

Hemel Hempstead was once defined by its association with Kodak, (from late 1950s to 2005) and the town was often referred to as ‘Kodak Town’

In 1890 George Eastman, an American entrepreneur who founded the Eastman Kodak Company, travelled to the UK and acquired farmland in Harrow to establish first Kodak factory in the UK. 

After the WW2 production grew and a new site was required. Amateur photography had become popular, and a more space was needed to build a bespoke photo processing factory.  In 1956 a site was chosen at Maylands Avenue and completely refurbished with the most modern advanced film processing technology.  Although independents could process Kodak films only Kodak could process the highly acclaimed Kodachrome, which was a more complex process. 

In 1980s over 20 million of these stuffed toys were sold around the world.  In 1990 the first series of Kolorkins came to the UK, this consisted of four different colours, each with photography related names like this blue Kolourkin named Click. The other Kolourkins were called Flash, Snap and Zoom.  We found Click, Snap and Flash having an adventure in our archaeology store. They were trying to retrieve an old disposable kodak camera. We hope it helps their planet find their colours! kolorkins - YouTube


(19686) Papal bull with bulla

Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS)

Papal bull with bulla issued by Pope Urban IV on 22 Sep 1263 to the prioress and nuns of the priory of St Giles in the Wood, Flamstead. Bulla is made of lead and shows St Paul and St Peter on the obverse with the name of the Pope on the reverse.

More about the Papal bull

One of the great pleasures for the team at HALS is the chance to reacquaint ourselves with a forgotten treasure from our rich and extensive collections when it is requested by a customer during the course of their research.  

The papers of the Sebright family of Flamstead have been in the safe custody of HALS since 1936. The collection includes records of the priory of St Giles in the Wood, Flamstead which was founded c.1150 and dissolved in 1537. 

Our Object of the Year is a papal bull made of parchment and accompanied by a lead bulla (or seal) in very good condition. There are five bullae in this collection. The one we are nominating, HALS ref 19686, was issued by Pope Urban IV (1261 – 1264) and is dated 22 September 1263.

It confirms papal protection for the ‘prioress and the nuns of the monastery of St Giles of Flomstede of the order of St Benedict, in the Diocese of Lincoln and confirmation to them of their possessions’. On the obverse are St Paul and St Peter while Urban IV is named on the reverse. 


Deer Leg Knife and Fork

Mill Green Museum

Would you have these in your house? This set of a fork and carving knife have the legs of a deer as handles! What were probably holiday souvenirs from a hunting trip speak to us about a different generation 

More about the knife and fork

We don’t know much about these two objects. However we do know that they made in the Victorian period as they have a VR hallmark on them.

They were donated to the museum in 1980. Items such as this are more commonly to found in continental countries such as Germany than in England. It is highly likely that the deer that make up the handles were shot on a hunting trip and had their legs turned into cutlery to be used back at home.

They had a practical purpose but were also souvenirs. Some sets are even more complete, with a spoon included! Other sets were made from the antlers of the animal. 

Although they may not necessarily be to everyone’s taste they are quirky and unusual objects and speak of a time when hunting was socially more widely accepted than it is today.


Giant Toe

North Hertfordshire Museum

This giant toe is both old and new; a product of Ancient Egypt’s Eighteenth Dynasty and 21st century Britain. The toe, which may be from a colossal statue of Amenhotep III in Luxor, had a base of Carrara marble added by famous British sculptor John Mills.

More about the giant toe

This giant toe is both old and new, created by two sculptors from opposite sides of the world and separated by thousands of years. It may have been part of the colossal statue of Amenhotep III from Luxor, Egypt. It is thought to date to the Eighteenth Dynasty (1549/1550 to 1292 BC). The toe likely arrived in this country in the 1700s or early 1800s and was given as a gift to local sculptor John Mills over 50 years ago by the previous owner who had been using it as a doorstop.

John, well known for his Women of World War Two memorial sculpture in London, built on the work of his equally skilled Ancient Egyptian predecessor by adding a base made from Carrara marble. John donated the toe in 2019 and it is now on open display at our welcome desk. People love to feel the work of both artists.

From its early days as part of a colossal statue that towered over the people of Egypt, the toe that inspired a famous British sculptor now welcomes thousands of inquisitive visitors to North Hertfordshire Museum. 


Gorden the Gopher

Stevenage Museum

Gordon the Gopher is an ‘icon’ in the words of Jamie, a museum volunteer who has nominated this beloved puppet for Museum Object of the Year 2023.

More info about Gorden the Gopher

Jamie, a volunteer at the museum, has chosen Gordon the Gopher as our Object of the Year nomination as it’s his favourite object in the museum collection. Jamie chose this well-loved puppet because Gordon is an iconic character from British television history. Jamie remembers watching Gordon the Gopher present alongside Philip Schofield and said that Gordon’s owner probably bought him in Toys “R” Us. Gordon first appeared on screen in 1985, which was the same year the first Toys “R” Us store opened in the UK.

In the museum, Gordon sits in the ‘Staying In’ case in the New Town gallery and helps tell the story of what people liked to watch, do and listen to at home in the decades after the new town was built.


Railway Sleeper with Chair

Tring Local History Museum

1837 Railway Stone Sleeper with cast iron chair that held the rail. Stone bases are often found, but not with the original chair in place. Having conferred with other railway museum we know ours is extremely rare.

More about the railway sleeper

The London to Birmingham line was built in 1837 passing through the famous Tring cutting. The first original railway design consisted of these heavy stone sleepers that were placed in rows along each side of the line. The rail was placed along the row of stone sleepers and held in place by cast iron brackets know as chairs.

By the 1850s locomotives and the trains they were pulling became heavier and this rail design proved to be unsubstantial as the blocks shifted under the weight. The current rail design you see today with the familiar wooden sleeper blocks running adjacent to the line was adopted and the stone sleepers discarded.   

Although the stone bases are commonly found it is very rare to find one with its original chair in place. Our researcher with the national rail museums has not revealed another. The sleeper was donated by the family of a deceased railway engineer who found the sleeper while working on the electrification of the line near Tring in the 1960s.