Social History Collections on iMuseum Search of iMuseum

Social History Collections on iMuseum

Posted on 11.09.2023

Over the last year Manx National Heritage has been working hard on making as many Social History records as possible available on Completed in August, we have managed to add over over 1,700 new records to our iMuseum site!

When Manx National Heritage evaluated the number of records available on iMuseum last year, we noticed that our Social History Collection had a smaller representation on iMuseum compared to our other collections, and we decided to change this. We looked at possible objects/records that we could release, and in the end identified three main groups of records to upload:

  • Objects relating to First World War Internment
  • Objects relating to Second World War Internment
  • Objects currently held in storage

Enhancing our Social History Collection offering also allowed us to identify and upload additional records from other collections too, including the Art Collection, Archaeology Collection, Costume & Textiles Collection and the Print & Poster Archive.

In addition to the groups listed above, we also released records relating to our MUSEUM 100 exhibition. The exhibition opened in October 2022 and celebrates the centenary of the Manx Museum, home to an extraordinary collection of artefacts and archives that help tell the story of the Isle of Man and its people. Our curators carefully selected over 100 objects to display in the exhibition and the Digital Collections Team simultaneously added images and extra information to the object records so that they could be released onto iMuseum. Every object on display in MUSEUM 100 is now discoverable on iMuseum by clicking here.

Continue reading below to learn more about some of the objects uploaded to iMuseum this year. You can read more about the behind the scenes work on MUSEUM 100 by clicking here and here.

First World War Internment Museum Collections:

At the start of 2023 Manx National Heritage added over 270 records (around half with images) from our First World War Internment Museum Collections onto our iMuseum. These records all relate to the material culture within the internment camps on the Isle of Man during 1914-1918.

Here’s what Matthew Richardson, Curator of Social History at Manx National Heritage, had to say about this valuable collection:

“The role of the Isle of Man as a centre for civilian internment during the First World War was the most significant aspect of the island’s experience of that conflict. One of the earliest places in the British Isles to receive enemy aliens (of German Austro-Hungarian, or Ottoman birth) was Douglas Camp, where the first prisoners arrived just after the last holiday makers left in September 1914.

Knockaloe Camp, which opened near Peel in 1915, grew to be the largest camp of its kind in the British Empire. The material culture of these camps is of interest to both academics and family historians alike. Craftwork was encouraged in order to counter the effect of boredom and uncertainty on the mental health of the captives, and many fine items of artwork, bonework, woodwork or metalwork are known.”

Here is one example of the many objects available to view. This is a decorative smoker’s cabinet made during the First World War at either Douglas or Knockaloe Internment Camp. During the First World War (1914-1918) the Isle of Man was used as an internment base for civilian ‘enemy aliens’. They were held in two camps, a requisitioned holiday camp in Douglas and a purpose built camp located at Knockaloe near Peel on the west coast of the Island. These held at their peaks over 4,000 and 23,000 men in some cases for nearly five years between opening in 1914 and final closure in 1919. Over 30,000 men passed through Knockaloe between 1914 and 1917, more than the population of Douglas. 


You can now find the First World War Internment Museum Collections on iMuseum by clicking here.

To read more about the First World War Internment Collections, click here.

Second World War Internment Museum Collections:

At the start of 2023 Manx National Heritage added over 320 records (around half with images) from our Second World War Internment Museum Collections onto our iMuseum. These records all relate to the material culture within the internment camps on the Isle of Man during 1939-1945.

Here’s what Katie King, Curator of Art & Social History at Manx National Heritage, had to say about this significant collection:

“There were many celebrated modern artists interned on the Isle of Man during the Second World War, forced to flee Nazi Germany as the regime suppressed so called ‘degenerate’ art. These artists sought sanctuary in Britain, only to find themselves arrested as potential ‘enemy aliens’ and interned whilst their loyalty was investigated. During their enforced stay on the Isle of Man there was an outpouring of art and creativity. Over the years a large number of these works have been gathered and collected by Manx National Heritage. We now hold an internationally significant collection of artworks created in the internment camps, with many of those artists going on to have high profile careers after the war.”

One striking example of internee art is this portrait of the Madonna, with barbed wire fence visible in background. Signed and dated ‘Sorgiani 1942 IOM’. According to the 1939 Register, Giuseppe Sorgiani was born 19 February 1889, living at 23 Earnshaw Street, Holborn, London. He was an unemployed canvas artist. Information was received in 2012 from a Mrs Quine who has another Sorgiani painting. Sorgiani was interned in Peel and c.1943 was in the battery hospital for internees in Peel. He was so grateful for the care that he received from Mrs Quine’s aunt that he gave her the painting. Sorgianni also prepared the frontispiece illustration for a Catholic prayer book ‘Benefica Fede’ produced in Onchan Camp in 1940. The background of that work and this work are similar. Giuseppe Sorgiani died in 1952 in Pembrokeshire, aged 63.


You can now find the Second World War Internment Museum Collections on iMuseum by clicking here.

To read more about the Second World War Internment Collections, click here.

John Warwick Smith Watercolours:

As mentioned previously, updating our Social History Collections has also allowed us to enrich other collections held on iMuseum. Added to the Art Collection on iMuseum this year is a selection of paintings by watercolourist John ‘Warwick’ Smith. In the 1790s he was commissioned by the 4th Duke of Atholl, John Murray (1755-1830), then Governor-in-Chief of the Isle of Man, to complete a series of watercolour drawings of the island. Twenty-six were completed in total, some of the earliest watercolour paintings depicting the Island. The painting shown below is named ‘Laws on Tynwald’ and is the earliest known picture of the Manx national assembly. The riotous collection of figures may have been painted by J. C. Ibbetson, who is known to have worked with Smith. From the canopied Hill rise puffs of smoke from a ‘feu de joie’ in honour of the King, represented by the Duke of Atholl in person. The old cruciform St. John’s Chapel (replaced by the present church in 1849), a carriage standing apart from the rest and probably intended for the Duke, are clearly drawn, and a group of somewhat bucolic-looking tents is also emphasised.


You can view the whole collection on our iMuseum by clicking here.

To read more about the John Warwick Smith watercolours, click here.

Objects Currently Held in Storage:

Last month we released onto iMuseum around 900 records of objects not currently on display at any of the Manx National Heritage sites. The reason for doing is because these records hold great information and insights about the history of the Isle of Man which is fantastic for researchers, or even those who are just having a skeet!

Here’s an example of one of the objects from our stores which we’ve uploaded. These plaster casts – taken from a set of tin moulds – were used to make ginger bread fairings or biscuits, for sale at Tynwald and Hollandtide fairs on the Isle of Man. Such biscuits were commonly for sale at fairs on the Isle of Man in the early part of the 20th century, but they may be the vestiges of a much earlier tradition. The characters which they symbolise are possibly of Scandinavian origin, and may originally have been representations of Odin, Frigga, Thor, Sleipnir and Goldcomb, all figures from Norse mythology. If this is correct then this is a remarkable survival of a Viking custom into the modern age.


We hope you enjoy browsing through some of the amazing records we have to offer on and keep your eyes peeled for our future Collections News posts!

Katie Clugston
Digital Collections Assistant

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