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Cambridgeshire: A History of the World in 10 objects
Thomas Clarkson's chest
Abolitionist Thomas Clarkson's travelling chest is one of our 10 objects

What role has our county played in the history of the world?

Kate Carreno from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, thinks it can be summed up in 10 items.

From Darwin's notebooks to Captain Oates' Antarctic sleeping bag, she has helped create a list of 10 objects of international importance.

These items are our contribution to the year-long project, A History of the World, being run by the BBC in conjunction with the British Museum.

A History of the World will be explored right across the BBC - on national and local television, radio and online.

Experts from the British Museum have identified 100 objects that help to tell our world's history, and each local BBC region has been asked to suggest a further 10 items of their own.

Darwin's notebooks
Darwin's notebooks used to record specimens while on Board HMS Beagle

This is not the history of the world - it's a history of the world. Each object - which must be man-made - tells a story, representative of a certain time and place.

Cambridgeshire's connections

Kate Carreno, who is the assistant director of central services at the Fitzwilliam Museum, was just one member of a panel tasked with whittling down Cambridgeshire's vast array of artefacts to just 10.

And that's not easy when you consider the history of our region, the importance of our major towns and cities, and the world-renowned museums and research institutes situated on our doorsteps.

Below, Kate explains what makes A History of the World such a fascinating project, and why Cambridgeshire's 10 objects play such a vital role in shaping the history of our world.

'Global connections'

Thomas Clarkson Chest
The abolitionist's travelling museum, circa 1784
Wisbech & Fenland Museum
Captain Oates' sleeping bag
From the Antarctic expedition, 1910-1912
Scott Polar Research Institute
Anglo Saxon glass beaker
Found on the A14 in 1977
University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology
Cromwell's medicine chest
17th century Bavarian
Cromwell Museum
Darwin's Beagle specimen notebooks
Four dry specimen diaries
Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences
Iron Age sword and Scabbard
From 1st century BC
Peterborough Museum
Fabric from Wright Brothers' aircraft
From the first powered flight
Imperial War Museum Duxford
Chesterton coin hoard
Found in a sewer
Cambridge Archaeological Unit
Sir Isaac Newton's notebook
Leather-bound private diary
The Fitzwilliam Museum
The Macclesfield Psalter
14th century illuminated manuscript
The Fitzwilliam Museum

Each of these man-made objects, in their own way, tells a different story about our region, as well as a 'history of the world'.

A campaign such as this is massively important, because it brings people into contact with their own history, and the history of their region, through objects with local importance and national - even international - significance.

A History of the World in Cambridgeshire brings together places as diverse as the Fitzwilliam, the Imperial War Museum Duxford, Huntingdon's Cromwell Museum and the Scott Polar Research Institute - institutions that are now all working together to build up a history of the region and its global connections.

We are all very excited to be part of the national launch of A History of the World, an immensely powerful project that will introduce people up and down the country to the treasures on their doorstep and the museums that safeguard them for the public to enjoy, and engage people with the stories they have to tell.

From an Iron Age sword with a dramatic history, to a piece of wing fabric from one of the first-ever planes, designed and built at the beginning of the 20th century, the objects brought together in Cambridgeshire span over 2,000 years of history.

Gold in sewer

There are objects that have been dramatically excavated from Cambridgeshire soil - the remarkable medieval coin hoard discovered by workmen in a sewerage shaft in Cambridge city centre, and the Anglo-Saxon glass beaker that narrowly escaped a bulldozer's path during roadworks on the A14, one of the region's major routes.

Some objects show the region's importance to the history and artistic traditions of the nation, even the world.

Chesterton Lane coin hoard
Part of a hoard of coins unearthed in Chesterton (pre-conservation)

The 14th-century Macclesfield Psalter, an illuminated manuscript housed at the Fitzwilliam Museum, is from a period when East Anglia was one of the leading influential artistic centres in Europe.

Other objects show the importance of the region to some of history's most significant figures: a revealing journal kept by Isaac Newton during his years at Cambridge University, and a collection of Charles Darwin's scientific objects - so crucial to his world-changing theories of evolution - from the decade when he lived in Cambridge.

There are also treasures that have actually travelled thousands of miles to eventually rest here in the region.

These include the Clarkson Chest, a travelling chest from the 1780s filled with items collected from slave ships by the Cambridgeshire-born abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, and a reindeer-skin sleeping bag that belonged to Captain Oates, the English Antarctic explorer whose famous noble sacrifice is now legendary.

Such objects tell a history not only of Cambridgeshire, but also of this region's place in the world.

Kate Carreno, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

To find out more about Cambridgeshire's top 10 man-made objects and to find out how you can submit your own artefacts, visit Cambridgeshire's History of the World index.


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