Diss Museum Community CabinetThe Community Cabinet is an opportunity for members of the public and community groups to curate a single, dedicated cabinet with objects of their own choice.  Objects may come from their own lives and ‘collections’; or participants may wish to explore the museum’s collections to pursue a particular subject of interest.  It is a chance for visitors to tell their own story, reveal hidden stories from within the museum or nurture a private passion and, in each case, learn about display and interpretation with the guidance of members of the museum staff.

The Museum launched this project in September 2014 with a display of New Hall china by a resident of Diss.  Next season’s displays will include Sweetheart Souvenirs (military handkerchiefs and other items), Crested China and Diss W.I. centenary celebrations.

Diss Museum Community Cabinet
Each exhibition will run for approximately six to eight weeks to enable as many groups/individuals as possible to participate in the project during the opening times of the Museum between March and the end of October each year. The terms and conditions are set out below.

If you are interested in participating please contact the Collection Managers either by email at disscollections@gmail.com, or by filling out the form below. If you would prefer, an ‘expression of interest form’ can be obtained from a steward at the Museum, or by contacting the Museum Manager, Basil Abbott on 01379 650618.

The Community Cabinet is a grant programme run by SHARE Museums East, itself a programme funded by the Arts Council, England and delivered to the East of England region by Norfolk Museum Services. In 2014, fourteen museums around the region received funding to develop or enhance a community cabinet. These museums are:

Community Cabinet

Terms and Conditions for displays in the Community Cabinet:
• The title and contents of the exhibition must be agreed and approved in advance by the Collection Managers.
• The parties must agree any assistance needed from the Museum.
• The Exhibitor must supply their own transport and deliver and collect their exhibits to and from the Museum on the agreed set-up and dismantle dates.
• The Exhibitor is responsible for ensuring that the contents of the display do not breach any copyright and that all relevant consents for their use have been obtained.
• At the Exhibitors' discretion, insure the contents of the exhibition whilst on the Museum's premises.
• The exhibition will be housed in a dedicated, secure cabinet.
• The Museum will not accept any liability for loss or damage to the exhibits whilst in its care.

De Havilland Aircraft Museum, London Colney, Hertfordshire
Diss Museum, Diss, Norfolk
Halesworth and District Museum, Halesworth, Suffolk
Lowewood Museum and Epping Forest District Museum, Essex
Much Hadham Forge Museum, Much Hadham, Hertfordshire
Museum of Cambridge, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
Museum of East Anglian Life, Stowmarket, Suffolk
National Horseracing Museum, Newmarket, Cambridgeshire
Redbourn Village Museum, Redbourn, Hertfordshire
Ridgmont Station Heritage Centre, Ridgmont, Bedfordshire
Royston Museum, Royston, Hertfordshire
Stevenage Museum, Stevenage, Hertfordshire
Three Rivers Museum, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire
Wymondham Heritage Museum, Wymondham, Norfolk

For more information about SHARE, visit www.sharemuseumseast.org.uk.

Please fill in the form below if you are interested in participating in the Community Cabinet, and we will get back to you.


Interested in exhibiting in the Community Cabinet?

Since 2014, we have had many fascinating exhibits in the Community Cabinet, such as iron rations, New Hall porcelain, decorative tins, Dig Diss and Diss Cyclathon. Take a look at the photos below to see the variety of collections we have had on display.

Hemp – Hero or Horror? North Lopham Church may help you decide.

Lopham Linen has a unique place in local history, and a story worth sharing. Many villages had a cottage linen industry, but the master weavers of the Lophams were the forerunners of organised business, and great entrepreneurs. The firm of TW & J Buckenham of North Lopham was appointed linen manufacturer to HM Queen Victoria from the start of her reign.

1. Source
Linen is a strong white woven fabric, traditionally made from the fibres of hemp or flax plants. We believe that the finest linen comes from hemp, which grew particularly well along the Waveney Valley.
2. Outline of method
Hemp plants are harvested in early autumn. The fibres are separated from their woody rind by ‘retting’, either by exposure to the weather – ‘dew retting’ – or by soaking them in water – ‘leeching’ – in a hempit. Letchmere, in North Lopham, is the obvious locally surviving such hempit (monitored carefully, to prevent rotting rather than retting!).

What is the Community Cabinet?


The retted hemp was taken to barns for ‘breaking’, separating the fibres from the rinds. The tangled fibres were ‘heckled’, split, straightened and combed out into fibres fit to be ‘spun’ into yarn. The spun yarn was ‘woven’ into fabric of various qualities for many different purposes.                              
All the above processes could be carried out by one family, as a traditional cottage industry, with a spinning wheel and loom in the main room of the cottage.
In time, bigger, more complex looms were used and co-operative businesses were established, e.g. by TW & J Buckenham of North Lopham.


Lopham linen weaving loom, now in Halifax Museum, Yorkshire

Letchmere, North Lopham 1927

Site of the barns

3. Linen Products
Were m
any and diverse, including fine sheets for royalty and the aristocracy; coarse sheets for servants and villagers.    Tablecloths & sideboard covers; striped and plain napkins Huckaback and plain towels, diapers, pillowcases, even linen shrouds.
Items destined for important clients were often embroidered with a decorated monogram – examples were the sheets for Buckingham Palace. Others had flower motifs or initials.
The finest linen was damask, with pictures woven into the actual fabric, using a Jacquard loom, from Scotland by David Strachan, who taught villagers how to use it. Jacquard tablecloths are some of the finest ever produced, often with borders of roses, thistles, shamrocks, acorns and oak leaves surrounding the arms of the customer, or sporting scenes. The woven items were an ecru colour. After bleaching in the open air, the fabric was stretched, ‘fulled’ and polished to brilliant whiteness for the banqueting table.

Further information about Lopham Linen

  • Heritage Weekend from Friday 13th to Sunday 15th September.
    Concert in St Nicholas’ Church at 7.30pm on Friday 13th.
  • Tickets £6, from Jennie Vere on 01379 687679 or jennyvere@btinternet.com or visit the Team Ministry website.
  • Exhibition: Sat 14th, and Sun 15th, 11am to 5pm, free entry.

Further Reading

  • A History of the Lophams – M.F. Serpell published by Phillimore & Co. London.
  • Waveney Valley Studies -  E. Pursehouse published by Diss Publishing
  • The East Anglian Linen Industry: Rural Industry and Local Economy, 1500-1850 – Nesta Evans published by Gower

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01379 650618

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