Archive for May, 2012

One Mystery Solved! Two to go…

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

The traces team would like to extend our appreciation to three museum patrons who have successfully identified one of the three unknown objects in the ‘instruments without a trace’ case.

Mr. Nick Davies was the first to suggest that object #10948, the  unidentified pivoted metal plates, had something to do with Braille writing in a blog comment.

Alexander S. Mentis, Major, U.S. Army, directed us to several websites which showed us how a Braille slate was used with a stylus to emboss paper.  It was our first bit of visual evidence.

Mrs. Celia G Kellett kindly emailed the museum, sharing her experience using the Braille writing frame.  She also included some wonderful photos including a teaching handbook.  Mrs. Kellett had the following story to share :

“I immediately recognised the object, 10948, as a Braille Writing frame.
My attachments show photographs, which I took last night, of the Braille
Frame and Braille Teaching Handbook, which were given to me by my blind
piano teacher circa 1956/7, and the Girl Guides badge I received upon
reaching a basic standard of reading and writing braille. The frame
holds the paper whilst letters are punched by a series of dots, working
from left to right. Such frames are still in use today, but more modern
ones are available.”


Braille Frame, punch, and Braille Handbook


Braille Frame, punch and system



The MHS can now add this information to the object record.  Many thanks to Mr. Davies, Major Mentis, and Mrs. Kellett for making this possible.

Can you help us build on this success by discovering the uses and stories for our other two mystery objects?  Please feel free to leave any ideas in the blog comments.



Who left these traces?

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

While collecting the instruments for the exhibit, a question often crossed our minds: “Who are the people who left traces on these objects?”  For some of the objects, it is unknown who left the traces while others are associated with specific individuals. In our search to find out more about the people who may have left these traces, we were able to locate information on one person in particular, Mr. Frank Arthur Bellamy (initials F.A.B. on the instruments).

F.A. Bellamy  was born in Oxford in 1863 to a family that later became very involved with the Radcliffe Observatory. Two of his brothers worked as assistants at the Observatory as did Mr. Bellamy. While working at the Observatory under E.J. Stone, Mr. Bellamy focused on meridian work as well as meteorology. The initials F.A.B appear on two of our exhibit items. The first is the Euclidian geometric model that was most likely part of a group of instruments used by the Savilian Professor of Astronomy. Mr. Bellamy, after his time at the Radcliffe observatory, worked with H.H. Turner who was a Savilian professor of Astronomy at Oxford. Perhaps it was during his time working with Professor Turner that Bellamy became acquainted with this instrument and allowed him to identify it and have it restored (interestingly, it was restrung by his niece, Ethel F. Bellamy who also worked in the Radcliffe Observatory). The other trace left by Mr. Bellamy was on the unidentified piece of wood that only reads “Keep/of historical interest/F.A.B.”  In addition to working with Professors at Oxford, Bellamy was, himself, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and published his own articles in scholarly journals.

These traces help us understand the history of some of the objects (such as the Geometric model) while also allowing us to learn about the man, F.A. Bellamy, who wrote them. In this way, traces can ensure not only that instruments will be remembered and kept but that people who create the traces can be remembered as well.


Sources for this post can be found in obituaries for F.A. Bellamy here and here. He was also in a list of recently deceased fellow in the monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, which can be found here.  An Obituary for Ethel F Bellamy, F.A. Bellamy’s niece, can be found here.