The Joy of Stuff - Identifying and dating historic objects

Ref: C3528682

The Joy of Stuff is about engaging with historic objects in a more dynamic and interesting way. Starting with curiosity, we shall then try to 'interrogate' Victorian and later objects using the clues left behind in their manufacture or use.

Course aim

This course aims to provide a brief introduction to ways of identifying and dating historic objects e.g. patterns of wear and tear, style, material, registration and maker's marks, hallmarks etc.

Who is the course for?

What topics will this course cover

This course has been designed as a taster course to help people identify and date historic artefacts more easily through asking questions and providing pointers to useful sources. Questions will include the following: 'Is the object complete or is something missing through breakage or loss and if so what?'; 'Can we find similar objects in museums, old photographs, books, trade catalogues or directories or via the internet (e.g. ebay) to help identify their use and how can we check that these identifications are correct?'; 'How much can we learn through handling/drawing objects and close examination of style, wear and tear and materials?'; and 'Does our object have a design registration mark or hallmark which we can look up?

What will it be like?

WEA classes are friendly and supportive. You will be encouraged to work together with your fellow students and tutor. You will be asked to share your ideas and views in the class and work with the group to give and accept feedback in a supportive environment. The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you to be actively involved in your learning. You may be asked to undertake work to support your course outside of your class.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

1. Identify at least one new item during the session. 2. Explain what a pottery registration mark e.g. diamond mark or number is, and how to distinguish this from a maker's mark. 3. Start to use registration marks and maker's marks singly and together to provide dates. 4. Recognise a hallmark. 5. Demonstrate a knowledge of at least two different ways of dating an object.

How will I know I'm making progress?

Through informal discussion and questions and answers.

What else do I need to know, do or bring?

Every students should bring an object to the session, if possible. This could be an historic object which you would like to know more about or a personal/family object or heirloom whose history and use you know well. Paper and pencil/pen. White cotton gloves for handling silver etc if you have them. A jeweller's loupe or magnifying glass and tape measure could also be useful, though one or two will be available on the day.

Reading and information sources

The Shire Books series includes useful guides to groups of objects or industries as can books on Victorian antiques. Also trade directories or catalogues of Victorian household objects etc.

What could the course lead to?

Attend other WEA courses, research objects, volunteer at a local museum or charity shop etc

Download full course outline

The Joy of Stuff - Identifying and dating historic objects Course Outline


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2016
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
Visa Credit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Debit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Electron payments supported by RBS WorldPay Mastercard payments supported by RBS WorldPay Maestro payments supported by RBS WorldPay JCB payments supported by RBS WorldPay Solo payments supported by RBS WorldPay
RBS WorldPay Payments Processing