We are a part of everything we have come from. Our ancestors' experiences created the world that we now inhabit. Often, their lives are described in clues all over our houses.

So what can we learn from the tangible objects that have been passed down within our families? 

HEIRLOOM is a participatory exhibition that provides an opportunity for girls to learn about their own families' histories through interviews and researching old photographs, artifacts, and heirlooms.

Girl Museum aims to empower girls with knowledge and understanding of the present day through learning about the past. This fit perfectly with the 2013 International Museum Day theme, Museums (Memory + Creativity) = Social Change, so we have partnered with Chick History to produce our HEIRLOOM project.

To participate, view the contributions below to gain inspiration.  Next, scroll down to review our instructions via Prezi videos and downloadable PDFs that will help you journey into your family's past.  Then, send us a picture of your heirloom and its story, and we'll feature it in this exhibit!  Contributions are accepted on an ongoing basis.

Nan's Copper Ring
I haven't much info about this ring's history, but for the brief time I've known about it, it's shed light on my own sense of heritage as a woman in my family.
My nan was Welsh, and worked her fingers to the bone all of her adult life, until she got too sick and passed away. She had eight children, all close in age, all living together in a little council house just outside London. She was from a very traditional family background; she baked everything, she made the children's clothes and taught them, in turn, to make clothes for themselves and their younger siblings. They had very little money to go round. 
A small copper ring, handmade, with cutout designs. Nan's Copper Ring - Johannah Lord - Heirloom
In the short years that I knew my nan I never witnessed her doing these practical things and using her hands all the time, but all around me in her house I saw evidence of it. My own mother was taught these skills and crafts and so I witnessed my nan's practicality second-hand. When I was 11 I was given my own sewing machine and taught how to make trousers.
My nan suffered from arthritis. Her sister in law did too. My mum started to get it in her thumb when I was little, made worse by pushing prams, and all the housework and the clothes making she's done over the years. It seems inevitable that I will get arthritic hands at some point, particularly as it seems to be travelling down to me through both sides of my family via the girls. I don't know when I'll get it, if it is indeed a genetic condition, and if I'll have to stop playing guitar and painting pictures as a result.
When I was handed some of my nan's jewellery, I chose to keep two pieces of copper jewellery. Known as 'poor mans silver', it has little monetary value but has been worn for its perceived healing properties since the time of ancient civilisations. By wearing it, a small part of me hopes it may help postpone, or even prevent, the condition. I hope it helped her, and when I wear it I feel connected to her.
Johanna Lord, Cumbria, UK

With Love From France...

This beautiful lead crystal bowl was given to my mother by her grandmother. I have always admired it because it seems so unique. It came into my family when my grandfather sent it home from France for his mother, who handed it down to my mom. Upon asking more about it, I learned that it was from the Baccarat crystal factory in France.


My grandfather was stationed in Toul, France while he was in the army. He bought the bowl in Nancy, France. It was very expensive when he bought it, and then the post office would not insure it when he tried to send it home. Luckily, my great-grandmother received the bowl in Michigan in perfect condition.

Hillary Hanel, Michigan, USA

Submit Your Heirloom

To participate, watch our Prezi videos at right, which will guide you on your journey.  If you haven't used Prezi before, it is a slide show that you control. Just hit the play button to listen to the whole Prezi, or use the arrows to select a slide.  

You can also download the following to help you on your journey:


Project Guide



Once you have gathered your stories and images, submit them to us.

We post individual submissions on an ongoing basis.

And if you have any questions about anything, just email us.

Get started with your Heirloom project instructions and the video below:

Next, dig deeper with the Heirloom project guide here and the video below.
You can also use this question worksheet to help find out more from your research.

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