Chocolate (in Bristol) and comedy (in Edinburgh) epitomise the eclectic feel of some of the best history exhibitions going on this month. Communities from Sierra Leone, Yemen and Yorkshire add globe and century-hopping inspiration...
Sonia Audhali – Little Yemen, Mac, Birmingham, from February 9
© Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives
Despite revealing that Yemeni people have settled in the UK since the 1860s, Yemen-born Warwickshire photographer Sonia Audhali’s initial research only found a small archive recording their heritage in the west Midlands. Putting that right, this is a reflection on a community with a proud past and a vibrant future.
Sowei mask: Spirit of Sierra Leone, British Museum, London, from February 14
In the Sierra Leone region, senior members of the all-female Sande Society wear Sowei masks - carved with ideals of feminine beauty, health and serenity - during rite-of-passage ceremonies. The top hat-influenced headgear in focus here was collected more than 125 years ago.
Capitol of the North, Yorkshire Museum, York, from February 16
From the 5th century, merchants, traders, Archbishops and monarchs spent 1,000 years controlling the country from York. Designed to enlighten adults and kids via sensory bookmarks, this exhibition reveals how the city became such a hotseat, dotted with Medieval pearlers including the Cawood Sword, the Escrick Ring and the Middleham Jewel.
Designed to Shine, Millennium Gallery, Sheffield, from February 16
A century ago, Sheffield’s Harry Brearley struck gold by finding “rustless” steel. A Bishop’s Crosier given to a 1950s Reverend, ice skates, a Sheffield Wednesday bread knife, classic stainless steel tables and a triptych of sculptures by a Japanese textile artist illustrate how his discovery has endured.
Tales of Antiquarian Adventure, Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, from February 16
Two hundred years after forming, the country’s oldest antiquarian society can claim protective pride for sites such as Hadrian’s Wall, Tynemouth Priory and Newcastle Castle. All of which makes for a choice selection of unusual exhibits: a finger-ring which could be the earliest Christian artefact from Roman Britain and a fiddle tune book from 1694 are among them.
Tickling Jock: Comedy Greats from Sir Harry Lauder to Billy Connolly, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, from February 23
Ronnie Corbett blending wistfully into a sofa and a Herculean depiction of the mighty Connolly are a couple of the artistic tributes to Scotland’s greatest stars of stage, screen and radio. The booths full of clips should be a giggle, although the offer of recording your own clips might prove painful for those planning to attend with the tiresome wannabe comedian in their clan.
Chocolate, M Shed, Bristol
We were sold the moment this show offered free chocolate to all visitors, although a 250-year dabble through choc history is a sweet enough prospect in itself. Exhibits date back to 1729, with tins from the wars, Turkish Delight recipes, working machinery, the smells of confectionary and the final Fry’s Chocolate bar and Elizabeth Shaw Mint Crisps ever produced. Delectable.