Violet Crowther

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Violet Crowther
Born14 February 1884
Died25 June 1969 (aged 85)
EmployerAbbey House Museum
Parent(s)Henry Crowther

Violet Mary Crowther (14 February 1884 – 25 June 1969) was a British museum curator. She was the Assistant Curator at the Abbey House Museum for more than two decades.


Violet Mary Crowther was born on 14 February 1884[1] in Leeds, Yorkshire, the daughter of Henry Crowther, a natural historian and museum curator, and his wife Martha. Along with her sisters Virté and Vera, she helped her father in his museum work, and built up expertise in natural history. Her father and sisters were active participants in local nature study groups, where Violet demonstrated her skill in using a microscope and lectured on natural history topics such as 'The Scarabaeus and Other Dung-Beetles'.[2]

As Curator of the Museum of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, her father gave frequent lectures to public audiences, including schoolchildren, which were illustrated by lantern slides. Violet helped with these presentations by hand-colouring the slides and preparing diagrams. She also played a key role in running the Leeds Schools' Museum Scheme in the early 20th century, helping to deliver a programme of lectures and visits by children and their teachers. This was an innovative approach which supported children's learning through access to museum collections, reaching thousands of children across Leeds every year, and anticipated the later development of partnerships between museums and local education authorities across the country.[3][4]


Crowther assisted her father in beginning the Leeds collections of "bygones" or social history material, reflecting wider changes in museum practice to move beyond "scientific" collections towards the familial and domestic.[5] The Museum of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society passed into public ownership in 1921,[6] and Crowther was appointed Assistant Curator. In 1927 it was decided that Abbey House Museum in Leeds should become a museum of "bygones", and Crowther took charge of these collections as well. She called for donations of household objects such as bellows in the women's pages of the local press.[7]

Through her leadership of Abbey House Museum, Crowther made a significant and lasting contribution to the social history collections which today are displayed there.[8] Previously designated as "bygones", everyday domestic objects which had passed out of general use, these collections are important in commemorating the lives and experiences of ordinary people, especially women, and creating a strong sense of place and rootedness in local history.[9]

Crowther retired from her post as Assistant Curator on 14 February 1949, after 48 years working in museums in Leeds, and 21 years at Abbey House.[10][11] She died in Bramley, Leeds, on 25 June 1969.[1]


Like many women working in museums in this period, Crowther achieved little professional recognition for her expertise, and was largely overlooked in contemporary accounts of museum practice; this has begun to be addressed in modern scholarship.[12][13] It is therefore the more impressive that she gained the post of Assistant Curator, and was acknowledged as such in official Museums Association publications, although her range of responsibilities at Abbey House Museum merited the title of full Curator.[14] [15]


  1. ^ a b Civil Registration Death Index 1916–2007, 1969 Q2, Crowther, Violet Mary. National Probate Calendar 1969, Crowther, Violet Mary of 3 Lincroft Cres Broad La Bramley Leeds died 25 June 1969.
  2. ^ "Armley Nature-Study Society". Leeds Mercury. 1 April 1905.
  3. ^ 93rd Report of the Council of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society. Leeds: Jowett and Sowry. 1913.
  4. ^ Alberti, Samuel J.M.M. (2009). Nature and Culture: Objects, disciplines and the Manchester Museum. Manchester: Manchester University Press. pp. 162–63.
  5. ^ Ross, Kitty (2010). "Leeds social history collections: From 'bygones' to 'community history'" (PDF). Social History in Museums. 34: 49–52.
  6. ^ "About the Society: The Leeds City Museum", Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society.
  7. ^ 'From a Woman’s Notebook', Yorkshire Evening Post, 19 April 1934
  8. ^ Leeds Museums and Galleries. "Social History".
  9. ^ Hill, Kate (2011). "Collecting Authenticity: Domestic, Familial, and Everyday 'Old Things' in English Museums, 1850–1939". Museum History Journal. 4:2. doi:10.1179/mhj.2011.4.2.203.
  10. ^ Brears, Peter (1989). Of Curiosities and Rare Things: The Story of Leeds City Museums. Leeds: The Friends of Leeds City Museums. p. 25.
  11. ^ "Miss Crowther has never seen Kirkstall ghost". Yorkshire Evening Post. 14 January 1949.
  12. ^ Steadman, Mark (2019). A History of the Scientific Collections of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society's Museum in the Nineteenth Century: Acquiring, Interpreting & Presenting the Natural World in the English Industrial City (PDF). The University of Leeds: Unpublished PhD thesis. p. 203 n.
  13. ^ Hill, Kate (2016). Women and Museums 1850–1914: Modernity and the Gendering of Knowledge. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 19.
  14. ^ Markham, S.F. (1948). Directory of Museums and Art Galleries in the British Isles. London: The Museums Association. p. 174.
  15. ^ Rhodes, James (2019). On this day in Leeds. Leeds: Rhodes to the Past. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-244-17711-9.