A Few of Our Favourite Things


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Favourite artefacts at Salisbury Museum described by work experience students Evie Gallagher and Fianna Fernandes

Jade Axe

Figheldean Jade Axe

Some people may believe that working in a museum for a week would be of no interest to young people – that they would not be interested in history or in the area that they live. However we disagree with this – we have both been at Salisbury Museum for a week’s work experience and have found it incredibly interesting. We have learnt not only about Salisbury, but how people lived – and what life was like for people throughout the centuries.

In the Wessex Gallery two extremely popular objects caught our eyes. The first, the Figheldean Jade axe. It is a perfect tear shaped axe, carved from a stone from the Alps, Italy. This first fact shows that people travelled around Europe during early Neolithic times. It is highly polished and also extremely rare; perhaps showing importance. This is one of our favourite objects in the museum because the display doesn’t have enough information to tell you why it was made; but it has enough information to allow you to create your own stories of how or why it was made and what it was possibly for. For example it could have been made by the best craftsmen for a leader in a village to show power and importance – this would explain why it is so well polished and perfect.

Another of our favourite artefacts at the museum is the Amesbury Archer. It is around 4300 years old and is late Neolithic (meaning it is from around 2400BC to 2200 BC), and was found near Stonehenge. The Amesbury Archer was thought to be a metal worker by trade; however he was buried with eighteen arrowheads – hence his name.. It is thought that he was a metalworker because he was also buried with three copper knives and two gold hair ornaments in his grave. As well as this, four boar tusks, 122 flint tools, one cushion stone and five beaker pots. The beaker pots are of importance as this makes his grave one of the earliest bell beaker graves in Britain. Having this many items in his grave would’ve made him someone of importance as this was a very elaborate funeral.

Amesbury Archer

We can find out more about the Amesbury Archer from tests run on his teeth. He had grown up, or spent a significant portion of his life, in the Alps. We can tell this by the minerals in the water in the Alps. Today it would not be possible to find out where someone lived by their teeth as our water is now chemically treated, and we also move around to different areas – meaning that tests taken on our teeth in years to come would not be accurate.

Another of our favourite exhibits is Turner’s watercolour painting of the inside of Salisbury Cathedral. It was painted in 1797 and is displayed in the Wessex Gallery. It is one of our favourites because he exaggerates the size of the cathedral by shrinking the size of the people inside. He also paints the flawless architecture of the cathedral making it memorable.

Overall, we have found our experience at the museum extremely fascinating. At times we have had to work hard and get a lot of work done – but the results have been satisfying and we feel that we have accomplished a lot – not only in the work we have done, but through enhancing our skills such as teamwork and communication. We have learnt that the museum not only provides great exhibits and information to the public, but also a welcoming environment (evident through our visitor survey data entry!) – and is able to attract people of all different ages from many different places around the world. We have learnt what makes a good team different from a great team – and about how all different sections of the museum are able to come together and create a fantastic, lively, enjoyable experience for all.


Fun with Photos


Mrs Fawcett

We have another photo from the archives of Mrs Fawcett (she of the cape – see 20 February). It is interesting to ‘do an Alan’ with this one (Alan Clarke is a Volunteer who works with our photographic archive and frequently contributes photos for the interest of our blog readers, guiding us through a forensic observation of these).

It is obviously a posed photograph, taken, presumably, in a photographer’s studio. Mr Fawcett (and we must assume it is he – far too intimate a pose for it to be anyone else) is wearing a remarkable tie! What at first appear to be pince nez (spectacles that perched on the nose, without ear pieces) may, in fact, be glasses with small lenses. Is one lens blacked out?

We can learn a lot about costume from photographs of course, and often date a photo by dating the clothes. Mr Fawcett’s jacket, with its wide lapels and cuff effect on the sleeves is typical of the 1870s. Wing collars were still worn on shirts, but so were the more modern type seen here. No turn-ups on the trousers, lace-up boots – both bang on trend. Even his hair, medium-long at the sides and back but with ears showing, is just right for that decade.

For the ladies, the crinoline (effectively a wide cage worn under the skirt of a dress to make it stand out in an exaggerated fashion) had gone out of fashion by 1870 and Mrs Fawcett appears to be wearing a bustle under her dress in this photograph. This was a more limited framework designed to support the fullness of the back of the dress, giving an interesting shape but, more practically, making sure that the material was lifted clear of the ground. One source suggests that as the bustle became fashionable, so “the hair got higher”. No explanation, but it certainly appears so from this photo. Zigzag, lacy or scalloped edges were all the rage, as were decorations achieved with arrangements of buttons – all of which we can see on the dress here. There appears to be a crotcheted shawl on her lap.

Mrs Fawcett is wearing a very dark dress, suggesting she might be in mourning.

The pose would hit the wrong note in the 21st century. The wife is seated obediently (and below!) the husband, supposedly reading dutifully to him.

If you have early family photos at home, you can have the same fun with them. All of the costume information is available on the internet of course (or a good book!).

“…helping..spending time wisely and learning…” by Evie Gallagher


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Evie – helping, spending time wisely and learning. Thank you!

Evie Gallagher, student placement at the museum 19-23 March 2018

 I choose Salisbury Museum as my work experience choice this year. It has been extremely enjoyable and has made me become more enthusiastic to volunteer at a museum.

I am a Year 10 student and doing my History GCSE. At school we learn about international history; so coming to the museum has allowed me to learn about local history and I can now compare history from different areas.

I have enjoyed being at the museum as it has allowed me to see many different types of jobs which must be completed to allow Salisbury Museum to run. Throughout the week I tagged along with different volunteers and got to see what they do behind the scenes. On Monday I was cataloguing different ceramics in the King’s Room with volunteer Roy Wilde. On Tuesday I was with volunteers Mary and Roger who made boxes from a sheet of cardboard for artefacts and then I was with volunteers Jane and Jean in the attic doing social history cataloguing. Wednesday I was costume cataloguing all day, where I got to see different pieces of clothing that were worn historically. On Thursday morning I was cataloguing the Stonehenge Archive with volunteers Pat and Tessa where we went through many clay pipes; and in the afternoon I was with the Communications Officer Louise imputing visitor survey data into the iPads.

I thoroughly enjoyed the social history store cataloguing as we found a solid gold pocket watch and got to see some swords. During my week at the museum I was able to learn and develop key skills, such as: communication, working as a team, and building confidence. I would recommend anyone to volunteer at a museum as you are helping them, spending time wisely and learning a lot.

Finishing Touches


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April is here and the Big Clean is over for another year. Katherine Searle-Barnes (left – on student placement) and Heather Balston (right – a Volunteer usually seen behind a computer) add final polish in the Costume Gallery.

Perhaps we should have a captions competition for some of these photos? Allow your cursor to linger over these  (above) and see what captions we did choose here…

“…exceptionally fascinating…” by Fianna Fernandes


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Fianna looks the part!

Fianna Fernandes, student placement at the museum 19-23 March 2018

My experience at the museum has been extremely interesting. Not only have I learnt about Salisbury and the history of this area, but also what it is like to work in a real working environment and how much work goes into keeping the museum organised.

I learnt that the general public see a very small portion of what the museum currently stores. They only ever see the tip of the iceberg – this is because there are thousands and thousands of artefacts, ranging from clay pipes to solid gold watches, that have to be cleaned, catalogued, conserved and appropriately stored before they can even be considered to be part of an exhibition or display. There is simply not enough space to display everything at all times. This is not to say that a wedding dress from the 1760’s (which we discovered on Wednesday) isn’t incredible in every way – from its detail to its age.

On Monday, we arrived and had our introductory tour; this consisted of all the basics such as health and safety, where the toilets are and most importantly, the staff room!

Soon after, we dived into ceramics cataloguing. This entailed handling ceramics from the 17th and 18th century. We found out lots about the artefacts that would not be obvious unless viewed up close. We found out the difference between types of clay and methods of creating different types of pottery. In the afternoon we had an in depth tour of the exhibits led by volunteer Kate, and we discussed some of our favourite pieces, from the Jade axe in the Wessex Gallery to a William Turner painting.

On Tuesday, we started the day by creating boxes for larger artefacts in the stores – being careful to be accurate with our measurements and our hot glue technique. In the afternoon, we enjoyed social history cataloguing, where we found a solid gold watch. This was my favourite day overall – we found some very interesting items tucked away in drawers in the attic; some real treasures and surprises.

On Wednesday, we enjoyed costume cataloguing. We catalogued some children’s bonnets from the Victorian era and found a matching set from the Edwardian era; a black silk dress hand embroidered with glass beads; and a woven bonnet with black velvet ribbons. I enjoyed this and finding out how women dressed throughout the periods.

On Thursday, we did Stonehenge Archive cataloguing. We went through many, many, many clay pipes dropped by workers excavating the site and we recorded them; and then re-packaged the artefacts in new bags. In the afternoon, we got to see the other side of the museum – office work and admin. We spent a while sorting through piles of visitor surveys and putting the data onto iPads. Not the most exciting area – but it showed me that not all museum work can be fun and exciting all of the time.

Now it is Friday, and I am sad to have to leave the museum. I thoroughly enjoyed working at the museum this week and finding out what a working environment is like. It has aided me with my work towards my History GCSE, which is partially why I wanted to come to the museum in the first place. I’m extremely glad I was given this opportunity to come and work here and would now strongly consider a possible future career in history. I can now see that not all aspects of work can be fun – but I’m glad that I have learnt this now, and I believe that the museum has been an exceptionally fascinating place to work.

Thank you Fianna – we enjoyed your being here with us.

Hoards from Wiltshire


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Richard Henry – Finds Liaison Officer for Wiltshire


 Special Volunteer Event

On Wednesday 25 April (10.30am – noon), Richard will be presenting our next Collections in Focus Lecture: Hoards from Wiltshire, prior to our forthcoming exhibition: Hoards: A Hidden History of Ancient Britain (13 October).

If you need any more information, please contact Bridget, otherwise, please just turn up on the day. Tea, coffee and cake included.

Quirky Photographs. More from Volunteer Alan Clarke…


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Alan Clarke is a Volunteer at Salisbury Museum who works with the museum’s photographic archive. Readers here enjoy Alan’s regular blog contributions.

Austin Underwood used to capture images that no-one else thought interesting.

Pitt Rivers

The Pitt-Rivers museum (at Farnham, Dorset), now closed, was a very large, specially designed building consisting of many well-lit galleries. Salisbury museum has quite a number of images of these galleries and their contents.

There is one image of the billiard table being used to display hundreds of artefacts – a valuable display space, rather than an opportunity to play billiards or snooker! There is an image of the plan of the building with its galleries which dwarf the small attached living quarters.

The grounds (now the Larmer Tree Gardens) were quite extensive as well; full of buildings Pitt-Rivers had brought from India* and had re-erected. One building was a Yak House, so he acquired some yaks to live in it!

He not only acquired yaks but quite a number of other exotic animal species. Salisbury museum has photographs of these, too, including a white peacock; not so dramatic with only black and white photography.

Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers even had a large statue made of a Roman soldier, which used to stand outside his museum but can now be seen on the grass behind Salisbury Museum.

This is where Austin Underwood’s skill is useful to add something else to the understanding of the Pitt Rivers museum.  Austin’s photograph, above, shows how even the Dorset signpost at Thickthorn Cross (Grid ref 965130) was carefully modified, using the correct font, to give directions to the museum.  Note the crescent piece added to the sign end to give a smooth super curve.  Only Austin would have stopped and photographed this signpost.  The whole signpost has long since gone and even the cross roads rebuilt as staggered junctions.

*Editor’s note: in fact these buildings may have been brought from the Great Exhibition in London – remarkable enough! An extract from Historic England’s Heritage Explorer site says:

“Pitt-Rivers aimed to make the museum an attraction for a very large audience and to offer something different from other museums. The museum existed until the 1960s. A part of the collection can still be seen in Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum. He gave his main collection to Oxford University and the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford was opened in 1884.”

Shortlisted for an Award!


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Richard Henry, Curator of the Terry Pratchett:HIsWorld exhibition, tells us…

136 25hNov2017 - Salisbury Museum Photo by Ash Mills

Terry Pratchett: HisWorld ran from the 16 September 2017 to 14 January 2018 and we are thrilled that the exhibition has been shortlisted for the Temporary Exhibition of the Year Award. It is the first time the museum has been shortlisted for the Museum and Heritage awards and highlights just what a special exhibition HisWorld was. The museum was visited by 21,067 people who came from all over the world, one visitor quit her job in Melbourne to ensure that she could visit HisWorld and meet Paul Kidby. HisWorld was even considered the perfect location for a marriage proposal and it is still my favourite photograph from the exhibition.

To celebrate the shortlisting Rob Wilkins has generously loaned the chavant and bronze busts of Sir Terry sculpted by Paul Kidby. They are on display in the History of Salisbury Gallery.


The Museum and Heritage award winners will be announced on the 16th May in London.

Congratulations to Richard and to all concerned.

“Every day, I..interact with pieces of history…”




Erik is from Canada and with us for a few weeks….

Eric photo

I am Erik Vander Meulen, I am a master’s student in Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton and currently half way through my placement at the Salisbury Museum as part of the Portable Antiquity Scheme (PAS) under the supervision of Richard Henry.  In my role, I am identifying, recording, and photographing finds brought in to the Museum as part of the PAS.

The PAS works with the public to record and document archaeological finds, usually found by metal detectorists. In doing this, there have been a lot of artefacts reported to the scheme that metal detectorists have found that used to remain seen only by the collectors. Now, due to PAS, these artefacts are able to be seen by both the public and academics which is contributing to research and public interest. As well, by utilizing the public and not condemning metal detectorists, it makes them feel like they are contributing to the public record and through this, the PAS has increased public awareness and positive engagement with local history and archaeology. To find out more about the Portable Antiquities Scheme you can visit their website www.finds.org.uk

Through my time at here I have learned a lot about Roman, medieval and post-medieval English coins, such as how to identify a Roman coin by the imagery and inscriptions on the obverse and reverse sides of the coin. Even without being able to see the whole inscription, having a set of letters can be enough to identify the coin by cross-referencing the phrases that it could make and the emperor or reverse type.

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Figure 1 – WILT-B0918E Copper Alloy Roman Nummus of Constantius II.

Medieval and post-medieval coins use similar ways to be identified. However, there are fewer reverse types, so the identification relies more on the inscriptions and the ruler.

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Figure 2 – WILT-2FD49E Post-Medieval Penny of Elizabeth I.

I have also learned about and recorded various other artefact types ranging from Bronze Age socketed axes to post-medieval buckles. Since these objects are less common and varied, I have been learning about them at the same time as the object types have been presented for record.

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Figure 3 – WILT-317BC9 Copper Alloy Medieval Bar Mount.

My favorite pair of artefacts so far has been a set of complete ceramic vessels, a dropped flange bowl and a “dog dish” plain bowl. They are both black burnished ware vessels circa AD 200-410. I find them interesting because they are both decorated alike with the same burnish, overlapping arched lattice work around the exterior, and a “X” inscribed on the bottoms.

Upon consulting an expert, I found out that the dog dish would have been used as both a bowl and a lid, and the dropped flange on the bowl was designed to have a lid. The dog dish proved to fit on top of the dropped flange bowl, so the two pieces might have been a set!

My experience here at Salisbury Museum has been fascinating. Every day, I get to interact with pieces of history and I am grateful for this opportunity. I look forward to using this knowledge in the future and I am excited for the rest of my placement here at the museum.