From Our Costume Collection…


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Another from our occasional series regarding the museum’s costume collection…

The collection is currently undergoing a complete review – each item, from feathers for a hat, to boxes for fans, babies’ bonnets and evening dresses and uniform jackets is unwrapped, checked, photographed and re-catalogued.

This photograph (above) is for cataloguing purposes only but shows us the exquisite colours and workmanship in a bodice which is nearly 250 years old.

Volunteers Anne Oaten and Prunella Notley processed this handmade item, dated to 1790, and described it thus:

The bodice of cream cotton twill is printed in a floral design of red and purple. The round neck is frilled and fastened with a button. It is shirred at the waist and has a gathered peplum. The front is fastened with hooks and eyes. The long, tight sleeves have button fastenings and piping at the shoulders which are magyar (dropped) style.



Example from internet website

Some items in the collection are a complete surprise. Volunteer Elizabeth Turner processed something called an ‘ugly’. These were worn, in the mid nineteenth century, inside a bonnet brim, to shield the eyes from the sun. This one is blue silk, made up of six collapsible sections, supported by cane hoops. There are ribbons to tie under the chin. Who knew?

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 1

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.