Olivia, from whom we heard last week, has written about some porcelain which caught her eye…
I was fascinated by figures in the ceramics gallery, in particular the Five Senses from the Bow factory in the mid-eighteenth century, which was a porcelain factory that specialised in the manufacture of early soft-paste porcelain in Great Britain. The way that the abstract senses — touch, taste, hearing, sight and smell — are personified through a set of English porcelain figures is intriguing. These five emblematic figures, each with a distinctive pose, are all depicted in an intensely lively way, as if they are able to move at a next glance. The one that I found most interesting is Taste (the second one from left to right), which is represented as a seated youth drinking a blue glass of wine. The space between the glass and the boy’s mouth creates a subtle suspension, augmenting the effect of the illusion of movement. The other figures are also appealing and characteristic. Touch is portrayed as caressing a dog tenderly while Hearing revels in playing his lute. Sight is caught at the middle of her toilette, gazing into a mirror and Smell is depicted with a slight twist in her body, who gently turns her head as if being absorbed by some peculiar smell. Following the principle of the porcelain manufacture at the time, the figures are all set on high bases, which appear to resemble the curly shape of waves and are decorated with floral patterns. This set of allegorical figures also has an immensely ornamental function, which is shown through the delicate glazing and colouring. The costume of the figures are all painted with elegant flowers and decorative motifs by skilled hands. The material of porcelain allows a smooth and shiny surface, which perfectly fits with tranquil and serene atmosphere of the ceramics gallery.
I think this will have us all going up to look at the ceramics again…!
I am Artemis, a Lower Sixth international student from a local school. I do A-level History, English Language, and Psychology. As a student who is looking at Archaeology and cultural studies as a viable degree/career path, Salisbury Museum was really the best place for me to start.
During my week of work experience – as arranged by the wonderful Ms Bridget Telfer (without her I would not have had this incredible week) – there were chances to sit in with various cataloguing volunteers as well as opportunities to help out with learning activities for kids. I also had the privilege to use the museum’s hidden library, which held extensive information accumulated through the years. Being able to sit in a room full of old books on all sorts of topics ranging from BC through the 17th century to current date was absolutely mind-blowing – all the history and knowledge and stories, documented in words and objects and images, concentrated in one tiny room! It was absolutely wonderful.
MON – ceramics cataloguing and library research
TUE – school group visit and social artefact cataloguing
WED – archaeological and costume cataloguing
THUR – costume cataloguing and library research
FRI – Under 5’s Friday morning
As you can see the schedule was packed with all sorts of behind-the-scenes and hands-on activities that gave a feel of what was entailed in working at a museum in general. Every day was very fulfilling and informative; all the volunteers and staff were ever so friendly and enthusiastic about their work, and really helped with getting used to the museum’s system.
Although my main subject of interest in the museum was Archaeology, I came across the most wonderful thing while doing costume cataloguing. Along with a lawyer’s gorgeous velvet court suit, which had been very well-preserved and that dated back to 1907, its box also contained the rusted tip of the man’s decorative rapier. Now I’m a bit of a nut when it comes to swords and historical weaponry, and even though the tip was only approx. 220mm long, I took about 30 pictures of it in different angles, trying to catch the light so that you can clearly see the blade:
Being able to hold such objects, I think, is really the most wondrous and fascinating part of history and historical preservation. Of course the same thing went for all the other cataloguing that I did, such as the immense number of bone fragments that we were handling so carefully in the archaeology storage, and the delicate microscope slides from the 19th century that were in beautiful leather boxes in the social history cupboards.
One of the most valuable things I have gleaned from this experience is that if you are willing to ask, people in the field are likely willing to help. After a lunchtime discussion with Mr Owain Hughes, Learning Officer, I now have contacts to staff personnel at the Wessex archaeology project – a prospect that would have been beyond imagination were I still studying in Hong Kong (my home and city). My main interest in archaeology lies further in mythological areas, but regardless, the possibility of being able to actually watch an excavation – and possibly even help out!!! – makes me absolutely jittery with excitement. And imagine how impressed university admissions officers would be…!
None of this would have been accomplished without the museum giving me this opportunity of a week-long student placement. From the depths of my heart, thank you sincerely to all who I’ve come in contact with through this priceless learning experience. And a huge thank you to the Salisbury Museum.
At this time of year it is always very busy at the museum, as we welcome students from a variety of institutions – school, colleges and Universities – who opt to join us for a while as part of their on-going experiential education…
Here is another, Olivia…
Before the summer holiday, I spent a week working with the Salisbury Museum. As an ambitious art history student, this was the perfect place where I wanted my work placement to be. I was assigned to do a variety of tasks working with different people during the week, which allowed me to learn a lot about the way that a museum works ‘backstage’.
I started my week at the museum by cataloguing ceramics collections with the friendly volunteer Roy Wilde. I was immersed in the tranquil atmosphere of the ceramics gallery and all the beautifully crafted potteries. To begin with, Roy showed me several types of jugs and bough pots with different modelling. We discussed how a museum person would describe pottery in a professional manner and I learned the way to measure each item accurately. Roy then introduced Modes, which is the software that the museum uses to catalogue the archives, giving me a taste of how the cataloging of collections works in such an organised and logical way. In the afternoon I was given an informative spotlight tour of the museum, which deepened my understanding of the history of the museum and each gallery.
Other assignments included lending a helping hand to visitors. On Tuesday, I assisted with a primary school visit to the museum. As the theme of the day was ‘surviving the Stone Age’, I helped set up the lecture hall and the game for the children. It was a fabulous chance to get involved with an educational and interesting programme that the museum designs to introduce basic skills of archaeology to the next generation. Apart from this, I had a lot of fun working with kids!
I also enjoyed the costume cataloguing, and was shown some precious male court dress and an intricate hand-embroidered skirt. It has given me an opportunity to learn about the historical context of the costume and the significance of the materials. Beyond my expectations, I found cataloguing the social history collections immensely absorbing, which I hadn’t realised before. We examined a large number of fascinating collections dating from centuries ago. For instance, we looked at some extremely exquisite English seals from the 18th century, including one of Shakespeare! We also catalogued a set of roundels with incredibly detailed and ornamental printings that represents each month. Besides being intrigued by these magnificent curios, I was taught how to wrap and label each item properly.
It has been an absolutely amazing week. I’ve had a chance to work in different areas of the museum and have definitely learnt various aspects about a museum workplace. Salisbury Museum has such a lovely team working in a relaxed and friendly environment, where everyone is so accommodating and helpful. All I can say to the museum is a huge thank you.
Just under two weeks to go… Please be with us for the weekend of 13 14 July. We need Volunteers to help on the Saturday and the Sunday*, to join in (what could be better than a cream tea in the garden and a couple of good talks), bring your children, grandchildren and friends and neighbours (something for everyone).
see Bridget’s recent email re times when we need help.
Hello, we are Victoria and Sarah, from South Wilts Grammar school, in the Lower Sixth. We both take History and Politics with Victoria also studying Geography and Sarah studying Business. We both share a passion for history and thought a student placement at the Salisbury Museum would be a fantastic way to explore a topic we deeply enjoy.
We were fortunate enough to be here during the National Volunteers’ Week (an event organised for Salisbury Museum volunteers by the amazing Bridget Telfer in order to thank volunteers for all their hard work), and this meant that we have spent our week enjoying (and documenting) many of the activities and events of the week. Over the past five days we have experienced:
A three hour tour of the Stonehenge Landscape
A tour of the Salisbury Cathedral Tower
A tour of the Salisbury Cathedral Stonemasonry
A tour and talk at Mottisfont Abbey focusing on
the works of Rex Whistler
A very detailed tour of the Wessex Gallery held
by the Museum’s own director Adrian Green
A tour of Wessex Archaeology as well as a
thorough talk given by Si Cleggett about Larkhill 300
A tour behind the scenes of the Salisbury
You can imagine that we have had a very busy week, which has been utterly fascinating. However it wasn’t just a jolly week of activities (well, it predominantly was but…), we have had the responsibility of commandeering the social media accounts of the museum (we hope we have done you proud Louise), and we therefore spent all of our visits photographing and noting down interesting points, of which there were many.
3rd June: The Stonehenge Landscape Tour
We started off our week we an informative walk around the surrounding geography of Stonehenge led by the National Trust Tour Guide, Mike. It was great to see a new perspective of such a popular tourist attraction, and give greater context to the stones themselves. We learnt a great deal about the barrows in the landscape as well as excavations that delved into the mystery of Stonehenge. We also had the privilege of seeing a rare species of blue butterflies, which we were fortunate to get so close to. Overall a peaceful and informative first outing, which gave us a great start to documenting National Volunteers’ Week on social media, and starting our iMovie about the week.
4th June: Salisbury Cathedral Tower Tour *Sarah’s personal
Our second day at the museum kicked off with a fantastic tour up the Cathedral Tower given by Tour Guide, Leslie Smith. The journey to the top was insightful and humorous. There was a spectacular view over Salisbury, including a new way of seeing the Salisbury Museum. It took 330 steps to get to the top, but it was more than worth it for such as sight. Leslie had a boundless knowledge of the Cathedral; the next time the bell rings make sure to look out for the tower swaying gently (the force of the bells and lack of foundations means it’s surprisingly unstable).
Tuesday 4th June: Salisbury Cathedral Stonemasonry Works Yard Tour
The tour gave us an insight into the talented masonry work of the cathedral as well as the impressive skill of the masons. Head Mason, Lee Andrews, took us round the yard, telling us about the intricate process or maintaining the stonework on the stunning Cathedral. We saw the Drawing Room, the Banker Shop (where the exciting shaping happens) and their wall of inspiration that was full of interesting stone carvings (shown below). It is impressive that Salisbury Cathedral is the only Cathedral that takes care of the whole process, from the massive bits of stone to the carefully crafted details we see on the beautiful building.
5th June: Mottisfont Abbey *Victoria’s personal favourite*
On Wednesday morning we had a tour of the house, with focus on the Whistler room – a large drawing room designed and painted by Rex Whistler at the height of his career. Our Tour Guide, Bob, gave us much understanding of the sheer talent of Whistler through his intricate use of perspective as well as the secrets in his art. There is much debate over whether the room was ever finished as Rex left for war during his time painting the room he left Lady Maud Russell a mural implying that he would return to finish the room (it is a small paint pot in one corner). Not only did Bob tell us all about the Whistler Room he also gave a talk on the bittersweet life of the artist, who unfortunately died during active service in the prime of his career.
the talk, we had freedom to roam the house and gardens and found our way to the
stunning rose gardens which were in full bloom and made the beautiful estate
even more picturesque.
5th June: Wessex Gallery tour
Adrian Green, the curator involved in creating the Wessex Gallery and current director at Salisbury Museum, gave a detailed tour of the gallery, with particular focus on some of his favourite objects in the museum. He started with a brief acknowledgment that the gallery is designed to go back in time, which is an interesting choice, so that visitors can start with the relatable model of Old Sarum. The object we found most interesting was the glass bowl that was found in a tomb, which is still complete. It is incredible to think that a bowl made, 1,300 years ago is still in pristine condition today. It was also uplifting to hear the story of the key and its portrait being reunited and displayed together in the gallery. Adrian Green was a fantastic speaker, and it was great to hear such detail delivered with genuine passion.
6th June: Wessex Archaeology Tour
Our penultimate outing was a tour and talk at Wessex Archaeology, we were led round the different departments of the archaeological process, including Environment which looks at the soil composition of excavation areas, Graphics which looks at reconstruction and printing of fragmented finds – this includes a lot of 3D printing, Unit 13 – Marine and Oceanography which looks at finds in the ocean and the desalination process, and the Finds Department which labels and identifies excavated objects. After the tour, we had a fascinating talk by Si Cleggett, who described the excavation of a WW1 practise battlefield in Larkhill, he retold stories from the areas as well as plans to use their finds to create a lasting memorial to soldiers.
6th June: Behind the Scenes Tour of Salisbury Museum
The tour, given by the very knowledgeable Roger Wadey, took us to hidden places in Salisbury Museum, where we saw incredible objects that are not currently on display. There was a selection of stuffed birds, a whole room full of geology, the library and a cupboard full of delicate artefacts, such as Victorian toys and medical equipment. It was great to see the objects up close, and even handle a few.
this week has been an incredible experience and we are extremely grateful for
the opportunity to join the volunteers on their trips and events. Both of us
have learnt so much about the history in Salisbury and its surrounding areas,
as well as what it is like to be part of the Salisbury Museum team. We would
like to say a huge thank you to all the volunteers for making us feel so
welcome, and for telling us interesting stories about their lives and passions.
We would also like thank Louise Tunnard for uploading our social media ideas to
each platform, and the wonderful Bridget Telfer for organising and supervising
us on such a fantastic week.
Thank you, Victoria and Sarah, for all your work, and your several contributions to this blog. The photo from the top of the Cathedral tower here is the best we have had in a long time.
We are Victoria and Sarah from South Wilts Grammar School, on student placement at Salisbury Museum. We were looking around the museum and found the works by Peter Thursby particularly compelling. We therefore decided to research him and comment a little on his work. We hope that you find our interpretation interesting, even if you do not agree with it.
Thursby was born in Salisbury on the 23 December 1930 and was educated at Bishops Wordsworth School. Although possibly unrelated to his artwork, it is interesting to know that Thursby’s English teacher was William Goulding, who, as we are sure you know, is the author of Lord of the Flies. Thursby completed his national service in the Army, which may well have had an influence (conscious or otherwise) on his later artwork. He studied art at St Paul’s College, Cheltenham and the West of England and Exeter Colleges of Art and then became an art teacher.
Thursby’s main focus was sculpture, with his symbolic and abstract style, it is no surprise that he gained his main success in the 1960s after friendships with others who would invite him to galleries, and initially it was the attentions of influential gallery owner Marjorie Parr. As he gained a reputation, he began to be commissioned for both public and private works e.g. an important public commission for Devon county council for the tall sculpture Vertical Winged Form for a new school at Plymstock as well as a corporate piece with engineering imagery.
Our favourite sculpture in the museum is called Rising Optimism, which was created in 2001. Made out of stainless steel, the piece is strikingly aesthetic with a smooth and shiny appearance. We were intrigued by the recurring idea of optimism in Thursby’s work, and although we do not know, for us we imagine that his experience in the Army would have called for much need for optimism in his life, and these sculptures may, in a way, be a sort of reflection on his time in the Army. We also think that as a school teacher he would have experienced optimism in a different way, and, for us, the way that the sculpture widens as in goes up and splits in to two, almost in a tree-like way, can show growing and reaching for more, an idea often encouraged by teachers to the students. This is all only our personal interpretation of the work, so please don’t quote us. We also appreciated his sketches regarding his sculptures, in particular ‘Expanding Form Optimism’ which adds colour to a similar idea. We like the shade of blue, as although blue is typically associated with sadness, there is a certain hope to the sketch, particularly with the addition of the gentle background yellow. This perhaps suggests that there is always cause to be optimistic, even in the saddest of times. Overall, we have interpreted Thursby’s artwork is an inspiring and uplifting way, whilst not ignoring any potential sorrow in each of our lives.
We have two students doing their work placements at the museum this week – Victoria and Sarah from South Wilts Grammar School. They are taking over our social media feeds – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – to report on all of our events taking place for National Volunteers’ Week. A big thank you to all of our volunteers for all of their hard work and dedication to Salisbury Museum, and to Victoria and Sarah!
Henry was with us recently as part of his Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme activities which include a period of volunteering…
As a long-time member of the Young Archaeologists’ Club held at Salisbury Museum and someone with a passionate interest in history and archaeology, it seemed perfect to me that such a brilliant organisation, based so locally, was willing to take me as a volunteer for my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. From January to March, I was delighted to assist Engagement Volunteers Christine Mason and Mike Mitchard in their roles in the museum and help Katy England in running the wonderful Young Curators’ Club.
applying for the student placement was a smooth and trouble-free experience,
particularly when aided by the helpful Volunteer Co-ordinator Bridget Telfer,
and something I’d recommend anybody with a bit of spare time and an interest in
history to do. From then on, I had arranged to work alongside Katy, Christine
and Mike for a few hours on Saturdays. Thankfully, on my first day in January I
quickly picked up the induction information and was ready to begin the
Curators’ Club was my first mission. I arrived bright-eyed and bushy tailed at
10am; eager to help out with whatever tasks would be thrown at me. I was tasked
with some necessary duties for the new year of the club, but soon we ventured
farther into the museum and were allowed entry into the museum’s costume
gallery, where all of the members were so eager to engage in the fascinating
local heritage showcased in the museum. Needless to say, it was an interesting
insight into the running of clubs which spark so much interest in young people,
just as YAC did for me.
role in the student placement was in engagement volunteering; a role I value greatly
from the immense amount I learned during my placement. Not only had I become
familiar with the vast array of incredible exhibits open to the public in the
museum, I also learnt about the role of stewarding at museums and was able to try
my hand at it myself.
Throughout the entire experience, with the help of Christine and Mike, I familiarised myself with all of the collections that a visitor might ask me about when stewarding. As someone currently studying History GCSE and hoping to pursue the subject at A Level and beyond, I could not have asked for a better opportunity, not only to enhance my knowledge of local heritage, but also in skills applicable throughout the entire discipline. Public engagement, spontaneity and retaining information were all skills that I practised and improved during my placement, skills I’m sure will be invaluable for both my further pursuit of history and life in general.
For me, the
absolute highlights of this experience were definitely when I was allowed free
rein in stewarding by Mike: patrolling the Wessex Gallery eager to answer any
questions thrown at me by interested members of the public was an exhilarating
and highly enjoyable experience. Secondly, I was allowed by Christine to look
at some of the Rex Whistler project collections she had been working on.
Getting a glimpse behind closed doors in a building that I have been visiting
for years was a unique experience, one that I shall treasure for the rest of my
life, particularly as I could view such an amazing collection that the Museum
rightfully prides itself on.
incredible opportunity I’d like to thank Bridget Telfer, Katy England,
Christine Mason and Mike Mitchard especially, but also the friendly community
of volunteers working at the Museum who were so encouraging and welcoming. For
this experience I could not be more grateful.
For me, the absolute highlights of this experience were definitely when I was allowed free rein in stewarding by Mike; patrolling the Wessex Gallery eager to answer any questions thrown at me by interested members of the public was an exhilarating and highly enjoyable experience, and also when I was allowed by Christine to look at some of the Rex Whistler project collections she had been working on. Seeing behind closed doors in a building that I have been visiting for years was a unique experience, particularly whilst seeing such an amazing collection that the Museum rightfully prides itself on, one that I shall treasure for the rest of my life.
Henry – thank you for your memories and thoughts, and most of all your help and enthusiasm.
Not many people would choose to spend their May Bank Holiday watching a hole being dug, unless of course the person wielding the spade was world-famous archaeologist Dr Phil Harding, assisted by Lorraine Mepham. At Salisbury Museum the crowds went to see Phil and Lorraine digging an exploratory test pit in the grounds of the museum.
The dig was part of an annual project in which Phil and Lorraine have been investigating the history of The King’s House, home to Salisbury Museum. For the past three years, the dig was on the Festival of Archaeology’s weekend in July but, due to Phil’s commitments elsewhere, the dig was moved to early May.
As part of the 40th birthday celebrations for Wessex Archaeology, the whole dig was filmed to be premiered at the Festival of Archaeology, July 13 and 14.
The specific question the digging duo were set to answer this year was: ‘how old is the wing of the museum, now the café?’ Previous surveys have suggested that it was built in the 15th century, replacing an earlier building and perhaps 200 years after the cathedral.
Digging down against the café wall, just a lot of wet mud was produced, and by lunchtime, it felt as though the dig might not provide answers. Late afternoon, a small fragment of pottery was found and instantly recognised by the expert eye of Lorraine to be early medieval, contemporary with the foundation of the cathedral itself.
Having lain undiscovered for hundreds of years the humble shard of cooking pot was cheered as it was cleaned and shown to an appreciative audience, providing a link to someone who may have witnessed construction of the iconic building. Sadly nothing was found to confirm the date of the café- a challenge for another day.
Phil and Lorraine returned to the pit on Tuesday to meet nearly 300 children from local schools keen to see archaeology in action – and meet the man in the hat from Time Team.
Having been seen by just under 900 people in two days, and many more viewers online, the dig was recorded for the archive and finally backfilled when the last school group left. To see the film, and hear how the project went, go to the Festival of Archaeology, July 13 and 14, at Salisbury Museum.
Phil Harding and finds specialist Lorraine Mepham, both of Wessex Archaeology, have been at the museum this week – in a hole! An excavation in the grounds of the museum attracted over six hundred on Bank Holiday Monday and huge numbers of school parties today.
Wil Partridge, Finds Liaison Officer, was on call today, together with Megan Gard, student, showing school parties some of the objects from the museum collection.
Thank you, as always, to all concerned, especially the Volunteers!