Artemis has written in our blog before (see July 10) and has recently completed two pieces on her favourite items in the museum. We include one today. The other will appear next week.
The Salisbury Museum is, of course, chock full of all sorts of curious objects that people would find intriguing, no matter where their interests lay. That is the allure of a museum. I’ve only been studying in England for three years, having done my GCSE’s at Godolphin (and now continuing my A-levels there), and in my first year of GCSE Art we came down to look at the artefacts – specifically ceramics. No offence to anyone, but I grew to dislike looking at old ceramics after that experience where we were expressly forbidden to look at anything but pots! So my first impression of the museum was unfortunately not that great. Now that I have had a full week to explore the museum more in depth and have been able to adapt to my own tastes better, there were two objects that I found particularly interesting that I hadn’t had the chance to properly study before.
The first is the famous Amesbury Archer. I had glanced at him (longingly) two years ago, but on Monday I got to really inspect the display. (The staff and volunteers often joked that he had received more media coverage than the whole museum combined throughout the years.) His remains were found near Stonehenge, dating back to the late Neolithic period. The reason why he was so interesting was because of the finds in his burial, which suggested that he was a man of extremely high status despite one non-functional leg. His teeth traced his origins to somewhere near the Alps. He was, seemingly, one of the founders of metal-working in Britain, which was what gave him such a wealthy burial, with the oldest gold and copper items yet found within the UK.
interest lies in archaeology, but the main influence on that is in all types of
ancient mythology (also mainly in ceremonial rites like funerals and weddings, but
that isn’t really relevant right now). The Greeks believed in a blacksmith god
named Hephaestus, or the Roman Vulcan, who was crippled with a smashed leg when
Hera threw him off Olympus as a baby for being too ugly. He landed on high
mountains – some believed he landed on a volcano, which made him also the god
of volcanoes (hence the word derived from his Roman name). After being raised
by the older generation of “monstrous” immortals who taught him the trade of
metalworking, Hephaestus travelled far and wide, ultimately seeking revenge
against his immortal family for his mistreatment. Mortals associated him with
gold and bronze.
that in mind, the first thing that came to me upon seeing the Amesbury Archer
was the similarities he had to Hephaestus. Both crippled, metalworking men who
came from the mountains, treated with high prestige and immense respect by the
locality; the coincidence was all too much. Could it be possible that the Stone
Age Archer was a reincarnation of the Ancient Greek God?
The reincarnation theory is highly prominent in Asian religions and mythologies, and it has certainly spread worldwide in providing interesting plotlines (e.g. see the film A Dog’s Journey). Of course the common person would scoff at my association of the Amesbury Archer with an Ancient Greek myth, but it left a lasting impression on me and certainly allowed my imagination to wander far and wide.
Thank you Artemis. Fascinating, and thought provoking.
My name is Charlotte, and I am currently a student at Upper Shirley High school in Southampton. I study History, Spanish, Art and Citizenship, alongside English, triple Science and Maths. I have always had a keen interest in History, particularly Ancient History and Archaeology, which is why Salisbury Museum seemed like the perfect place to go to for a week’s work experience. Not only does Salisbury Museum have an amazing range of artefacts, it is also has a really lovely atmosphere, and beautiful surroundings, so I feel very lucky to have been able to spend a week here!
Leading up to this week of work experience, I was excited, but generally unsure what to expect, as I haven’t had much experience working behind the scenes in a museum. I think that overall, I was just hoping to try out a variety of things, and find out a bit more about the history of Salisbury and its surrounding area. In that sense, my time at the museum was perfect; I was able to experience working in a wide range of departments, and see many things that I otherwise would not have done.
We started off with a quick induction session, to give us an idea of where everything is, and of what the museum has to offer. After that, we spent some time cataloguing the Ceramics collection. During the week, we were also given the use of the Museum Library and public displays for our own research in to a chosen artefact. This was great, as an opportunity to see the amazing collections, and understand what independent research in a Museum is like.
not only got the opportunity to catalogue some of the Ceramics collection, but
also the Social History collection, Archaeological archives, Costume
collection, and Rex Whistler archives. This gave us a real taste of the work
that goes on behind the scenes, and some time to see and handle the amazing
artefacts here at Salisbury Museum. Aside from cataloguing, we were taken on a
brilliant spotlight tour of the museum, and heard some wonderful stories whilst
shadowing an engagement volunteer.
have really enjoyed my week at the museum, especially being able to see the Rex
Whistler archives, and hearing some engaging stories and facts about the
building and its collection. It was a good chance to learn about Salisbury’s
history and how museums function behind the scenes.
I want to offer massive thanks to all of the volunteers and staff here, I really appreciate the time taken to help and talk to us, and how welcoming everybody was. It was brilliant to spend time with so many dedicated and passionate people. This is a lovely museum!
Thank you Charlotte. We are glad you enjoyed yourself and obviously gained much from your stay with us.
Hello, my name is Harvey and I have recently been doing my work experience at Salisbury Museum.
Over this week I have tried many different things that I would not normally try. However they have been great fun; from cataloguing pottery, archaeological finds and costumes, to shadowing an engagement volunteer and some admin support.
One of my favourite things was the spotlight tour as it gave me more information on not only the artefacts in the museum but also the history of the building itself as it transformed from an abbot’s house to the museum you see today. It is amazing to see everything that goes on behind the scenes and to be able to see all the artefacts on display.
My favourite in the museum has been a Roman Mosaic dating from the 4th century AD now located in the Wessex Galley. It was found in 1953 in the garden of a new housing estate in Downton. It was part of a villa. In total the villa was over 30m long and consisted of 17 rooms, however some of them had been destroyed by a railway built in 1846.
The mosaic was located in the first room and 3m long. It showed a white ground with a geometric design made out of red, white, grey and black tiles in which the central motif was a large vase with two handles in the form of dolphins.
The mosaic was not the only thing found on site. For example there were bones belong to several different animals, pottery, 16 coins, sea food shells and also flint implements dating back to the Neolithic area. This then suggests that the site was used long before the Romans came in and built a villa on the spot.
Inside the villa there were two corn drying ovens and a bathhouse which consisted of three rooms. The ovens where roughly 6 m long and had a diameter of 91cm. Nothing remained above floor level. However. most of the floors and all of the stoking pits remained.
So thank you Salisbury Museum for allowing me to do my work experience here.
I am Alex from one of our local schools and I chose to come to The Salisbury Museum for work experience because of my interest in history. I thought it would be a good opportunity to be behind the scenes in a museum and be able to see the objects not on display. Being at the museum for the week has educated me greatly in new topics as well as ones I have studied. In the week that I have been here, I have participated in lots of different activities, from cataloguing artefacts to shadowing a school trip. These are the things I got up to this week:
I arrived at the museum for 10am and was met at reception by Valerie. She showed me around the museum for the induction and orientation session. I was informed of the pins for the doors and the fire exits and what to do when I hear an alarm. Then, from 10:30 until 1pm I assisted Roy in cataloguing ceramics in the display rooms. This was interesting because I was able to handle the old ceramics and was able to describe them and give measurements. Once we had written down the descriptions and measurements, we entered them onto a file on the computer programme called Modes so they are saved there. Once I got back from lunch at 2pm, I met Valerie at reception again, to go to the library to do some research work on something of my choice. I chose to do Clarendon palace. This is because I was intrigued about the history of Clarendon palace and wanted to research this further. I did this task until the end of the day.
On Tuesday I met Owain at reception at 9:30 to shadow a school trip visit from one of the local primary schools. Owain gave a presentation on Old Sarum for the primary school which was interesting to watch. We then went over to the Wessex Gallery where the children were shown round and they were fascinated by what they saw there. They also had a task to draw Old Sarum from the model in the gallery, and to also draw a gargoyle. After lunch, they were shown round the Salisbury gallery – the giant, the drainage collection and different artefacts on display. We then went back to the lecture hall where we made our own Gargoyles.
Once the school trip had finished, I helped catalogue social history material from 2pm to the end of the day. This involved taking donated items out of their boxes and wrapping them up carefully in non-acidic paper. This was to preserve the items for years to come.
I arrived at the museum for 10am where I was met at reception by Pat and Tessa to help catalogue archaeological archives. This involved taking the artefacts out of the boxes and wrapping them up better in the non-acidic paper. The first item that we catalogued that morning was 5000 year old antlers that were found at Stonehenge, near the inner circle. These were used by the Stonehenge people to dig the hole for the stones to sit in as the antlers were used as picks or rakes. The next thing that we catalogued was loads of small boxes of animal bones and ceramics found at Stonehenge by Gowland in the early 20th century. These were contained in any boxes it seemed that Gowland could get his hands on. They were in old soap boxes, cardboard containers and metal containers. There was also one in a matchbox. We had to put the bones in a transparent plastic bag, the original label in another bag and put that back in the box which also goes in a bag with a new label added. At the end of this session, I was shown a Bronze Age sword from the archives which was great.
the afternoon, from 1pm onwards, I was in the library finishing my research of
Clarendon Palace. For this task I used the books in the library and also
knowledge of the palace that I had picked up through my week at the museum.
This is the basis of my other blog.
I arrived at the museum for 10am once again, and was met at reception by Sue, Joan and Muriel. I helped them in cataloguing the costumes/ pieces of clothing donated by people to the museum. These items included a man’s jacket worn at his wedding in the 1920s, and a girl’s clothes from late Victorian times to early Edwardian. This was interesting because it gave an idea of how people used to dress in the early 20th century / late 19th century.
In the afternoon, I did admin support work. This was to correct booklets that were being given to volunteers. I did this by sticking labels over lines that had to be taken out, or by writing the correct information over the labels.
Overall, this week has been a great week. It was an amazing opportunity working in the museum and seeing how it is all run and how much work has to be done. The staff here are very friendly and I have had great experiences being part of the Salisbury Museum – even just for a week.
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.
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!