Urban Canvas (“We..paint anything on anything”) provided Easter creativity and fun at the museum over the weekend. What could be more appropriate than mosaics?
More than two hundred attended, and just look at the results…
It will soon be time to wish Intern Sophie a fond farewell, when we seem hardly to have had the chance to get to know her!
Here is her latest blog – and it is yet another interesting one…
In my last post I wrote about the physical jobs I’ve been doing at the Salisbury Museum – moving, packing, drilling, painting and the like, as this was what I was focusing on at the time. However, throughout all of this I had small pockets of time up in the office (with magnificent views of the King’s House and Salisbury Cathedral) to get on with the desk-based side of things.
This has covered a wide range of jobs to support the de-installation of Constable in Context as well as the installation of British Art: Ancient Landscapes (open 8th April – 3rd September 2017). From drafting thank you letters and checking through the loans agreements, to researching all of the artists in order to write stewarding notes with interesting facts, it has given me a real insight into the less visible processes behind putting on temporary exhibitions.
Alongside my exhibitions work I’ve also got to know MODES, the collections software, testing some developing aspects of it, as well as working with the learning team, particularly on the Trowel Trail.
I have had great fun working on the Trowel Trail and now that it has launched, I hope many families will too. It is the new family trail that runs through all the permanent galleries and has a theme of archaeology. From a series of questions written by another volunteer, Ian, I was tasked with pulling it into a finished product. I enjoyed going around the galleries, trying to see things from a child’s perspective and testing the questions. I picked a simple colour theme that borrowed the navy of the museum’s logo and got going, drawing numerous trowels and employing free access images in combination with photographs of objects in the collection. With a few tweaks to the logo to follow consistency standards, it was done! Complete with the set of orange trowels in situ in cases, the trail has been popular with children I’ve seen using it, so hopefully this continues!
Sadly, my time on placement is nearly over – just some map designs, a questionnaire and environmental monitoring to go before I head back up north to Durham to finish my Masters degree, leaving a trail of orange trowels behind me. I have learnt just how much you can achieve in a week; that the buildings here are every bit as important as the collection; the friendliness of a small, close-knit team with an abundance of knowledgeable volunteers; and that the sun (almost) always shines in Salisbury – I’m sure I’ll be back soon.
Thank you Sophie
Welcome to Sophie Ridley
Halfway through my placement, I am getting very used to finding the halfway mark – in paintings! I’m a student from Durham University’s MA Museum and Artefact Studies course and am on placement at the Salisbury Museum for four weeks. It couldn’t have been timed better as I’m here for exhibition changeover with Joyce, the Exhibitions Officer – and right now that means lots of hanging works of art with those halfway measurements.
To hang a whole room with a series of pictures is something that previously seemed incomprehensible to me. So many different sizes and shapes of frame – where to begin?! Fortunately, there is a straightforward process that starts with laying the works out visually around the room to get the spacing right. After that it’s a simple task of measuring the desired space from a wall or a previous picture, employing the crucial eye-level height stick to mark 1.6 metres, then making sure the halfway point of the image sits at that level. Finally, drill the holes and screw the work in place. Job done. So long as the levels are still straight…
Hanging the works is actually one of the later things I’ve been helping out with. To get to this point where we are installing British Art: Ancient Landscapes (8 April – 3 September) a lot of preparatory work had to take place. I’ve unscrewed, packed and carefully moved pieces from the outgoing Constable in Context, chatted with the art couriers who handle the higher value works, painted walls, filled holes, drilled new ones and moved cases.
Exhibition changeover in a two-week period is intense, but I’m learning a lot and thoroughly enjoying the varied nature of the work. It’s certainly keeping me on my toes, with just enough time in between to work on designing a family trail – but more on that in my next post.
Volunteers may remember the bees last summer. This is a view of the inside of the chimney in our Director’s office. It is an on-going story…and a super photograph by Louise Tunnard.
After our sad farewell to Constable we look forward to ‘British Art: Ancient Landscapes’ opening on Saturday 8 April. Our new Events booklet also draws attention to the amazing series of talks, walks and complementary exhibitions associated with the works of Turner, Ravilious, Piper, Hepworth, Moore and, yes, Constable, and others, all on display until 3 September. One of the talks is by Professor Sam Smiles who curated the exhibition. This includes a private viewing – Wednesday 26 April 6pm. Book soon!
The Spotlight Loan programme of the Wessex Group of Museums (of which Salisbury Museum is one) has been intriguing for its choice of objects. Each of the five museums involved has contributed just one item to the tour.
So far we have seen three. Last year we had the Tibetan teapot from the Russell Coates Museum in Bournemouth, more recently the Poole Pottery plate with its seaplane motif from Poole Museums. Each item tells part of the story of the town, and is in its way iconic of the place. We could have fun trying to do the same thing for our own home town or somewhere we visit on a holiday..what single item is there in the local museum which could be said to speak for the place over the ages?
Currently on display at Salisbury are the leg shackles from Dorchester County Museum. These were used to restrict the movement of inmates of the nineteenth century Dorchester Prison. They bring to mind the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, six agricultural labourers of the Dorset village of that name who were convicted of taking an illegal oath of loyalty to, and secrecy about, their Friendly Society. The setting up of this Society was part of their effort to negotiate a better wage at a time of great hardship in the countryside.
The men were eventually pardoned but not before they had been transported to Australia for their crime.
The men are celebrated today as heroes of the early Trade Union movement.
Recently, Dr Ruth Pelling spoke at one of our evening lectures, describing her work as the Senior Archaeobotanist at Historic England to identify and interpret plant remains from Historic England excavation projects or funded projects. With her permission, we have borrowed from her blog at the National Heritage Science Forum. It is a bit technical, but please stick with it. Like her talk, it is totally fascinating…
“Archaeobotany is the study of plant remains from archaeological sites. Most commonly this involves the examination of charred grain, chaff, pulses, fruit and nut remains, tubers, rhizomes, weed seeds, and charcoal which have survived as a result of being burnt. Plants can also be preserved in anaerobic deposits where oxygen is excluded (most commonly due to water-logging) thus preventing bacterial and fungal action. Leaves and even flowers may survive in such conditions. A third type of preservation is mineral replacement, in which all or part of the structure of the plant is replaced by mineral salts, most commonly calcium phosphate, or mineral preserved remains where material is preserved due to its proximity to metal corrosion products. Identification is based on the physical characteristics of the item: the morphology (shape and form), surface cell structure, and internal cell structure.
My job as the senior archaeobotanist is to identify and interpret plant remains from Historic England excavation projects or funded projects. I also provide advice and support to other archaeobotanists, including those employed in the commercial sector. I identify research priorities in archaeobotany, either locally or nationally, and answer individual enquiries from helping with identification to developing sampling strategies. At the moment I am working on a really exciting project examining material held in the Pitt-Rivers archive at Salisbury Museum.
Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers (14 April 1827 – 4 May 1900) was one of the leading anthropologists and archaeologists of the Victorian age. He conducted a number of excavations, particularly in the area of Cranborne Chase in Dorset, and was an avid collector of antiquities and ethnographic artefacts. In 1975 Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum was gifted the Wessex collections by HM Treasury. Amongst the archive were a number of cigar and pill boxes full of charred grain, complete with the original labels and identifications. It is a great honour to be able to look at this material and re-identify the cereal remains with a more scientific eye.
Pitt-Rivers did not employ modern sampling and flotation methods as practiced today, so his plant samples are derived from grain caches which were substantial enough to be spotted during excavation. As such the material represents unusual burning events of stored grain, or grain accidentally burnt during processing events, as opposed to the everyday processing losses we usually encounter. A complete catalogue of the samples, possibly coupled with radiocarbon dating, will enhance our knowledge of Iron Age and Roman farming in the Dorset region and highlights the value of archived material, particularly when contextual information is as thorough as that provided by Pitt-Rivers.
Amongst the samples in the collection are two boxes of grain from the Swiss Lake settlements labelled ‘burnt wheat from the Swiss Lakes, Brice Wright’s Sale’. The Swiss Neolithic lake dwellings were first discovered in the mid-19th century when wooden house posts were exposed in Lake Zurich during the winter of 1853-4 due to exceptionally low water levels. Finds from the sites were sold to visitors from all over the world in the late 19th century. This included samples of plant remains. It is likely that the Pitt-Rivers samples derive from Robenhausen, where archaeological layers dated from the Neolithic (4th and 3rd millennium BC) to the Late Bronze Age. Interpretation is limited as there is little by way of contextual information but the material shows how amazing preservation of this ancient plant material can be. Burning grain deposits were presumably fairly rapidly extinguished when the house platforms fell into the water, where they lay in stable waterlogged conditions within the lake silts until discovered thousands of years later. Similarly remarkable preservation has been uncovered at the site of Must Farm in Cambridgeshire which is currently being studied in Cambridge.”
“Thank you for the Blog. I really enjoy being kept up to date with what is going on at the museum.”
“Well done! Another fascinating and detailed Blog. Interesting articles,and such enthusiasm for the younger trainees. It is evident that there is a wonderful training team behind the Museum, who are fostering interest in archaeology and museum technology. Well done and keep it up. Retention of these artifacts in our local museums is vital for the education and history of our nation, and fostering interest in younger people will help to continue this. Much credit must go to Adrian and his team of paid employees for their interest and enthusiasm, which infects all of us! Thanks to you all.”
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