Aspire Traineeship: An introduction
Hello! My name is Nicola Trowell and since the middle of July I have been working as the Salisbury Museum’s Aspire Trainee. My role, which continues until early 2017, is to aid in the planning of the Museum’s upcoming Constable in Context exhibition, running from 17 September 2016- 25 March 2017.
The exhibition is part of the Aspire programme, in which we are partners along with four other national and regional museums. The Aspire partnership was part of the 2013 acquisition of John Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831 through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), The Manton Foundation and Tate Members. Since 2013, the programme has enabled audiences of all ages to enjoy and learn more about the work of John Constable by touring Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831 across the UK. Each museum partner will display the work in the context of their collection, accompanied by a programme of activities.
I have been working closely with our Exhibitions, Learning and Marketing officers on different aspects of the exhibition. My work so far has been largely focused on researching and finalising the content for the exhibition with Joyce (our Exhibitions Officer), alongside gaining an understanding of the various tasks within my role. Although I have been part of the Salisbury Museum’s reception team for the past year, I have had little experience in the actual planning of an exhibition. Therefore this past month has been given me such a great insight into the process and hard work that goes into planning a temporary exhibition.
Having had an interest in museums and how they function from a young age, my passion for exhibitions really took off while I was studying BA Archaeology at the University of Southampton. It was here that, after undertaking an introductory module on museums, I decided my career goal was to develop exhibitions which will encourage audiences to become more involved in heritage and culture.
So far, I have thoroughly enjoyed my traineeship and I have already gained hugely beneficial experience that will undoubtedly aid me in my career aspirations. I am now turning my attention more greatly to developing learning resources for the exhibition, something I am particularly looking forward to!
The NADFAS heritage volunteers, who look after the Salisbury Museum costume collection, met with Director Adrian Green and other volunteers recently to review the processes involved with cataloging, and to update on the dreaded moth and carpet beetle threat.
The Museum has hundreds of beautiful, endlessly fascinating and sometimes unique items of costume, some dating back hundreds of years. A frightening range of creatures find them tempting as sustenance in one way or another, notably moths and carpet beetles.
Frass is the fine powdery refuse or fragile perforated wood produced by the activity of boring insects. Insect droppings. Director Adrian Green showed examples of the coloured dust to look for inside the covers used to protect the garments. The red dress here had been attacked by something which had left just such dust in its cover.
The dress will now be wrapped carefully in heavy plastic, sealed with carpet tape and put in a freezer for sometime in order to kill off any remaining bugs.
Portable Antiquities Scheme volunteers from Salisbury Museum recently attended training on jettons and tokens at the Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton.
Jettons (it comes from the French jeter – to throw or push) were a coin-like object used in the calculation of accounts in the days long, long before electronic calculators and even before the use of Arabic numerals. Adding up, using Roman numerals, was not easy and so the jettons represented hundreds, tens and units. They were easily portable, and could be used on any table top, a chequered cloth or even on the ground, to help merchants do their sums. Our language carries echoes of all of these – we speak of the counter (over which we buy our goods), the exchequer, and so on. Until recently we could go East and watch shopkeepers using an abacus in the same way….
The Romans were the first to use counters (often simply small pieces of pottery, or even pebbles) to help them do sums. The first metal ones probably date from the 12th century. They were made primarily in England, France and Nuremberg, becoming more and more decorative, usually with religious or political messages and symbols on them. When the use of Arabic numbers became more common in and after the 17th century the use of jettons began to die out but the thin metal discs were sometimes used as small change when such coins were, from time to time, scarce. Volunteers need to learn how to establish the origin of jettons, and establish dates, from the designs on them.
Tokens were also used as small change when necessary, although originally they were simply handed over by employers in exchange fora person’s labour, and intended for use in a very limited number of inns or shops. They mostly date from the 17th century onwards. Because they were intended for use only in local establishments they rarely ‘stray’ far from home and are a fascinating contribution to local history as a result, often including the names or initials of the employer, coats of arms, information about local trades, etc.
A copper alloy halfpenny token of Robert Pittman of Meere (Mere in Wiltshire) dating to AD 1668 (or possibly 1669). ROBERT PITTMAN OF obverse depicting HIS HALFE PENNY in the centre. MEERE DRAPER 1668 reverse depicting the Drapers’ Arms in the centre. This token recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme data base by volunteer Alyson Tanner
My name is Eliza Howell and I volunteered at Salisbury Museum for the first week of August during my summer holidays. I am currently studying my levels at Gillingham Sixth Form and wish to continue my education to study art history at university. After previously doing work experience at an auction house, I thought it would be good for me to see another side of art history, and consequently I felt that having some experience in museums would be very important. I was interested in this museum as I have visited it before, and previously saw a John Craxton exhibition that I really enjoyed. I’d heard good things about the museum from a lot of people and it definitely lived up to my expectations!
I really enjoyed my work experience; I have been surrounded by beautiful things throughout the week, from fragile costumes to bronze objects from the Pitt Rivers archive, and later on in the week some work by the immensely talented Rex Whistler. The Museum arranged a range of things for me to do, one of which giving me the opportunity to look through some of the Whistler archive. I got to look at his sketches and plan for murals and read some of his letters. I found this experience very beneficial and enjoyable, as it allowed me to look at his art work first hand which I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do anywhere else. I also liked that, whilst I looked at the artwork, I was able to learn more about the process by which objects are protected and recorded by the Museum. This gave me an insight into conservation, and showed me a part of art history which I haven’t seen properly before. Everyone has been so kind and has had beneficial conversations with me that have opened my eyes to possible careers in art history that I hadn’t considered before. I am amazed by the work that is done at the Museum, by both staff and volunteers. I think that it is an amazing resource for the local community, allowing people to immerse themselves in important collections. I feel that after seeing the work that goes on behind the scenes I will appreciate it more and I am looking forward hopefully to returning soon!
FROM THE JOURNAL OF BEATRIX POTTER 1891
Friday, April 19th. — Went to the Museum and was much interested, an excellent compact collection, and in a handsome separate building across the garden is the Blackmore collection of antiquities illustrating the Palaeolithic and Neolithic man.
I should think it is about the finest collection of flints in the world. The objects were gathered from all parts of the world by the late Mr. Blackmore. There occurs a slight confusion with regard to objects other than flints, for instance engraved bones, as to which are real and which plaster.
Also curious, a collection of flint forgeries, a very fearful warning to avoid curiosity shops. Also the modern greenstones from New Zealand are handsomer than the Neolithic. The subject is beyond an ordinary person, but I appreciated an enormous horn from the drift at Salisbury.
The Antiquarian Museum contains, and was founded on, objects unearthed during the drainage after the cholera. A most singular medley of spurs, knives and hafts, keys, padlocks, stirrups, spoons, every imaginable small ironwork and Roman pottery from adjacent entrenchments, and a very perfect specimen of an Anglo-Saxon.
Also printed broadsides, play bills etc.; an enormous, ugly giant in a red gown; and a black hobby-horse with clapping mouth carried through the town on state occasions.
A good collection of birds, badly stuffed, but a few good. The last buzzard shot as late as ’71. A mottled hare, a breed found at a village whose name I have stupidly forgotten, grey all year round, the custodian suggested more like a white, little hare, but not sufficiently well set-up to judge. He said, for the first time in his experience, the glass of the cases containing ducks had fogged every morning during the intense cold last winter. I thought the greasy exhalation had become opaque and visual through cold, he said they thought through the salt.
There is a good small type-collection of fossils, and a case of most exquisite specimens from the chalk. Also, in a drawer, an old wooden doll roughly dressed in a bit of satin brocade, a flowered-pattern, said to have been dressed by Marie Antoinette in prison, touching if authentic.
Thanks to Stephen for these delightful extracts. We will have more next week, including Beatrix’s views on Stonehenge.
Summer Discovery Days…throughout August. Art, craft, and stories for families, every Tuesday, all day. Visitors, parents and children, staff and volunteers all joining in the fun.
This week it is Dance Like an Egyptian… led by Bridget Poulter
I was thrilled to return to the Festival of Archaeology this year. With a host of guest speakers and activities as well as a few familiar faces, even those without any knowledge of archaeology were aware of the passion of those around them. From the Wessex Archaeology and English Heritage tents to archery and Lego sphinxes, there was something everyone could enjoy. This year there was the new addition of Dr Phil Harding digging a small trench over the weekend, which I was particularly looking forward to.
Saturday’s weather was perfect for the occasion, although those who spent the day in full armour may not agree with me! The Egyptology talks were a particular highlight, especially as they linked with the museum’s current touring exhibition. Professor Richard Parkinson discussed the golden age of ancient Egypt in relation to its poetry and writings with Dr Toby Wilkinson focusing on some of their most famous figures, such as Tutankhamun and Cleopatra. It was wonderful to see so many people attending these talks and the others throughout the day.
Sunday’s lectures were equally fascinating, with the Viking talk being particularly interesting. Steve Wallis’ discovery of the Ridgeway Viking Mass Burial was intriguing and a site that I had not heard about before.
Phil’s talk, ‘Have you found anything yet?’, was extremely well received. Both humorous and informative, it was amazing how much information could be deduced from such a small area. I also now know the correct way to use a spade! The festival’s talks ended with a panel discussion hosted by Mike Pitts. The varied presentations were highly interesting but the audience discussion that followed was particularly enlightening. It was great to see so many people get involved and query the archaeologists to such an extent.
Even with all the brilliant talks and activities, my favourite aspect of the festival was seeing the visitors explore what was on offer; engaging with those in costume and quizzing the guest speakers. There was such a wonderful atmosphere and I’m already looking forward to next year. Thank you to all those who attended and volunteered on the day for making the event such a success.
My name is Emily Lomas and I volunteered at Salisbury Museum for the Festival of Archaeology on the 23 and 24 July. I have just completed my GCSEs, and one of the things I am considering doing in the future is studying Archaeology at university. I was keen to volunteer for this event as I had attended it the previous year and really enjoyed listening to all the fascinating speakers.
I was allocated a role in the Lecture Hall, where the ticketed talks took place. My duties involved making sure the hall stayed tidy, setting out chairs and making members of the audience feel welcome.
I particularly enjoyed this role because as well as meeting people and generally helping out, I was able to listen to the inspiring talks that took place over the weekend, which was an amazing opportunity for me. The speakers talked about a wide variety of topics, and I found all of the talks really interesting and informative. Having recently visited the Sunken cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds exhibition at the British Museum and the Writing for Eternity: Decoding Ancient Egypt exhibition at the Salisbury Museum, I found the two lectures about Ancient Egypt particularly interesting. Professor Richard Parkinson’s talk about Ancient Egyptian poetry opened my eyes to the beauty and depth of this literature, and I found Dr Toby Wilkinson’s lecture about Ancient Egyptian history intriguing.
Everyone at the museum was incredibly welcoming and helpful and I felt very well looked-after. I really benefited from this opportunity as I learnt so much and had a truly enjoyable weekend.
You know there is something fun and unusual going on when you hear a Roman soldier asking for a hammer to bash in tent pegs and see a Medieval woman leaning over a freezer to choose an ice cream. To say nothing of listening to archers discuss the relative values of using yew to make massive longbows and watch with pleasure as an innocuous plant in boiling water produces a lovely blue dye.
These were all part of Salisbury Museum’s second highly successful Festival of Archaeology, held over the weekend of 23 – 24 July 2016. There was a buzz around the Museum all weekend with over 1,800 visitors taking the opportunity, not only to visit stalls and demonstrations and listen to lectures, but also to visit the galleries and exhibitions in the Museum itself.
As an engagement volunteer at Salisbury Museum, and having experienced the previous Festival of Archaeology, I already knew how enjoyable these weekends are and volunteered to help out for both days. I was extremely fortunate to be part of the team looking after the lecture hall for the first day and then was out on the ground for the second, firstly on the information stand, and then a real treat – looking after the items found by famous archaeologist Dr Phil Harding in his first-ever dig in the museum grounds the day before.
No-one knew what the metre-square hole would produce, there was an uncomfortable possibility that it would yield absolutely nothing, but an extraordinary amount of ‘treasure’ was actually found. My job was to look after the collection as Phil and his colleague Lorraine Mepham went off to give a talk in the lecture hall about what they had unearthed.
After a quick tutorial about the objects I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours chatting to people about how extraordinary it was that a hole of that size could have produced some fascinating bowl pipes and a musket flint from around the time of the Civil War, pieces of medieval glass and pottery, and masses of ancient roof tiles. Even a plastic biro was carefully put with the other items – I never did find out whether it still worked.
The beauty of the weekend was that it appealed to all ages and tastes. Children were invited to make and decorate their own pot helmets, shields and foam swords out of recycled materials from the Scrapstore, and teenagers were able to learn about the finer points of Medieval archery before using longbows to fire arrows at targets. For the slightly more cerebral there were fascinating lectures which ranged from Egyptology and geophysics in archaeology to genetic genealogy – rather a lot of ‘ologies’ when you think about it . . . .
The costumes of the re-enactors were remarkably authentic with knights from the College of Chivalry rubbing shoulders with Roman centurions and ancient Wessex potters. But the part for me that probably encapsulated the joy of the whole event was seeing fully armoured-up knights being attacked by hordes of thrilled excited children with the aforesaid foam swords. The sun shone for a lot of the time, people arrived in their hundreds, and it was a wonderful opportunity to showcase our wonderful museum.
Terrific fun, very entertaining, and a great way to spend a summer weekend.