Pilgrim Badge Abbey Museum

Medieval Pilgrim Badge Donation Excitement

The Abbey Museum recently received a generous donation of a 14th century Pilgrim Badge of St Thomas Becket. A pilgrim badge, like the suit of armour also acquired this year, has been on the Museum’s wish list for a number of years as they represent an aspect of medieval life not previously represented in the collection.

Pilgrim Badge – Tourist Souvenir of the Middle Ages?

Pilgrimages were an important part of life in medieval England, and individuals were expected to make at least one major journey in their lifetime. Market stalls often lined the entrances to shrines, and here pilgrims could buy a variety of souvenirs such as badges and small vessels known as ampulae. This badge is in the form of St Thomas Becket and is one of a well-known series of badges that are miniature copies of the 14th century, life-sized, mitre-bust reliquary of St Thomas in Canterbury Cathedral. The badge would have been worn on the hat or outer clothing and would have been used as an amulet. The supposed miracle-working powers of the reliquaries that …

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Schist panel depicting 20 Buddhas, Afghanistan

Collection Donations : Gifts of Ancient Treasures

With the advent of on-line sale websites such as Ebay and Gum Tree, and difficult financial times in general, collection donations of antiquities to the Abbey Museum had all but dried up.

However, excitingly, 2016 seemed to buck the trend and over the last few months the Museum has received donations of three amazing collections.

The First of the Collection Donations

The first included a beautiful slate plaque from Afghanistan depicting twenty Buddhas, a number of alabaster statues and a beautiful carved onyx plate of kissing birds and a kufic script.

The Second of unexpected Collection Donations

Then can you imagine the excitement of being invited into a house and being taken down into a cellar where almost hidden under the dust on a shelf on the back wall was a collection of ancient Roman lamps (one with a decorated image to make you blush, definitely R rated). Beautiful Roman glass and three “stone cannon” balls from Tunisia. This was part of the private collection of a Dutch consul who during his career travelled to many parts of the world.

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Abbey Museum Celebrates 30 Years

Thirty years ago on a warm Saturday afternoon in late June a group of friends, members of the Abbey Community, builders and museum staff gathered with over 100 invited guests  to hear the Abbey Museum declared officially open. It was a moving moment: the culmination of more than six years of research, design and fund raising.

There were times when it seemed that the modest design for the gallery would run out of funds and remain an empty shell. Despite the nightmares, remarkably money always came just in time to pay the bills. The Museum team became incredibly inventive in attracting funds and in-kind gifts of materials. At one stage the deputy director of the Queensland Museum (itself nearing completion) remarked to Michael Strong that there were more members of his staff working as volunteers at the Abbey Museum than there were at South Brisbane! Most of the case designs were done with the help of David Bligh and Robert Allen, two senior design artists at the Queensland Museum, and they relished the task of designing a museum without strictures …

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Hidden Treasure Trove

In the back of a dark cupboard in the Abbey Museum storage area sit a few items of hidden treasure with signs saying DO NOT LIST. These items have been there for a very long time. Why you may ask?  Well it is because their provenance is unknown or attempts in the past to identify their origins had been unsuccessful. Enter the internet revolution with its ability to access to an enormous wealth of knowledge and the games has changed. The Abbey Museum Senior Curator, Michael Strong, asked if I would take on the challenge to try to find out something about  our hidden treasures. Being more than a little obsessive, I tend to like this type of challenge.

When I start researching an object that we know very little about I start by looking for pictorial comparisons. Sometimes very few comparison can be found, as with two lovely glazed ceramic tiles with fruit that i have been researching lately. However at other times luck (or skill) is on our side and exciting discoveries are made. We are pleased to …

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Stained glass windows conservation – a staff excursion.

Earlier this month, a convoy of cars with Abbey staff made its way to visit our most recent stained glass windows conservation project at the Master Craftsman’s workshop in Buderim. Stained glass artists, Gerry Cummins and Jill Stehn, have been our conservators of choice for over ten years. Their original artworks can be found in many Australian churches and buildings as well as examples of their conservation projects.

We were welcomed at the door with huge grins of delight. Greetings over, we made our way into their workshop. This is a remarkable large room filled with long light boxes set in rows and forming aisles between. On those boxes lay stained glass windows at various stages of development or repair.

Creating a Stained Glass window

Gerry took us through the wonders of creating a stained glass window. It is always an intense pleasure to watch someone who seriously knows what they are doing, making it all look so very easy. The creation of any artwork begins with an idea. The application of pencil to paper is the first step …

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Delftware Plate from Abbey Museum Collection

Dutch Delft – Almost as Famous as Clogs!

Situated in the Museum’s ‘Apothecary Shoppe’ display, can be found several items of iconic blue and white Dutch Delft pottery. Careful research has uncovered some interesting history to share from the examples that we have in our collection. Delft on display

Research has been carried out on three of our Dutch Delft items.  One is an attractive plate with sprays of flowers (1739-1750) and another is a fruit (or strawberry) strainer dish (c.1725-1775) that usually pairs with a matching plate on a table to catch the moisture from strawberries or other soft fruits. The third item is a 17th century Delft tile with an endearing depiction of a mother and child.

In the case of our plate and fruit strainer dish we are fortunate to have evidence of the factory mark on their reverse side. The axe mark shows that both of these items were produced at the earthenware factory, De Porceleyn Bijl (The Porcelain Axe) whose workshop was active from 1657 to 1803.

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lacquerware bowl in Abbey Museum Collection

Before Tupperware there was Lacquerware

Lacquerware at the Abbey Museum

One of the wonderful things about working with the Abbey Museum’s collection is exploring the mysteries of the diverse range of artefacts. My latest research involved the small but fine collection of lacquerware acquired by John Ward when he was living in Burma in 1914 – 1915.

I discovered that lacquerware has been a cultural industry of Burma (Myanmar) for the last three centuries. Because it is light, waterproof, easily moulded and dries to a hard state it has a multitude of uses.

It was used in Buddhist and ceremonial rituals as well as in everyday life of Burmese people at all levels of society. In homes it was the Tupperware of the time, used to store food, clothing, cosmetics, flowers and betel nut. However in temples and palaces the privileged used lacquer boxes to store jewels, letters, and sacred Buddhist manuscripts.

Burmese Lacquerware Treasured

Burmese lacquerware is made …

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zoomorphic poteery vase in the Abbey Museum collection

The Coati Cutie: Moche zoomorphic pottery

Moche Culture of the northern Peruvian coastline flourished between 100 and 800 AD. With no record of a written language, it is known that they expressed their domestic life, religion and history through their five phases of pottery. The Abbey Museum is very fortunate to have acquired a few pieces of Peruvian zoomorphic pottery. One  piece that is a favourite among collection management team members is the Coati cutie [fig.1].

While volunteering on the collection team I was asked to research these effigy vases of Peru, they consisted of a small number of Moche pottery. South America and Meso-American cultures have been an interest of mine since learning about Aztec sacrifices in primary school and so I was very enthusiastic to start.

It was originally suggested that this strange little creature was actually a coyote. However after only after a few hours of research it became evident that it was instead a South American coati (Nasua nasua) [fig.3] identified from an almost identical piece found in an online auction. This conclusion was also supported from coati normal behaviour, as they …

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Cuneiform – Mysteries of Ancient Script

One of the earliest known systems of writing in the world is Cuneiform which developed in Sumer in the Middle East from about 4000 BC. Of the two million cuneiform tablets which have been found, only about 100,000 have been read or published. This is because there are so few people in the world who can read them.

The Abbey Museum has a small collection of artefacts with Sumerian inscriptions. You can see them in Museum Case 21.

In July we were approached by Dr Luis Siddall from Macquarie University who can read cuneiform. He is working on a cross university project to read and publish all the artefacts with cuneiform script in Australia and New Zealand. The result will be a book on cuneiform and information about the field of Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Australasia.

The project combines expertise from Monash University, Latrobe University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Who would have thought Australia had a community of cuneiform readers?

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Teotihuacan Figurines – Memories of Ancient Mexico

One of the young members of the Collection Management Team, Rebecca Lush has researched part of our collection of clay Teotihuacan figurines.

The Teotihuacan civilization was in the central highlands of what is now Mexico. Teotihuacan was a large urban settlement of around 20 square kilometres with a population of 180,000 inhabitants. It was built around several large temples which are a popular destination for modern day visitors to Mexico.

No records of life in Teotihuacan remain so the figurines give us the greatest amount of information we have about the life of the people there. Looking at our figurines in Museum Case 28, it’s intriguing to imagine how they were made, who made them and what they were used for.

The figurines were excavated by a Swedish archaeologist, Sigvald Linné between 1932 and 1935. He went on to become a well known museum director in Stockholm.

Recently a book was written about these terracotta figurines. The book contained a catalogue which allowed Rebecca to identify each of our figurines and …

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