Cuneiform Experts from Jerusalem visit Abbey Museum

Cuneiform Expert Visits Abbey Museum

A standing room only audience accepted the invitation to hear Professor Wayne Horowitz speak on the lost Jewish communities in ancient Babylonia on Tuesday 19 September . Professor Horowitz is a Professor of Assyriology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was here working on the Cuneiform Project Australia and New Zealand. This project aims to identify and publish all the cuneiform artefacts in Australian and New Zealand collections. Dr Horowitz has been examining 10 such objects in the Abbey Museum’s Middle East collection.

In his presentation Professor Horowitz spoke of the commencement of the Jewish Diaspora when the population was transported to Babylonia following the sacking of Jerusalem. The Jewish people spent 2500 years in exile in Babylonia. His colleague and research assistant, Peter Zilberg, completed the evening with his talk titled “Ezekiel and the Grand Canal of Babylon”. Mr Zilberg explained how information gleaned from cuneiform tablets have added to our knowledge of the Jewish nation in captivity. In an enthusiastic and energetic presentation he showed how seemingly mundane items recorded on cuneiform tablets tied in to biblical …

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New badge received by Abbey Museum

Medieval Artefacts Donated to the Abbey Museum

There was great excitement in the Abbey Museum office last week; in fact, it felt a little like Christmas, as the Director unwrapped a group of medieval artefacts that had been donated to the Museum. We are trying to grow the medieval collections because of the association with the very popular Abbey Medieval Festival.

The first object to be revealed was a small but deadly collection of nine iron medieval arrow heads. They possibly come from Scandinavia as most are tanged, a form which was more common in northern Europe than Britain, and date to the 9th to 11th centuries.

The second object to be unwrapped was a very small but delightful pilgrim’s badge of a fighting cock. The bronze badge is in the shape of a running cockerel with textures detail to the body, wings and comb, spurs to the rear of the feet and dates to the 13 – 14th century. It is said that cockfighting was originally introduced into Britain by the Romans. It was popular with all classes of society and …

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Cuneiform text

From Clay Tablets to Digital Tablets

The Reed Stylus and Clay Tablet

From clay tablets to digital tablets.  Today texting, typing, writing, memes, … there are so  many ways in which we communicate with others;  technology has opened a veritable Pandora’s box of possibilities. Communications have become shorter and more frequent, full of the expectation of an immediate response.  The result is our modern world seems to travel at break-neck speed.  It is hard to imagine what it was like at the beginning of recorded time when humankind first put pen to paper… well, actually not paper — or pen for that matter — but a reed stylus to clay tablet.

Clay Tablet with Cuneiform

As you may be aware, one of the earliest forms of writing is called Cuneiform. Cuneiform is thought to have been first developed by the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia c 3500 – 3000 BC. Mesopotamian scribes recorded everything from daily events such as trade records and sales dockets to astronomical happenings and political events. I was surprised to learn that some tablets inscribed with cuneiform were written in several different languages …

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Abbey Museum Collection Team

These are a few of my favourite things!

Some of our favourite things!

Ever walked through the Museum and a special object has caught your eye?  It happens with us too! The Collection Management Team meets regularly to research and catalogue the Museum’s artefacts. Each member of the team has particular favourites. Having so many incredible artefacts in the collection we are spoilt for choice, however, here are a few of our favourite things…

Museum Director, Edith Cuffe, likes the Chinese snuff bottle with an ‘inside painting’ of a crane in a landscape scene. It is in Museum Case 26. How did the artist manage to paint all that on the inside of such a small bottle?!

Also in Museum Case 26 is one of Michael Strong’s favourites, a Tang tomb model of a female flute player. Michael isn’t the only one for whom this is a favourite. Denise Crawley, who coordinates the shop, is also a fan of the lady with the flute.

Our team’s favourites!

Anne Bradley has spent countless hours investigating our collection of 43 jetons. When she needs a break from them she …

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Abbey Museum Medieval Manuscript

Medieval Manuscript Gallery Reopens

Medieval Manuscript Gallery

After more than 18 months, the Abbey Museum’s fabulous Medieval Manuscript Gallery has reopened!

You may recall that in late 2015, termites were discovered in the gallery – almost the worst possible scenario!  Fortunately, the little chompers had stuck to the timber and left the priceless manuscripts alone.  Our beloved manuscript gallery had to close and all the manuscripts and cases were removed before treatment could commence. It has been a long slow process but with funding assistance from the Federal Government through the Stronger Communities Programme and the Moreton Bay Regional Council we have been able to achieve our goal and reopen the gallery. And now we are so pleased to be able to announce the re-opening!

History never ceases to amaze!

During the closure of the Manuscript Gallery the Museum’s Senior Curator, Michael Strong, took the opportunity to photograph all the manuscripts. The timing was perfect as there has been a sudden increase in interest in the manuscripts from international researchers and we have now been able to send them quality colour photos. One thrilling …

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Abbey Museum Stained Glass

An Impressive Achievement

The Abbey Church is a very special place, not least because its beautiful stained glass windows. The windows are a large and significant collection dating from the 14th to the 20th century. Some of the most famous are those consisting of fragments originally from Winchester Cathedral’s Lady Chapel.

One of the problems associated with items of such a venerable age is the need for conservation and repair. In 2004 leading glass conservators Gerry Cummins and Jill Stehn of Eumundi examined the stained glass collection and compiled an inventory of the conservation requirements and the cost involved. This amounted to a substantial sum and Museum staff set about finding means of raising the necessary funds.

Fundraising for stained glass conservation

Conservation of individual windows was undertaken as funds become available; through donations and various fundraising efforts. The Abbey Museum Friends undertook the task of raising the funds required specifically for the Winchester Windows. From 2009 to 2012 we held “Walk for Winchester” where participants were sponsored to complete a ‘pilgrimage’ from Sylvan Beach on Bribie Island to the …

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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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