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 …

Read More
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.

Read More
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 …

Read More
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 …

Read More

Cuneiform – Mysteries of Ancient Script

Abbey Museum’s Cuneiform Collection

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 and then spread north to Syria.  Rulers maintained vast libraries of clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform that listed everything from taxes to marriage proposals, declarations of war and tributes to the temples. However, cuneiform is difficult to read, hundreds of tablets have never been published, and there are very few people that are able to read this text.

You can see some fine examples of Cuneiform tablets at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York…..or you could simply visit the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology, north of Brisbane,  to see their small but very significant collection of artefacts with cuneiform inscriptions. When you visit, you can see them in Museum Case 21.

In July, 2015  we were approached by Dr Luis Siddall from Macquarie University, who can read cuneiform. He was working on a cross-university project to read and publish all the artefacts with cuneiform script in Australia and …

Read More

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 …

Read More
Detail of Cypriot Amphora, Abbey Museum, www.abbeymuseum.com.au

Cyprus: A Little Island with a Big History

If you visit the RD Milns Antiquities Museum at the University of Queensland campus at St Lucia from 4th June you will see a fascinating new exhibition which is about to open. Cyprus: An Island and A People investigates the complex and fascinating history of Cyprus in the ancient world and the role of archaeology in the making of modern Cyprus. This exhibition looks at the amazing story of Cyprus, a small but strategic island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Spanning over 10,000 years of history, the exhibition traces Cyprus from the Neolithic to the Medieval period through a range of spectacular objects.  The exhibition also explores the people of ancient and modern Cyprus and the roles played by archaeologists in shaping the island’s story.

The Abbey Museum has loaned a number of significant artefacts to the RD Milns Antiquities Museum. They include a large and very impressive White Painted amphora, dating to around 750 BC, exquisite Roman glassware, an early 15th century icon representing the Presentation of Christ in the …

Read More
detail of a statue of Napoleon www.abbeymuseum.com.au

Napoleon’s Waterloo

This year marks significant anniversaries of past wars. April 25th saw many thousands of Australians rising early in the morning to attend services across the country to remember the many Diggers who lost their lives a hundred years ago at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula. No doubt throughout the coming year other events and exhibitions will continue to remind us of the significance and drama of the final year of the First World War.

2015 also marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo – the world changing event that saw Napoleon Bonaparte defeated at last by the Duke of Wellington. In June this year many Napoleonic re-enactors are heading to France to take part in a re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo and the final downfall of France’s Emperor Napoleon.

On the first of May the Pine Rivers Heritage Museum – Old Petrie Town open a new exhibition entitled Napoleon’s Last GambleThis exhibition commemorates the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. This fascinating display …

Read More
Fashion plate of 1807 April London Dress Detail from the Abbey Museum Collection

Fashion Plates and the “Women’s Weekly” of the 1800’s

Fashion Plates one of the Abbey Museum’s Hidden Treasures

At the Abbey Museum we have recently started moving our reserve collection into a new storage facility. As part of this much needed process we are also undertaking conservation and storage needs assessment of each object. This might sound like a long and boring exercise. At times it is indeed laborious, but at other times it can be very exciting. I get to see and work with some of the amazing artefacts that are not currently on display. My latest task was to go through and check the catalogue numbers on a series of historical fashion plates.

Read More
Abbey Museum mystery Lion Sculpure detail

A Mystery Lion Sculpture – Calling all Super History Sleuths for help?

What Am I? Identify a mystery Lion Sculpture and win a family pass to the Medieval Festival

Like many museums, the Abbey Museum has a number of interesting and somewhat quirky artefacts that have never been identified. One of these is an amazing lifelike sculpture, probably of a lion. The lion sculpture was catalogued as a medieval aquamanile, by JSM Ward, who first acquired it for the Abbey Folk Park, New Barnet, England back in the 1930s, reputedly from London. If you are not familiar with the term, an aquamanile is a water container or ewer, frequently in the form of a mammal or bird and used in medieval times at table for washing hands, a most necessary courtesy before eating. However, our senior curator is certain it is not an aquamanile, as it is slipware painted and would not hold water. Because of its shape, Ward mistakenly thought it was an aquamanile which has a similar shape.

So for the Collection Management Team the big questions are:

Read More