Favourite things of the Abbey Museum

These are a few of our favourite things

By Jan Nargar

Most of us know that the Abbey Museum has some special items in their collection – but what do you really know about it and do you have a favourite thing?

Have you ever walked through the museum and a special object has caught your eye?  What was it?  Where did it come from?  What story does it have to tell? As staff, it happens to us all the time! Not to mention the Collection Management Team that meets regularly to research and catalogue the Museum’s artefacts – there has been lots of discusion about favourite objects. Each member of the team has particular favourites. Having so many incredible artefacts in the collection we are spoiled for choice.  So, listed below are a few of our our favourite things!

Guess whose favourite thing?

A tiny Chinese snuff bottle with a painting on the inside!  Truly! A beautiful painting of a crane in a landscape scene delicately painted inside the bottle. It is in Museum Case 26. How was that …

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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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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:

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Behind the Scenes at the Abbey Museum

Saturdays can be quite busy days at the Abbey Museum, especially behind the scenes. It is the day when our volunteer collections management team come in to research, register and catalogue the collections.

This year has also seen a concentrated effort by our senior curator, Michael Strong, to photograph each artefact in the collection to provide a comprehensive digital record for research and study purposes. This, of course, is a massive task and will take more than a year or two. A total of over 24,000 images have now been taken.

As part of this project we have been gradually removing from the display cabinets artefacts that have been on public view for over 25 years. It was decided that this provided an excellent opportunity to replace and upgrade all the artefact description labels on the basis of new archaeological discoveries.

On Saturday, 4 October, the artefacts in the Chinese display case were removed, weighed and measured while new labels were being installed. It was a particularly busy Saturday as the Etruscan collection had also returned from being photographed and …

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