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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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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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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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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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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