Abbey Museum medieval lamentation

Medieval Artwork Revealed

Earlier this week the Museum celebrated the arrival of an amazing new (ish) medieval sculpture into the Manuscript Gallery. The piece, a magnificent carved limestone frieze depicting an episode from Christ’s Passion, the Lamentation, weighs close to half a tonne so moving it into the Museum took quite an effort. It depicts the Three Marys anointing the body of the crucified Christ,  watched by  Joseph of Arimathea (who gave his own tomb for the body) and Nicodemus, a little man who had followed Jesus after being spotted in a tree to hear him preach.  The remaining column bordering the bas relief is wonderfully carved with cherubs, birds and flowers.

Medieval Sculpture Donated

The sculpture was donated to the Museum in the early 90’s (together with the Cheverly Manor panels) by Mike Figgis-Turner, Hollywood Director and at that time one of the owners of the Abbey Art Centre, the institution that succeeded JSM Ward’s Abbey Folk Park in New Barnet, England.  The sculptured frieze was originally displayed in the Abbey Church. No records have been found so far from Ward’s …

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Donor King Window in Abbey Museum collection

The “Donor King” has a Name

Visitors to the Abbey Museum may have noticed a stained glass window that was once above the main door has been removed. I can assure you that this is not permanent but just part of the ongoing conservation program of our stained glass windows. This panel depicts a crowned figure holding a covered cup in one hand and a sceptre in the other.  These attributes indicate that it is a king although the identity of the figure was unknown; the catalogue simply records it as “The Donor King” .  However, during conservation of the window new evidence has come to light which is very exciting.  Research has revealed that it was probably part of a much larger window depicting the three Magi (the Three Wise Men or Kings as they are also known) from the Biblical story of the Nativity of Christ.  The window has been badly damaged and conserved a number of times during its history, and sadly the quality of the later work does no justice to the exquisite quality of the original window. Not only is …

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Union Jack flag

The Origin of the Union Jack Flag

The origin of the Union Jack flag

Whilst researching the March saints for a Tabula story, I was diverted into a story about the flag known as the Union Jack. The Union Jack consists of the flag devices of three of the four patron saints of the countries which comprise Great Britain. The feast days of two of these patron saints occur during the month of March and there is another in April. Not only is the Union Jack the official flag of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, it also appears included on 31 other flags around the world, including Australia, New Zealand and six flags of the Australian States.

The central feature of the flag is the cross of St George, patron saint of England; behind it is the cross of St Andrew representing Scotland and the cross of St Patrick representing Northern Ireland.  Unluckily for the Welsh, the fourth patron saint, St David of Wales, is not depicted on the Union Jack at all!

St David’s feast day is celebrated on 1st March.  This is considered to be …

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New Acquisition Roman Steelyard

New Addition to the Abbey Museum’s Collection

An Unusual Object in our Collection – The Roman Balance

One of the latest additions to our ever-growing collection is an unusual-looking metal device that one has to wonder about. Mind boggling – yes, but in fact this implement has a very practical application. Then, what does it do?  What we have here is a Roman Steelyard, or Roman Balance, dated between the late 2nd and 5th centuries. Although it looks like some sort of torture device, it had a very useful and celebrated function; namely for weighing trade goods.

“Is it some sort of torture device?” – Museum Staff Member.

You might now ask how people used this object.  Our balance is made of iron and features two lead weights that hang from iron bars. The balance would hang from the ceiling by the upper hook and trade goods suspended by the hooks. The large weight would slide up and down the balance bar until the bar became horizontal. The weight would be calculated by how far the weight was across the bar. Chiselled into the bar at …

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Stained Glass presentation in Abbey Church

Celebrating a Stained Glass Milestone

Invited guests – donors who had supported the program – gathered in the Abbey Church in early December to help celebrate the conclusion of a ten year project of conservation of the stained glass windows in the Church.

Stained Glass Thank You

Director of the Abbey Museum, Edith Cuffe OAM, explained the obstacles which had to be overcome in order for the conservation project to be undertaken, not least of which was the substantial fundraising effort required. The presentation was a ‘thank-you’ and acknowledgement of those who donated or assisted in other ways to raise the funds necessary for the conservation work to take place. Edith introduced guests to Gerry Cummins and Jill Stehn, the conservators who undertook this mammoth task.

Conservator’s stained glass presentation

Gerry’s presentation included a power-point showing before and after photographs of each window as it was subject to the conservator’s attention. He told how the removal of some windows was made very difficult because of the age of the glass and fragility of the …

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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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Cuneiform Tablet

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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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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