Victorian dress

The mysterious Victorian era

The Victorian Era

Great Britain’s Victorian era is the period of Queen Victoria’s reign which was from 20th June 1837 to her death on 22 January 1901. It was a period of great change in Britain across every sphere including science, technology, travel, population growth, religion, politics, education and more.

Under the Reign of Victoria, the world began a set of rapid advances that changed the shape of the world forever. It was an era of sanitation, exploration and innovation. Naturally, as with everything in technological and scientific worlds, many of these advances have since been advanced upon. In hindsight, we can laugh at passing sciences such as phrenology (practiced by those who theorized about the brain ( hypnotism, spiritualism, and divination were quite the thing then!  As was taxidermy!).  However, these strange phases were the stepping stones to many of the scientific fields, which are now considered just as credible as Victorian studies were. It is important to also consider what massive advances they were for their time.

Great and unusual

It was during this time that Britain’s Crystal …

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Water power at Samarakand

The History of Samarkand Paper

From China to Samarkand

In the previous blog about the oriental origin of paper, I mentioned Samarkand and how paper spread from China along the Silk Road.  A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to visit a traditional papermaking workshop in Uzbekistan, where the fabled city of Samarkand is located.  Samarkand was the first city in the medieval Islamic world to manufacture paper and remained associated with the finest quality paper until industrial mills took over in the modern age.  The original Chinese paper was made from silk fibres, but in Samarkand other fibres from recycled rags, hemp and mulberry branches were also introduced into the mix. The use of wood pulp, mostly pine, replaced many of these methods around the world towards the end of the 19th Century to meet the demands of an industrialised society.

Rediscovering a lost craft

Despite Samarkand’s long association with paper the craft of the paper-maker, like so many other traditional crafts around the globe, died out during the 20th century and had to be rediscovered. After a few years of …

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Paper masks

The oriental origin of paper

The history of paper.

Often it is the simple things that we take for granted that make all of the difference to history, and one of them is paper. How many sheets containing written information are on your desk, in your house or even in your bag?  Then there is all of the other uses we put paper to in our lives, cleaning, ticketing, containing, wrapping; the list (on paper of course) is nearly endless.  It is one of the inventions that made its way from China to the West via the amazing conduit of ideas, ideal and objects:  The Silk Road.

In the ancient and medieval world the paperless office was a real thing. Papyrus, as used by the ancient Egyptians, was nearly paper…sort of! The big problem with papyrus is that it is fragile, and the older it gets the more fragile it becomes, making it unsuited for long term storage of writings, which is presumably why it never replaced parchment in Europe. Other cultures used strips of bamboo or timber (China, India), bark (Russia and Meso-America) …

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St. Paul – A traveller on a mission!

Who was Paul?

Known as Paul the Apostle, St. Paul, Saul or  Paul of Tarsus, he was one of the most influential Saints and a very energetic traveller in the times of early Christianity.  Originating from Tarsus (modern Turkey) around the first century AD, he travelled throughout the Roman Empire Paul preaching Christianity making many friends and enemies along the way.

Paul is considered by many to be the leader of the apostles.  He is the patron saint of missionaries, evangelists, writers, journalists, authors, public workers, rope and saddle makers, and tent makers.  Born Jewish, in the town of Tarsus he was highly influenced by Greek and Roman cultures and he was an unlikely influencer of the spread of Christianity in the Roman world,  driving the transformation of Rome from a pantheistic to monotheistic empire.  In fact, Paul transformed from persecuting Christians as a result of an epiphany on the Road to Damascus and converting to Christianity to become an avid and very zealous reformee.  He was imprisoned more than once, hated by many for preaching Christianity, he was shipwrecked near …

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craft

Crafts of the Regency Period

A blog by Felicity Miller…

Crafts were the gentlewoman’s skill of the time

…young ladies can have the patience to be so very accomplished… They all paint tables, cover skreens and net purses.”

As romantic as the crafts of the period sound, basically without Netflix or social media, the ladies of the Regency era were quite bored and had to find something to keep themselves busy until they found a man of good fortune.

In modern times, needlework and painting are hobbies, to be enjoyed during leisure time. Admittedly, all of a gentlewoman’s time in the Austen era was leisure time, but these crafts served many practical purposes as well. Despite not being part of the workforce, women were still expected contribute to the household in their own elegant way. Their mending, production and embellishment of clothing and household goods was seen as their provision for the family, along with the eventual production of sons. Some of the items produced by young ladies were purely decorative, allowing women the chance to exhibit their skills with covered screens or embroidered cushions …

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Discussing Garden Remedies

Remedies of the Regency Period

‘Needs means must’  – especially remedies

(A blog by Felicity Miller, images from Pride & Prejudice Scrapbook blog 1996)

During the Regency period, most consumable goods and remedies needed to be produced directly on the family estate. Herbs and medicines were no exception.  With limited methods of keeping fruit and vegetables fresh, and long travel times between regions, access to a complete, and varied diet was almost impossible. Treatment of most ailments started at home, and a doctor was only called when their condition escalated dramatically. Some people would die before the doctor could even attend!

Families relied on their gardens to produce a range of cure-alls and cosmetics to serve all the families needs, and the needs of the servants in their employ. These gardens were dramatically limited by the climate in England, so those plants that did grow were believed to cure a large range of ailments! For this reason, lavender and roses, which were part of every English garden, were included in a lot of cures.

Regency garden remedies

Herbs, fruit and vegetables were collected from the …

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Finding the Bunyip! – An adventure with the Abbey Museum Friends

There’s nothing better to raise the spirits like a social get together between friends, where connecting and spending time with friends is the order of the day.  But add a mystical creature who may be lurking in swamps and bush to the mix – namely a Bunyip – and we have an adventure!

The Abbey Museum Friends (the membership group that assists in fundraising and supporting the museum) are planning an ‘adventure’  tour of south-eastern Queensland led by the Museum’s Senior Curator Michael Strong.  The tour consists of visiting possible Bunyip sites in the region and examining their cultural significance. Michael has a detailed knowledge of the Aboriginal history of the area and will lead discussion on the various sites visited on the tour, enabling members of the touring party to have a better understanding of the history of the First People in the Gold Coast and Scenic Rim areas.

The Bunyip is a large mythical creature from Australian Aboriginal mythology, said to lurk in swamps, billabongs, creeks, riverbeds, and waterholes. The origin of the word Bunyip has been traced to the …

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Regency Ball – Recreating the Regency Period.

The Regency Period – a great artistic era or a bad royal joke?

The Regency Period went for nine years, starting in 1811 when a bill passed declaring that King George III was too unfit to rule, naming his 48-year-old son, the future King George IV, as Prince Regent. While the actual regency only lasted until the King’s death  in 1820, the entire Regency Era is generally thought to be from the 1780’s until George IV’s death in 1830. However, the bill was made with reluctance as the Prince Regent was extremely unpopular. He was discouraged from making decisions regarding official governing business and war, so he instead spent all the money from the treasury on things such as balls, fashion, food, and pageants!  People did not view him as the ‘Great King’ they originally had hoped he would be, and by his official coronation in 1821, he had become a symbol for senseless extravagance and a national joke.

Regency, an era of change

But although the Prince Regent was disliked himself, the actual regency was a great period for literature, …

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Nebanum and his cat

The Egyptians and their cats

Cats in the museum!

Are you a cat lover or a dog lover?

Well, for those who consider themselves cat lovers, a visit to the Egyptian case in the Abbey Museum is always a must-do!

There, taking pride of place, is a beautiful painted wooden statue of a cat.  Why? you might ask. Is the Museum’s senior curator himself a cat lover?? Without prejudice I must declare he loves all creatures great and small, equally.

Our little Egyptian cat, sitting on its own pedestal, declares the importance of cats in ancient Egypt. They were highly regarded not only as pets but also as hunting animals. Wall paintings often show hunting cats, even out in boats.

Cat and mouse mummies!

Cats were considered of such importance that they warranted mummification to ensure their smooth passing into the afterlife. And as the ancient Egyptians  ensured that their human dead had everything they needed for a comfortable afterlife —  as can been seen from the grave goods often excavated in Egyptian tombs — so they ensured that their precious cats never went hungry …

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The Abbey Museum’s Black Rider

The arrival of the Black Rider

In mid-2016, the Abbey Museum finally fulfilled a long-held dream to acquire a complete medieval suit of armour to complement the existing stories of the Abbey collection of medieval artefacts.  With the support of the Abbey Museum Friends and a private donor a 16th century composite suit of breath-taking and awe-inspiring armour was purchased, painstakingly restored and finally put on display in late 2017. Dubbed the Black Rider, after the original German Schwartz Reiter, this medieval piece of history has become one of the most popular objects in the Museum’s collection.

Respect to the Black Rider

When you first see the Black Rider, you experience a moment of silence, while your eyes take it all in.  One of the most noticeable things about this suit of armour is the extensive damage to parts of the helmet and arms; this is original damage left during its time in the field (the battle field that is!). This observation indeed merits slow contemplation.  Who wore this suit and what happened?

The most striking and obvious damage to …

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