Curator of the Abbey Museum

Curator Interview with Michael Strong

Interview with a Curator

This interview was intended to capture a relatable snapshot of Michael Strong’s life, so that every-day South East Queenslanders (or anyone for that matter!) could find out a little about his humble beginnings, his long connection to the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology and his contagious joie-de-vie and knowledge which he shares generously with whomever he meets. He met me at the door of his home-office,  located in the quiet, sunny suburb of Sandstone Point, just off Bribie Island. He was clearly not the boss of his white hair, and his eyes, which sometimes had a curious sadness, became animated at random as he reminisced with a slight British inflection on the fascinating story of becoming the Curator of the Abbey Museum. 

We began to speak.

Michael, tell me a little about your life and how you became the Curator of the Abbey Museum:

There was a pause

Ahhh? Where do you want to start? he asked. It’s a very complicated story, he joked.

Michael began…

I guess much of my story parallels …

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Regency at the Abbey Museum

Regency treasures at the Abbey Museum

A fashion plate is an illustration or picture of the latest fashions of the time and were published in women’s journals throughout the Regency era.  The Lady’s Magazine was one such journal and one of the first to include hand-coloured and engraved fashion plates in its publications. First published in 1770 the Lady’s Magazine was one of the leading periodicals of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The magazine included:

short stories and poetry essays praising the ‘female virtues” of decorum and modesty advice for wives and mothers information on fashion (fashion plates) recipes medicinal ‘receipts’ offering cures for illnesses from cramp to ‘hectic fevers’ biographies of famous historical and contemporary figures domestic and foreign news

Although the Abbey Museum does not have full copies of the Lady’s Magazine, it does have an extensive collection of the fashion plates and fans which span 1773 to 1902.

This is known as the Regency era when the Prince Regent (Prince of Wales) ruled the United Kingdom because his father, King …

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Stone Age Family Fun week

Learn Stone Age history at Abbey Museum

Meet Ugg, our Stone Age hero from Skara Brae.

The Stone Age period, or neolithic era, was very significant time in man’s evolution as this was the period in history when man first started using technology.  When we say technology,  we don’t mean items such as Ipads, or drones or sat navs of course.  Instead, by technology we mean basic implements that we might probably under estimate today.  These implements or technology helped to provide solutions to problems. The problems that Stone Age people encountered were slightly different to problems that we encounter today, however, this type of technology  became vital to man’s survival and  progression and included rocks, sticks, string and bone. We’d like to introduce you to Ugg, who lived in a beautiful stone age village known as  Skara Brae, located in Scotland’s Orkney Islands a long, long time ago.  Approximately 3000BC!

Ugg very clever! Ugg make string from flax. String not big thing today. Modern man have duct tape, who need string? String big step for man. String tie two things together. String tie pointy thing to …

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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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Abbey Museum Jewellery

How Ornaments Make us Human

On Saturday 4th August Dr Michelle Langley entertained thirty Museum Friends and their guests with her fascinating presentation on jewellery – “bling” – over the millennia. Dr Langley is the DECRA (Discovery Early Career Researcher Award) Research Fellow at Griffith University; her special area of study is Sulawesi, Timor-Leste and Australia.

Dr Langley’s illustrated presentation described how humans have used personal ornamentation as far back as Neanderthal times and how this could be shown as a manner of differentiating humans from animals. She explained how cave paintings depicted people with various types of ornamentation and how this archaeological evidence provides insights into how some of these ornaments were made.

In addition to the pictorial evidence there is a wealth of recently discovered archaeological evidence of ornamentation found in burials and sites of early human occupation, especially in Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Australia. Analysis of these recent discoveries is showing that the belief in the capacity of our ancestors for language, art, complex technologies and social behaviour only developed after they reached Europe approximately 40,000 years ago is incorrect. …

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Abbey Museum Musketeer stained glass

Musketeer Makeover

After completing the fundraising for the conservation of the medieval and Victorian Stained glass in the Abbey Church and a window of one of the Three Magi above the door to the Abbey Museum, focus has turned to fundraising for the conservation of smaller, but still significant, panels that are currently in the reserve collection.

The first of these is a small but beautifully made panel depicting a Musketeer. This panel dates to the 17th century and probably comes from southern Germany.  I am very happy to announce that funds have now been raised for this window’s conservation. Thank you to everyone who generously donated towards this project or attended one of our special fundraising Trivia Nights dedicated to the stained glass conservation program.

Of course, the most celebrated and romanticised musketeers in history were the famous quartet immortalised by French author Alexandre Dumas whose swashbuckling novel in 1844 was set in the dangerous times for the scheming Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XIII.

Who were the Musketeers?

Technically, any soldiers armed with …

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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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