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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Queen Mary of Teck

… But Names Will Never Hurt Me

Many of our modern surnames have their origins in the middle ages. Some names indicate clan or family linage such as all of the Scandinavian and Scottish names ending in son meaning “son of” or those beginning with the Norman French “Fitz” such as Fitzmichael ( Son of Michael).  Scots and Irish Gaelic surnames frequently begin with Mac (son of ) or O’ ( descendant of) are also quite well known examples of the name declaring the family line.

Some relate to the area of a person’s origin e.g. Flemming (from Flanders), Scott, Munster, English etc.  The German and Dutch Von and Van also give a place of origin; though in the case of the German Von it generally means that they owned the place in question e.g. Ulrich von Lichtenstein was the ruler of Lichtenstein.

In the Abbey Museum collection you will notice a few items gifted to JSM Ward from Mary of Teck, who just to complicate matters was born in England and not Teck, which was in  the Kingdom of Württemberg, …

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Abbey Museum medieval lamentation

The ‘Lamentation of Christ’ sculpture is revealed

In July, the Museum celebrated a very special occasion with the addition of a spectacular piece to the Abbey Museum collection.  Now firmly in its final home, this sculpture of the Lamentation of Christ places the Abbey Museum as a world-leader in its collection exhibits, bringing Art that would normally only be found in much larger city-funded museums to regional Australia.   The magnificently carved limestone frieze depicting an episode from Christ’s Passion, the Lamentation, dates from the middle ages, weighs close to half a tonne and like all of the Abbey collection pieces, has an incredible story and journey to tell about how it came to it’s rightful resting place in the Abbey Museum’s Manuscript Gallery.

Rejoicing the Lamentation

From subject alone, this sculpture merits reverence as a magnificent art piece depicting the Passion of Christ.  We see the Three Marys anointing the body of the crucified Christ,  watched by two others,  Joseph of Arimathea – whose tomb Jesus’ body occupied – and Nicodemus –  a man who came down from the tree he was hiding in to follow Jesus …

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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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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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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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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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Abbey Museum Musketeer stained glass

Trivia ‘Fun’draising at the Abbey Museum

Trivia at the Abbey Museum – it’s here to stay!

Trivia Night at the Abbey Museum has been held regularly for a few years and historically we have always had similar numbers of players attend. Now, our reputation for providing an entertaining evening and fantastic supper has reached a wider audience, making our recent November trivia night the most successful to date! And did we have fun?!

Need more chairs!

It was fantastic to see so many tickets purchased online and twenty-one adults and seven children took advantage of this, so we arranged a couple of tables additional to our usual number to accommodate them.  This was great, however we were in for a surprise and did not anticipate the large number of people who paid at the door.  In fact, we had to find extra tables and chairs to seat them. What a great problem to have!

On the night there were thirteen teams (over seventy people) vying for Trivia supremacy. Competition and rivalry was keen, and nobody wanted to be outdone! Fortunately there was plenty of supper …

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