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?

Flute player

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 favourite thing of Museum Director Edith Cuffe – the Chinese Snuff Bottle

A favourite thing of Museum Director Edith Cuffe – the Chinese Snuff Bottle

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 possible?  This is Edith (the Museum Director)’s favourite.   Also in case 26 is another favourite thing.  A Tang Tomb model of a female flute player. This is Michael Strong (Senior Curator) and Denise Crawley’s favourite (Denise coordinates the museum shop).

Everyone has a favourite thing!

Anne Bradley, who has spent countless hours investigating the collection of 43 jetons, has a very special favourite. When Anne needs a break she wanders into the museum to visit the beautiful oak cupboards and feasts her eyes on the wonderful, spontaneous carving. She then goes around the corner to check that the long case clock is telling the correct time.

Jo Carey–Bradshaw who has been cataloging an extensive collection of old post cards, has always been mysteriously attracted to the Winged Goblet in Case 12. This is a wonderful piece of Venetian soda glass or Cristallo. With a pair of serpents supporting the bowl, the drinker may well have wondered about the contents of the goblet!

Our data expert is Cathy Pascoe who has spent some very productive time working on the Cyprus collection. She says that cataloguing the first Unguentarium (ointment vessel) was far more intriguing than cataloguing the 24th one. In fact, Cathy has come to the conclusion that anything other than an Unguentarium could be her favourite!

Every museum needs a conservator. They are in short supply so we are lucky to have Christine Ianna in our team. Christine didn’t have to think twice about her favourite object – the Japanese Armoured Sleeve with chain mail over blue textile and golden dragon motifs. You can see this intricate piece of craftsmanship in Case 27.

Kristy Winter’s favourite thing – Moche Effigy Vase

When Kristy Winter joined the team she was asked to research a collection of Moche Effigy vases from Peru. She discovered that the animal on one vase (which was originally thought to be a  coyote) was actually a Coati. The Coati is a very cute member of the raccoon family.  Since then, the Coati vase has appeared in the Friend’s Review, the magazine of the Australian Federation of Friends of Museums and the vase has become a firm favourite with the whole team, but especially with Kristy.

There is no need to ask Lincoln Morse, our Display Technician about his favourite thing! Just watch him as he casts a fond eye on the Black Rider,  our 16th Century cuirass – a magnificent suit of armour, complete with battle damage. Lincoln’s ear-to-ear grin could not be dampened as Gustav (or so he calls him) was finally restored and the display unveiled in the last weeks of 2017.

There are two Jan’s in our team, Jan Hietzke and Jan Nargar. For the Jans, their favourite thing is the last thing that they worked on! That’s because it’s the puzzle of the research that is so intriguing. Things are not always as they seem. Jan Hietzke discovered that a spatula turned out to be a hand cross. Jan Nargar is still puzzled by the mysterious pottery lion which was labelled as an Aquamanile – an animal shaped jug, but has no holes for the water to go in or out!

Unfortunately, pictures of the entire collection could not be included in this blog,  however  if you would like to pick a favourite thing from the Abbey Museum collection and find out what it is, please attend the Abbey Museum Friends’ first presentation of 2018 (open to the public as well as to Abbey Museum Friends).  Taking place on Saturday 24th February at 7.30pm, this presentation by Jan Nargar, the museum Registrar, will tell the stories just begging to be told from our collection.  You’ll soon find out there are no unfavourite things!  You can find out more about the Abbey Museum collection here!

By Jan Nargar