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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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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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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Abbey Museum Trivia Night May

ABBEY TRIVIA NIGHT

The next Abbey Trivia Night will be held on 19th May at the Abbey Hall.  Registration from 6pm; questions begin at 6.30pm. This is a fund-raising evening of fun for all the family.

Cost $15 per adult; school aged children – free!

Enjoy a delicious light supper, lucky door prizes and raffles.

All welcome – come with a group or join a group on the night!

Enjoy questions on a  wide variety of subjects  – movies, children’s books, dates, capital cities, Australian politics, famous locations, Gilbert and Sullivan, weights and measures and food and drink!

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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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