Friday, 7 February 2014

Collections through Cake: Burmantofts Vent Brick

One of the partnership projects that curators look forward to each year is with St James' Hospital. In Spring we install a number of cases into the Bexley Wing there, taking our objects into the hospital for all visitors to see. 

In 2013 the theme was Floral Museum the project was designed by Kirsty, who at the time was our Natural Science Curatorial Trainee. One of her favourite objects that she chose to include was this  amazing Leeds Fireclay Company (from Burmantofts) ventilation brick:

What would be the perfect #MusCake medium to repeat this beautiful ventilation brick in? Chocolate fudge cake of course! 

The flowers fill me with the hope that Spring is on the way ... 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Collections through Cake: Yorkshire Parkin

To celebrate the opening of the new 'Snapshot of Yorkshire' exhibtion at Abbey House Museum, our Site Development Officer Gemma looked into our collections for a recipe for Yorkshire Parkin!

We have a lovely book from 1878 full of handwritten recipes that belonged to Mary Elston.

The recipe shown is for a delicious-sounding Lemon Pudding! The parkin recipe involves a whopping 2 pounds of treacle!  It goes without saying that it was beautifully delicious.

 Have you made your own parkin? What's your favourite recipe? 

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Pyke pedestal organ clock project

In the collections at Temple Newsam House there is a splendid pedestal organ clock from 1765 made by George Pyke. When it functions it can play eight different tunes via its weight driven organ. It is part of a larger group of similar objects by English makers, which are represented in collections in museums in Beijing, Naples, Utrecht, London and Birmingham. George Friedrich Handel wrote music for the pedestal organ clocks made by Charle Clay. Pyke was apprenticed to Clay and continued working in Clay's tradition. This object, acquired in 1954, possibly had Handel music originally but it is known with certainty that the organ's barrel was re-pinned in 1817.

This pedestal organ clock has not functioned properly for some time, and the decision was made to stop its function until such time as sufficient funds became available for a programme of conservation and restoration works to its organ, automata, clock movement, metalwork and case. Comprehensive reports on its condition, with treatment proposals were done by a West Dean College student, Brittany Cox, and these formed the basis of finding the funding for the project. 95% of the funds have been secured from donors: from the family of Raymond Burton, in his memory, of Burton's Menswear fame, and who during his life was incredibly supportive of Temple Newsam; from the Pilgrim Trust; and from The Friends of Leeds Museum. The remaining balance will be funded by Leeds Museums and Galleries. The project is live, and the Pyke pedestal organ clock has been dismantled, packed up and shipped to West Dean College for a "full monty" programme of conservation and restoration works. The Pyke pedestal organ clock is due back at Temple Newsam House in mid-July, all singing and all dancing for the benefit and enjoyment of our visitors! Watch this space for updates as the project progresses.

Twitter updates on works to the Pyke pedestal organ clock available by following:
Posted by Ian Fraser

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Yorkshire Survey - what have we been doing?

As I’ve mentioned before in an earlier blog (see here) we have tried something a bit different preparing for the new ‘Snapshot of Yorkshire’ exhibition which is opening this weekend at Abbey House. We put out a call for people to complete our Yorkshire Survey to find out what people had to say about the county, the people and places in it, and how they identify with it. We had a fantastic number of responses, so I wanted to give you a little bit more information on what we have been doing with them.

The surveys have been used in a variety of ways, which hopefully people will see in the exhibition. Most obviously to the visitor, each case features either a quote related to the subject on display, or a list of top 5’s that I have compiled using responses to questions like “What food and drink do you associate with Yorkshire?” We will then also have a digital screen which will be running a series of quotes from the surveys in response to some of the questions that we posed, alongside some of the images from our ‘Snapshot of Yorkshire’ photography competition.

Going through all of the responses was a long, but ultimately, very rewarding task. It showed people all had their own unique view on Yorkshire, wherever they originated from or live now. We had responses from Australia, America, Scotland, and even as far away as distant Lancashire. I have it on good authority that every Yorkshire Day, the Yorkshire flag is flying on at least one Oslo balcony.

Once the exhibition is up and running I’m hoping to put together another couple of blog posts looking more specifically at one or two of the questions that we asked, but for now, on behalf of everyone at Abbey House Museum, I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone that took the time to complete our survey.

If you fancy visiting the exhibition, it opens this Saturday and runs until the end of December.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Collections through Cake: Coin of Eion

Last week it was my (Lucy, Project Curator) turn to bake! I chose to return back to one of my absolute BEST FAVOURITE OBJECTS, one that I wrote a blog post about when I was a volunteer at the Discovery Centre a couple of years ago. You can read it here.


The object in question is a tiny 12mm coin from a city called Eion. The coin is from our Baron Collection and is the only specimen we have. 

Eion was a town in western Thrace and was a trading post in 500 BC. Both Persian and Athenian traders used the port, so it was important that the currency used in Eion could work within the different monetary systems. These small coins fitted both Athenian and Persian weight and fineness standards, so could be used commercially not just in the city of Eion in Thrace, but across both the Athenian and Persian empires.

There are several reasons that I am so fond of this coin. One is that numismatics is my first museum love. The second is that this coin is just so small, so economically fascinating AND has a goose and salamander on it. 

To get the maximum punnage from the cake, I also made it GOOSEberry flavoured, but adding a layer of gooseberry jam to the middle, as well as some tinned gooseberries to the batter and buttercream. 

It was so delicious, I didn't even get to eat any ... Rule for next time: make two cakes!

Don't forget you can read more in my original post 'Keeping the Balance'.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Collections through Cake: Mummies Eyes


Whoever said Mummies Eyes had to be made of mummies? These eyes in question are in fact the lenses of the Humboldt squid and were used to replace  eyeballs in Peruvian mummies.* They were probably taken from one that had washed up on a beach in South America. 

The question of which Peruvian group these 'eyeballs' are said to belong to is absent from our information, but there is a good introduction to all mummification processes here. Peruvians used these lenses to replace the eyes of human mummies. They give the corpse a more life-like appearance. The mummies are placed in a sitting position on salt beds and occur in their thousands.

This cake was made by Liz, our Education & Outreach Officer at the Discovery Centre, who used all her cunning to create this masterpiece from bought items. I think it is probably the most inventive seen so far. 
Humboldt Squid are a really interesting species. They are predators and are known to hunt in packs. Currently, their population is exploding, due to a lack of predators hunting them. Populations are also closely linked to El Niño events. During El Niño years migrations of the squid spread and numbers increase, which may be linked to warmer waters. To see some footage of Humboldt Squid, have a look here.

Close up of the eyeballs - Liz made them from lemon and orange mentoes. Apparently the dust from the real eye lenses is carcinogenic!**

These lenses are unique on our collection and are the only example of (part) of a Humboldt Squid that we have!

* Some sources say this story is apocryphal.

** Don't worry, we are always very careful with our handling of them. And it is in HUGE quantities.

Friday, 17 January 2014

The anniversary of an extinction - The Passenger Pigeon

Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius)

Above is an example of a Passenger Pigeon that we hold in our collection but the Passenger Pigeon has a sad tale to tell. It used to be one of the most abundant birds on earth and when their populations were estimated in the early 1800's there was thought to be anywhere between 3 to 5 billion individuals; on migration their flocks would fill the sky and it was truly a sight to behold. Because of their abundance they were seen as cheap food and were caught in their millions, plus there was mass deforestation of their habitat after Europeans arrived. Over 70 years their population slowly dwindled and then in the latter decades of the 1800's their numbers crashed. The last Passenger Pigeon, called Martha, died in captivity in Cincinnati Zoo one hundred years ago in 1914. 

Being able to show examples of this bird helps illustrate extinction and can be a powerful education tool. Having a species that was so abundant become extinct purely from the actions of mankind provides an insight on how we can drastically affect our environment resulting in extreme consequences. This case study is also a good way of educating people about population dynamics. Some species survive in low densities and even when there are only a few left there is still a hope of conservation. The Passenger Pigeon needed large flocks because of how they migrated and interacted with one another, once their numbers dropped below a critical level, even though that level might have numbered in the hundreds of thousands, they soon died out.