Tuesday, 27 September 2011
Monday, 19 September 2011
At Leeds Museums and Galleries we have around eighty volunteers giving their time to help us across our nine museums and galleries sites. Our volunteers help with lots of different tasks such as cleaning and caring for the objects, repacking and sorting, researching objects that we don’t know very much about, supporting the commercial team to keep the museums shops stocked and helping us at special events. Based on the current number of volunteers we have and the hours they give to the service we think that our volunteers will have contributed around 10,000 hours to our service in this year alone and completed a lot of work that we wouldn’t have been able to resource without their precious time and hard work.
Every year in June ‘Volunteers Week’ celebrates the work volunteers do right across the UK. During this years ‘Volunteers Week’ we held a Tea Party at Leeds City Museum as a small thank you for all of the hard work our volunteers do. Many of our volunteers came along for a lovely lunch, a massage/alternative therapy session, a fun quiz and a special invitation only guided tour of the museum!
Volunteers had the opportunity to meet with volunteers and staff from our other sites and chat about their different roles over lunch and a cuppa!
Thank you to all of our hardworking volunteers for the work you do and for making our Volunteers Week celebration a success.
We hope to see all of our volunteers together again at the Christmas party.
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
The project which is re-constructing the Hinton House state bed to its original "angel" tester configuration is not over yet, but the end is in sight, and the combined efforts of various skilled people have started to coalesce in to what the state bed expert Annabel Westman reckons to be the most exciting and ambitious bed restoration project to have taken place in many years. I am making the last major wooden components, the carved feet, that will be covered in the same crimson velvet that features on the outer valances, cornices and curtains. I am using limewood (Tilia species *), which has ideal carving properties, easy to work, and close-grained. The lime tree that the timber is from was felled on Temple Newsam Estate over 10 years ago, and I have had several planks of it air-drying since then. Carving of such heavily 3D, essentially sculptural work, has been new territory for me, and like everybody involved with this project, I have learned a lot, not the least of which is the importance, in sculpting/carving from a solid, of first making a maquette in something pliable, such as clay, in order to arrive at the design, or something close. A big thank you to artist Catherine Gray for taking me in hand on that. Moreover, I owe a lot to a previous generation of curators, such as Christopher Gilbert, Anthony Wells-Cole and James Lomax, for an extraordinary leap of faith in appointing me to help look after the heritage assets at Temple Newsam, and for great leadership afterwards. If I have achieved anything worthwhile in my career as a museum professional, it is to them that I largely attribute it. Someone else to acknowledge and thank is the late Sir Yehudi Menuhin, whose book Unfinished Journey had quite a marked effect on my own journey. A few words about his trusteeship of West Dean College, and the college itself, was enough for me to research this institution, and end up studying there.
Tuesday, 6 September 2011
In the Library at Lotherton Hall is a strange chair with a long, narrow, curved back made out of a single piece of wood. The supporting frame is so low that it almost scrapes along the ground and the back is at a delirious angle somewhere between 33 and 45 degrees. So what is it? It looks too low to be a nursing chair - how would the unfortunate nurse get out of it? – and it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with books and reading. The only clue is a metal disc which is fixed to the inside of one of the legs with a die-stamped inscription. It reads W.CALLAGHAN REGISTERED LONDON JAN.15 1873 23A NEW BOND STREET. William Callaghan was an optician who practised in London and his name appears in trade directories between 1866 and 1892. The label tells us that he patented this design in 1873. Was it for his patients to sit in? Hardly; it would have been very difficult to examine them in that position. Much more likely it was for gazing at the stars. William seems to have had a sideline in optical equipment which he probably did not make himself but sold from his premises.
The chair has always looked a little out of place in the library. If only Lotherton had an observatory - but it hasn’t and the Gascoigne family who lived here don’t seem to have had any interest in stargazing. The chair is so interesting and unusual that we couldn’t possibly just leave it in store. Perhaps if we had a telescope to show alongside it…?
I still need to analyse a few boxes but to date the skeletal material has been very interesting and despite lack of provenance there are some interesting stories to be told about the lives of the individuals studied. There is evidence of trauma, cultural modification, disease, lifestyle and activity-related pathologies. One individual in particular exhibits the marks of interpersonal violence and is proving to be a sad and moving case study.
All of the material studied has the potential for integration into community-based learning activities and the next step is to discuss the development of sessions to introduce the stories of the past populations of West Yorkshire to those living here today. I am looking forward to it.
Above: The facial reconstruction of Nesyamun, the Leeds Mummy, on display in Leeds City Museum.
Author: Janet Fletcher, Osteoarchaeologist, Sept 2011.