Monday, 23 December 2013

John "Longitude" Harrison display installed at Leeds City Museum

Audio visual content being loaded on to touchscreens.
The display is located near the front entrance of Leeds City Museum
A little tweaking to do, but the display is ready for visitors now. This display complements the displays at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich (part of the National Maritime Museum) that are dedicated to navigation, precision timekeeping and John Harrison. It is the only display outside of London about John Harrison, and, by chance, is near to his birthplace, Foulby, Wakefield. Harrison's magnificent contribution to advancing precision timekeeping cannot be overstated, equally so its significance. It not only advanced navigation science, and map making, but has also had profound effects on engineering and technology. Harrison was an autodidact, his was an intellectual journey to achieve precision timekeeping as a means of finding longitude at sea, the lack of such means being a huge problem for mariners on their journeys. Pervasive throughout cultures around the world, in art, literature, poetry, music, film and faiths, are references to journeys and navigation, to time and stars. The star of Bethlehem, guiding the three kings on their journey for example, or Eccesliastes 3:1, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens". Or in literature, fiction, and non-fiction equally, from Peter Pan, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, to the biographies of great people like Albert Einstein, Captain James Cook, or Charles Darwin, and the voyage of the Beagle, the putative beginning of Darwin's long thinking and reflection that led to the great truth he discerned, The Origin of Species. Whenever I have encountered them, these references, they have stood out to me.
Directions to Leeds City Museum:
Second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning. Free top-ups of fairy dust available from Tinker Bell via your phone network. Your network may charge for call time. Call TINK, or 8465, to top up.

Second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning, keep on trekking!
"Location aware music" contemporary performance art and GPS combined, in a great example of the human drive to create beauty, and seek moments of awe, and using new technologies to serve this human need.
Sidereal time is the time scale that is based on the Earth's rate of rotation measured relative to the fixed stars. This is a technique that was known and used by John Harrison in regulating his timekeepers. "All men have stars, but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides…."
John Harrison advanced precision timekeeping, by mechanical means, by an amount that had not been seen before or since. Today the time standard is kept by atomic clocks, that in a sense are gauging the entropy of the universe. We can understand what timekeeping is, but what is time itself? Perhaps the best explanation is the concept of the arrow of time. Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity also goes some way, perhaps, of explaining what spacetime is. Einstein also had a very good sense of humour: “When you are courting a nice girl, an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder, a second seems like an hour. That's relativity.” This much is certain: time is a precious resource, not to be wasted, crack on, like smoke and oakum.

Sea Fever

BY JOHN MASEFIELD
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking,
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.



The hard opening of the display was on 23/01/2014, and was marked with a very fine lecture, to an audience of nearly 180, by Dr Richard Dunn, Senior Curator, Science, Technology and Navigation, from the National Maritime Museum. 
Blog of the Board of Longitude project "Leeds leads"
Posted by Ian Fraser



Thursday, 12 December 2013

"Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree" - themed trees at Leeds City Museum

In the spirit of the festive season, 20 fabulous Christmas trees of different sizes have gone up around Leeds City Museum.  But these aren’t ordinary Christmas trees - they’ve each been decorated by members of staff and volunteers to represent Leeds Museums collections, historic sites, and the city of Leeds itself.  Yes they’re home-made and often the quality of the baubles is questionable (mainly the archaeology ones), but what a great way to celebrate all things LEEDS! 
So here’s a sneak preview of what you might see if you visit Leeds City Museum between now and 6th January…


Celebrating the coin collection

Pom poms and sailing boats

Baubles on the archaeology collection tree

                                                   
Some of the tree-toppers are particularly inspirational.  A gold Anglo-Saxon ring pierced by a Neolithic arrow tops the archaeology tree.  Other top toppers include Armley Mills waterwheel and the famous Leeds antiquarian Ralph Thoresby, clearly having an amazing time.



But some trees also have a serious message.  This tree in the Life on Earth gallery represents the plight of the worlds oceans:


Festive greetings from the (not so happy) sea. 
See all of these Christmas trees and many more around Leeds City Museum until 6th January.  Merry Christmas!


Katherine Baxter
Curator of Archaeology
Leeds Museums and Galleries



Friday, 6 December 2013

Why we HAVEN'T put the bird skin collection in taxonomic order

Firstly, for those of the uninitiated here is a (hopefully) simple explanation of what taxonomy means:

Taxonomy is a scientific word which basically stands for the tree of life. Looking at the bottom of the trunk you have one living thing – the first organism that popped into existence around 3.85 billion years ago and there were no other species, just the one. It is from that first type of organism that everything else has evolved and by looking at the tree, i.e. studying taxonomy, you can see how things are related to one another. For instance, did you know that humans and chickens share 57% of the same DNA, and we share around 99% of the same DNA as chimpanzees? Birds are descended from the same line as dinosaurs and of the species that are alive today one of the first to evolve was the Ostrich, which appeared around 20 million years ago. Some of the birds that have appeared most recently are perching birds, such as the finches, around 10 million years ago. Below is a taxonomic tree, showing how from one common ancestor a group of different species evolved.


(Taxonomic tree showing the branch dealing with birds and their relationships to one another. You can see how the Ostrich branches off first, exhibiting that is the most primitive and flamingos, penguins and toucans are relatively recent.)
 Most Natural History Collections are sorted in this way, everything is in order and you can progress through the evolution of a group, from start to finish (although everything is still evolving!). For the bird skin collection we have decided NOT to do this. Call us crazy, but we're scientists and we like to experiment! We consulted the main users of the collection, which are the Visitor Assistants and the Education and Outreach staff. They said that often with groups of visitors they concentrate on different themes and that taxonomy was not useful to them; would we consider something else? Since the collection was being unpacked from storage and we could start from scratch we asked for ideas and they came up with the themes of: beak shape, foot shape, flight, hunters/insectivores, British birds, geography and colour. Many different subjects can be related to each of these divisions, such as camouflage, migration, methods of feeding, habitat, etc. As part of the project all of our bird skins will be databased with a location attached so we can find everything even if it isn't in order or together.

There is an argument that you should adapt your collection to accommodate the people who use it the most, and in many cases that will be researchers and students, so of course sorting taxonomically would be ideal, but that is not the situation at the Discovery Centre. Ultimately, if after some time it is decided that actually taxonomy would be more effective then we can rearrange the collection, but it will be interesting to see how this test will work out.



Excavation stories: A knuckle guard from Kirkstall Abbey Guest House

Research is currently underway on West Yorkshire Archaeology’s excavations of Kirkstall Abbey Guest House, conducted between 1979-1986. The publication will examine the various structures of the Guest House complex, and through the medium of the artefacts, look at the range of activities carried out within the buildings and the types of visitors and residents who used the facilities. As part of this work, the assemblage of artefacts recovered is being reviewed and catalogues up-dated.

ABOVE: The standing remains of Kirkstall Abbey Guest House complex.

Just one of the 11,425+ objects is mentioned here, to give an idea of the information that can be gained. Small Find no. 3244 is thought to be a finger-joint cover or knuckle guard from plate armour gauntlets. During the 13th century armoured protection for hands was provided by mail mufflers (Edge and Paddock 1988, 81), but from c. 1330-40 hour-glass-shaped metal gauntlets were developed. These gauntlets comprised a plate protecting and shaped to the side and back of the hand, narrowing to the wrist and then opening out to form a short cuff (Griffiths 1990, 1084). The fingers of the wearer were covered with two narrow metal plates, placed either side of the knuckle and riveted to an internal cloth or leather glove. The knuckles or joints of the wearer’s fingers were protected by curved plates like no. 3244, which over-lapped the finger plates, allowing complete flexing of the hand. These knuckle or finger-joint covers were attached to the leather via the rivet holes on either side. 
ABOVE: Finger joint covers or knuckle guards.  Left: from Kirkstall Abbey Guest House (c) Archaeological Services WYAS.  Right: from Coppergate, York (c) York Archaeological Trust. 


The finger-joint cover or knuckle guard from Kirkstall is damaged and the rivets missing, but the lack of iron corrosion suggests that slender copper alloy rivets were originally used, indicating a date in the second half of the 14th century (Ottaway and Rogers 2002, 2970). Similar finger-joint covers or knuckle guards have been found at excavations at Coppergate in York (Ottaway and Rogers 2002, 2969-70) and at Winchester (Griffiths 1990, 1084). The Kirkstall example is narrower than the examples mentioned and may possibly have protected the pinkie joint.

Hour-glass-shaped metal gauntlets can be seen on brasses (e.g. Sir John Harsick, Southacre (Norfolk), d.1384; William de Aldeburgh, at Aldborough (Yorks.) d. c. 1360) and are depicted on the St William window at York Minister (Griffiths 1990, 1084 and fig.139; Ottaway and Rogers 2002, fig. 1534).

ABOVE: Detail from panel 1b of St.William window, York Minster, showing metal gauntlets being worn.

Kirkstall Abbey Guest House was not for ordinary wayfarers, but a residence for visitors of rank and wealth to the Abbey, as the gauntlet finger-joint cover nicely illustrates.

  
Bibliography
Edge, D. and Paddock, J. M, 1988 Arms and Armour of the Medieval Knight (London)

Griffiths, N. 1990 ‘Finger-Joint Cover from a plate armour gauntlet’ in Biddle, M. Object and Economy in Medieval Winchester (vol.2), 1084-5

Ottaway, P. and Rogers, N. 2002 Craft, Industry and Everyday Life: Finds from Medieval York The Archaeology of York: The Small Finds 17/15


Author: Holly Duncan, Project Manager (Artefacts) at Albion Archaeology



Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Wild Eider Ducks!


(Flock of Common Eider Ducks (Somateria mollissima) seen on a recent trip to Iceland).

We have a few specimens of the Common Eider Duck in the collection and they are an interesting bird.
They breed in Arctic and northern regions and the females line their nests with the soft down feathers from their chests as it is very warm and has excellent insulating properties. After the ducklings have fledged the down from the nests can be harvested and goes to make highly prized eiderdown duvets, pillows and coats - it is so highly prized that it is worth more than its weight in gold.

(Male Common Eider Duck (Somateria mollissima) in Leeds Museums & Galleries collection).

Common Eider Ducks eat crustaceans and molluscs and particularly favour mussels, which are eaten whole and then crushed in the gizzard. The first (bad quality) picture was taken right next to a rocky shore and soon after nearly the whole group dived at the same time whilst foraging under the water.  Females usually return to the same place that they were hatched and they sometimes lay eggs in the nests of related individuals, whilst after hatching ducklings may be looked after in a crèche. Their call has been likened to that of old women gossiping!
(Male Common Eider Duck (Somateria mollissima). Image taken by David Iliff at the London Wetland Centre in Barnes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Somateria_mollissima_(Common_Eider)_male,_London_Wetland_Centre_-_Diliff.jpg)


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Cute Cat - A Chinese Inkstone

This unusual cat shaped ink stone was donated in 1993 by a Mrs Mae-Fun Chen, who was moving from Knaresborough to the seaside in Essex. Her father was an art collector, who had a shop called the 'Chinese Art Gallery' and when he died in 1967 she selected this ink stone, amongst a few other items, to keep. It is currently on show in the China Cabinet display at the far end of the Servant's Quarters at Lotherton Hall.  



On the back of the inkstone is an inscription which has now been translated by Estelle Wu     (吳瑞珍), as part of her internship with Leeds Museums and Galleries this year. (Where X is written this means the character was hard to decipher). The colour on this photo has been altered to maximise the legibility of the characters.

  
頷則燕而
When it nods its head with comfort
虎為頭晴則貓
The head is like a tiger and in sunny day is like a cat
而鸜鵠為之眸
And its eyes are like a mynah
彼飛而食肉比伏而
They move quickly and have meat as their meals
XX儒流五十卷三
Thirty thousand and fifty catalogues about Confucianism
萬軸廣變賴囚免鼠
It is wide and changeable, imprisons some mouse
偷賛不過堪備鑒卿
Helping someone behind the scene
之選百曾何邑召
XXXXXXXX
取封詹
XXXX
天放閒心
God asks us to have leisureful lives
蚱山銘
Zha-Shan (a mountain in Huian County, Fujian province, China) inscribed

Searching for this mountain in combination with the word inkstone on the web brought up the name Huang Kehui 黄克晦 (1524-1590), a poet, painter and calligrapher in the Ming Dynasty. This poem is very similar,  in the first and second lines, with one by the poet Xu Wei 徐渭 (1521-1593), who lived around the same time. So presumably Huang took some part of Xu’s work to make a new poem of his own.

Below is Xu’s work:
Name: 徐渭 Xu Wei
Topic: 端石螭硯銘 The inscription on an ink stone with a dragon

頷則燕而虎為頭
When dragon nods its head it looks like tiger
框則螭而鸜鵒為之眸
And the eyes of dragon are like mynah
彼飛而食肉此飛而飲於流墨卿耳何足以侯
It flies and moves fast, it has meat as its meal, it has ink as its drinks, can you hear its sound?

Do get in touch if you have seen another cat inkstone as cute as this one!




Sunday, 10 November 2013

Poppies

Many people will have been wearing poppies lately and on Remembrance Sunday they are at the heart of our commemorations. At Leeds Museums & Galleries we are working hard on a programme of commemoration for 2014-18, but until then here is a quick look at some of the historical poppies in our collections

The poppy has a long cultural history.

Beginning with the botanical, we have several different poppies in our herbarium collections. This one was gathered from allotments at the back of Newlaithes Gardens in Horsforth in 1959. The petals are still so red!
 

Moving back in time, our oldest object that features a poppy is this lekythos (jug) from the late Bronze Age in Cyprus. The 'belly' of the jug is meant to look like the seed-head of the poppy - there are groves that mimic the seed-head. It is very small so may have been used to prepare sleeping draughts from raw poppies, with the shape echoing the ingredients.


Moving forward to Ancient Rome, this dupondius (coin) dates from 41 AD and shows the goddess Ceres sitting, holding two poppies in her out-strectched right hand. Ceres is the goddess of the harvest and the poppy is one of her emblems, because they grew commonly in amongst fields of grains, like barley. Even with industrialised agriculture today, you can still see poppies growing amongst wheat around harvest time.


In Victorian England, poppies become a popular motif for a wide variety of objects, including textiles and porcelain. Popularity at this point had much to do with the influx of new varieties of poppy that were developed by Victorian horticulutralists. Victorians also popularised the idea of a 'Language of Flowers' and that each one had its own meanings. 
  • Poppies in general referred to: Eternal Sleep, Oblivion, Imagination
  • Red Poppy: Pleasure
  • White Poppy: Consolation
  • Yellow Poppy: Wealth, Success
This tea service dates from 1880 and features red poppies across it - it's always possible some poppy-seed cake was served from it too!


After the First World War, many people noticed that battlefields in France were covered with poppies - they do grow well in disturbed ground. However it was the poem 'In Flanders Fields' that appeared to make the use of them in remembrance so widespread. This cross dates to just after the First World War. It is an unprovenanced item - so we don't know how it came to be in the collections - however I think that makes it all the more poignant.


If you have a story to share, or would like to get in touch about our First World War programme, please contact lucy.moore@leeds.gov.uk





Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Decent photography, making your collection look good


(Professional photographer Norman Taylor taking pictures of a mounted Dipper (Cinclus cinclus)).

We regularly hire Norman to come in and take pictures of our specimens. Sometimes these pictures are for an exhibition or display in the galleries, other times it is just to have a good visual record of our collection so that it is easier to identify things quickly when looking though our database. There are occasions when researchers want to see a picture of a specimen before they come to visit to see if it displays the characteristics they are looking for, or because they can get the information that they need just from the image, saving them a trip. If, for whatever reason, the specimen was lost, having a visual record of it means you still have valuable information on its appearance; this could be sent to the Police if it was stolen or at least give an idea of scale if it was destroyed in a fire. When an object goes in for conservation treatment to be cleaned or repaired then it is always useful to have before and after photos, then you have a record of what has changed/improved in appearance. If the specimen is sent out on loan you always take a picture to be sure that when it is returned it is in the same condition as when it left, as it is the responsibility of the person/organisation you are lending it to to look after it and keep it safe.   



Thursday, 24 October 2013

Feather conservation




(Feather being dried with cool air from hairdryer after cleaning.)

I am fortunate in my job that I am able to apply for training if it will contribute to my project and I saw a course being run on Feather Conservation by Allyson Rae hosted by the Horniman Museum. As I am working on a project involving bird skins I thought it might useful to know about the problems that can be experienced by feathers in a collection and what steps can be taken.

Most museums have the issue that some of their collection has accumulated dirt on the surface, also some objects may have had poor storage in the past or been handled in a way that has caused damage.  In some cases damage may be irreversible but a Conservator will know how to cope with various issues faced by a collection and how to prevent them or fix them. At the beginning of the course we were given a bent, ruffled, dirty feather and after some training it was surprising at how good it looked after treatment.

By Kirsty Garrod, Biology Curatorial Trainee



Monday, 21 October 2013

Yorkshire: Identitites and Insights


In January we will be launching our Snapshot of Yorkshire exhibition. The exhibition is going to be looking at Yorkshire as a county, how people identify with the county, and of course we want to celebrate everything that is good about it. So that we can include as wide a range of subjects as possible, we’ve been asking people to complete our Yorkshire survey. We are then going to be looking at all the responses to see what people think about their Yorkshire, and to try and give a broad impression of what people think. If you fancy giving us your opinion, you can join in here: www.leeds.gov.uk/yorkshiresurvey

Over the next few months I’m hoping to publish a few blog posts looking at some of the data a bit more closely. From looking at which TV programmes people associate with Yorkshire to finding out what Yorkshire dialect is still being used by people on a regular basis, there will be lots to choose from. And of course, you can come along to the exhibition from January 25th 2014 to find out more!

If you are a budding photographer, you may also be interested in our Snapshot of Yorkshire photography competition - for more information please visit: www.leeds.gov.uk/yorkshireexhibition The winning photographs will be on display at Abbey House throughout 2014 as part of the wider Snapshot of Yorkshire exhibition.

Just to round off, here are a couple of nice quotes about Yorkshire identity that we have already had in response to the survey:

One response on the character of Yorkshire folk: “Traditionally they're seen as dour, old-fashioned, hardy people. That's true to an extent, but Yorkshire people are also upfront, with a dry sense of humour and a relaxed attitude to life.” – Elizabeth Williams, Yorkshire Survey respondent, 2013.

And to finish, a quote on whether you have to be born in Yorkshire to identify as a Yorkshire person: “Anyone who makes themselves at home here, and loves the place should be welcome to describe themselves as Yorkshire.” – Angela Maller, Yorkshire Survey respondent, 2013.


Monday, 14 October 2013

Why museums will send objects out on loan

Many museums and collections are willing to send objects out on loan and there are a number of reasons why they are happy to do this.

Museums want their collections to be accessed, they want people to be inspired and educated and one of the best ways of doing that is by people actually seeing the objects that are being cared for by the museum. The Discovery Centre houses over a million objects and it would be impossible for all of them to be displayed. Having people visit the collection increases access but another way is by loaning some of those objects to other institutions. Museums provide a network all over the country to care for our cultural artefacts and provide resources to the public. Not everyone will store the same thing or have the same resources, so it is important that they support each other in the loaning of objects, enriching what they can provide for people. This facilitates outreach as someone might be willing to go to a local museum but might not be able to travel long distances to see another - sending objects away for a time gives a portion of the collections a wider audience. This can then contribute to a broader understanding of art, history and science, informing people on a limitless number of subjects and how they can relate to their everyday lives - or learning about things that are just plain interesting!

We also want our collection used for research, to help facilitate the progression of knowledge. We sometimes get researchers and students from institutes gathering information from the objects in our collection to contribute to their work. Just this week our Curator of Archaeology posted a blog about the fragment of an Egyptian carved stela that we had had in the collection for many years but did not have much information on. A researcher had referenced it in a paper in 2007 and from that small mention we recently had someone contact us asking for more images. Once they saw what we had they were able to provide much more details on where and when the object was from and what it was a part of. This information will now be added to the label in the gallery, providing more interpretation for the public.



Abbey House objects inspire artists (part 2)


Here are a few more art works from regulars at the Abbey House Adult Art Group:


Victorian watering can, by Trish Bondi



Tea urn, about 1830, Abbey House Museum
  
Tea urn, by John Shaw
Tea urn, about 1830, Abbey House Museum
Watering can, about 1880, Abbey House Museum




Abbey House objects inspire artists



The Adult Art Group at Abbey House have been seeking inspiration from the museum's varied and curious collections for many a year. Once a month, under the skilled guidance of local artist Gilly Stephenson, the group meets at the museum and are presented with a selection of objects drawn from the Abbey House displays to stir their creative joices. Here is some of work the group has produced recently:



Clockwork pig toy, by Schuco, Germany 1930s, Abbey House Museum
 
Staffordshire teapot, by Jane Hobson
 



Clockwork pig toy, by David Peters


 
Staffordshire teapot, by Angela James


Staffordshire teapot, Abbey House displays








Friday, 11 October 2013

Two ancient Chinese wall painting fragments and a modern copy



Leeds Museums and Galleries has two very old fragments of Chinese wall paintings from sacred caves in the collections. The oldest, shown above, was donated in 1931, by the artist Frank Brangwyn.

This is part of a larger religious painting, from a Buddhist shrine. In a letter from R.L. Binyon at the British Museum to Brangwyn, dated 19 Sep 1931 he says "The figures appear to be part of a large composition in which saints would be grouped around a central Buddha or Bodhisattva.  The principal figure may represent an empress or great lady.  The object she is holding was generally used as a symbolic screen against the dazzling presence of the Emperor". Binyon dated this painting to the Ming dynasty, between 1368 and 1500

Wall paintings are found at many sites in northern China, most famously near Dunhuang City in Gansu province, which is on the ancient trade route known as the Silk Road. Dunhuang was once as important for international business trade and cultural exchange as Shanghai and Hong Kong are now. In Chinese ‘Dun’ means huge and ‘huang’ means prosperity.
Location of Gansu province and Dunhuang City in China. From Wikipedia.

From the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), when Emperor Wu (156-87BC) appointed Zhang Qian as a pioneer traveller to the West (the equivalent of Central Asia now), the Silk Road began to develop. In the following Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589), Sui Dynasty (581-618), and Tang Dynasty (618-907) the route grew further, communicating with even more traders and peoples. The cave paintings around Dunhuang capture the exchange of art styles and beliefs, as the West and East met. 

According to current research, there are around 700 caves close to Dunhuang and about 492 have paintings inside. If the total length of these paintings was added together it would measure around 45 kilometres, and this is why some people called them ‘The library on the wall’.

‘The library’ preserves the art, the religion and society of the time.  The paintings and sculptures of Buddha show how highly he was respected as a god, and the cloud-like smoke symbolises people’s desire to fly, to get closer to god. The decoration and clothing in the portraits of worshippers and others show us their changings manners and life styles, because of the mixture of cultures. One can also see changes in the technology of tools for farming, manufactures, architecture and war. Images of musical instruments and dancers hint at the development of music and dance performances. Vibrant living animals and classic flower patterns tell us the fables of the time, but also the pattern of ancient species. Folk culture is also recorded in festival-like scenes.

Western research on the silk road began, rather notoriously, with the work of Marc Aurel Stein (1862-1943) who travelled to Central Asia four times between 1900-1931. From these trips he brought back a huge quantity of precious manuscripts, paintings and artefacts, which are now mainly housed in the British Library, British Museum and National Museum in New Delhi. While the British mainly regarded him as a great adventurer, who allowed westerners to look more closely at Asian cultures, many Chinese researchers think of him more negatively. From 2002-2006 a major international research collaboration called the ‘International Dunhuang Project (IDP)’  collected and digitised the large corpus of manuscripts and painting fragments, to all enable more extensive research and make an ‘Online Silk Road’. For further information about this International Dunhuang project, please visit: http://idp.bl.uk/

Looking through images of Dunhuang wall paintings there are a few of religious scenes which are similar to the first Leeds fragment, see above. Unfortunately this Leeds’ fragment is now rather dark, and has suffered major cracking across its surface. Its seems to be secured onto a leather backing, but we cannot be sure of this until a more detailed examination by a conservator is undertaken. One website image very clearly shows a woman holding a similar sceptre.

Reference website: http://blog.daum.net/zhy5532/15971957  

The second smaller fragment in Leeds was probably donated by Sir Alvary and Lady Gascoigne, when they presented Lotherton Hall to Leeds in 1968. It is much lighter in colour and shows a woman with a halo who may be a Buddhist arhat or saint.
A new gift to Leeds, initially presented by the director of the Chinese National Coal Mining Museum to Margaret Faull, director of the UK National Coal Mining Museum, in 2010-2011, and then passed on to us in June 2011, is a printed copy of a detail of a wall painting, which compliments the earlier fragments very well. 

The high quality printing has been done using a collotype print of a digital laser scan. Key for us is the similarity in the raised headdress or crown decoration on this copy, and the crown details of the lead lady in the 1931 Brangwyn gift.  You can see an image of the real version of the complete painting this detail belongs to at http://www.chinavalue.net/Group/Topic/35056/.

Do come and see these three wall paintings at Lotherton Hall.

By Estelle Wu and Antonia Lovelace