Showing posts with label British Museum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label British Museum. Show all posts

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Larrakitj at the British Museum

 I rarely go to museums alone. However yesterday I found myself at the British Museum with not only time to spare, but also alone. It felt like such a luxury. For a short time, about 45 minutes, I had no agenda, I could do and see what I liked. This is what happened.
Just through the entrance, to the right, I spotted these, Larrakitj.

An art installation by Wukun Wanambi from northern Australia.

Traditionally Larrakitj are Aboriginal hollow memorial poles, used as coffins by the Yolngu from Arnhem Land. Stringybark Eucalyptus trees are specially chosen and stripped, their surface prepared for painting. They are then painted with the design of a clan, filled with the bones of the deceased and put in the landscape for the wind and rain to gradually wear them away.

I found this really moving, yet felt slightly uncomfortable. Was this something I should be privy to? Is this not a private affair, laying your clan to rest. However these aren't coffins, they are art works which Wukun tells us he has made to "communicate Yolngu values and beliefs to outsiders". 

Wukun painted the surface of these Larrakitj with shoals of sea mullet, the design of his own clan.

I really liked being with these Larrakitj, I'm not quite sure why. I didn't feel like an "outsider". I loved the sense of movement in the sea mullet design. Loads of fish packed in, but not at all claustrophobic nor chaotic. They all seem to know where they are heading, moving in the same direction. It always amazes me how shoals of fish move seamlessly together without bumping into each other and making a right mess of things. I think Wukun has captured that so beautifully. It gives me a real sense of calm. I can imagine the therapeutic nature of painting these fish onto the prepared trunks. Doing what his ancestors had done, continuing a tradition.

He has also captured something of a very busy British Museum.

I won't tell him that I actually had this gallery all to myself for a very short while.
No shoals here, just me.

You have until 25th May to see Larrakitj: Aboriginal memorial poles buy Wukun Wanambi at the British Museum. Details on their website here.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015


The irony of visiting the Citi Money Gallery at the British Museum
just after having had my debit card refused in a pizzeria didn't escape me.
What with my card refused and my friend not remembering her PIN,
we would have perhaps done better with cash.

Cold, hard cash,
from Egypt 1352-1336BC.
Back then it was all about weight. Gold and silver cut up to produce the exact change. 

What weight for a pizza and a couple of drinks, I wonder?

In China we could have paid with strings of cowrie shells, 1000BC.

You'll have to trust me on this one...
"Decorated bronze axes" from Brittany, France, "may have been used as currency".
What's that in new money?

Perhaps not small enough change to pay for a pizza?
These gold bars from the Roman Empire, AD250-400, were used to pay taxes.
Careful though, that coin's a fake.

Plenty of change in this hoard, shipwrecked in the 1630s
off the coast near Salcombe, Devon.

In the 17th century, carrying your money around
wasn't simply a case of shoving your purse in your handbag.
 This cash box, used to transport money, is hardly what you'd call discreet.

You couldn't pay in a hurry, it had three separate locks needing three different keys.

I love this. Money to subvert, to circulate messages.
Although illegal, the Women's Social and Political Union used coins for Votes For Women.
Small change for a big change.

Illustrating modern consumerist society,
the British Museum really does have a 'Shop with me' Barbie cash register on display.
"Complete with a miniature credit card".

At the beginning of the 20th century in London,
not only did cash registers record sales and do the adding up for you,
it was important that they looked good too.
This cash register's case was made by Tiffany & Co, New York.

As a little girl, I know which one I would have chosen to play with,
I wanted buttons, cash, drama, drawers that opened and a bell that tinged.
I wanted plastic money, payment and change.
 If a cashless society is the future, what will happen to all that plastic money? And chocolate coins?

It is illegal to copy currency in Britain,
so when Dr Who needed cash to confuse the enemy in 2006,
Cybermen if I remember correctly,
the BBC made these fantastic Ten Satsuma notes.
There's even a short film to watch, Dr Who saving the day/tampering with
a cashpoint (ATM) using his sonic screwdriver.

Money, the subject of art.
Nine dollars from Andy Warhol.

Art, made of money.
Trillion Dollar Poster 2009.

Money as protest in 2009.
During Zimbabwe's time of hyperinflation this artwork was made of worthless banknotes,
in protest against a 55% luxury tax, which included the independent newspaper,
The Zimbabwean.

I think the Money Gallery in the British Museum houses one of the most diverse collections
on one theme that I have ever seen.
From the beginnings of money 2500BC, to shop-keeping and 21st century art.

Details about the Citi Money Gallery are on the British Museum website, click here.

Thinking about a previous museum visit, I spotted a connection,
between the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery,
between this 16th century church offering box in the British Museum from Italy,

and the Jesus Army Money Box by Grayson Perry in the National Nortrait Gallery.
From the 'Who are you?' exhibition, which I posted about, click here.

I don't know whether Grayon Perry had drawn inspiration from the 16th century offering box or not, but in spotting the two, I felt like I had found a little bit of treasure, a discovery all of my own.

Just in case you were worried about my financial situation, had I overspent on my card?
It worked fine the next time I used it,  must have been the card reader at the restaurant.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Five on Friday: Christmas drink anyone?

Taking five minutes to enjoy five things...

Christmas drink anyone?
I offer you...

at The fan Museum, Greenwich.

on HMS Belfast,
issued daily, 'Up Spirits'.

on the roof of the Brunel Museum.
You'll have to wait until the summer, served by Midnight Apothecary.

Gather round the table for a cuppa in the Second World War
at the Imperial War Museum, London.
Served in the Allpress family's model home
in the Family in Wartime gallery.

Or share your favourite tipple with a friend,
a Viking horn cup each from
The British Museum,
Sutton Hoo Gallery.

I am joining in with Amy with Five on Friday, taking five minutes from our day to enjoy five things.
Please visit the five others who are also blogging about Five on Friday this week.

Want to know more about The Fan Museum, HMS Belfast,
the Brunel Museum and Vikings at the British Museum?
Click on the links below to read my previous posts about them.

Monday, 17 November 2014

The Other Side of the Medal: how Germany saw the First World War

I'm not sure what I really think (thought) about medals.
I've never won one.
I did, perhaps naively, think that they were awarded for achievement,
like for coming first or for an act of bravery.

 I had these preconceptions challenged at the British Museum when I saw the exhibition,

This is an exhibition of medals.
These medals were made by artists,
most of whom lived and worked in Germany during the war.
Medals made to tell stories of and tell how they felt about the conflict.

Shown below is the enemy, wounded in defeat.
Russia, the bear with bandaged paws.
Britain, a bulldog, head and leg bandaged.
France, the cockerel limping with strapped up claw.
France, Russia and Britain. Hans Lindl, Germany, 1914

 Refugees displaced during the invasion of East Prussia by the Russians.
The seven month invasion displaced one million people.
Refugees, Ludwig Gies, Germany, 1915

This medal was made to commemorate a mistaken claim by a German airship commander
that he had bombed London, west of Tower Bridge.
The reality was, mistaking reservoirs for the River Thames, he had bombed the Lea Valley.
Nevertheless, lives were lost in Walthamstow and Leyton.
Zeppelins over London, Fritz Eue, Germany, 1915

This medal shows the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915,
whilst travelling from New York to Liverpool,
by a German U-boat submarine, with the loss of over a thousand lives.
Lusitania, Ludwig Gies, Germany, 1915

Here a British medal commemorating the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
For the allies, this marked peace and justice.
Treaty of Versailles, Elkington & Co, UK, 1919

The Great War ends.
Medals of 'Pax' Peace made in Germany and Victory in France.
Left; Pax (Peace), Erzsebet Esseo, Germany, 1919
Right: Victory, Louis Patriarche, France, 1919

The British Museum acquired most of these medals during the First World War.
 Copies of them were displayed in the Victoria & Albert Museum during the war,
the exhibition becoming part of the propaganda against Germany.

During the war the British Museum was closed,
sand-bags out to protect the collections.

Open today.

As for my feelings about medals.
They have helped me empathise,
understand more of the impact of war on civilians on all sides.
The medal I find most powerful for its depiction of grief and loss is
'Pax' 1919
Peace that costs, that is painful, a look of devastation.
Made at the end of the war it reflects
the experience of so many individuals on both sides, devastated by the First World War.

until 23rd November.
Details on the British Museum website here.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Roman Armour from Italy, mostly.

There are objects in museums you think you are familiar with,
armour being one of them.
I've got kids,
they had knights
in plastic, playmobil and lego.

Then last week with a friend, in the British Museum, we spotted these...

Bronze foot guards.
They weren't in our playmobil set
and playmobil make the smallest of accessories.
This was perhaps, along with the real reason foot guards may have become obsolete,
they were too cumbersome.

We loved the fact that the Romans who made these,
had tried to overcome the 'cumbersome-ness' of the foot-guards with practical hinges.
We genuinely did not know that hinges existed in 520BC.
But hang on, they had doors back then.

Much of the armour looked as if it had been moulded on real people,
with knobbly knees...
Bronze greaves (shin guards) 520-480BC

...and muscular chests.
Roman cuirass (breastplate) 4th century BC

Though not all,
this had an 'action-man-chest' look about it.

Then there are helmets,

with questionable practicality,

but with a 'don't-mess-with-me' look about them.

Eventually, sometime after 400BC,
"the eye-holes became so small and close as to be non-functional
and they finally disappeared from the design altogether".
 I think they made the right call there.

Having to be practical wasn't a consideration in the design and manufacture of this armour.

Breastplate and helmet made of crocodile skin.

Made for processional purposes,

for a Crocodile cult in Egypt, 

The most modern of the armour in this blog post,
it has been radio-carbon dated to the 3rd or 4th century AD.

For me, the most intriguing information about this crocodile armour
was how it came to the British Museum, from Egypt to Britain.
It was presented by Mrs Andrews in 1846.

Who was Mrs Andrews?
Why did she have this in her possession?
Had it been in her family for all/most of the fifteen-hundred years of its life?
Where did she keep it?
How often did she get it out and look at it?
Who did she show it to?
Did she ever wear it?
Did she belong to a Crocodile cult?

We can only guess at these answers.
However (though probably not a popular thought with the British Museum curators),
I would love to think that it has served as armour over the centuries,
for children to dress up in,
for all those games of soldiers and war,
long before the days of plastic. 

See armour for yourself at the British Museum.
Details on their website here.


@RockaroundCroc from the British Museum has been in touch
with an answer to my question;
Who was Mrs Andrews?
She was married to Edward James Andrews, a painter and draughtsman.
He produced drawings and plans of the pyramids for H. Vyse,
an anthropologist and Egyptologist in the 19th century.
He died aged 31, and five years after his death
Mrs Andrews donated this crocodile skin to the British Museum.
Two years after this the Andrews' Egyptian collection was sold off at auction.

And @RockaroundCroc, 
well he/she's a Nile Crocodile god, an Egyptian mummy at the British Museum.
Who better to answer my question!
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