Easter Eggs-hibits at Buxton Museum

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Museums commonly deal with old things and creatures that have long shuffled off the mortal coil. You would not immediately associate them with a holiday like Easter which celebrates new life. However, among the collections at Buxton Museum, there are a few peculiar eggs; traditional symbols at this time of year. We thought we would share some of them with you while we are closed for renovation.

Eggs made from rock, minerals and gemstones were popular in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. We can only speculate why. With no internet, the people of these eras had to resort to talking to each other so perhaps such novelties inspired cheerful conversation. Indeed, Buxton Museum still sells quite a lot of colourful marble eggs in its gift shop. They look pretty and feel pleasingly tactile in the palm of your hand.

blue john egg

This egg has been crafted from the local rare mineral called…

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“Melt”

We recently ran a prehistoric bronze casting workshop with Creeping Toad – who has captured the moment in his poem, ‘Melt’.

Don’t splash,
Don’t spill,
Contain the excitement as the crucible lifts,
A magma pool in a mug.
Glowing,
Glowing,
I understand Incandescence now.

Shaped in sand and oil,
Pressed and hammered,
Malleted into form
And bound,
A dungeon for a trickle of dragon blood,
Or maybe a chalice to receive the waters of the sun.

It’s over in a moment.
A long, slow pulsing burn,
Sighing bellows,
Well-worked muscles.
A long, slow melt,
A long, slow gathering of hope,
Determination.
The fierce intention of ceremony in this.
Concentration,
Concentrated consideration.
Watch,
Wait.
Listen to the hot breathing of leather lungs.

Charcoal glows,
Building heat upon heat,
It must build, it must grow,
The heat must hold
To incubate an infant sun.
We know what we are doing,
Well taught.
The promise held and guided.
We are told, informed,
Photographed.
Sensible 21st century people, us,
And we can feel the wonder,
Sense the enchantment,
The sheer excitement of metal melting.

We pour our molten bronze
A brief libation to Vulcan, to Hephaestus
To the Dwarves who shaped the Brisingamen
To Goibniu in the Hollow Hills
To Wayland in his Smithy
No wonder blacksmiths became special people.

And in seconds,
We’ve poured.
Fire drawn into metal.
We’ve cracked the mould.
We’ve cooled the bronze,
And in seconds,
It lies.
Treasure and glory and wonder,
In our hands.

Read more and see pictures from the day at Creeping Toad’s blog below:

http://creepingtoad.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/shaping-bronze.html

 

Fin Cop Hillfort Derbyshire, Scene of an Iron Age Massacre

Fin Cop Hillfort Derbyshire, Scene of an Iron Age Massacre

What inspiration did the project artists find at Fin Cop?

Kidology - Artists in the Landscape

Our artists residency at Buxton museum has led us to some beautiful places out in the Derbyshire landscape but Fin Cop hill fort in Mensal Dale, Derbyshire, holds a special place in our hearts.

On a very misty morning last Friday we, together with ceramicist Caroline Chouler-Tissier and storyteller Gordon Maclellan were lucky enough to be able to walk along the ramparts with the Project Manager of the recent hill fort excavations and local historian, Ann Hall.

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We will all be making a piece of art work inspired by the hill fort which will be shown in the new museum galleries later this year.

On the hike to the top of the hill, which was beautiful yet challenging, we gained an insight into the historical importance of the site as a whole as Ann pointed out other possible barrow sites on the way up. We took the following picture on a previous…

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Dove Holes is an Incredible Place!

It’s good to get out into the landscape and get a sense of where exactly Buxton Museum’s artefacts have come from. Some of the staff braved the winter weather last Friday to visit local Stone Age monument The Bull Ring, where flint tools have been discovered. The plucky adventurers were accompanied by experimental archaeologist and expert flintknapper James Dilley.

Dove Holes is a village just over three miles away from Buxton. Despite being a quiet and unassuming place that most people just drive through to get to somewhere else, it has a rich heritage. Apart from the henge known as The Bull Ring, the local quarry has yielded remains of some remarkable prehistoric animals such as the mastodon and the scimitar-toothed cat. The remnants of these dentally-challenged creatures are an insight into how different the Peak District must have been thousands of years ago although the snow, wind and sub-zero temperatures made it easier to imagine an ice age!

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photo by Laura Waters

The Bull Ring is clearly sign-posted about halfway along the main road but its location seems at odds with the patchwork arrangement of the village. The circular earthwork has had a fight for survival over the centuries. Apparently, the stones from the henge were removed and used on the Peak Forest Tramway in the late 1700s. Developments in the 19th century caused further damage and until recently, the annual village bonfire was held here. In terms of history, The Bull Ring is as vital as the other famous local stone circle, Arbor Low, but it has not been quite so lucky. Arbor Low still sits majestic and mysterious, largely undisturbed and surrounded by the rugged landscape of the Peak District. Fortunately, both monuments are protected these days and are free for visitors to speculate on their exact purpose and meaning. It is interesting to note that both henges are accompanied by burial mounds. The barrows lend weight to the sense of ancient significance.

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Dove Holes 15,000 years BC

You can visit The Bull Ring for yourself. The closest part of Buxton is Fairfield where I have already explored a wealth of history, including the barrow known as Fairfield Low or Skeleton Wood or even Skelebob Wood so you could include this on the same tour but the land is private so seek permission from the adjacent farm first.

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery reopens on May 1st 2017 and the brand new Wonders of the Peak gallery will feature artefacts found in Dove Holes. Like us, you may come to think of the village as the home of The Bull Ring and the scimitar-toothed cat.

Artists in Residence explore the empty museum

Artists in Residence explore the empty museum

What have our Artists in Residence been up to? Find out below…

Kidology - Artists in the Landscape

Buxton Museum is closed at the moment for renovations but as Artists in Residence we have had the privilege of being allowed access to the museum at every stage of its’ exciting transformation. We thought you might enjoy these pictures of a composer and an artist at work in the empty museum last Summer, and this beautiful building pausing for breath  before the next phase of work began. Yes, we have the best job in the world!

The acoustic of the museum building once everything had been ripped out and the sunlight streaming through the windows was too tempting to resist so we did what we do best…

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You will be able to see the art and music that we have been working on during our residency when the museum re-opens in May.

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Sharing the solstice

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Over a year ago, when we were planning events to take place while the museum was closed for our redevelopment project, we came up with the idea of doing an event to celebrate the winter solstice at Arbor Low. If you haven’t heard of Arbor Low, it’s the most important prehistoric site in the East Midlands and is often called the Stonehenge of the north.

tn-2006-a064 Print of a pen and ink drawing by E E Wilmot, 1859

The monument consists of a henge surrounding a circle of around 50 limestone slabs (now fallen, if they were ever standing) and a central cove. There are also several burial mounds and pathways nearby. Arbor Low shows periods of use over 1,000 years from around 2,500-1,500 BC, placing it in the Neolithic and early Bronze Age. Mesolithic flints found in the landscape show that people were visiting the area even earlier than this.

arbor-low-5 Panorama of Arbor Low henge…

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Mummified Moggy Added to Collection

The first object to be entered into the collection this year is a rather gruesome find, donated to the museum by resident Maxine Chuwen.

The dead cat was found during renovations down the road from the museum in Buxton’s town centre. Not remarkable, until you consider that the unfortunate feline had been sealed in a space above a ceiling possibly for over a century, halting its decomposition and leaving it a dried-out husk. Such macabre discoveries are not unknown but did curiosity kill the cat or was the creature placed there deliberately? There is an ancient superstition which involves sealing a cat into a house to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. Although strange and cruel by modern day standards, such practices would have been common as recent as the 19th century.

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The unlucky puss dropped out of the ceiling onto builders renovating the former post office in The Quadrant and was saved from the skip by the building’s owner. Her first instinct was to give the cat a proper burial but Maxine decided to bring it to the museum. She was curious to know whether there might be a connection between the entombed cat and newspapers dating to the 1890s found in the same space. In which case, kitty apparently stalked the streets of a very different town.

The staff at Buxton Museum are no strangers to prehistoric animal remains but were startled to see a more recent and well-preserved domestic specimen. Collections Development Officer Joe Perry had to take action to preserve what was left:

We gently cleaned the cat. A white residue had begun to form on the skin since coming into contact with the open air – probably a build-up of salts. Once clean, we securing the body in a sealed, low humidity environment to keep it dry and stable. When it is displayed to the public it will need a new, environmentally secure display case – so it’s come to us at the perfect moment as we’ll be having some brand new cases installed this year.

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The Buxton Museum team were initially undecided whether to accept the cat corpse and display it. However, as custodians of a stuffed bear and a famous mermaid, they know that creepy characters are extremely popular with visitors. So they intend to exhibit the Buxton Cat.

The museum reopens after extensive refurbishment on May 1 2017 but the mummified moggy may not be on display until the end of the year. You can read regular updates on Buxton Museum and Art Gallery by visiting the website and blog

For more information contact Ros Westwood at Buxton Museum on 01629 533540