Pictures in the Landscape returns

This week, as well as being the Derbyshire schools half-term holiday, the Discovery Days festival is being celebrated across the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. When we were asked to join in, we wanted to find a way to use the museum collections in a different setting.  We don’t have many objects that relate to the mills themselves but we do have some wonderful images of the local area.

dersb-2012-22

Cromford, taken from the Bridge. Watercolour by William Day, 1789.

 

Cromford has been attracting visitors since the 1700s, when artists came to paint the landscape and tourists came to admire the industrial innovations taking place at the mills. The images in the museum collection span the period from then until the 20th century, with the landscape reproduced in paintings, drawings, engravings and photographs.

tn-2000-a8

Engraving, published by Rock and Co, 1852

This is also a revival of a project that first took place in Dovedale in 2010 as part of the Derbyshire Literature Festival. This time round, we found 16 images of Cromford to reproduce and they have been hung along the short section of the canal from Cromford Wharf to Leawood Pumphouse, a route which is easily accessible and much used by local residents, day visitors and tourists.

pictures-in-landscape-at-cromford

Pictures in the Landscape: Cromford, 22-30 October 2016

We hope everyone will enjoy seeing some historic views of Cromford along the canal during Discovery Days – and, if they haven’t been before, take the opportunity to visit Cromford Mills and High Peak Junction at either end to make it a real day of discovery.

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery would like to thank our friends at Derbyshire Countryside Service, the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and Cromford Mills for their help with all our Discovery Days events.

Advertisements

Peak District Cave Lions!

20160317_154959[1]

This amazing Cave Lion foot is part of Jackson’s collection of animal bones from Hindlow near Buxton. We recently decanted it from its ‘Bone hole’ on the gallery where it lay along with other Hindlow remains of bison, horse, mammoth and wolf. Up close, it’s much more obvious what a large animal the Cave Lion was, much larger than present day lions.  Going for a walk would be very different if these creatures still roamed the Peak District!

Painting of lions at Chauvet Cavern, Southern France (museum replica). Wikimedia Commons

 

20160302_093659[1]

Part of the Cave Lion material in store.

Most of the Hindlow material is held in store because there is just too much of it to display. One of our expert volunteers Bente Loudon is working her way through assessing the material but previous research by Danielle Schreve (1997) on the Hindlow bones identified the presence of at least two lions. The bones include most of a right hind leg and may be the most complete articulated lion remains from the Pleistocene era. Along with the lions were the remains of at least three horses and four animals identified as cattle or bison. Gnaw marks on the bones and the variety of animals led suggests that the cave was a den for lions preying on horses and bovids (cattle/bison).

Also in the cave were the remains of another large, wild bovine, an aurochs. This led Schreve to suggest the bones were laid down in a warmer interglacial period when aurochs were here, rather than a cold stage, and this might explain the very large size of the lions and horses.

File:Aurochs1.1.png

Representation of the now extinct aurochs. (Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.)

We’ve really enjoyed sharing the objects with our visitors close up and our Artists in Residence @KidologyArts have been taking inspiration from the Cave Lion too!

The BIG Project Update – 2016!

It’s been almost a year since we announced that our Stage 2 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund had been successful. We were faced with the both the joy and the horror of having to actually do the extensive list of work and activities that we’d set out in the bid!

After a slow start doing all the necessary recruiting, planning and procuring, things are really starting to gather pace. So it’s the perfect time to update all of our friends, partners and followers about where we’re at.

As some of you might know, the project has two goals – the refurbishment of the Wonders of the Peak gallery, and the extension of museum content online and into the landscape.

1. Wonders of the Peak

The old gallery is now officially closed and is currently being decanted into the Project Space. This means the collections are undergoing a rigorous process of condition checking, photography and packing.

IMG_4608

Empty cases? Acid-free tissue? The gallery decant has begun!

Meanwhile we’re working with our partners and designers to agree the concept design for the all-new Wonders of the Peak. Curators are also getting in touch with partner museums and institutions about some star loan objects. In some cases this means bringing Derbyshire objects home for first time since their discovery.

As the gallery work progresses you can visit and talk us in the Project Space, which is now open, but there’s more on that below…

2. Digital Access

In the project bid we imagined two types of digital access. ‘Pocket Wonders’ were phone and tablet friendly and could be accessed from the landscape. ‘Armchair Wonders’ would be accessed from home, and give more depth and detail to the collections.

Working with our digital designer, it’s clear that our online solution will be much more flexible than the two choices outlined above. The ‘digital experience’ will be an intuitive website that gives you different levels and types of content based the your situation and preferences. For example, where are you? What type of device are you using? How much internet connectivity do you have? Have you visited before and, if so, what have you already told us interests you?

From this, and similar information, you will be able to find out about the collections you are interested in, and plan your own journey into the Derbyshire landscape.

This solution will offer both the ‘Pocket Wonder’ and ‘Armchair Wonder’ concepts we’d originally imagined, but also offer a whole ranges of experiences in between.

And yes, there will be downloadable content. If you’ve ever tried to use a mobile phone in Dovedale then you’ll know why this is so important…

But the online news doesn’t stop there. We’re also going to be launching and testing an online catalogue for our website. So everyone from the curious web surfer to academic researchers can search an ever-increasing collections database. As we iron out the creases, more and more data from our museum documentation  database (Modes) will be available to search online, or be downloaded and used as open data (under a Creative Commons BY-NC license).

The Project Space

IMG_4610

The Project Space in all its glory.

Finally, we can’t wait to welcome you to the Project Space, an area where visitors can see some of our amazing collections, find out more about the project, and meet the team face-to-face. We’re really interested to hear your views on a range of subjects and to get your feedback on the work we’re doing.

The Project Space will open to the public on 16 February, with free half-term family activities all week. It will be open until September 2017 – hosting a range of activities for you to join in with. Keep in touch with us through our Facebook or Twitter for more information, or sign up to our mailing list.

Who’s Who

In the last 12 months we have recruited staff and volunteers and a team of specialists to help deliver the project. We are pleased to be working with:

Project Managers – Rex Proctor & Partners

Gallery Designers – Redman Design

Digital Designer – Ben Bedwell (Digital Economy Consultants Ltd, in partnership with the University of Nottingham Horizon Digital Economy Research Hub)

Copy Editor – Pete Brown

Project Evaluators – Innovate Educate

Marketing Plan – Jen Francis

Workshop Facilitator – Gordon Maclellan (Creeping Toad)

Artists in Residence – Kidology

Education Specialist – currently recruiting

HLF Monitor – Janince Bowman

HLF Mentor – Fiona Marshall

…as well as our many partners and supporters.

 

 

 

 

Lava in the landscape

Lava in the landscape

Some geology additions to the Buxton collections show volcanic events in the making of the local geology and gave a great excuse (as if one was needed!) to get out and explore to see where they came from. Some of the new specimens came from Cressbrook Dale, a dramatic limestone dale near Litton dominated at the top end by the imposing Peter’s Stone. At various times there’s been volcanic activity at a number of centres in the White Peak, which include Tunstead, Matlock, Alport and Eyam Edge. Not necessarily large volcanoes, these could have been areas of vents and fissures under the shallow sea that covered the area at the time, and from which lava flowed or material was ejected to produce falls of ash. This led to layers or intrusions of lava flow and tuff inside the limestone.

In Cressbrook Dale these outcrop where the rocks have been worn away.

Cressbrook Dale

The picture above shows the North end of Cressbrook Dale and another feature of limestone dales – the seasonal river produced by our recent heavy rains!

Standing above the valley on a cold, damp, windy January day, it takes a real leap of imagination to picture the area as it was over 300 million years ago – not here, but thousands of miles away near the equator, covered with a warm shallow sea. Could it have looked like this …?

Sea pic

Cressbrook Dale lava.

Cressbrook Dale lava.

Tuff is formed from volcanic ash blown out of vents, eventually settling on the sea bed.  There’s evidence that the Litton Tuff was the result of at least two volcanic vents, one west of Tideswell and another under Bleaklow, which probably erupted repeatedly to build up a layer of material.

DERSB 2015.8.3

Litton Tuff from Cressbrook Dale.

P1110224

Tuff from Peter Dale Vent with limestone fragment.

At Cressbrook Dale the tuff layer forms a ‘wayboard’ separated by a depth of limestone from a lower layer of lava. The picture below shows such a wayboard in Ecton Copper Mine, where the ash appears as a soft clay.

The horizontal ledge shows the sea floor at the time with 'wayboard' of volcanic ash above.

The horizontal ledge shows the sea floor at the time with ‘wayboard’ of volcanic ash above.

Reference:

Hunter J. & Shaw R. 2011 The Cressbrook Dale Lava and Litton Tuff between Longstone and Hucklow Edges, Derbyshire. Mercian Geologist 17(4); 229-242.

 

My Kingdom for a Tap Washer ?

Lead mining was a key industry in Derbyshire. The Romans were the first to mine and export lead, on an industrial scale, from Derbyshire and there are remnants of Roman lead mines scattered throughout the district at places such as Carsington and Wirksworth. The physical mining of the lead ore (raw material also known as Galena or Lead Sulphide) was not done by the Romans but was undertaken by slaves and criminals convicted to a life in the mines by the Roman Justices. The only up side of such a life sentence was the fact that the toxic lead dust, poisonous and explosive methane gas trapped in the surrounding rock, falling rocks, oxygen deprived, suffocating mine works, and back breaking work, meant that your life was likely to last just a few months.

Hadrian Pig of Lead

Bars of lead known as ‘pigs’ marked as belonging to the Emperor Hadrian  (AD 117 – 138). Each pig measures over half a metre. Discovered at Cromford Moor, near Wirksworth. 1777.

Lead was used by the Romans for many purposes. Perhaps, most importantly, because it could be melted down to produce silver for coins and jewellery. It was also used in the earliest pencils which comprised a lead and tin core; the pencil mark being easily erasable with softened bread.  Other uses were in glass, pottery glaze, writing tablets, weapons, fishing and goods weights, and to make pots, cups, and kitchen utensils.

Lead poisoning destroys the human nervous system, causes hair loss, memory loss, anaemia, constipation, and skin ruptures, among a long list of other toxic ailments, so, it is unusual to find that a very popular use for lead in Roman times, was its use in cosmetics and foodstuffs. White lead was used to create a foundation cream with which to lighten the faces of Roman ladies (and occasionally men). This was often enhanced with the application of red lead, nowadays used in the manufacture of rust-proof paint and batteries, to add a touch of rouge. Lead compounds were also used to make black hair dye and added to wine to enhance colour, flavour, and preservation.

Due to its resistance to acid and alkalies, lead was often used to line water aqueducts and make water pipes, valves, and other plumbing related fixtures.There are many theories as to why the Roman Empire finally came to an end but, perhaps, one of the more curious theories is the one that suggests that the Roman Empire collapsed due to its citizens being poisoned by the water which flowed through the Roman, lead- based, plumbing systems.

 

 

Signs of life

20151110_125430

Teeth. Feel your teeth with your tongue. Bite together. Use your fingers to feel them through the skin of your face. Do you like your teeth? Do you like the way they shape your face? Or have you always hated them? Do you feel guilty about the state of them? Would you trust them with a toffee?

Much more than buried bones, our teeth are an obvious part of our everyday appearance and shape how we see ourselves and others, and they’re tied up with all sorts of emotions we can easily imagine and share.

The teeth in the picture belong to a young woman. They were found with her skeleton at Fin Cop, a hillfort overlooking Monsal Dale, and are now at Buxton Museum. Although she lived around 2,300 years ago, her teeth are instantly recognisable and familiar objects to us, and they can tell us something about her.

Only one of her teeth is missing, out of a possible 32. She had some dental disease, with a cavity in one tooth and calculus on all the teeth. This points to poor dental hygiene and a diet which included honey or sugary fruit. She shows signs of having gone through a time of malnutrition or illness in childhood. There were cattle, pig and sheep or maybe goats to eat but we don’t know if she had the status to get this meat. She might have eaten hazelnuts and sloes from nearby trees.

Wear patterns show she regularly performed some task which involved biting or holding something in her teeth.

She was likely to be in her early 20s, perhaps about 5’ 4” tall, and may have been pregnant with her first child.

This information has been built up by researchers interpreting all the evidence gathered during excavation. The story of the death of the people found at Fin Cop could easily become their whole story, but simple objects like these teeth offer a window to our shared experiences of life.

 


 

These remains were found in excavations in 2009 and 2010 by Longstone Local History Group with supervision by Archaeological Research Services Ltd. A further excavation was carried out in 2012.

References:

Waddington C, Beswick P, Brightman J, Mapplethorpe K, Marshall P, Meadows J, Thornton A. 2011. Fin Cop Archive Excavation Report for 2010, ARS Ltd Report No. 2011/27, Archaeological Research Services.

Waddington C, Beswick P, Brightman J,  Bronk Ramsey C, Burn A, Cook G, Elliot L, Gidney L, Haddow S, Hammon A, Harrison K, Mapplethorpe K, Marshall P, Meadows J, Smalley R, Thornton A & Longstone Local History Group. 2012. Excavations at Fin Cop, Derbyshire: An Iron Age Hillfort in Conflict? Archaeological Journal 169(1): 159–236.

 

 

Stone Age Bling

Imagine if a loved one, or friend, picked up a stone and asked you to make from it a piece of jewellery which they could hang around their neck. And, that the only tools available to you to make this would be other similar stones, a selection of animal bones, water, and wood. How would you go about it? How would you shape and smooth the stone? How would you go about creating a hole with which to put the neck lace through without, accidentally, breaking the whole piece?  In an age when the wheel was only just being invented ( believed to be in, either,  Ukraine or Iraq — the jury is still out on that one –) it must have been quite a labour intensive, frustrating, and time consuming task to create what, essentially, is a non essential, luxury item. That person would have to be pretty special!

Neolithic Perforated Stone Pendant. 9 cm x 4 cm

This stone pendant was found at Chrome Hill, Derbyshire and dates back to around 3,500 BC during the late Neolithic Period (Stone Age). The Neolithic period was the age when large stone circles  such as Stonehenge and dolmens like the Bodowyr Dolmen in Wales were first constructed. Although Chrome Hill has no neolithic monuments it is believed to be an important site for both the Neolithic and Bronze age peoples as a possible place of ritual. It is known for its unusual, natural features where the hill resembles a giant, ridge backed, exoskeleton, bulging out of the land beneath the enveloping blanket of the Derbyshire countryside. It is also reported that a remarkable split sunset can be observed at certain angles over Chrome when standing on Chrome’s nearby sister – Parkhouse Hill – during Solstice.

Whether the jewellery piece was the ancient equivalent of a wedding ring or, perhaps, worn by warrior women and men as a battle talisman, or merely used for trade, we can never know. But, like a Rothko painting it confronts us with courage and boldness while within its simplicity lies a much deeper meaning. A meaning that we may never fully grasp in our modern society.