To celebrate St George’s Day we decided to delve into the object collection for dragons.
Dragons are normally something you would keep well away from Museum stores. Messy eaters, far too large and prone to setting things on fire, they are possibly the least ideal animal to have in a storehouse full of dry baskets, wooden tools and straw samples.
And yet, some curator long ago saw fit to let at least a few dragons in. Our first three are fairly manageable, being altogether about ten centimetres long, made of corn and being – on closer inspection – actually quite cute. Modelled on the fierce beasts of mythology, these corn dolly dragons made by Doris Johnson appear to be aquatic rather than airborne, with only two legs, a spiral tail and no real wings to speak of.
Our nextdragons are similarly flammable but, since they were made in 1787, have managed to survive. They are known as Housen, and are pieces of decoration meant to be attached to a horse’s collar. They both depict a pair of dragons in the centre, mouths set against a globe. The style of both pieces is very reminiscent of Nordic designs, and yet these two pieces were collected from Twyford. Their origin is obscure, but they may have developed from the guard attached to the front of the saddle to protect the groins of a knight in armour, which at least gives them a flavour of St George.
The lack of wings, however, make us wonder if these even do depict dragons. Are they in fact heavily stylised lions?
Written by Claire Wooldridge, Project Senior Library Assistant: Landscape Institute
1500 items from the Landscape Institute library have now been integrated into our MERL library collection. These items include books and pamphlets, which have all been cleaned, processed, catalogued and labelled and are available in our open access library. A small number of rare books received from the Landscape Institute have also been catalogued into our closed access MERL LIBRARY RESERVE collection.
These titles complement our existing holdings, particularly our MERL library books on topics such as gardening, land policy and the environment, this new material also prompts us to consider our MERL collections afresh. The landscape is the backdrop to all aspects of rural life, but must also be seen as a worthy subject of consideration in its own right.
We’re very grateful to our library volunteers who have been a great help with the processing and labeling of this collection. There are still many hundreds of books to go! Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information.
Volunteer Coordinator, Rob Davies, explains how museum volunteers are learning how to deliver object handling sessions.
For the past 6 months we have been working with Museum’s Consultant Charlotte Dew to create, develop object handling sessions for visitors to the museum which will be delivered regularly by our volunteers when we reopen. We’ll also be able to provide booked object handling sessions for groups.
Six session plans were devised, looking at parts of our collections that could lend themselves to a handling experience. These included everything from spoon carving to shepherding. A diverse range of objects and sessions will allow repeat visitors to enjoy and learn something new each time they visit.
To ensure that visitors are provided with the best possible experience and the volunteers feel comfortable, confident and happy too, Charlotte and I have developed a training strategy. As this was the first time we had delivered this type of training and project, we planned our first session as a workshop to inform our actual training sessions. By using this model, the volunteers showed us what they needed to be taught and where help would be best placed. Two training sessions were devised; in the first session we covered the basics with some role play, the second session was focused on role play and having a go. It was important to instil confidence in the volunteers and prove to them they could do the role. This meant getting hands on with the objects, teaching the basic handling rules, i.e. two hands, hold over the table, don’t hold the handle etc.
There is still a long time to go before we reopen and our volunteers will be able to provide handling sessions for the general visitor. In the interim period, volunteers will continue training and rehearsing. Some volunteers are also carrying out individual research into the some of the objects for handling. When the Museum re-opens in 2016, visitors will have a chance for the first time to have a go at touching some of our objects, which we hope will enhance their experience.