Exhibition close-up: Wellbeing, Equity and Education

In response to the academic book ‘Wellbeing, Equity and Education: A critical analysis of policy discourses of wellbeing in schools’, the latest exhibition in MacRobert ArtSpace displays a series of lino cut prints inspired by the ideas emerging from the research.

The exhibition by author and academic, Jennifer Spratt and printmaker Roderick Scott examines discourses of wellbeing in relation to the aims of schooling. Jennifer Scott’s research explores different understandings of the concept of wellbeing and how these coalesce in education policy and discusses how the concept of wellbeing is invoked in support of different education purposes.

MacRobert exhibitions image

Inspired by this research, Roderick Scott created a series of lino cut prints using kite flying to symbolise wellbeing. The prints have been created on an assortment or materials, including newspaper and junk mail and varying kite designs environments in the images are used to represent the diversity of children and their experiences.


The exhibition is on display in the foyer of the MacRobert building from 25 April 2018 – 28 September 2018.

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An Ancient Egyptian North-American tour

In 2019 over 150 objects from the University of Aberdeen Museum’s Ancient Egyptian archaeology collections are going on tour across North America;

In February 2019, Egypt: The Time of the Pharaohs will open at the Cincinnati Museum Centre in Ohio, currently on display in the Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria BC. The exhibition has been attracting a lot of attention in BC already and their museum dog is particularly fond of one of the University’s collections, the bronze cat!



The exhibition was created in partnership with the Lokschuppen Exhibition Centre in Rosenheim, near Munich, the Roemer-und-Pelizaeus-Museum, Hildesheim, and the Austrian Logistics company Museums Partner and has already attracted over 170,000 visitors when it was displayed in Lokschuppen last year. The University collections are not the only items on display, the 150 on loan from Aberdeen are among 350 original items of which others are borrowed from specialist museum across Germany.

This is the largest loan of the museum’s items for an international exhibit in the University of Aberdeen Museum’s history and objects on loan include a statue of the scribe of Rahotep and a 4,000-year-old wooden coffin of a royal official, Nakht.

If you are in British Columbia or Cincinnati and get the chance to see either of these exhibitions, lets us know; we would love to hear what you think of them!

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Exhibition Close Up – ‘Growing Up: different journeys’

Everyone grows up, but what makes an individual a child, an adolescent, or an adult? If there is a common theme it is that everyone gets older and that everyone does it differently.

Abdn Uni 300dpi REVERSED

The latest exhibition in King’s Museum, curated by a group of 12 MLitt Museum Studies students, opened this month and has already received some great feedback. The exhibition gives an intercultural view on the process of aging to give visitors an insight on how different cultures embrace, celebrate and challenge the process of growth.

Although the exhibition discusses childhood, the students chose not to focus on nostalgia and toys but instead selected a range of objects from around the world, including the coffin of an Egyptian Mummy and an Angolan net suit used in initiation rites to tell the different stories of childhood and growing up in different cultures.

growing up interactiveThe students have been working hard for the past six months to create the exhibition from object selection and writing the interpretation to designing the overall exhibition and all marketing materials, as well as some interactives to remind us of our own childhoods. They’ve created an impressive exhibition and we can’t wait to see what other visitors think of it as well!

‘Growing Up: Different Journeys’ is open in King’s Museum from Tuesday – Friday 1pm-4.30pm until 30 November 2018.

If you have any questions about the exhibition the museum can be contacted at kingsmuseum@abdna.c.uk


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Tracing Lines (both Metaphorical and Actual) in Neolithic Aberdeenshire

Mike Copper from the University of Bradford tells us about a current project he is working on that made use of the University Museums’ collections.

During the Late Neolithic, roughly between 3000BC and 2450BC, communities across Britain and Ireland became increasingly interconnected, a process reflected in the sharing of distinctive types of monuments and artefacts. The former include timber and stone circles and new forms of funerary and domestic architecture, while the latter include stone maceheads, new forms of flint arrowhead and a novel type of pottery known as Grooved Ware. The Historic Environment Scotland-funded project ‘Tracing the Lines: Uncovering Grooved Ware Trajectories in Neolithic Scotland’ aims to improve our understanding of the changes that occurred at this time by investigating the nature and timing of the spread and subsequent development of Grooved Ware pottery following its appearance in Orkney in the last couple of centuries of the 4th millennium BC.

Photo 1As part of this project I was able to spend a couple of days in the Collections Centre in Marischal College to examine several important assemblages of Grooved Ware. This kind of pottery is characterised – unsurprisingly – by its incised decoration, although applied decoration is not uncommon. Unlike earlier types of pot, Grooved Ware has flat bases. These are not as well suited to cooking on open fires as pots with rounded bases as their shape means that they are more likely to crack when heated. This could suggest that the look of the pots was more important than their ability to stand up to prolonged use. If so, then it is possible they were associated with feasts or other similar events where display was significant. Perhaps they even provide our first good evidence for the use of tables!

Aberdeenshire seems to have been a significant place in the Neolithic, being associated in particular with a series of often beautifully decorated carved stone balls whose purpose remains a mystery to this day. For a long time it was believed that Grooved Ware was not made in this region, but over recent years an increasing number of sites in the northwest have started to produce assemblages of this type of pottery. Neolithic pottery is often found in shallow pits whose purpose is not entirely clear, and two significant multi-pit sites have recently been excavated close to each other near to Kintore. These produced Grooved Ware of contrasting styles and it will be interested to see if they are of different dates. The nearby site of Greenbogs, near Monymusk, produced just a couple of fragments of Grooved Ware, but these were found very close to two mysterious circular wooden structures containing square settings of posts. These closely resemble a number of other square-within-circle timber structures found across Britain and Ireland that have also been dated to the Late Neolithic. What was their purpose, and what role might Grooved Ware have played at such sites?

Photo 2Although current evidence indicates that Grooved Ware pottery originated in Orkney, the reasons why it was adopted elsewhere are hard to explain. It is possible that societies in certain regions were becoming less egalitarian and that emergent elite groups were increasingly interacting with each other. In such a situation new fashions, ideas and beliefs could spread over long distances much as foreign travel today has increased the popularity of once-exotic foods. However, potsherds had been carefully deposited in pits in Aberdeenshire long before Grooved Ware appeared, so not everything was new. Perhaps the novel ideas and artefacts existed alongside, or became mixed up with, existing practices?

Photo 3Recent analysis of ancient DNA from skeletons dating to the Early Bronze Age strongly suggests that there was a large-scale movement of people into Britain and Ireland from the continent at the end of the Neolithic. These people brought with them new artefacts and ideas including new pots known as Beakers. There does not appear to have been a long overlap in the use of Beakers and Grooved Ware and the latter soon disappears from the archaeological record. Dating the demise of Grooved Ware will therefore be a significant part of Tracing the Lines and may perhaps help us to better understand what happened to the pre-Beaker population of Britain and Ireland.

The Grooved Ware in the University collections constitutes an important archaeological resource and I am very grateful to have been allowed to examine it at first-hand. Funding permitting, we hope to have new dates for the Aberdeenshire Grooved Ware at some point next year so watch this space!

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World Wars Warrior

Hello! We are Amanda, Emily and Miranda of the 20th Century and World Wars team. We were given the task of looking at the last sub-topic of the exhibition. Similarly to other groups, we had to prioritise which portions of the time period we would look at. We decided to focus our attention on the First and Second World Wars because these conflicts show a clear picture of what it meant to be Scottish in the British Army. Within this time period, we have looked at three subthemes: the soldier, women & civilians.


From both the University’s collection and the objects we have been loaned from the Gordon Highlanders, we have discovered a number of interesting objects.

Amanda’s favourite is the piece of barbed wire from a trench during the First World War. Emily found the civil defence booklet and ARP wardens badge with certificate donated by J. Barclay to be very important in demonstrating the civilian contributions on the home front during the Second World War. Finally, Miranda’s favourite object is the kilt, which was worn during the Battle of the Somme by an Aberdeen alumnus.

2One object we felt deserved a special mention, which is not in our case but is still from the First World War, is the jacket, which forms part of the uniform that can be seen in the ‘Overseas Soldier’ case. This jacket belonged to ‘The Blind VC’, or Captain Sir Ernest Beachcroft Beckwith Towse.  Blinded in South Africa during the Boer War, Towse was awarded the Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria herself. Even though he was blinded, he insisted on serving during the First World War. This is the jacket Towse wore to reenlist for duty, despite his blindness, at the onset of the First World War. It shows the various medals he received from fighting in battles overseas. His set of the three ‘Pip, Squeak, and Wilfred’ medals (1914-15 Star, War Medal, and Victory Medal) are visible by his Victoria Cross. Towse set up field hospitals for the duration of the First World War, having a special interest in treating and working with soldiers who had been blinded in battle, a very common injury due to the gas used in WWI. He was known to personally assist those recovering soldiers with writing letters home to their families.

As well as learning about the objects, this experience taught us the importance of being flexible and able to come up with new solutions as problems arose during the exhibition process. Only a few weeks before installation was due to start, we discovered that our kilt could not be displayed in the way we had originally planned. This meant that a last-minute reshuffle of our layout had to happen. Luckily, we managed to come up with a new layout that everyone was happy with and that showed off the kilt well on its new mount.


This concludes our behind the scenes look at each of the five subtopics. Make sure to check them all out at the now open Scottish Warrior exhibition!



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Overseas Warrior

Jo, Michael and Robert tackled the topic of the ‘Overseas Soldier’ which chronologically was tightly wedged between the Jacobite topic and that of the World Wars. It was clear from the outset that this would guide the direction of the interpretation for the case, providing a natural bridge between the two topics.

After briefly flirting with the concept of the mercenary soldier, we decided instead to explore the experience of those recruited into the service of Britain: the imperial soldier. While recognising some men did carve our careers in foreign service, the group focussed on the disproportionate number of Scots who joined Scots or Highland Regiments for the service of the British Empire.


General Gordon v General Gordon: Thomas Gordon (left) was a General for the Portuguese, while George Gordon (right) was a British General.

The challenge the group faced was trying to represent such a complex story of 200 years worth of changing loyalty and identity into one case. Given the rich and diverse collections held by the University of Aberdeen it was a difficult task to choose the ten or so objects that would tell the story of the period. Indeed, many objects we would have liked to display had to go.

os2We decided to stick to three main interpretative aims in the case. First – off the back of the Jacobites – we aimed to explore the transition from Jacobite rebel to imperial soldier. Secondly, we set out to contrast the imperial soldier against the ‘primitive savages’ they were sent overseas to ‘civilise’. This again was a nod to both the Prehistoric sub-topic, and indeed the Jacobites. Lastly how this overseas service to the empire was the only practical experience professional soldiers had gained in the lead up to the First World War.

The dominant feature of the case is a map of the world which pin points the footsteps of the Scottish Regiments oversea. It became clear very early on that this was a must have for the group, working as a striking visual showing the remarkable impact of the Scots soldier overseas. It helps to enforce the idea of the Scottish warrior as the exported muscle of the British Empire.

#UoAScottish Warrior

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The Jacobite Warrior

Katie, Kelcy, and Leston joined forces to focus on the Jacobite section of the exhibition. The period from 1688 to 1745 that encompasses the Jacobite uprisings was a pivotal point in Scottish history and had huge ramifications for future depictions of the ‘Scottish Warrior’. The three of us had a lot to learn if we wanted to do justice to the topic and explore how nineteenth-century Romantic artists and writers latched onto the Jacobites for inspiration.

1We all sought to read a wide variety of books – from folk stories about Jacobite heroes to serious monographs. One of the favorites was Damn’ Rebel Bitches by Maggie Craig, an Aberdonian author, which focused on women during the Jacobite risings. Unfortunately, we found ourselves unable to focus on female Jacobites because of the lack of related objects in the University’s collection and our focus on the nineteenth-century romanticisation of the Jacobites. That turned out to be a common theme for us, having to exclude information we thought was interesting but that turned out not to be super relevant to the exhibition.

2As a group, we were able to visit Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre, a trip we wrote a previous blog post about. We also took a trip down to Marischal College to view the items we wanted to include in our case. This was an opportunity for us to handle the targe and also a carved ostrich egg that we ended up not including. Working on the exhibition has provided each of us with challenges, whether it was deciding what information and objects to include, figuring out how to make everything fit in the case, or designing the overall look of the case. But we’ve greatly enjoyed our work and are excited for you to see the finished product!

Come check out our exhibition ‘The Scottish Warrior’ and keep an eye out for more behind the scenes posts on the blog! #UoAScottishWarrior

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