A Unique Challenge: Museum Students Design and Marketing Team

Our Museum Studies students responsible for design and marketing of the upcoming exhibition ‘The Scottish Warrior’ tell us about their process so far:

‘If you tuned into last weeks blog post you will have read about our object selection team and how they have been working to select exciting and interesting pieces from the University of Aberdeen Museums’ collections for the next exhibition at King’s Museum. Our marketing and design team have also been working hard at what has proved to be a unique challenge. Trying to convey the long and complicated history of the idea of the ‘Scottish warrior’ through design has been a thought-provoking task.

17838306_10211270154883128_1423761187_o.jpgBefore any design or marketing decisions could be made, we had to ask ourselves some basic but crucial questions. What is a Scottish Warrior? How have people viewed this topic in the past? What messages are we looking to send? Who is our audience? Once those questions were answered, we had to brainstorm ideas. We bounced lots of ideas off of each other about colour choices, aesthetics, design concepts, and layouts. We had discussions about how to gain the visitors attention quickly and realised that colour choice is crucial so decided to do some research about colour psychology to help guide us. We have had lots of interesting ideas, so deciding which one is the best for our exhibition has been a bit of a challenge.


Some of our early design proposals for the poster

The design team is only a small portion of the Museum Studies student team so we have to pitch our ideas to the rest of the exhibition group. Satisfying everyone is never the easiest task to undertake and it was tough to find a happy balance, but we did out best to make sure that everyone on the team was pleased with the outcome.


Leston showing Miranda and Laura how to eat chicken wings ‘trini style’ while planning the exhibition design!

We are Jo, Laura, Leston, Miranda, and Vic and we are the design and marketing team for ‘The Scottish Warrior’ exhibition. We are excited about our contributions and role in the exhibition so be on the look out for our posters in the near future! Come back next week for our next blog post about the interpretation of ‘The Scottish Warrior’. Out exhibition will open in King’s Museum on 13th June 2017. Keep an eye out on social media for #UoAScottishWarrior for more peeks behind the scenes.’

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Our Object Selection Students

Museum Studies students responsible for object selection in their upcoming exhibition tell us a little more about themselves and their role within the curating an exhibition team:

‘Hello! As the objects selection team it is our job to select objects for display in our upcoming exhibition ‘The Scottish Warrior’. There are five of us in the team, one to represent each of the five sub-topics of our exhibition.

Our first port of call when selecting objects for the exhibition was the University Museum’s extensive online catalogue. We each spent hours searching for objects that best illustrate the time periods we aim to explore through our exhibition. We have also had the opportunity to visit the Collection Centre at Marischal College to see the objects that we have requested for display, and look for more ideas within the vast storerooms. In addition to this, we were given object handling training, which will be very useful when we come to installing the objects in the display cases.

17841879_1429022280453221_2064180595_nI am Ellen from the ‘Prehistoric Savages’ team. This section spans a huge period of time form the Stone Age to the Iron Age, which has made picking objects tricky. One object that I love is a Bronze Age ‘razor’ found in a burial cairn. It’s small, delicate and not something generally associated with a prehistoric person or warrior!

17842045_1429022370453212_1687870587_nI’m Kieran, representing the ‘Medieval Warrior’ sub-topic. We are aiming to explore the origins of the image of the medieval warrior against the young age of monarchs who ascended the throne in this period. Alongside a selection of medieval archaeological finds, one of our most striking objects we hope to have on display is a plaster cast of Robert Bruce’s skull!

17888921_1429022303786552_137517083_nI am Katie from the ‘Jacobites’ team. We aim to explore the romantic idealisation of the Jacobites, and the Highlands which had developed by the nineteenth century. We plan on displaying a scenic painting, which depicts the romanticism of the Highlands alongside objects linked to the Jacobites such as a pistol and targe that belonged to John Roy Stuart.

17857342_1429022517119864_1362034842_nMy name is Robert and I’m part of the ‘Overseas Soldier’ team. Our topic features objects from the many places that Scottish soldiers fought such as Africa and Tibet. One key issue we have faced is the space needed to incorporate our star objects; a world map that would include medals and pins to showcase all the places in the world where Scottish regiments saw action.

17888304_1429022287119887_1772642439_nMy name is Emily and I represent the ‘World Wars’ team. We aim to display personal objects packed with stories, like medals from World War One belonging to nurses, showing that women also played their part. We will also display objects on loan from the local Gordon Highlanders museum, including a kilt from the Somme with burn marks where a soldier used a cigarette to burn lice!’

‘The Scottish Warrior’ exhibition will open in King’s Museum in June 2017 so keep an eye here on this blog and on social media for more updates! Look out for our hashtag #UoAScottishWarrior for peeks behind the scenes.

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Museum Studies Students’ Research Trip to Culloden Battlefield

Culloden Trip Image 1

From Left to Right: Leston, Kelcy, Alison, Alanna and Katie. A lovely passer-by offered to take a photo of us all outside the visitor centre.

Some of our Museum Studies students tell us about a recent trip to Culloden Battlefield as part of their research for their upcoming exhibition ‘The Scottish Warrior’. Katie, Leston and Kelcy went to Culloden to gain more knowledge for their research into the Jacobite rising for the Curating an Exhibition course with Alanna and Alison in tow (any excuse for a day trip)!

‘We all got very excited about the high-tech display of letters written by Bonnie Prince Charlie where translations of the French were projected and appeared over the original. It’s something we would have loved to have in our exhibition if we had the resources and skills. The layout of the museum showing both the Government and Jacobite perspectives of the unfolding events on opposite sides of the museum allowed you to follow one or both of the stories. We thought this was very clever and provided a unique experience for every visitor.

Culloden Trip Image 2

Kelcy, Alison, Katie and Alanna read an informative plaque on the battlefield

Although the typical Scottish weather of drizzle greeted us upon our arrival, the sun decided to make a rare appearance when we moved onto explore the battlefield. Outside we wandered around most of the site listening to the provided audio-guide. This had the group divided with us enjoying the contextual information provided but other aspects, such as historical figures speaking about the battle, seemed jarring. While walking around we appreciated the Trust’s decision of allowing the site to return to its natural, boggy state as this allowed us to visualise how difficult it must have been to move across the area in the past when we were struggling to navigate the paths. Many trips and slips were taken but we all found the experience of walking around the battlefield profound and striking. This is especially apparent when looking at the sheer scale of the site even though only part of the battlefield remains intact. A film inside the visitor centre supplied a visual recreation of the battle and evoked an emotional response in all of us.

While the battlefield prompted more of an emotional reaction from the group, the visitor centre gave us lots of ideas for our exhibition and how we may display our objects more effectively. This includes ensuring that our case arrangements are three dimensional and utilise all available space, with the inclusion of photos, sketches and quotes. The display also provided the ‘Jacobite’ group with some useful ideas for interpreting the story of the Jacobites in relation to its Romanticisation in the nineteenth century. Overall this visit highlighted how important it will be to make our exhibition accessible to all by making it engaging to a twenty-first century audience.

Culloden Trip Image 4

Alanna, Alison and Kelcy braving the drizzle to explore the Clava Cairns.

Kelcy, Alison and Alanna also took a wee trip down to the Clava Cairns, a 30-minute walk from Culloden. This was a nice little detour for us – and if you have time in the area, and are interested in archaeology or the Neolithic, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Keep an eye on the blog and other social media for more trips, updates and peeks behind the scenes.’


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Welcome to the next exhibition: The Scottish Warrior

Our newest MLitt Museum Studies students tell us a little more about their upcoming exhibition which will discuss the ‘Scottish Warrior’:

‘Hello, and welcome to the first blog for the exhibition ‘The Scottish Warrior’. This exhibition is being curated by fifteen students at the University of Aberdeen studying towards a Master of Letters in Museum Studies. We come from a variety of educational and social background as well as coming from all around the world. Our team is made up of a handful of Scottish people, various Europeans, a few Americans and even a Trinidadian. We are all bringing something unique to the course, along with various perspectives, coming from previous degrees in History and Archaeology, Psychology, Design and Literature.

In line with the Scottish Government’s announcement that 2017 will be a Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology for Scotland, our exhibition aims to explore ideas and understanding about the Scottish Warrior today. With a time span from pre-history to the World Wars our exhibition draws largely on the University’s collection, complemented by loans from the Gordon Highlanders Museums (keep an eye out for a blog post about this!). As a team with various backgrounds and perspectives, we are trying to create a unique approach to this topic by examining how perceptions of the Scottish Warrior have developed in the past and influence out modern ideas of what the ‘Scottish Warrior’ is or was.

So far it has certainly been an interesting learning experience, with each individual choosing to focus on one of five important time periods in Scottish history. This has allowed us to develop a more in-depth understanding of the Scottish Warrior and we’ve all learned a lot about Scottish history and culture.

Our exhibition ‘The Scottish Warrior’ will be opening in June at King’s Museum; we hope to see you there! In the meantime, keep an eye out on the blog and our social media channels for updates. Look out for #UoAScottishWarrior for sneak peaks and behind the scenes!’


2017 Curating an Exhibition class members and lecturer (Dr. Jenny Downes); in front of King’s Museum

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PHARAO: Living in ancient Egypt

The exhibition ‘PHARAO: living in ancient Egypt’ has just opened at the Lokschuppen Exhibition Centre in Rosenheim, Germany, accompanied by a lavishly illustrated book (in German). The exhibition features almost 150 of the University of Aberdeen’s internationally important collection of artefacts from ancient Egypt. This is the largest loan of museum items in the University’s history. The beautiful exhibition, open from 24 March to 17 December 2017, includes 400 exhibits, 11 models of ancient Egyptian temples and 22 media stations to take visitors on a journey along the Nile. Among the highlights are a 4,000 year-old wooden coffin of Nakht and the mummy of the lady Ta Cheru and a fine statue of the scribe Rahotep – all on loan from Aberdeen. There are also many fine items from German museums in Berlin, Hildesheim and Hamm, aided by Austrian logistics company MuseumPartners

The exhibition is held in the Lokschuppen exhibition centre in Rosenheim, near Munich. The building is a converted railway engine shed and has annual exhibitions, recently including ‘Rainforest’ and ‘Vikings!’, that regularly attract up to 200,000 visits making it one of the most important visitor attractions in Bavaria.

The opening started with a ‘Pharaoh concert’, attended by about a thousand people, by the combination of Quadro Nuevo and Cairo Steps. A busy media conference and media visits to the exhibition led to various reports in the local media, including Samerberger Nachrichten, Rosenheim24, Focus online, and Bayerische Rundfunk.

The exhibition is beautifully designed, with animated videos and the conserved Aberdeen objects very prominent. Bayerische Rundfunk have a good set of photos of the exhibition, including close-up photos of 11 of the Aberdeen objects. The mummy of Ta Cheru (Ta Khar) attracted the most attention, starting when it arrived in Rosenheim with a television report.


Rahotep and other statues

The logo for the exhibition is taken from the ‘eye panel’ inside the coffin of Nakht on loan from Aberdeen.

It is definitely worth visiting!

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CAT Scanning a Cat

New technology is offering museums ways of investigating their collections, including ways of doing things that previously would only have been possible by damaging or destroying the object. There have been some surprising discoveries, such as the British Museum and the Manchester Museum recently discovering that some of their animal mummies did not contain complete animals, or sometimes any animal at all!

Manchester Museum learned that around a third of their animal mummies don’t contain any animal material at all but were instead padded out with other organic material such as mud, sticks and reeds. This could be explained by the fact that a large market existed for mummified animals in Ancient Egypt including birds, cats and crocodiles.

ABDUA_22127.jpgThese animals were mummified for various reasons; household pets were buried with their owners but many were created as sacred offerings to the gods, who were often portrayed in animals forms such as the goddess Bastet who was shown as a cat. An entire industry existed which is thought to have produced more than 70 million animal mummies so it is not entirely surprising that not all of these mummies actually contain skeletal remains.

catSo the University of Aberdeen Museums staff wanted to find out what was inside a mummified cat from the collection and bring together an item from the internationally-significant museum collections with the University’s state-of-the-art equipment and world-leading expertise. Kevin Mackenzie from Microscopy and Histology at the institute of Medical Sciences was able to use a high resolution X-Ray Micro-CT system acquired by the University through a NERC Capital Equipment grant which is normally used for research on soils, rocks and life. For this project, we were able to CAT scan the cat!

Laura Perez-Pachon, a researcher in Anatomy created a photorealistic 3D model of its external surface. Laura uses the same type of photorealistic modelling for an exciting project that is currently running at the Anatomy Department. In this project Anatomists have teamed up with game software experts at Abertay University to create a new interactive 3D learning tool funded by the Roland Sutton Academic Trust and supervised by Dr Flora Gröning. Laura also created a 3D model of the cate skeleton from the scans and combined them with the 3D model to create a short video.

More information about the process can be seen in this video.


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Mistress of the House, Ta Khar, gets a makeover!

Conservation Assistant Hannah Clarke tells us about the recent conservation work done one one of the University Museums’ human mummies in preparation for travel to Germany:

‘In November, one of our oldest human mummies, known as the Mistress of the House, Ta Khar, was shipped to Jens Klocke in Hildesheim, a specialist in the conservation of Egyptian mummies and artefacts, in preparation for her upcoming loan to the Lokschuppen exhibition centre in Rosenheim, near Munich.

During Cons 2

Before Ta Khar could be sent to Jens, her linen wrappings and faience bead net needed to be stabilised so that she could be safely packed into her travelling crate. This work was carried out by the Museums Conservator, Caroline Dempsey, and myself, over a few days while the mummy was still in situ at the Museums Collections Centre.

The bead net had become tangled and the vegetable fibre threads had begun to perish, causing many losses of the beads and disfiguration of the original net design. Caroline and I used a technique suggested by Jens to gently pull the ends of the threads, in order to ease the beads back into position. We then secured them on to the body of the mummy using steel insect pins and small squares of Remy polyester fabric. This meant that the beads would be much more secure, which would allow Ta Khar to travel without any worry or further damage being caused.

While stabilising the bead net, we were surprised to find that many of the lost beads had fallen into her inner coffin, allowing us to collect them up and send them to Jens to be re-threaded into the net design! She was then carefully put into a specially made crate for her journey to Hildesheim and further conservation.


Ta Khar is recorded as being the daughter of someone called Tha en Meh. Previously she was thought to be Ptolemaic period (305 BC–30 BC), but research associated with her conservation now suggests that she lived in the 25th-26th Dynasty (700 – 600BC). During her time with Jens in Germany she has travelled to the St. Bernward Hospital, for CT Scanning as part of the Mummienforschungsprojekt (Mummy Research Project), at the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum, Hildesheim. The highly accurate scans have shown her to be a much younger lady than was initially believed, and the high quality of embalming shows that she was from the highest levels of the Egyptian aristocracy. It is now know that she has over 50 layers of linen wrappings, showing her wealth and status, which is something which is more usually associated with high status male mummification!

Jens has now been able to dry clean and consolidate the bead net, linen wrappings, and inner coffin of our Lady of the House, leaving her in a much better state of preservation for the future. Compare ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos!’

To find out more (in German) and to see the video of the scanning, click here.

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