Object Loans

Last week’s blog was all about some of the Museum Studies class’s visit to the Gordon Highlanders Museum to view objects for a potential loan. This was a really valuable experience and they enjoyed the opportunity to look around the museum collections. This week they will tell you all about the loan process!

‘Given the nature of our topic we were presented with a great opportunity to work with the Gordon Highlanders Museum. Specialising in the Military History of the Gordon Highlanders Regiment, they are a wonderful museum to have so close for an exhibition on the ‘Scottish Warrior’. Curator Ruth Duncan was happy to help us narrow down the best and most interesting objects she could find to enhance our display and themes.

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Taking measurement of the 20th-century uniform

The World Wars and Overseas Soldier groups worked together on the loan since our time periods overlap at the beginning of the 20th century. Firstly, we did some research using the Gordon Highlanders online catalogue to get a feel for what objects they had. We were specifically looking for a WWII gas mask and a 19th century uniform but instead we found a 20th century uniform with interesting medals from several different campaigns. Suitably, the uniform applies to the First World War, while the medals show how far Scottish soldiers had travelled overseas in the period leading up to the ‘Great War’.

Next, museum staff reached out to the Gordon Highlanders to formally arrange a viewing of the objects we had put on our wish list. The museum staff also helped us consolidate our list of potential objects and suggested some objects they thought would fit well with our themes. Then, as discussed on the last blog, we went to the museum and met with the curator of the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Ruth. After this it was up to us to come up with a final list to request for loan. Luckily, Ruth and the rest of the staff at Gordon Highlanders Museum were very obliging and we were allowed to borrow all the objects on our list.

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Looking at an embroidered kilt apron shown to us by Ruth

Loans between museums are important and beneficial as the sharing of resources can help build community relationships and allow collections to be seen and enjoyed by a much wider audience. As we want to work in the museum sector, it was interesting to be part of the loan process. This could only have happened with the cooperation of the Gordon Highlanders Museum – so thanks again to Ruth Duncan and also the University of Aberdeen Museums staff.

 

Stay tuned for more information on the ‘Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology’ and make sure to look out for our special objects in the exhibition!

#UoAScottishWarrior

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‘The Scottish Warrior’ at Gordon Highlanders Museum

Some students working on the upcoming exhibition at King’s Museum tell us about a trip to look at the collections at Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen:

‘At the end of March, Emily, Amanda, Miranda and Robert from the World War and Overseas Soldier groups had the chance to visit the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen to discuss a potential object loan for the upcoming exhibition on ‘The Scottish Warrior’. The museum explores the history of the Gordon Highlanders Regiment, active from 1794-1994.

We met with the museum’s curator and University of Aberdeen Museum studies alumna, Ruth Duncan, who showed us the objects we thought we might want to borrow. We enjoyed seeing the objects in person that we had been looking at through the museum’s online catalogue. Seeing these objects up close helped us with understanding them a bit more and appreciating how they will fit into the exhibition. Ruth was also on-hand to tell us more information about each of the objects in addition to some of the history of the museum itself and its collections.

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Emily, Robert and Miranda unpacking an embroidered kilt apron under Ruth’s supervision

We looked at a wide range of objects, from an officer’s dirk to a child’s gas mask, along with a soldier’s beautifully embroidered kilt apron. These measurement are important for the Object Team, who had been working on the case layouts. We have to make sure everything fits! Design team member, Miranda, noted that the size of a kilt we wished to be lent from the Gordon Highlander’s Museum might change one of case’s layouts.

After spending some time looking at the objects we were then given the task of deciding which ones to formally request to borrow from the Gordon Highlanders Museum. This was a difficult decision, as we had to make sure that the objects we have on loan are the ones that will best enhance the exhibition. It is also important that these objects help the exhibitions’ themes be better understood by visitors.

Given the topic of ‘The Scottish Warrior’, reaching out to the Gordon Highlanders Museum seemed like a no-brainer! Getting to be involved in organising a loan from another local museum has made the curating process even more exciting and provided us with a great experience of professional collaboration. We are very grateful for the positive responses we have gotten from Ruth and the Gordon Highlanders Museum. Make sure to have a look around Gordon Highlanders next time you are in Aberdeen as it is well worth a visit!

Our exhibition opens early next month so keep an eye on our blog for more information and behind the scenes looks at our exhibition process! #UoAScottishWarrior

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Museum Mounts Matter!

As their exhibition approaches, Museum Studies students have been learning more about the different ways to display objects and the many things to consider:

‘Object mounts are essential tools used to display objects and artefacts to their full potential when constructing exciting and engaging exhibitions. This can be achieved in many different ways and many variables must be taken into account. For example, a shiny black plinth will enhance a shiny bronze objects and a long flat object (like a sword) will be easier to see when lifted to an angle of 30 degrees. Images are also a great addition to displays as they can really enhance an object and give it new meaning. Here are some of the display challenged our sub-groups experienced when preparing for ‘The Scottish Warrior’.

Prehistoric Savages
Creating a display for the Prehistoric section proved to be difficult at times. Chronologically this is the first section a visitor will encounter in our exhibition, which puts a degree of pressure upon this display to be exciting and engaging in order to grab your attention! The Prehistoric segment has been split into two separate cases which flow into each other. These two cases are smaller than others in the museum and have been designed to be looked down into from above. Within one of our cases we have included a jadeite axe that was owned by an antiquarian during the nineteenth century. When looking through the object’s original records kept by the collector, we discovered a fantastic collection of photographs displaying the objects he owned, including the very same jadeite axe! This was a very exciting discovery for us as we will now be displaying the picture alongside the axe in the case.

Medieval Warrior

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Alanna and Melia measuring the space in King’s for the Claymore mount.

For the ‘Medieval Warrior’ topic we will be display a late-sixteenth-century Claymore sword. As it is far to big to display within the case, we have had to find a way for to be exhibited safely on open display. This has been achieved by creating a mount which allows it to be fastened to the window board next to the case. Another object that has required a special mount is a grave slab which features a carving of a sword. Initially we considered having this on open display alongside the Claymore, but the special mount ensured the case could support the weight and this has enabled us to display the slab alongside the other objects in the case.

Jacobites and the Highlands
In the ‘Jacobites and Highlands’ group we have decided that many of our objects are best display mounted to the back of our case .Luckily most of these objects, such as the targe and the pin cushion, have had mounts made specially for them in previous exhibitions. This means the mounts can conveniently be reused in our display to fix these objects to the back of our case. We will also have several objects in our case, including a sporran and carpet sample from Balmoral, which need to be propped up form the base so that visitors are able to see both objects clearly.

Overseas Soldier
One of the three objects in the ‘Overseas Soldier’ display that requires a mount is an African shield. The shield was originally planned to be mounted to the wall at an elevated position where it would be at eye-level for most adult visitors. Unfortunately, due to space being taken up by a world map and a soldier’s uniform, compromises had to be made. The shield will now require a mount that allows the artefact to stand at the bottom of the display case. The most important thing to consider is the angle at which the shield is tilted when held in the mount so that visitors can comfortably look at its surface without having to bend down to see the interesting parts.

World Wars
The ‘World Wars’ section of the exhibition is very fortunate to have a kilt on loan from the Gordon Highlanders Museum. As kilts are a strong symbol of Scottish heritage and worn with great pride we thought it was important to display this item to its fullest potential by mounting it on the back of our case. We needed to be able to show the pleats and movement of the kilt, as well as the little details of  burn marks from where the soldier who wore it had used a lit cigarette to burn away the live that plagued him. There is also mud visible on the kilt from the trenches of the Somme, to date still the bloodiest battle in human history.

The object selection team, and the entire ‘Scottish Warrior’ exhibition class, has had the opportunity to learn valuable information and skills regarding object mounting and object display from Melia Knecht, one of the museum staff. We would like to thank her for all of the knowledge and help she has given us as she moves on to an exciting new project in the wilds of Alaska! Thanks Melia!’

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Black Watch Blog

Our Museum Studies students tell us about a recent research trip to the Black Watch Museum for their exhibition:

‘In March a group of students visited the Black Watch Museum in Perth to meet with Hope Busak, the curator of the museum. A group of students interested  in the first half of the twentieth century, Amanda, Miranda, and Emily, were hoping to see some new ways to display and explore the World Wars in our upcoming exhibition. Jo, Kelcy, Leston, and Kalyn also tagged along to learn more!

amanda black watchHope took us on a tour of the museum, which details the history of the Black Watch regiment from its formation in 1739 to the present day. Hope and one of the volunteer guides told us some great stories about the Black Watch and Scottish warriors in general. This provided some great inspiration for our own exhibition and there was definitely some envy over one of the cases full of swords! Amanda, Miranda, and Emily particularly enjoyed the different and unique ways the museum displayed military medals and that the exhibition included a world map just like the one we would like to have in our exhibition!

We all enjoyed hearing about both sides of the Scottish warrior; the fearsome soldier and the humanitarians that gave food to Russian soldiers during the Crimean War. One of the stories Hope told us was of the first documented instance of “women and children first.” The Black Watch soldiers were on a ship with several of the wives and children when it hit some rocks and half the life boats were crushed. They evacuated the women and children while the men stood at attention on the deck as the ship sank. The Black Watch museum has two silver pitchers from the ship as one of the officer’s wives grabbed them and hid them in her dress as they evacuated. According to Hope, the Black Watch wouldn’t consider such as action theft – it was using her initiative!

We were also lucky enough to get a quick tour of their collection. Having all visited the University’s museum collection we enjoyed seeing another example of how collections are organised and stored. One piece of collections advice that we took from this was to check inside objects as you never know what you might find; the Black Watch staff had opened a military drum and discovered signatures from the soldiers inside!

Visiting the Black Watch was a great day trip and we got a whole host of ideas for our exhibition. Keep and eye on the blog for more trips and behind the scenes posts and check out #UoAScottishWarrior on social media for more!

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Interpreting ‘The Scottish Warrior’

Museum Studies students on the interpretation team tell us about their progress in writing interpretive panels for their upcoming exhibition ‘The Scottish Warrior’:

‘Welcome to our blog discussing what the interpretation and editing team have been up to while preparing for our exhibition ‘The Scottish Warrior’. It has been great fun working on the exhibition, however we have been faced with some challenges, the first being how we are going to approach the broad theme of the ‘Scottish Warrior.’ We knew we wanted to challenge preconceptions of the idea of the Scottish Warrior, but also complement Scotland’s year of History, Heritage and Archaeology (keep an eye out for a future blog about this!) Since deciding on this first step each of us have been working to research our time periods and gain a greater understanding of where the modern perceptions of the Scottish Warrior have originated, an eye-opening process for most of us!

Sophie is writing for the ‘Prehistory’ group and has found particular challenges with the complications surrounding the word ‘prehistory’, such as the vast amount of time and various cultures the word encompasses. Alanna has been interpreting the medieval period and has loved the research she’s been doing and learning more about this fascinating time in Scottish history. Kelcy has struggled with the limited word count as she writes about the Jacobites; there is just so much to tell! For the ‘overseas soldier’ team, Michael has been enjoying his research as he already had a keen interest in imperial Scots after writing his undergraduate dissertation on the union of 1707. As an American, Amanda has enjoyed learning and writing about the World Wars from a new perspective.

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Using our research and working closely with the rest of the team we have been working towards creating a narrative for the exhibition and considering what message we want our visitors to take away from the experience. This has been a learning curve as we try to employ different styles of writing than we are used to and has encouraged us to consider the importance of each objects and exactly what is bring to our interpretation of the ‘Scottish Warrior’. We have been collaborating with the entire class, especially the design and marketing team, to create the content for blogs and social media; this is really enjoyable as it provides a change of pace for us and allows us to provide a richer experience for our audience as you follow our journey!

Look out for our hashtag #UoAScottishWarrior for sneak peaks and behind-the-scenes on the blog and our other social media pages. ‘The Scottish Warrior’ will open 13th June in King’s Museum, we hope to see you there!’

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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.

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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.

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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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