Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Mummy Day Success

The Mummy Day Team, from left to right, Claire Gilmour, Gemma Kirkland, Samantha Sportun, Caroline Wilkinson and Lidija McKnight, and in front, Mark Hall, the Museum's History Officer.

On the 7th June the Museum hosted a gathering of experts and devotees to share the latest results on the Perth Museum Mummy. We called the day Ta-Kr-Hb Tales in honour of the Mummy and an enthusiastic audience listened to and questioned our five speakers on various aspects of the Mummy’s story. In the morning we heard from Lidija McKnight about the on-going analysis led by the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology at Manchester University (including updates on her condition and health), Claire Gilmour (Glasgow University and Egyptology Scotland) about the meanings of ancient Egyptian coffins and Gemma Kirkland (our MGS Intern) who has catalogued the Egyptology collection here at the Museum. In her capacity as President of Egyptology Scotland, Claire also presented the Museum with a cheque for £245 as a contribution to the Mummy fund-raising campaign. Before lunch we then had a session in front of the Mummy with the speakers so that the audience could ask further questions and share their enthusiasm. After lunch we heard a further two papers. The first was given by Samantha Sportun (Manchester Museum, University of Manchester) on the conservation context and challenges facing the Mummy and the second was a look at a key aspect of her future interpretation: a facial reconstruction. We were led through this by one of our foremost authorities on such facial anthropology, Caroline Wilkinson (Dundee University). The day concluded with a wide-ranging discussion and a final chance to see the Mummy before she goes back into storage until her conservation treatment has taken place.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Out of This World

Strathmore Meteorite, discovered 1917
An extraordinary find in our collection and easily the oldest object that we have in store, the Strathmore Meteorite is around 4.5 billion years old.
On December 3rd 1917, a meteor entered the atmosphere east of Dunbar and passed northwest over Fife and the Sidlaws Hills where it broke up in mid-air. Leaving a bright trail across the sky at around 1pm it’s no surprise that the meteor was witnessed by numerous people at the time.
Once the meteorite fragmented, four of the fragments were recovered along a ten kilometre line from Corston in Angus to Essendy in Perthshire. The largest weighed 9.9 kilograms (22 pounds).
The meteorite in our collection was the fragment found at South Corston Farm near Coupar Angus. It weighs one kilogram (2 pounds) However, although farm workers actually witnessed the meteor fall, it wasn’t until four days later that the meteorite was found in a 6 inch deep hole in the farmhouse lawn.

Monday, 14 April 2014

I've Never Seen That on Seseme Street

Moa Skeleton, Ben More, New Zealand
With a height of up to three metres, equivalent to the size of a set of traffic lights, the Moa were one of the tallest birds that ever lived. Originating from New Zealand, these birds thrived on the North and South Islands with no other mammals to contend with.

Unfortunately for the Moa, it was to fall victim to human interference and most species of Moa were hunted to extinction some 500 years ago. This was largely due to Polynesian settlers arriving in New Zealand about 1,000 years ago and hunting the Moa for meat. The bones of the Moa were also used as spear points, hooks and even ornaments. In addition to that the eggs of the Moa were also ideally used to carry water.
To a lesser extent the only other real predator of the Moa was the Haast Eagle. A rather vicious and extremely large species of eagle which thankfully no longer exists.

Our own specimen of a Moa is actually a cleverly constructed example from numerous Moa remains. It originates from Ben More on the South Island of New Zealand and was donated to the Perthshire Natural History Museum in 1888.
Though not currently on display it serves as a firm reminder that species extinction is by no means a modern phenomenon.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Join us for #MuseumWeek on Twitter

Perth Museum and Art Gallery joins institutions across Europe for open discussions on Twitter during the first ever #MuseumWeek, 24-30 March.

The microblogging service will launch the initiative to open up conversations between staff and museum visitors and supporters during a week of activities.
Participants are invited to join in using the #MuseumWeek hashtag, and various hashtags for themes that will change daily.
Perth Museum and Art Gallery will be participating throughout the week

Monday 24: #DayInTheLife: a conversation about the everyday workings of our museums,  Chat to Perth Museum and Art Gallery staff.

Tuesday 25: #MuseumMastermind: can you solve riddles about displays and collections? We will pose some questions throughout the day, can you solve the mysteries.

Wednesday 26: #MuseumMemories: share memories of your visits and your favourite specimens or exhibits from Perth Museum and Art Gallery.

Thursday 27: #BehindTheArt:  chat about the personality of the Museum. What lies behind the exhibits, history and architecture?

Friday 28: #AskTheCurator: what have you always wanted to know about natural history curation?

Saturday 29: #MuseumSelfies: share your selfies taken in museums. A chance to stamp your style on our specimens and exhibits.

Sunday 30: #GetCreative: recreate the story behind an exhibit or specimen in a single photo, or in 140 characters.

Historic Busking

Tam Daw's Horn
If ever out walking the streets or passing a park and overhear some fine music coming your way it might be worth stopping to take a look. As many will know, street performance is not a comparatively new concept and its history is really quite vast and colourful. One of our favourite examples of this comes from our own collection.

Thomas Christie of Kinross lived in Mill Street in Perth during the 19th century. Better known as Tam Daw to his friends and passers by he used to play on the streets of Kinross for the locals. In particular he would often spend time playing during market days or for the homecoming of newly married couples.

Tam Daw’s instrument of choice however was not the increasingly more common drum kit that springs up in all areas of Scotland, but instead was a horn. This rather elaborate looking instrument made Tam Daw popular amongst the locals not least for his theatrical personality. This is well noted in the words painted on the horn’s side:
“Notice: Any lady or gentleman. Pleased to give the horn player a piece of money it will be thankfully received T. Christie Bellman Kinross 1867.”

A rather lovely and well written message to pass on to the locals. Perhaps one that might just crop up again in the future of busking.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

A Step Through Time

Eubrontes Footprint
When first discovered in the Connecticut Valley in the early 19th century, these fossils, according to geologist Edward Hitchcock, were thought to have been left by giant birds.

However, rather than a somewhat tremendously oversized feathered friend, this particular specimen, donated to the Marshall Museum in Kinross in 1860, belongs to a dinosaur.
At just under 210mm long, the print signifies the owner being a kind of large two-legged carnivorous dinosaur. Certainly not one you’d like to stumble in to alone at night.

Due to its overwhelming stature and presence it’s no wonder that these creature’s  footprints are scientifically referred to as, ‘Eubrontes’ or ‘true thunder.’ Suddenly Jurassic Park is seemingly all too real…

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Not Your Average Tooth Ache

Megalodon Tooth
With the refurbishment of our museum galleries coming along nicely, we’ve had a great opportunity to get a closer look at some of our collections.

Perhaps one of our favourites from the Natural History collection is the rather frightening Pliocene shark’s tooth.

The extinct shark, Megalodon, was estimated to be 13 metres long (over twice the length of the average great white shark) and so, not surprisingly, was one of the world’s largest predators.

Megalodon teeth would vary greatly in size but this specimen, which is over 120mm long, makes it around three times larger than that of a great white sharks. Never mind Jaws, this is the real marauder of the sea.

Its sharp serrated teeth were probably used to attack seals and other marine mammals.

With the last Megalodon shark dying out some 1.5 million years ago, it makes it that bit easier to go near the ocean again.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Glass at the Museum

John, Limited (North British Glassworks) Paul Ysart
With the refurbishment really taking shape at the moment, we are all excited to be able to show our glass in the Rotunda exhibition hall. We have had a look through some of our collection, there is so much beauty to be shared.

Paul Ysart's work remained relatively anonymous until 1955 when he came into contact with Paul Jokelson, President of the Paperweight Collectors' Association. Jokelson marketed Paul Ysart's weights in the USA. All those weights produced for the American market had a 'PY' cane to identify them. Paul Jokelson promoted the virtues of fine antique and modern weights alike. Paul Ysart's works were promoted both for their immediate delight and as 'antiques of the future'. One collector wrote that "the perfection of Ysart's work is evident and a joy to possess".
Caithness Glass Paperweight - Paul Ysart
Lampwork derives its name from an oil-fuelled lamp used in the 19th century by glassworkers, who used metal tweezers to manipulate coloured glass over a lamp. Nowadays coloured rods of glass are shaped into a representational subject over the heat of a gas burner or torch. The intricate craft of lampworking requires simple equipment and no working assistance, and therefore offered Paul Ysart autonomy. The task of creating his own intricate millefiori and filigree canes must have also proved rewarding. Both provided a break from the conformity of the factory floor where industrial glass was blown.

Strathearn Glass Paperweight
The design of weaving, coloured fronds was contained within a drop shaped weight. It was originally produced in four colours: yellow, red, blue and green. This type of weight is often called 'seaweed'. There is a Strathearn label on the base. In 1965 the Strathearn Glass factory opened in Crieff, Perthshire. Strathearn was the first glassworks in Europe to fire its furnaces with propane gas. It made vases, bowls, paperweights and lamps in the Vasart style, often with a raised pontil bearing an impressed seal of a leaping salmon.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Introduction to A Picture of a Celt

Curator Amy Waugh introduces the exhibition JD Fergusson : Picture of a Celt. Fergusson was a prominent figure in the Scottish Colourists school of painting, and was widely considered as an influential figure in modern British painting in the early 20th Century.
JD Fergusson : Picture of a Celt is on at the Fergusson Gallery, Perth, until the 15th June, 2014.
A partnership between the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh and The Fergusson Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council.

Trams in Perth

Busy street scene with horse-drawn carts and tram,
on the corner of South Methven Street and High Street,
Perth, about 1890
With the last Dundee tram discovered as summer house in Perth garden, we thought we would look through our photographic collections for photos of the bygone age of trams in the street of Perth.

The first horse drawn buses arrived in Scone during the second half of the 19th century. Using two or three horses, they worked between Scone and Cherrybank, Perth. They were taken over by the Perth and District Tramways Company in the 1890's.

In October 1903 the horse tramways of the Perth and District Tramways were taken over by Perth Corporation with the main route running from Scone to Cherrybank and with branches to Craigie and to Dunkeld Road. The depot was beyond the terminus at Scone. The tramway closed on 19 January 1929 and was
South Methven Street, Perth, about 1904
replaced by bus services.

On the second photograph we are looking down South Methven Street with County Place on the left and South Street on the right. The Central Bar, selling Allsopp's Real Ale, stands on the right. In spite of the tram lines running beneath their feet, children crowd the centre of the road in an era when traffic ran at a slower pace than today.

The negative for the second photo was originally acquired by Wood and Sons, Printers, Perth, with a view to producing postcards. Wood and Son were first established in the High Street, Perth, in 1830. They moved to Mill Street, Perth, about 1900 and then to Glover Street, Perth in 2000.