I want to let you all know a little bit about the exhibition and a couple of things you can do to experience the displays in full. You may notice, in the above image, that there are QR codes in the artworks. Once scanned they allow you to hear a recording of the story that inspired the work. There are also QR codes throughout the exhibition which link to tutorials and films, that I hope will make the exhibition more enjoyable for you. If you want to use these codes just bring your smart phone with a QR scanner downloaded from the App Store or Google Play (they are free to download).
If you don't do technology that it fine, all of the displays are set us to allow you to still see the exhibition in full. However, if you have children there is a free game which involves your children finding the Museum's hidden artefacts in the artworks. You can either download the game below or ask at reception for your copy.
Finally here is a film that I made to share the project with you and let you know some of the background. I hope to see you over the next couple of weeks.
I spent Friday in the excellent company of Robin Goodfellow who is one of the Museum's Trustees. Robin has been a huge source of information and help throughout the project and I always feel very privileged, not only be allowed access to the museum's artefacts, but also to be able to have such an expert on hand.
We have been moving things around in preparation for the exhibition and during one of the visits to the Museum's store room I was struck by an arrangement halfway up the wall, which I wanted to share with you.
At this point we were joined by another of the Museum's tireless Trustees, Phil Wookey. Both Phil and Robin are academics who worked for local Universities before retirement which has been very useful for discussing the chemical reactions involved in making iron gall ink but they are just as happy discussing fixings or display cases. However, whilst lifting a very heavy display case down the stairs we were treated to a wry comment from Phil, which had me smiling for days;
'As an academic you move a lot of furniture'.
I wanted to share the process of my work with you so I thought a short film might make it more interesting - enjoy!
I spent a fascinating day yesterday visiting the Somerset Heritage Centre to view the Royal Charters that they hold for Axbridge Museum. The staff where extremely helpful and didn't mind unpacking the charters for me (I was terrified I would damage something).
It may be wise to remain impartial when it comes to Kings and Queens as I think that favouritism would be unwise, but I think it is fair to say that Elizabeth I (1558 - 1603) knew how to produce a very impressive charter.
The Charter was a lot bigger that the others and was heavily decorated with drawing of fruit, trees, and animals. You can also make out the portrait of the Elizabeth that is positioned within the E of her name (shown above). I cannot tell you how much skill the artists displayed in the creation of this manuscript. I understand from the Heritage Centre Staff that pencil drawings were permitted prior to inking over the work, but there are no mistakes and the calligraphy is breathtaking.
I have also included a close up of the royal coat of arms featuring the the words 'Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense'. These words are still featured on the royal coat of arms and are the motto of the order of the garter - I have done some research and can tell you this is written in old french and means 'shamed be (the person) who thinks evil of it' although there seem to be several slight variations on the translation but they all mean the same.
If you want to see a modern version look on the front of your passport!
I am scratching my head a little over the corrosion that oak gall ink causes to paper. I have already mentioned the metaphor between the document being a container of memories and the subsequent damage being similar to forgetting. However, what I am really struggling with is - how I can damage paper in a few weeks to speed up corrosion that took hundreds of years - it might be a long day!
One of the difficulties with the Museum is accessibility, both physically, as the Museum has very narrow stairs and uneven floors and practically, as the documents need to be stored away to preserve them. One of my main objectives for this project was to address these issues which is the main reason for creating this website so we can share the Museum and it's artefacts with a much wider audience.
I have now started working with John Page to make a series of recordings which will increase engagement to the collection, and are really easy to listen to. All the recordings can be found under the resources tab and I am hoping you will find them as enjoyable as I do.
Press on the orange button and give it a second to start.
Just a note: you will need an up to date browser to hear the recordings.
John very kindly invited me to look at some of the old manuscripts he had collected from the Taunton Records Office last week, which was a real treat.
There are many beautiful scripts to look at but one had a series of fine drawings illustrating the text. However, try as I might I couldn't work out what the strange plant, shown above was. As usual John was full of information and told me that the document was a Royal Charter issued by Queen Mary and King Philip II. The strange plant is a pomegranate which was used to illustrate King Phillip II links to Spain.
All of this got me thinking about some of the research I have been doing into ink making. Historically pomegranate was used to make ink for manuscripts, I believe the British Museum has several examples. However, I would think pomegranate was hard to come by so whether any of the Axbridge Museum documents are made using pomegranate ink, I am afraid I do not know. But, I did think that in honour of King Phillip of Spain sending his charter to Axbridge I should try making a batch, and see how it compares to the more traditional inks - I will let you know how that goes.
I am starting a shopping list of the things I need to buy and the people I need to speak to about some of the traditional crafts on display in the Museum. On my journey through the artefacts I keep looking at this slate fragment held in the Victorian School Room display. Knowing a bit more about the museums archives I suspect there may be documents that relate to William and his life after he left the school, we might even find an entry in the Workhouse records - but I hope not.
It is going to be fascinating for me to research the traditional crafts used to create many of the written words held by the museum, but I think it will be as interesting to look at the stories contained, even on a fragment of slate.
Item 1 on my shopping list is slate - so I am off to the reclamation yard
I am really beginning to see the museum in a different way. Previously I think I was guilty of visiting a museum and seeing it as being filled with interesting artefacts from someone else's pasts. However, as I am now going to Axbridge Museum looking to create a body of work I am looking at the artefacts as a craftsperson. As such, I am seeing a huge collection of traditional crafts, most of which I have no idea how to recreate, but some of which could be very relevant for this work.
Without sounding too conceited I can make stained glass panels (long story) but I have no idea how to paint and fire glass. Let alone how it was done in the 15th Century, as pictured above. I do know, because John Page has told me, that glass was very expensive so to risk it breaking during firing must have been extremely risky.
Perhaps finding more out about these ancient crafts might help me develop my own work?
I wanted to take a bit of your time to introduce you to the Museum which, interestingly goes by a couple of different names; Axbridge and District Museum and King John's Hunting Lodge. I am reliably informed by the Museums experts that the building has no actual links to King John but I did want to share a few images of the building which, King or not, is still worthy of a visit.
The work created for the Muse project will remain in the Museum until 31st October and can be seen from 1pm-4pm daily.
Andrea Oke is a Somerset based artist who is fascinated by human behaviour and its links to memory. For more information please to to my website