On Placement at Discovery Museum – guest post by placement student Gemma Ashby

My name is Gemma Ashby and I have just completed a work placement at the Discovery Museum. I am currently a postgraduate student at Newcastle University, working towards my MA in Museum Studies, which I will graduate from in December this year.

I’ve been working at Discovery Museum for the last seven weeks and it’s fair to say I’ve had an amazing experience whilst I’ve been here, and the time seems to have flown by. I have learnt an incredible amount and thought it would be good to share some of those things, as well as some of the often understated work Discovery Museum is undertaking at the moment.

I have been working predominantly with the Keeper of Contemporary Collecting and it’s been so interesting to see what kind of things the museum is collecting in order to represent our current time, in the future. It’s great to think about what museum staff in the future will make of things that we take for granted as being commonplace now. That’s why you’ll find everything from Dominos pizza boxes to Elsa dolls from Frozen, as well as items like protest placards used in marches across Newcastle, within the collections now.

Singalong Elsa doll, TWCMS: 2015.2043

Singalong Elsa doll, (TWCMS: 2015.2043)

Newcastle Protest placard (TWCMS: 2017.277)

Newcastle Protest placard (TWCMS: 2017.277)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right now, it’s a very exciting time for the future of Discovery Museum. While I’ve been here on placement, it was announced that the museum has received Esmee Fairbairn funding, allowing it to create a women’s collection and festival of events, exploring issues of gender inequality and revealing women within the largely industrial and technological collections. Part of my placement has involved me finding and researching objects pertaining to women within Discovery’s collections that otherwise may not have been brought out of the stores. Keep your eyes peeled for further information on the exhibition and events that will come from the project in the next year – it’s set to be great!

Some of the objects I’ve been looking at:

Bus conductress (TWCMS: 2000.5151)

Bus conductress (TWCMS: 2000.5151)

1860s corset (TWCMS: G1054)

1860s corset (TWCMS: G1054)

WWII poster encouraging women to ‘Join the Wrens’ – the Women’s Royal Navy Service (TWCMS: 2015.1524)

WWII poster encouraging women to ‘Join the Wrens’ – the Women’s Royal Navy Service (TWCMS: 2015.1524)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From January onwards, Discovery Museum has been creating a temporary display, the ‘intervention’ wall, based in the main Turbinia Hall on the ground floor. The initial display focused on the topic of the Newcastle Protest in response to Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ and asked visitors who was welcome in Newcastle. During my time here I’ve been able to work on the production of some evaluative material on the display, addressing all of the responses left by visitors. It’s been great to see just how many people engaged with the museum on this topic (both in person and online) and to think about how many conversations may have potentially been started by one simple question.

Newcastle Protest installation, Discovery Museum

Newcastle Protest installation, Discovery Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discovery followed this up with an display regarding International Women’s Day and the topic of gender equality. Again, visitors were encouraged to answer questions about what the world would be like if men and women were completely equal. Currently, the intervention wall features a display based on the global issue of displacement, which tied into the If You Lived Here… events programme at Discovery which involved a UNHCR shelter being placed on Discovery Plaza. The installation asks visitors what they would pack into a bag to survive should they need to flee their home. If you’re planning on visiting Discovery anytime soon, definitely make sure to visit the installation and leave your thoughts.

Who Runs The World intervention wall

Gender equality intervention wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If You Lived Here, Discovery Museum

If You Lived Here, Discovery Museum

I think it’s very interesting to see how Discovery Museum is interpreting its place within current society and ensuring it continues to be relevant by representing its diverse audiences. I’d love to know if anyone had any opinions on what they believe museums should be displaying and what kind of work they should carry out?

Overall, I’ve learnt a lot in the last seven weeks: from accessioning placards from the Newcastle Protest into the collection, to researching some of the most incredible female scientists and engineers from across the UK for upcoming learning programmes. I’ve learnt how easy it is to get lost in the basement and attic stores of the museum and how many weird and wonderful things there are in them. I’ve got to see how hard staff work to continue to be able to deliver their projects and events, and how much planning it takes to make these successful.

Above all, I’ve learnt why it’s important that Discovery Museum keeps on doing what it’s doing, because it has so many incredible things happening and is pioneering big ideas right here in the North East.

Would you Adam and Eve it!

The Shipley Art Gallery is currently celebrating its centenary and as part of the Centenary Exhibition some of the star objects have been displayed.

I was asked to examine the painting by Joachim Wtewael called The Temptation of Adam and Eve. It was interesting to do a bit of research and and use my conservation knowledge to do something other than treat a painting. Here is what I found out.

About the artist

Wtewael was born in Utrecht and was trained there by Joos de Beer. He then spent four years in Italy and France, returning to Utrecht in about 1590. He remained active there until his death, becoming a wealthy flax merchant as well as a famous painter. He was first introduced to the Mannerist style at the court of Fontainebleau in France, and, like other Haarlem artists, was influenced by Bartolomeus Spranger, a native of Antwerp who had become court painter to Emperor Rudolf II in Prague.

G1184 the temptation of Adam and Eve) full front in reflected light

G1184 The Temptation of Adam and Eve, full front in reflected light

 

This painting is of the same subject entitled Fall of man’ by Bartomeus Spranger who was Wtewael's tutor.This painting is of the same subject entitled Fall of Man by Bartomeus Spranger who was Wtewael’s tutor.

Wtewael was one of the main exponents of the Mannerist style in Holland in the early 17th century. He remained largely unaffected by the new naturalism of Caravaggio and his followers were introduced to the north by artists like Ter Brugghen; Wtewael’s work did, however, include a number of portraits.[1]

Mannerism in the North[2]

The style of painting and drawing practised by artists in Northern Europe during the early part of the 16th century (ca. 1500–1530) has come to be known as Mannerism. Distinct from the Mannerist period in Italy, which began slightly later and lasted until the 17th century, Northern Mannerism in the early 16th century is characterised by unique stylistic and thematic traits, a number of which derive from late Gothic art. Although many of the early 16th century Mannerists were based in Antwerp, where the movement was most clearly defined, other centres in France, Germany, and the southern and northern Netherlands (i.e., present-day Belgium and Holland, respectively) were important for the transmission and divergence of the style.

Antwerp’s central place in this movement, which has led to the creation of the sub-term “Antwerp Mannerism,” can be linked to its emergence as the economic capital of Northern Europe at the beginning of the 16th century. Bolstered by its rich trade and cultural contacts, the port city of Antwerp attracted hundreds of artists, many of them from northern France, the Rhineland, and especially Holland who joined the local painters’ Guild of Saint Luke, established large painting and sculpture workshops, and fed an expanding market for the production and export of art. Though stylistic traits differed from artist to artist, some defining features of Antwerp Mannerist painting are dramatic gestures and figural arrangements: lavish costumes; vivid, sometimes abrasive colouristic effects; imaginative architecture that freely combines Gothic and Renaissance elements; and demonstrative technical virtuosity.

As a movement, this branch of Northern Mannerism was relatively short-lived, dying out by the fourth decade of the 1500s, but it was echoed in some of the trends explored by Netherlandish artists around the turn of the following century.

Material in the 16th  century

Canvas

Secondary support (stretcher) • The canvas is attached to a large Square (bute) jointed stretcher with a solid horizontal crossbar and a two-part vertical crossbar. This is unlikely to be original to the painting as expanding stretchers as canvas supports were not used before the 18th c • All of the keys are present and tied in. • The stretcher has been expanded by about 4 mm on each corner • It’s in good condition with only a slight bowing on the two verticals. • There are two exhibition labels attached to the stretcher bars one for the Royal Academy in London for the winter exhibition of 1962 and another one for the Graves Art Gallery Sheffield for an exhibition of Dutch masterpieces in 1956 • On the back board there is a second exhibition label from the National Gallery for an exhibition called Paradise which was more recent. • The Shipley Art Gallery is chalked on the central bar with what is possibly an old accession number 485 (also written on the frame.) Canvas • The original canvas is a medium weave which has been lined on to a fine close weave canvas with a wax resin lining. • None of the original turnover edges remain. • There is considerable bleed through in patches on the back of the lined canvas indicating that it was hand lined. See photo • There are splash marks on the back of canvas on the left-hand side. • There are dark spots on the back of the canvas particularly noticeable in the lower section indicating that the canvas has probably been damp at some points with possible mould growth. • There is a small repair visible on the back of the canvas in the top right hand quadrant which corresponds to a slight indent on the front of the painting. • The canvas is attached to the stretcher with rusted iron tacks and brown gummed tape.

Secondary support (stretcher) • The canvas is attached to a large Square (bute) jointed stretcher with a solid horizontal crossbar and a two-part vertical crossbar. This is unlikely to be original to the painting as expanding stretchers as canvas supports were not used before the 18th c • All of the keys are present and tied in • The stretcher has been expanded by about 4 mm on each corner • It’s in good condition with only a slight bowing on the two verticals • There are two exhibition labels attached to the stretcher bars one for the Royal Academy in London for the winter exhibition of 1962 and another one for the Graves Art Gallery Sheffield for an exhibition of Dutch masterpieces in 1956 • On the back board there is a second exhibition label from the National Gallery for an exhibition called Paradise which was more recent • The Shipley Art Gallery is chalked on the central bar with what is possibly an old accession number 485 (also written on the frame) Canvas • The original canvas is a medium weave which has been lined on to a fine close weave canvas with a wax resin lining • None of the original turnover edges remain • There is considerable bleed through in patches on the back of the lined canvas indicating that it was hand lined. See photo • There are splash marks on the back of canvas on the left-hand side • There are dark spots on the back of the canvas particularly noticeable in the lower section indicating that the canvas has probably been damp at some points with possible mould growth • There is a small repair visible on the back of the canvas in the top right hand quadrant which corresponds to a slight indent on the front of the painting • The canvas is attached to the stretcher with rusted iron tacks and brown gummed tape.

Wtewael has used a large canvas for this painting. It was however more usual to use wooden panels as a support in northern art. As a flax seller, he would be more open to the use of linen as a support as linen is made of spun flax.

Canvas took over from panel in Italy by the first half of the 16th century, a change led by Mantegna and the artists of Venice (which made the finest canvas at this point, for sails). In the Netherlands the change took about a century longer, and panel paintings remained common. One of the most outstanding differences between modern painting techniques and those of the Flemish and Dutch Masters is in the preparation of the canvas. “Modern” techniques take advantage of both the canvas texture as well as those of the paint itself. Renaissance masters took extreme measures to ensure that none of the texture of the canvas came through. This required a painstaking, months-long process of layering the raw canvas with (usually) lead-white paint, then polishing the surface, and then repeating.[5] The final product had little resemblance to fabric, but instead had a glossy, enamel-like finish.

Ground layers

Traditionally, the canvas was coated with a layer of animal glue (modern painters will use rabbit skin glue) as the size and primed with lead white paint, sometimes with added chalk. Panels were prepared with a gesso, a mixture of glue and chalk.

Ground

Ground is a coating material applied to a support, such as canvas or panel, to make it ready for painting. Grounding, or priming as it is also called today, must produce a smooth surface that can be easily painted upon. It must be hard but not brittle (which causes cracking) and it must be porous enough to allow the oil paint to adhere permanently but not too absorbent as to suck out the oil from the layers of oil paint and cause it to detach. If oil paint is applied directly to canvas with no ground, paint soaks into and spreads on the support. Furthermore, the fabrics of the support is eroded by the acid of oil. Painters generally first sealed the canvas before grounding with a layer of animal skin glue or casein called “size.”

Dutch painters generally used the double ground, a ground prepared with two different layers material. Double grounds spread from the northern Netherlands and Flanders to France, England and Scandinavia. In the Netherlands they were more frequent in Utrecht and Amsterdam than in Haarlem, where they never caught on, and light or whitish grounds remained popular much longer. The pigmentation of lower grounds varied, even within the oeuvre of a single painter. Double grounds in the northern Netherlands often consisted of chalk or ochre (red or yellow) which were subsequently covered with a thin coat of light grey producing the so-called Raleigh scattering effect. Artists sometimes scraped up the residue paint that deposited at the bottom of the receptacle which held turpentine for cleaning brushes to use as a cheap alternative to more costly pigments.

If you look closely at the chest of adam you can just make out the greenish grey under painting in the shadowed areas

If you look closely at the chest of Adam you can just make out the greenish grey under painting in the shadowed areas

Mediums

Traditionally, artists mixed their own paints from raw pigments that they often ground themselves and a medium.

Early Netherlandish painting in the 15th century was the first to make oil the usual painting medium, and explore the use of layers and glazes, followed by the rest of Northern Europe, and only then Italy.

Pigments in the 17th c[3]

Some pigments were natural minerals: the expensive blues, ultramarine and azurite, green malachite, and the relatively cheap red and yellow earths and chalk. Lead white, red lead and Verdigris had been manufactured since Classical times. Montpellier was renowned for the production of Verdigris and good vermilion was made in Antwerp. The manufacture of lead-tin yellow (‘type I’) was linked with the production of ceramic glazes and that of smalt with the glass industry;

Rembrandt used lead white in flesh tones, white cuffs, and collars and lead tin yellow in highlights.

Dutch vermilion, produced by the direct combination of mercury and sulphur with heat followed by sublimation, was highly developed in the time of Rembrandt. He typically preferred to use bright red ochre heightened by the addition of red lake rather than vermilion, which he used only occasionally.

The lake pigments (produced from textile dyes fixed to a precipitate formed with alum and potash or to a chalk substrate) typically used in oil painting to produce effects of richness and depth over opaque under layers, were rarely used for this purpose by Rembrandt, who typically mixed lakes directly with other pigments to enrich their colour.

Ochre’s stability, range of colour, and range of translucency to opacity suited Rembrandt’s purposes well and therefore tended to predominate in most of his paintings. In addition to iron oxide, umber contains black manganese dioxide that has a siccative effect on linseed oil. Therefore, they were added by Rembrandt to the ground layers to promote faster drying.

Vandyke brown was often used by Rembrandt for his initial monochromatic sketching of a composition and for deep brown background glazes. It is a very poor dryer, hence Rembrandt always mixed it with other earth pigments to avoid this defect.

Smalt was popular because of its low cost. Its manufacture became a specialty of the Dutch and Flemish in the 17th century. Smalt is a very good dryer and was used by Rembrandt for this purpose and also to give bulk to thick glazes containing lake pigments, which are poor dryers.

Verditer, a synthetic azurite, was available in the 17th century and has been found in some of Rembrandt’s paintings. Azurite appears more frequently in Rembrandt’s early work. In the later pictures, Rembrandt used smalt for blues. Azurite is a good dryer because it contains copper that has a siccative effect on linseed oil. Rembrandt therefore often added azurite to pigments that were poor dryers.

Bone black is considered the deepest black of all and was used extensively by Rembrandt in the sketchy under layers of his paintings and for the deep black of the costumes worn by his sitters.

Rembrandt used carbon black primarily as a grey tinting pigment in the upper ground layer on his canvas paintings, which occasionally can be visible as the cool half tones in flesh areas.

Chart of Pigments and their availability

Note almost half of the pigments that we use today are unavailable until the beginning of the 18th century.

Above taken from-/thebookandpapergathering.org/2014/07/03/review-making-and-colouring-the-medieval-book-a-lecture-by-dr-brian-h-davies-bsc-phd-cchem-frsc-presented-at-the-freemasons-hall-london-25-march-2014/

Above taken from-/thebookandpapergathering.org/2014/07/03/review-making-and-colouring-the-medieval-book-a-lecture-by-dr-brian-h-davies-bsc-phd-cchem-frsc-presented-at-the-freemasons-hall-london-25-march-2014/

 

Painting Techniques

Most traditional grounds were coloured. Painters were aware that the tone of the ground strongly influences the perception of the tone and hue of the pigments which were applied over it. Thus, the final overall tone of the picture was effected, especially in the shadows where thin layers of transparent paint were generally used. Dark toned canvases greatly aid the rendering of the depiction of shadows but require repeated layers of light-coloured paint to represent the illuminated areas, which unfortunately may alter in time due to the fact that the transparency of some paints, including white-lead which was often used in light passages, augments in time (it becomes see through as it ages).

Dead-colour (dood-verf)[5]

Dead-colour (in Dutch dood-verf), which is the equivalent of today’s term “underpainting,” is a more or less monochrome version of the final painting intended to give volume, suggest substance to form, fix the composition and distribute darks and lights with a good degree of accuracy. The lack of colour used in the term “dead-colour” probably explains the word “dead.” In the 17th century, dead-colouring appears in various forms.

Dead-colouring was once so important in the painting process that it was mandatory in early days of Flemish painting. In 1546, one of the Hertogenbosch guild rules states, “7. item. All painters will be bound to work with good paints, and they will not make any paintings than on good dry oak planks or wainscot, being each colour first dead-coloured and this on a double ground…”

It was not uncommon in the busier 17th century studios that assistants worked up numbers of paintings to the dead-colouring stage that only needed to be finished by the master. Maintaining an abundant stock of images on spec may have been a expedient to entice prospective buyers.

here we have a photo taken in Infra Red this allows us to look through some of the thin paint layers to see the under painting. you can see how the painting is modeled in quite a lot of detail before adding colour.

Here we have a photo taken in Infra Red this allows us to look through some of the thin paint layers to see the under painting. You can see how the painting is modelled in quite a lot of detail before adding colour.

In this painting we can see examples of this painting technique so common in the 17th century called  ‘The Turbid medium effect. The turbid medium effect in nature can be readily observed when veins close to the skin take on a blue cast. Painters replicate this effect by superimposing a thin (translucent) light layer of paint over a darker one: the layer above appears much cooler than it would have appeared had it been painted over a lighter layer of paint. Light blues skies are particularly airy if the painters superimposes a light blue mixture of paint over tan or light brown ground. The turbid medium effect is greatly amplified if the dark tone underneath is a warm brown such as the priming colour of this canvas. This technique was used extensively in the Dutch golden age of painting to create the cool half tones of human flesh by first modelling the darker shadows in dark browns, mostly umbers. The lighter flesh tone (usually mixture of lead-white and small amounts of vermilion and/or yellow ochre) was applied adjacent to the shadows and then drawn over with a light brush with great finesse tapering off gradually over the darker shadow to indicate the turning of the underlying form. This technique, extraordinarily difficult to master, creates a subtle pearlescent tone. The fresher the paint application, the more pronounced and natural is the result. Repeated stirring and mixing of the paint destroys the effect almost immediately.

here is a close up of eves arm you can see the thin layer of pail paint has been pulled over the highlights of the shaded arm, making the warm under paint become much cooler in tone.

In this close up of Eve’s arm, you can see the thin layer of pale paint has been pulled over the highlights of the shaded arm, making the warm under paint become much cooler in tone.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canvas

[2] Jacob Wisse Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/nman/hd_nman.htm

[3] http://www.webexhibits.org/pigments/intro/renaissance.html Rembrandt (1606-1669); the Dutch Golden Age palette

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canvas

[5] http://www.essentialvermeer.com/glossary/glossary_d_i.html#.WIjV0FOLSUk Taken from – http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/joachim-wtewael

 

 

Horse’s head

A horse's skull under excavation at South Shields Roman Fort

A horse’s skull under excavation at South Shields Roman Fort

As part of the Hadrian’s Cavalry exhibition here at Arbeia we have a display of photographs of items from our collection showing images of horses. The most intriguing shows a Roman horse skull under excavation. The skull was found a couple of years ago, in the ditch outside the fort. It is of a male horse which was over 30 years old when it died, so it must have been well-looked after to have lived so long. It had further life after death – there was no lower jaw present, which suggests it was probably put in the ditch as a skull without any flesh on it. The skull might have previously been on display somewhere, or it might have been important to have a skull rather than a horse’s head for whatever ritual required it to be carefully placed upright and across the base of the ditch. But what exactly was that ritual? No-one knows – and such is archaeology, no-one will ever know again.

 

Worshipping Mithras in the Roman Empire. A guest post by Flora M. Kirk

My name is Flora Kirk. I am an Ancient Studies undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (USA). I have been on a Roman Society placement at the Great North Museum: Hancock for the past few weeks. I hope you enjoy my blog!

The Romans were not limited to the Greek pantheon in their worship, especially during the Empire. The imperial era saw an influx of eastern gods enter Roman daily life, including the Greco-Egyptian Serapis, and the introduction of the Syrian Sol Invictus under Elagabalus. However, while these deities had a fairly popular following, they do not compare to the cult that sprung up around the Persian creator god/sun-god, Mithras.

By the beginning of the 2nd century Mithras’ influence spread rapidly throughout the empire. Evidence of his following has been found from Dura Europa in the East, to Hadrian’s Wall in the West. His age is a matter of debate, though historians have identified gods as old as 1500 BC that could be early forms. Regardless, archaeological evidence tells us Mithraism began in Rome around AD 98-99 and stayed until the end of the fourth century. It was a male-only cult that particularly attracted the military. Mithras had all the qualities of a good soldier and his cult involved strict discipline. He was also popular among merchants, who worshipped him as a god of Contract and Truth. In fact, his followers were known as syndexioi, those “united by the handshake”; in the Persian tradition, an agreement sealed with shaking right hands was legally contractual.

Reconstructed Mithras Tauroctony scene.

Reconstructed Mithras Tauroctony scene.

Because Mithraism was a mystery religion, much of their rituals and beliefs have been lost in history. However, archaeological finds have been able to fill in some of the gaps. The most informative finds have usually been found in recovered temples to Mithras, known as Mithraea (singular mithraeum). Usually underground, they were either an adapted natural cavern, or a building imitating a cave; when possible, the Mithraeum was constructed within or below an existing building. The room was long and narrow with benches on either side. At the back was a recess, where a pedestal alter would be. This apse is where archaeologists have found several depictions of Mithras. He is usually shown wearing a red Phrygian cap and cape, sometimes with a halo of sun rays. He is most often depicted in the processes of sacrificing a bull, known as ‘tauroctony’. No one knows the true meaning of the tauroctony, except that it is usually accompanied with moon and stars, signalling an astrological connotation.

Reconstruction of the Mithraeum at Carrawburgh on Hadrian's Wall.

Reconstruction of the Mithraeum at Carrawburgh on Hadrian’s Wall.

Several mithraea have been found in forts along Hadrian’s Wall, including Rudchester, Housesteads, and Carrawburgh, demonstrating the importance of Mithras to the garrisons. These shrines have yielded artefacts revealing how Mithras was worshipped in the North, several of which are on display in the Great North Museum: Hancock today. Carrawburgh Mithraeum is a particularly bountiful site, as it was flooded by an encroaching bog. The oxygen-lacking environment preserved the organic remains left in the abandoned temple, including a bowl of Mediterranean pine-cones, and wattle-and-daub seats. The origin of the pine-cones indicates that they had been brought over specifically for rituals.

A selection of Carrawburgh finds are on display. These include a portion of the wattle and daub, made by a woven lattice of wooden strips being daubed with a sticky material (usually made of some combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw). Below is an iron shovel which would have been used by Lion-grade members to tend the sacred flame.

A selection of Carrawburgh finds are on display. These include a portion of the wattle and daub, made by a woven lattice of wooden strips being daubed with a sticky material (usually made of some combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw). Below is an iron shovel which would have been used by Lion-grade members to tend the sacred flame.

Also found in Carrawburgh, a Samian ware moratorium decorated with lions might tells us that the soldiers also followed the Mithraic degrees of initiation. The levels were as such, in ascending order: Raven, Bridegroom, Soldier, Lion, Persian, Sun-runner, and Father. As this was a mystery cult passed orally, not much is known of the degrees, except that they are mentioned on inscriptions outside mithraea and sometimes appear in decorations.

Samian ware moratorium decorated with a lion motif. Most likely used in ritual libations by members of the Lion class.

Samian ware moratorium decorated with a lion motif. Most likely used in ritual libations by members of the Lion class.

While Mithras is usually depicted in the tauroctony, Housesteads’ mithraeum displayed a more unusual image: Mithras being born out of the cosmic egg. It shows Mithras emerging from an egg, rising naked from the lower part of an eggshell while the upper half of the shell caps his head; surrounding him is an egg-shaped zodiac representing the cosmos. Several elements make the sculpture unique. First, in birth scenes, Mithras usually springs from a rock. The egg-birth and surrounding signs of the zodiac show that at Housesteads he has been fused with other gods: the Orphic Phanes, born from an egg as first ruler and creator of all, and Aion, god of time, usually depicted as a youth standing in a wheel bearing the signs of the zodiac. Secondly, the altars found in the temple were dedicated to Mithras Saecularis – ‘Mithras, Lord of this Age’. This combination of gods and concepts must have seemed particularly powerful. The fact that it is found nowhere else also shows that someone with extensive learning and advanced religious and philosophical ideas led the Mithraic cult at Housesteads.

Mithras being born from the Cosmic Egg.

Mithras being born from the Cosmic Egg.

Signs of Mithraism have also been found in Londinium, the city of modern day London. In 1954, a mithraeum was discovered under Walbrook street, revealing a collection of god statues, including Mithras, Minerva and Serapis. Despite the additional gods, the temple layout, along with the found food and materials, point to it being a mithraeum shared by a few other deities. It is suggested that the statue heads were buried reverently as the temple was turned to a temple to Bacchus in the 4th century. Until August 27 2017, the heads of Minerva, Serapis and Mithras can be seen at the Great North Museum: Hancock.

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Serapis from the Walbrook Mithraeum. © Museum of London.

Mithras from the Walbrook Mithraeum. Museum of London.

Mithras from the Walbrook Mithraeum. © Museum of London.

Rainbow Stories at Northern Pride 2017

TWAM have just completed a 1 year project with Historypin.org collecting life stories, photos and digital oral histories with older people. The project is called Historypin Connections and can be found here – www.historypin.org/en/connections-tyne-wear.

My colleague Clara had links with a few people in the LGBT+ community and we thought it would be a good idea to collect their stories. We felt it was incredibly important to collect these stories to ensure the Connections project was representative of all the residents of Tyne and Wear and the participants were delighted to be part of the process.

I realise I’m getting older and I hope I have helped the LGBT community a little, about my experiences of coming out in the 1980s’.  (Gary Short, Participant)

It was really rewarding and a privilege to record these stories,. We think it’s important for TWAM to collect these stories as they are an incredibly important part our contemporary social history collection.

The Rainbow stories collection on the Historypin website can be found here – www.historypin.org/en/rainbow-stories

We collected memories from Mark, Janet, Gary, Pat, Kate and Sue

We collected memories from Mark, Janet, Gary, Pat, Kate and Sue

Knight in Shining Armour by Kate Bromwish-Alexandra

‘I didn’t know where I belonged because boys were of no interest to me whatsoever. I had two brothers that I lived with and I thought they were pretty disgusting, so they were no mystery to me. Girls on the other hand, I didn’t understand them at all…they seemed utterly alien. Then I couldn’t figure out where I was supposed to fit, until considerably later. I did used to have fantasies about rescuing, if I had a crush on a certain girl I would have fantasies about rescuing her from certain dire occurrences and she would be so grateful she’d let me kiss her on the cheek or something. That seemed perfectly natural to me, it didn’t seem odd at the time because it was about me and clearly that was trying to tell me something. I’d never heard the word Lesbian mentioned, uttered in my house.’

A selection of Kate’s promotional flyers and badges

A selection of Kate’s promotional flyers and badges

 

Kate proudly showing her page in the Connections Celebration Book

Kate proudly showing her page in the Connections Celebration Book

This is just one example of the many stories we collected.

The organisers of the annual Northern Pride Festival, recognised that these stories were important and should be shared and wanted to show them on the huge screens on the stage at the event this year. Clara edited them into small sections of stories so they could be shown in between the acts on the main stage across both days of the festival in July 2017.

Rainbow stories on the big screen at Northern Pride 2017

Rainbow stories on the big screen at Northern Pride 2017

Rainbow stories on the big screen at Northern Pride 2017

Rainbow stories on the big screen at Northern Pride 2017

Rainbow stories on the big screen at Northern Pride 2017

Rainbow stories on the big screen at Northern Pride 2017

Rainbow stories on the big screen at Northern Pride 2017

Rainbow stories on the big screen at Northern Pride 2017

Thousands of people attended the festival over the weekend and hopefully enjoyed listening to our participants. The recordings and photos are now going to be archived into the museum’s collections.

The crowd watching the stories at Northern Pride

The crowd watching the stories at Northern Pride