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2018 News

October 2018

National Museums Scotland Visit to Elgin Museum

Jilly Burns and Xerxes Mazda from NMS

We had surprise visitors last week who dropped in for an informal visit: Jilly Burns and Xerxes Mazda from National Museums Scotland. Xerxes has not been long in post as Director of Collections but had already heard a lot about us from Nick Fraser and Fraser Hunter, our informal mentors respectively in palaeontology and archaeology. He said: ‘I am really impressed with all you continue to achieve, and now have a much better idea of what my teams are working on with you.’
He was interested in everything and incredibly enthusiastic and positive about all aspects of our Museum. Serendipity – Dr Davide Foffa, who has just started working at NMS, was in the Rear Gallery studying our Triassic fossils and thus boss and employee met. Thanks Jilly for thinking of us!

The Elgin Reptiles

Davide Foffa, post-Doctoral student at NMS

Davide Foffa, post-Doctoral student at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, was in Elgin Museum in October 2018. This was the start of his project, examining our Triassic reptile fossils for specimens suitable for small scanning. New scanning methods are rapidly opening up fossil research. Specimens in our Recognised collection that have had little scientific attention since the 19th Century are receiving new evaluation and interpretation. We have welcomed researchers from Bristol, USA, Italy, Finland and Argentina in recent years and have a long history of collaboration with the palaeontologists at the National Museum.

There But Not There – commemorating World War I

There But Not There exhibition

Elgin Museum is celebrating the award of 6 silhouettes funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust. These will be displayed in the museum for the centenary of the Armistice which ended the fighting of The Great War. The museum will open on Sunday, 11 November from 11.30am to 2.30pm to allow members of the public and the Armed Services a last chance to view the WW1 display and the Poppy Cascade, which has been added to throughout the year. Refreshments will be served in the Museum Hall during this time.

The award of the figures was made under the Armistice and Armed Forces Communities programme, which makes awards to bring communities together to remember and to think about the armed forces today. Elgin Museum has mounted a changing display over the past four years to show the events of The Great War, the social changes that occurred and the human cost of the conflict. It seemed appropriate to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice by opening on Remembrance Day and displaying these emotive figures and other reminders of this time. By calling our event “The Lessons of History” it is hoped that the community can learn from, as well remember, the price paid by our forebears.

Lt. Col. Grenville Johnston, Lord Lieutenant of Moray, said, “I was very pleased to learn that Elgin Museum had decided to create a display in Memory of World War 1. Moray lost many young men during the years of this conflict. I am proud of the way that local people have embraced the importance of remembering the history of the War. I was alerted to the figures and the Armed Forces Covenant by Councillor Graham Leadbitter. He has always been supportive of Elgin Museum and I passed this idea to them. I am delighted that they embraced it and have been awarded a grant to display the figures. I do hope many people will visit the exhibition.”

Pictish Arts Society Conference 2018: Moray and beyond

Pictish Arts Society Conference        Pictish Stones from Elgin Museum

On Friday 5th and Saturday 6th October we opened our doors to the Pictish Arts Society (PAS) for their annual conference and AGM. The conference offered some fascinating insights into the Pictish world, and offered us the opportunity to bring out some of our Pictish stones not normally on display. The weekend was a great success and thoroughly enjoyed by all those in attendance.

Researching Viking Age Strap Ends

researcher Craig Stanford

We were delighted to welcome archaeologist Craig Stanford to the Museum on Friday 5th October, continuing work on his project investigating a corpus of unique Scottish Viking Age strap ends. We look forward to his and Caroline Patterson’s upcoming publication on the subject.

Winter Lecture Series 2018-19: the life & times of mineralogist Matthew Forster Heddle

Photo of lecture on Matthew Heddle

A very well received talk on Thursday 4th October by the great-great grandson of the renowned Scottish mineralogist Matthew Forster Heddle. Many in the audience were familiar with the then soon-to-be-designated Munros, but not climbing with a 14lb hammer. Hamish had tracked down the map of the Moray coast showing Heddle’s walk with one of the Museum’s founders, Rev Dr George Gordon in 1877.

September 2018

Elgin Museum to Host Pictish Arts Society Conference 

On Saturday 6 October 2018, the Museum will play host to the Pictish Arts Society Annual Conference 2018. This year’s theme is “Moray and Beyond”.  Full day ticket £25.00 // Half day ticket £15.00 – advance booking required via the PAS website. Speakers include Dr Jane Geddes, Dr Gordon Noble and Steven Birch. Topics range from updates on the recent excavations at Burghead Pictish Fort, the search for the monastery of Deer in Aberdeenshire, and the latest interpretation of Pictish stones from Historic Environment Scotland. The conference is open to PAS members and non-members. For more information on the conference and to book your ticket please visit the PAS website.

Focus on Elginia mirabilis

We welcomed Marta Zaher, PhD student from Bristol University last week. It is always exciting when our fossils, most of which came into the Museum over a hundred years ago, are given a reappraisal using modern techniques – in this case photogrammetry of a cast of part of the spine. Even her supervisor, Professor Mark Benton’s research on the Elgin Reptiles was 35 years ago! Regular visitors will be more familiar with our model of Elginia. 

August 2018

Renovation Update

Elgin Museum building

We’re delighted to announce that our programme of renovation works at the Museum is now complete. Our beautiful category A-listed building has been restored to its 1842 glory – as laid out in original Museum architect Thomas Mackenzie’s own hand written notes! (Which can be viewed, on request)
The work was made possible thanks to the generous funding support of Historic Environment Scotland and The Moray Council’s CARS (Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme) and Moray Leader. We are also indebted to LDN Architects for overseeing the project and to our contractor Harper & Allan for tirelessly doing such a spectacular job in challenging conditions.
It secures the future of the building as well as the exhibition displays. We can now work towards improving and expanding our displays for an enhanced visitor experience, safe in the knowledge that the building is secure.
Whether you’re a regular visitor or new, locals and tourists alike, now is the perfect time to visit Elgin Museum to see for yourself the wonderful transformation.
We’ll also be open as usual for the Scottish Civic Trust’s Doors Open Days event,this year on Saturday 22nd September – a great time to”get into buildings”!

Researching Matthew Forster Heddle

Hamish Johnston researching Heddle

Also in August, we welcomed Hamish Johnston who is researching his great-great-grandfather, Matthew Forster Heddle, not only a famous mineralogist but also one of Scotland’s earliest mountaineers. Hamish is pictured above working through the (photocopies) of the letters of the Rev. Dr George Gordon of Birnie, aided by the excellent catalogue – the brown book on the table – co-written by Susan Bennett, our former curator. We look forward to hearing the results of Hamish’s research in his Moray Society lecture on Thursday 4th October 2018.

Roseisle “boy” revisits Roseisle Man!

Roseisle boy with Roseisle man

We were delighted at the start of August to welcome Alastair Mackenzie to Elgin Museum. For those of you familiar with the “Roseisle Man” cist in the archaeology section of the Museum, you may remember the photograph of the cist at Roseisle prior to its removal to the Museum which showed a wee boy standing in the cist – well, Alistair is that “wee boy” and he is pictured above pointing to the photo in question. The cist burial was found by his father, Graeme, and Alistair was visiting the Museum with his own son, a dinosaur enthusiast!

July 2018

Visitor to our Recognised Fossil Fish Collection

Janet Trythall and Prof Mary Orr with the Recognised fossil fish collection

Janet Trythall and Prof Mary Orr with the Recognised fossil fish collection

Our Vice President, Janet Trythall, recently had a very productive meeting with Professor Mary Orr from St Andrew’s University. Professor Orr is Buchanan Chair of French at St Andrews University, but among her many enthusiasms are Scotland’s fossil fish and the historiography of their discovery and contribution to the understanding of geology and evolution. She is therefore applying for funding for a European grant for a “humanities-in-science” project. One of the aims is to bring to international attention the un-researched intercultural significance of Elgin Museum’s Recognised collection of fossil fish, with the potential of funding for a post-doctoral post in our Museum. The project is very much in line with our aspirations, and we are very pleased to support her application.


June 2018

New Facebook Page!

This month we launch our brand new Facebook page “ElginMuseumMoray” – follow us to keep up to date with all of the latest news, events and activities at Elgin Museum.

March 2018 

Elgin Cathedral Armorial Panel – Can you help?

In 2016 Historic Environment Scotland (HES) opened a new permanent exhibition within the towers of Elgin Cathedral.  Prior to display, all the stones were expertly conserved by HES staff.  One of the panels has thrown up some unexpected questions that volunteers within the Elgin Museum Geology Group are trying to answer – can YOU help?

Elgin Cathedral Armorial Panel

Elgin Cathedral Armorial Panel

The panel was located in a wall of the cathedral transept and displays a central coat of arms surrounded by foliate scrolls.  The coat of arms has four panels displaying three geese in the upper dexter quadrant, a rectangular cushion adjacent to possible traces of a lost star in the quadrant below, a cockerel in the lower sinister quadrant and a falcon’s head in the quadrant above.  The coat of arms is surmounted by a helmet and sits above two small heads with rings in their mouths. The panel measures 73 cm x 70.5 cm x 15.5 cm and weighs 138 kg. To date, the Lord Lyon of Scotland has been unable to identify the coat of arms; the Marjoribanks crest includes a single horizontally orientated cushion and the faint trace of the star in the same quadrant strengthens this possible connection.  This family is not known to be important locally and thus the panel is possibly linked to a 17th Century member of the Dunbar family.  Their crest includes three tasselled cushions, but orientated with the corners N-S-E-W.

The panel is carved in a dark grey, very fine-grained sandstone that appears to be exotic to Moray as it does not match any of the local lithologies or stone used elsewhere in the cathedral.  Analysis shows that the rock contains an unusual clay mineral, sepiolite, which staff at HES and the British Geological Survey have been unable to match.

Have you seen this crest, or its components, elsewhere in your travels?  Perhaps on a tombstone or carved above a doorway or mantelpiece? If so, please contact us and let us know!


“Your Musuem Needs You

Elgin Museum is hoping to build a Poppy Cascade to commemorate the centenary of the last year of WW1. The people of Moray are invited to make a poppy, no bigger than A5, in paper, card, fabric or yarn,  to add to the cascade. To ensure inclusion in the cascade, all poppies should be handed in to the Museum by the 31st March 2018. Not sure how to make a poppy? Find ideas online for paper poppies, knitted poppies, or crochet poppies.

January 2018

We’re pleased to announce a great start to 2018 – a new Education Officer has joined the team! Jen Kelshaw joins for a 3-year period, and has previously worked at the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther and as a volunteer for the Society of Antiquaries at Kelmscott Manor and at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock. Jen says “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to use my professional museum training and to work with my new community in Moray. With 2018 being the Scottish Year of Young People we’re working on some spectacular events and activities!


2017 News

December 2017

Elgin Museum CARS Building Works

Elgin Museum wrapped in scaffolding

During the “closed” period, thanks to funding support from the Elgin Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) the Museum will be undergoing an extensive programme of repair and restoration. The roof to the main building and rear extension will both be overhauled, the stone work will be restored, and in places, replaced, the lime pointing will be fixed and there will be works to the rainwater goods and windows. Please bear with us while these works are ongoing!

In other December news, we have appointed a new Education & Outreach officer who will begin planning the 2018 programme of events and activities for children and young people in the New Year.

November 2017

Speakers at the Archaeology conference 2017

We opened November with our keynote event of the Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology, our archaeology conference: Forgotten, Hidden & Lost – unearthing Moray’s archaeology. The event was a great success with wonderful insights on the region’s archaeology and heritage, culminating in a lively group discussion. The audience heard first about the “hidden” side of archaeology in Moray from archaeological contractors working on building developments including the extensive prehistoric settlement uncovered at Grantown Road, Forres, recent excavations at Macallan distillery which uncovered post-medieval activity, and the fascinating prehistoric cemetery discovered during works at Lesmurdie on the edge of Elgin. Next was Prof Leif Iskasen revealing details of the recently rediscovered “lost” hillfort at Cluny Hill, Forres, an update from Dr Gordon Noble on the Northern Picts project, and a thought provoking consideration of the Iron Age in Moray through its artefacts from Dr Fraser Hunter. The last session of the day took us from Prehistoric Pyromaniacs through the impact of World War II on the Lossie Forest, the prominence of ironworking in Iron Age Moray ending with Underworld Encounters in the Covesea Caves. We are grateful to all who attended, to the staff of the Alexander Graham Bell Centre at Moray UHI, and to our sponsors and supporters: Heritage Lottery Fund, Event Scotland, Glen Moray and Walkers. A publication of the proceedings of the conference is currently in progress, more details will be circulated to conference attendees and Moray Society members once it is available.

HHA tour of Elgin Cathedral      Guided walking tour of Elgin

Following on from the conference, with thanks to Historic Environment Scotland, we were able to offer a guided insight tour of Elgin Cathedral – many hardy souls braved the cold to hear from experts about the carved stones and medieval stained glass from the Cathedral, as well as the “Elgin Pillar” Pictish stone. This was followed in the afternoon by “Elgin’s Hidden Treasures” a guided walking tour of Elgin’s architectural and archaeological heritage from Museum stalwarts Mary Byatt and Claire Herbert.

Incorporated Trades walking tour if Elgin

November concluded with a walking tour from another familiar face at the Museum. Local historian Morag MacDonald’s walk “On the Urban Trail of the Trades in Elgin” brought events and local characters to life as we learnt about the important role of the Incorporated Trades in Elgin.

October 2017

Ogham Children's craft session   Egyptian Children's craft session

During October, we had three jam-packed family friendly event, first creating Ogham inscribed pendants before we moved further afield with a morning of Ancient Egyptian themed activities – standing room only at this event! At the end of October, we welcomed a myriad of ghosts & ghouls for our Late Night Spooktacular as we celebrated the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival.

Late Night Spooktacular Dia de los Muertos event

September 2017

HHA Guided Tour of Duffus Castle

In September, as part of our Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology programme of events, we travelled back in time to the medieval period as we toured Duffus Castle. Thanks to David Weinczok, “The Castle Hunter”, the castle’s history and inhabitants were brought to life, while Mike Pendery, District Architect for Historic Environment Scotland, shared some of the challenges of managing this much-loved historic site. Sadly, we were once again plagued by rain but persevered with the tour nonetheless!

Doors Open Days 2017

The Museum was also open for this year’s “Door’s Open Days”, and we held a special event, open to all ages, to try their hand at a variety of architectural paper crafts – the room was filled with Eiffel Towers, Roundhouses and Pyramids!

August 2017

HHA Guided Walk of Aberlour

Aberlour walking tour

At the end of August, we hosted a guided walking tour of Aberlour, with fascinating insights into the architecture and history of the town provided by local architect Andrew Wright – the weather was typical of a Scottish summer but the event was well attended and generated much discussion on the day.

Young Marvels Medieval March

Mary and Claire in medieval costume     Mary and Young Marvels at Muckle Cross in Elgin

The summer’s Young Marvels programme in ended in style in August, as our Young Marvels marched through the town centre in their medieval costumes to launch a raid on Elgin Castle. They were regaled with fascinating insights into medieval Elgin along the way thanks to volunteer Mary Shand, and welcomed to Elgin Castle by its knightly owner (otherwise known as volunteer Claire Herbert).

July 2017

July saw the first of our Children’s Activities and Young Marvels events, which continued into August. Thanks must go to the tireless efforts of Mary, Frances and their band of (mostly) willing volunteers, for delivering such a great programme of activities.  The Young Marvels activities were delivered on the theme of Medieval Moray, while other drop-in activity sessions were run on themes from the Vikings to the Victorians. It was great to see such a good attendance at these events, which were enjoyed by all, and to see our Young Marvels membership increase to 224! We would take the opportunity to thank The Art Society (formerly NADFAS) for their generous support of this summer’s Young Marvels project.

June 2017

In June, our focus moved to Forres as the University of Lancaster’s Dr Leif Isaksen led an excavation on Cluny Hill, supported by Elgin Museum’s Year of HHA project, to find out more about this possible prehistoric fort. The excavation allowed locals to try their hand at excavation and archaeological survey; three free guided walks of the site were delivered (and oversubscribed!); and a number of local school groups has their first experience of a real “dig”.

May 2017

Treasure Trove

May began with a finds identification day, with a representative from the Scottish Treasure Trove Unit.

Dinosaur Invasion!

We also held our first late night opening event of the year, to celebrate the Festival of Museums, where we showcased our magnificent geology & fossil collections and offered a variety of dinosaur-themed crafts, including dinosaur origami, and even a dinosaur “photo booth” which was a real hit with the crowds.

Museums at Night - Dinosaur Invasion

HHA Guided Tour of Kinloss Abbey

May ended with the first of our outside activities – a guided tour of Kinloss Abbey. The event was oversubscribed, and enjoyed by all – we even managed to offer a “live” video of part of the tour through Twitter/Periscope, which is now available to view on our dedicated YouTube channel.


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