National Museums Scotland Visit to Elgin Museum
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 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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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!
Visitor to our 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.
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.
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?
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.
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!”
Elgin Museum CARS Building Works
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
HHA Guided Walk of Aberlour
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
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 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.
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 began with a finds identification day, with a representative from the Scottish Treasure Trove Unit.
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.
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.
April ended with a Viking invasion where record numbers of visitors attended the museum to participate in various Viking-themed craft activities and meet Shetland’s Up Helly Aa Jarl Squad.
Easter Holidays Family Drop-in Activities
In April we hosted the first of our Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology family drop-in activities. Over two days, more than 200 children and adults “dropped-in” to try their hand at throwing their own prehistoric pots and creating their own Neolithic carved stone balls out of clay. Some wonderful artworks were created, lots more “Young Marvels” joined up, and a good time was had by all! More family drop-in activities and Young Marvels activities are planned for the summer – keep up to date online and via Twitter and Facebook.
Season Opening 2017
It’s no joke – 1st of April saw the Museum reopening for the season, with an April Fool’s Day theme complete with jesters, jokes and jugglers (thanks to Theatre Modo‘s circus skills workshops). We had craft activities, a jester treasure hunt and more – thanks to all who attended!
2016-17 Winter Lecture Series – “What is Europe?”
March ended with another of our series of Winter Lectures, this time from Dr Lester Borley discussing the Cultural Landscape of Europe. His talk was fully illustrated and put forward the stance that Europe is not divided west to east (which is the common perception), but is really divided north to south, and looked at the geomorphology of Europe as well as the religious and cultural interrelationships which have developed over time.
Embroidering the Past – new exhibition launch
On Friday 31st March, textile artist Ruth Black’s new exhibition exploring the Pictish stones of Moray was officially launched to a specially invited audience. The exhibition, which runs until the 28th April 2017, employs many different textile techniques to explore the wealth of Pictish sculpture in the area. Ruth is a textile artist specialising in embroidery, felt making and weaving, with a particular interest in Celtic & Pictish art which she translates into designs for a wide variety of wearable art and items for the home.
Launching the Year of history, Heritage & Archaeology 2017
At the end of March, we officially launched our year of HLF-supported Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology programme of events with the help of Angus Robertson, MP, Richard Lochhead, MSP, and Visit Scotland’s Regional Director, Jo Robinson.
Commenting, Lucy Casot, Head of HLF in Scotland, said:
“The Heritage Lottery Fund is a key partner in the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology and it’s our ambition that people of all ages will have the chance to discover something new about the heritage they care about. We’re delighted that, thanks to funding from the National Lottery, Elgin Museum will be opening the door to fun, learning and everlasting memories for many people as we celebrate this special year.”
Jo Robinson, Visit Scotland Regional Director for Moray Speyside:
“From World Heritage Sites to ancient monuments, cultural traditions to our myths, stories and legends – Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017 will spotlight some of our greatest assets and icons as well as our hidden gems.
The historic environment forges connections between people and the places where they live and visit. I’m certain both visitors and locals will be inspired be the variety of things to see and do at the exciting and educational programme of activity at Elgin museum.”
Janet Trythall, Vice-President, The Moray Society:
“It’s great to have the backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund for the exciting programme of activities and events we have planned for the Year of History Heritage and Archaeology, especially as it means we’ve been able to engage archaeological experts to run hands-on training”
2016-17 Winter Lecture Series – The Pattern and Distribution of Early Medieval Sculpture on the Spey
Also in February, we welcomed back an old friend of the Musuem, John Borland from Historic Environment Scotland. John talked to us about Pictish art in Moray, with particular reference to the Spey Valley.
A Visit from the Engineers
In February we opened our doors to some of the Engineers stationed at Kinloss Barracks, who enjoyed a guided tour of the Museum with Janet Trythall.
On Thursday 8th September, Dr Rona Walker, Regional Collections Manager (North) for Historic Environment Scotland (HES), kindly gave us a personalised tour of Elgin Cathedral.
The visit was a follow-on to the donation by the Museum of a collection of carved stone originating from the Cathedral that had been languishing in our cellar for many years. After detailed study and recording by carved stone specialist, Dr Mary Markus, the stone fragments are now housed in the “Bishop’s House” where they are available for study and comparison with other Cathedral stones. The Museum also has a collection of Medieval glass from the Cathedral, now on loan to the Cathedral and forming part of a new and stunning display.
It was wonderful to learn more about the Cathedral, as well about the construction of the new exhibition and the huge amount of work that Dr Walker and her HES colleagues have put in to bring it together. The stones and medieval stained glass are beautifully and innovatively displayed within the Cathedral towers, and the brilliantly imaginative display of “Bishop Archie”, created in association with Napier University (Edinburgh), has to be seen to be believed! Even the “biblical” rain couldn’t dampen our spirits on the day!
August 2016 – Young Marvels Trades Banners project
We have been running a special project for our junior membership, the Young Marvels, based on the theme of the ‘Incorporated Trades of Elgin’. This has involved the children and their parents making modern day ‘Trades’ banners. The project ran for six weeks over the summer holidays and resulted in a march around Elgin Town Centre on 9th August 2016 to show off the banners that have been made. This was followed by a ‘Trades Trail’ for families in conjunction with the C2C2C Project.
After much discussion, five modern day ‘Trades’ were selected by the children to focus on:
- Military – some of the parents involved are from the local RAF/Army bases
- Medical – the area has a large base of medical personnel, both military and civilian
- Sport – the local football team and sport venues in the area are popular
- Engineering – links with military and civilian engineering work
- Elgin Museum – the children thought that this was a good opportunity to showcase the museum itself
As well as creating their own banners based on these trade themes, the group learned about the conservation of an original trade’s banner in the Museum’s collection, the “Hammermen’s Banner”, from Museum Assistant Heather Townsend, and were given a short talk on the history of the Elgin Trades from Museum volunteer Sara March.
Historic Environment Scotland also very kindly sponsored a group visit to Elgin Cathedral to look at the links with the Trades that could be found within the Cathedral grounds.
The culmination of the project was the march around Elgin with the banners that the children had created. They had a hard time controlling the banners due to the strength of the wind but managed to keep their banners – and their feet – firmly grounded. One of our Young Marvels carried the replica of the Town Drum and used this to great advantage to get the attention of shoppers around the town.
The children and their parents worked really hard over the previous six weeks and we would like to thank them for their efforts and their creativity. We would also like to thank Museum volunteers Sara and Louise for their support with the project and Liz from the C2C2C project. We are looking forward to our next project with the Young Marvels – it’s going to be a challenge to top this!
On Wednesday 27th April, we at the Museum were delighted to welcome Mosstowie Primary School to the Museum. School pupils took over the running of the Museum for the day, having found out, before then, all that had to be done to welcome visitors etc during the day.
The school issued a press release for the occasion:
Press Release: Elgin Museum
Take-Over the Museum Day 2016
On Wednesday the 27 th April 2016 Mosstowie Primary School had the opportunity to run Elgin Museum. Before the day the pupils worked hard to organise their morning: tour times, practising pop-up exhibitions and learning how to promote the morning through social media. The morning started quite slowly but the Viking pop-up exhibition found themselves with quite a big audience. Miltonduff Nursery provided the pupils with a younger audience. However they were captivated by the Fossil Handling Box and exhibition, who gave them the opportunity to do some fossil rubbings. The morning flew past and the pupils thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to take the reins and run the museum. From the comments in the visitor book, they did a fantastic job!
The Dandaleith Stone
The stone arrived at the museum on 1st March 2016. It was brought by Graciela Ainsworth and two colleagues from Edinburgh where it had been conserved. Also returned were the majority of the museum’s existing carved Pictish/Early Medieval stones that had also been with Graciela for conservation. With the help of the Elgin Marble Company the Dandaleith stone was lifted into position the following day. The Elgin Marble Company provided a lifting frame and manpower free of charge and their assistance is greatly appreciated.
New shelving to display the museum’s carved Pictish/Early Medieval stones had been manufactured by Graciela Ainsworth and was assembled in the Rear Hall and the stones fixed in place. Two Burghead bull carvings together with a cast of another Burghead bull have been mounted on the wall. The display shelving has integral lighting that illuminates the stones very well. The overhead lighting has been configured to illuminate the entire reimagined display. Brown coir matting covers the dais and new interpretation panels are in place.
Opening Day 2016
As well as the excitement of opening with our new Dandaleith Stone, we also had the opening of a small exhibit in the Upper Gallery about Albert Bonici, who did much in the Sixties and Seventies to further the entertainment scene in the North of Scotland.
The exhibit was researched and assembled by David Dills, who hails from San Francisco. He had heard much of the ‘Beat’ scene created around the Park Cafe and the Two Red Shoes Ballroom, which were opened by Albert Bonici and as well as the publishing of a blog (scotbeat.wordpress.com), he wanted to display some of the artefacts from the time. To commemorate the exhibit, a local band from that time, Windy Miller came to play a short set to give us a flavour of the era. It gave an excitement to the opening day, especially when three members of Johnny and the Copycats, another group from that time, also played a few numbers.
On Saturday 16th May, the Museum held a children’s day of “Medieval Mayhem” with a total of 260 visitors in the 4 hour open period. All who visited were hugely enthusiastic about the most enjoyable day. Volunteers, dressed in medieval costume, told stories, made swords, taught medieval dancing, offered samples of medieval food.
The day was also the launch day for the new children’s club, Elgin Museum Young Marvels. 25 new members were signed up on the day and lots of application forms were taken away to fill in at home. Details of the club can be found in the membership pages of the website.
Dr Douglas G. Lockhart made further use of the Elgin Trades papers which were donated to the Museum when the Trades wound up. He gave us a most interesting talk in 2014 about some of the planned villages in north-east Scotland. His recent work on the land surveyors of Moray is presented as an article in the magazine of the Scottish Local History Forum (Issue 91 – Spring-Summer 2015), and Douglas has given a copy to the Museum Library. It is full of useful leads to local estate and town plans, and two of the illustrations are of the vignettes on Thomas Hutcheon’s Plan of Burgh of Elgin, 1855. I recommend the article as a good read.
Geology and palaeontology
Dr Sue Beardmore After 12 months of specimen and box, checking, the work in the West Store is almost complete. The fossils comprising the Recognised Collection have all been examined, listed in a new database and placed in protective material, either small cardboard trays or acid free paper. Although specimens were returned to the same grey plastic boxes they were stored in beforehand, they are now re-organised so that each box contains like-specimens. Boxes are also colour coded based on age (Middle Devonian, Upper Devonian, Permian, Triassic), with further divisions based on source locality and then type of fossil; other categories have been established for fish from unknown localities, invertebrates and plants. Most numerous by far are the fish fossils collected from places like Tynet Burn, Dipple Brae and Lethen Bar, followed by reptiles of either Permian or Triassic age from Findrassie, Spynie and Lossiemouth, forming, in short, a high diversity of vertebrate animals from only a handful of sources. All of the boxes are now accessible with stacks of no more than two high as opposed to the 12 observed at the start of the project. A final improvement, with the help of Tomas Christie and Graham Robertson, has been the moving of a stack of shelves in to an alcove, greatly improving access to an otherwise unusable stack and allowing the examination of the last few fossiliferous blocks.
The completion of work in the West Store was marked by the very successful ‘Moray Geology: Past, Present, Future’ conference. Financially, the project has gained considerable support with awards, to date, from the Geologists’ Association (Curry Fund), Palaeontological Association (meeting support) and Museums Galleries Scotland (Recognition Fund). Our final number of attendees was almost 100 from all over the UK – our attendee from Berlin got caught in a Lufthansa strike! The event, and therefore the Museum, will be publicised in a proceedings booklet, reports to the above mentioned organisations. Several further related articles have been proposed for the geo-conservation magazine ‘Earth Heritage’, geology magazine ‘Deposits’ and Palaeontological Association Newsletter. These follow a recently published article in the ‘History Scotland’ magazine describing the importance of one particular fossil of Stagonolepis robertsoni housed in Elgin Museum, albeit with a slight geographical error on the editor’s part. Elgin is not in Midlothian!
After the publications and reports have been completed my contract at Elgin will be finished. I hope to remain in the area until the end of May to see any local sites I have not yet visited. Beyond this I have no firm plans but believe a holiday is in order, perhaps to America for more fossil excavations in the deserts of southern Utah or somewhere quieter to finish up various publications still awaiting my attention. In any case, I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for their help during my stay.
Dandaleith Pictish Stone
I am delighted to be able to announce that Elgin Museum has been allocated a rare treasure, the Dandaleith Stone, a Class I Pictish Stone which was uncovered by a farmer in a field at Dandaleith, near Craigellachie.
The Class I Pictish symbol stone was found in May 2013 during ploughing at Dandaleith Farm, near Craigellachie. The stone, a solid pink granite boulder, measures 0.5 x 1.68 x 0.36m and weighs c.670kg. It has incised decoration on two adjoining faces; the other two faces show no obvious signs of carving. Face 1 is incised with a large crescent, with crescent and V-rod below. Face 2 is incised with a mirror case symbol, with notch rectangle and Z-rod below. The stone may be unique in having two pairs of symbols carved on the same orientation on two adjoining faces. The stone has been conserved before going on display at the Museum. Due to delays in organisation of funding, it is doubtful that it will go on show until after the upcoming seasonal opening.
The stone will be a wonderful addition to our existing collection of carved stone and the stone will be got into place as soon as we have overcome the problem of raising necessary funding and solving the logistical problems of transporting it to Elgin and getting it in situ in the Museum.
We are delighted that the Museum continues to be a useful resource for many students and researchers. It is good that the collection is able to be used to help with research on Scotland and its history.
Chris Stewart-Moffitt , Masters student from Bute, studying our Neolithic stone balls for his dissertation
Dr Keith Bland, entomologist from National Museums Scotland with Martin Cook, Moray and Nairn Bird Recorder and Elgin Museum volunteer, curating, cataloguing and rationalising our entomology collection.