The Moray Society is delighted to announce that project funding for Elgin Museum has been secured from The Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund, which is supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation. This UK wide programme offers funding for museums and galleries to borrow objects from national collections for public display and, as the only Scottish recipient of an award, we are thrilled that our work is being recognised by such a prestigious organisation as the Art Fund.
Under the loan scheme, Elgin Museum will be working in partnership with National Museums Scotland (NMS) to exhibit fossil material collected locally in the late 19th Century of a very early tetrapod. These animals were the first to show adaptations that ultimately allowed life to move out of the water and on to land. No fossils of Elginerpeton pancheni are held by the Museum so this funding provides an exciting opportunity for us to exhibit these important finds. Material will also be loaned by the British Geological Survey and by the Oxford University Museum of Natural History as part of the project. These fossils have not been seen in Elgin since they were first discovered so we are pleased to be able to bring them home again and explain their global significance to a local audience.
The temporary exhibition entitled ‘At the Water’s Edge’ will run throughout the Museum’s 2020 season and will tie in with the Scottish Government’s designated Year of Coasts and Waters (#YCW2020). The Museum is closed to the public over the winter, but we look forward to welcoming visitors to the exhibition when we reopen at the end of March. Admission to the Museum is free and more information about events and activities linked to the exhibition and to #YCW2020 will follow in due course. Several local organisations and businesses will be involved in helping us deliver this exhibition, including Moray ReachOut, a social enterprise which provides space for vulnerable adults to gain training and work experience.
Money from the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund will be used to purchase two new display cases and to upgrade the Museum’s environmental monitoring system. As well as facilitating the loan from NMS, the improvements will greatly enhance our ability to borrow other objects in the future and we are extremely grateful for the legacy opportunities that this funding will provide.
Elgin Museum Reopens for the 2019 Season!
We’re delighted to announce that the Museum has officially reopened to the public for the 2019 season. This year we have a number of new displays, a wonderful programme of art exhibitions and new family friendly activities to explore. We also have a great programme of family events planned throughout the year – download the 2019 family activities programme (pdf 654kb) to find out more. We’ll also be open to visitors on Sundays throughout the summer after last year’s successful trial.
Opening hours for the 2019 Season are: Monday to Friday, 10 am – 5 pm; Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm. Entry this year remains FREE!
International Women’s Day 2019
On Friday March 8th, we welcomed visitors to the Museum to celebrate International Women’s Day with coffee, conversation, and displays on women in Moray. Thanks, as ever, to our wonderful volunteers for all their hard work on the day.
Carved Stone Balls Under the Microscope
Elgin Museum’s carved stone balls are of continuing interest to Chris Stewart-Moffitt, now a PhD student at Aberdeen University. This time he was following up an unreferenced comment he’d previously noticed on the catalogue card that the stone here under the microscope is “dubious”. This assessment may be because it is larger than the average size for these intriguing Neolithic artefacts. We await Chris’s appraisal.
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!”