The Manchester Museum’s contribution to the Festival of British Archaeology took place today (28th July 2010). With Anna Bunney, Curator of Public Programmes I had arranged to show a selection of pottery from the Museum’s rich archaeology collection.
I got together some ancient Greek and Roman pottery, some incredibly old sherds from a site at Yanik Tepe in northern Iran and some Victorian pottery discovered whilst excavating Roman Manchester.
Given a choice between finding out about 6,000 year old pottery and piecing together broken Victorian willow-pattern ware, guess which the children preferred? The Victorian pottery. This was something of a revelation to us but we quickly put the ancient material to one side and spread out the Victorian finds over the table.
Children gathered like bees round a honey pot and in no time at all they were busy sticking the fragments back together with stickly tape. The dedication and enthusiasm of the kids for this massive 3D jigsaw was amazing.
Meddie, who’s on holiday at her gran’s (she told me she comes from Surrey), put together a fine tankard decorated with a wide blue stripe beneath the rim. Other children battled heroically with a transfer printed teapot . By the end of the afternoon we had four or five pots two-thirds complete . The hands-on had won hands-down over the 6,000 year old pot.
We can run this sort of activity quite easily because we have lots of boxes of broken Victorian pottery from sites in the centre of Manchester. In fact this must be the first time it has been looked at since it was excavated in the 1970s. The excavators were more interested in the Roman layers but the more recent material is also of great interest as we found recently when we ran an event about food in Manchester. Visitors were as fascinated to see marmalade jars and lemonade bottles as they were Roman mortaria.
We should definitely consider making the pottery available as part of the Ancient Worlds galleries.
Anna Bunney, Curator of Public Programmes at the Manchester Museum, passed on a copy of some feedback we received from a member of the public who attended the pottery event with her two sons. She wrote: “Loved the talk about the Ancient Pots by staff who are clearly passionate about this subject… My sons are 8 & 13 and enjoyed this room with equal enthusiasm. The staff are wonderful and it was good to be able to touch the historic pots. The members of staff realised that piecing together the broken pots was a popular activity and allocated a larger table for this purpose. Well done.” The lady also wrote that she’d like to know more about the lives of people who lived in the past and that more sensory exhibitions would be greatly appreciated. She didn’t leave her name or contact details unfortunately, otherwise we’d have asked her to support our HLF application which is going to be submitted in the next few weeks.
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