"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Friday, 22 April 2016

Art, Treasure and Books

I recently spent a few hours in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. I do love this museum and many years ago, when I worked just a few minutes walk away, I used to spend most lunchtimes looking round the Natural History Section. Sadly, this part of the museum is no longer on display although I discovered recently that it is stored as a collection and I think you may be able to visit by prior arrangement.

Apologies if some of the photos are a bit "iffy" (especially the paintings) - I had the usual problem with low light and slow shutter speeds.

I loved this colourful dress - from memory an Irish Dancer's dress.

I spent quite a lot of time looking round the Art Galleries especially the Pre-Raphaelite section.

I was really pleased to see one of my favourite paintings back on display - last time I visited I couldn't find it anywhere.

A not much better photo of a post card I bought.

Then I went along to the main reason for my visit - the new Staffordshire Hoard Exhibition. This Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found. The artefacts are made of gold, silver and garnets and it is thought they were probably taken from the armour, weaponry and religious items of defeated armies in England in the 7th century. I did visit an earlier exhibition some years ago once the initial huge queues to gain admission had died down but photos weren't allowed then. The new exhibition contains hundreds of pieces on display with information on the conservation work used on the artefacts and hands on displays about the craftmanship and design.

Replica's of two of the objects

I thought the decoration and intricate workmanship and animal art in some of the objects was beautiful.

A little purchase from the shop! :)


I love the books published by Little Toller and have just finished reading The Ash Tree by Oliver Rackham which is a lovely and exceedingly interesting book. Ash is one of our commonest trees and has recently come to the public's attention due to the onset of Ash Disease. This book is the first written on the ecology and history of this species looking at the part it has played in our culture and explaining diseases that affect the tree. Oliver Rackham argues that globilisation is the biggest threat to the world's forests and trees.

I read about Anne Cleeves on "Corners of My Mind" Blog - and possibly on Bovey Belle's too? - so thanks Rosie and BB. So when I saw Amazon inviting you to try a new author and saw this book for 99p it was on my Kindle within minutes. I hadn't seen the tv series and it is sadly not on iplayer but I loved this book. Luckily, I had bought the second in the series also for 99p and it won't be long before I am buying the rest although sadly the price has gone up!


Simon Douglas Thompson said...

Birmingham was well known for it's pre-raph collection wasn't it? Or am I getting confused with impressionists?

Margaret Adamson said...

Many thanks for sharing these wonderful treasures rom the Museum that I will probably never see in person. Have a lovely weekend.

Rosie said...

It is a shame that there is no longer a Natural History section at the Museum. I like Birmingham Museum and we last visited a few years ago to see the new Staffordshire Hoard Exhibition when it opened, it looks like they have opened up a more detailed one recently? We'd seen the first touring one, before the clean up, here in Stoke and there are parts of the collection here too. I think it is wonderful, some of the pieces are so exquisite - my favourite is the little sea horse. I love the Pre Raphaelite paintings at the museum and I like 'The Last of England' which I see amongst your photos. Glad you are enjoying Ann Cleeves I love her Shetland novels and her Vera ones too:)

David said...

A most enjoyable tour of the Museum with plenty to see and read :-)

I too enjoy Pre-Raphaelite art and I am informed by people more knowledgeable than I that the Birmingham Collection is one of the largest collections in the country. I would love to visit it one day.

The Anglo-Saxon hoard is extraordinary isn't it and the craftsmanship of so many of these items is simply staggering. It makes you wonder what else may still lie beneath the earth waiting to be re-discovered!

Have a great weekend :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Simon Douglas Thompson - Thanks Simon - yes Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is well known for its Pre-Raphaelite collection :)

Margaret Adamson - Thanks Margaret - so glad you enjoyed seeing them. Have a great weekend :)

Rosie - Thanks Rosie. I really miss the Natural History Section although there could be some items displayed at ThinkTank?? - Not sure as I've not been there. Yes, it is a completely new Exhibition and I thought much improved. I'm reading through the 2 books I bought and there are items in Stoke as you say - Birmingham and Stoke together bought the hoard jointly, I believe. The intricacies of the work fascinate me - as you mention so exquisite.

I would have taken more photos of the paintings but the light was just too low and as usual time was limited so it was a quick whizz around as I wanted to spend as much time as possible looking at the new Hoard displays.

Really did enjoy Ann Cleeves - I will be working my way through them all :) Will probably read the next one and then read a couple of different authors and then return to spread them out a bit. I did this when I discovered Phil Rickman and it took me 18 months to read all his!

David - Thanks so much - so pleased you enjoyed.

Hope you get chance to visit Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery one day - yes it is one of the largest in the country and there are over 2000 works there. I don't know a lot about Art to be honest (wish I knew more!!) but I do enjoy looking at paintings and reading up on the one's that really attract my attention.

As you say, the discovery does make you wonder what else is waiting to be found. I think a return to the site turned up more items (after the initial "dig") which were also bought by the two City Councils. The exhibition is well worth a visit if you go one day to see the paintings. Particularly stunning treasures were on display in a special little part of the exhibition but the photos were too blurred to show you (low light again!). I was particularly taken with two gold snakes!

Have a lovely weekend :)

Wendy said...

I loved this wander around the museum and it has really made me want to speed up a visit there. It's long been on my list of places to go to. The pieces from the Staffordshire Hoard are amazing; as you say so beautifully crafted. They're such an exciting link with the Anglo-Saxon age. I'd be really interested in the Pre-Raphaelite art as well.
'The Ash Tree' is one Oliver Rackham book I haven't read yet - thanks for recommending it. I was only reading this morning about 'Betty' - the Norfolk tree that may offer some hope against ash dieback because of its high tolerance to the disease (let's hope it does).

amanda peters said...

Great place for a potter round, reminds me of a place in Keighley, called Cliff Castle, I live there for a while when my son was a baby. We would often visit looking at the paintings and the exhibition. They had a Natural History Section with some rather dodgy stuffed animal but educational. I spent a lot of time in the gardens and remember I saw my first Dunnock there when I was trying to learn about birds.
I would have likes the Staffordshire Hoard Exhibition.
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

David - postscript - have just found a book I bought years ago from the NH Museum, London called Nature's Connections - an Exploration of Natural History by Nicola McGirr which covers the development of nat hist and does have some info on great naturalists.

Ragged Robin said...

David - Sorry David the postscript above refers to my reply to your comment on the Middleton Hall post! Managed to comment on the wrong blog post!

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy - Thanks so much Wendy and I am so pleased you enjoyed the post. I do hope you get to visit soon - your comment made me appreciate the museum even more (sometimes its easy to forget what is on our doorstep!).

"Betty" seems to bring more hopeful news for Ash trees. The Oliver Rackham book mentions the dire threat posed by the Emerald Ash Borer which seems to be marching through Europe but thankfully not reached here yet... :( I find it hard to understand why we have imported so many trees from other countries over the years - surely it would be best to grow our own.

Amanda Peters - Thanks very much Amanda. Cliff Castle sounds interesting. I was pregnant with D when I used to wander round Bham Museum and I often wonder if that is where he got his love of museums and local heritage from! You would love the Staffordshire Hoard Exhibition :)

Deb said...

I'd love to look around the Staffordshire Hoard and i love the paintings too. Thanks for sharing :)
P.S I just popped over to Amazon and they have the first three Ann Cleeves books in a kindle bundle for £1.97! So I've just downloaded them and added them to my TBR pile. :)

Ragged Robin said...

Deb - Thanks so much - so glad you enjoyed.

That is a good buy re: the Ann Cleeves books - in fact that may be a good price for me to get the 3rd volume in the series as I think it is £4.29. Even if I do buy 2 I already have! Do hope you enjoy Raven Black as much as I did. ps My TBR pile gets bigger by the day! even though I am trying to read more this year! I keep finding books in storage boxes I haven't read and had hidden away at some point!!

Dartford Warbler said...

Such an interesting post. You are lucky to have the Staffordshire Hoard near enough to visit. What a find that was!

I love the Pre Raphaelites. I'm sure I saw some of those paintings on loan to the Tate Pre Raph. Exhibition a few years ago.

Ragged Robin said...

Dartford Warbler - Many thanks :) As I was saying to Wendy above we don't always appreciate what is fairly close to home. The books I bought on the Hoard are fascinating giving so much information on how the pieces were conserved etc. etc.

Bovey Belle said...

Eldest Daughter (Tam) and I saw the Pre-raph. collection there - they had an exhibition a few years back of Pre. Raph. pencil sketches at the time too I think. Superb. I would LOOOOOOOOOOVE to go to the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition (if I can ever brave the roads in again!) Superb from your photos, and books have gone on the Christmas list already (I'll buy them for OH on a pretext . . .)

I don't think it was me recommending the Ann Cleeves book - must check it out now. I picked up Oliver Rackham's The Ash Tree in Hay recently, but put it down and bought two others instead. It's on the wish list though.

Ragged Robin said...

Bovey Belle - Thanks so much. It is a museum my son and I visit sometimes usually on a Sunday when traffic quieter - Birmingham City Centre is a nightmare to drive round - even worse now with massive roadworks round Paradise Circus :( I think there are also Staffordshire Exhibitions in Stafford (Museum there) plus Lichfield Cathedral and Tamworth Castle (though the latter 2 may be smaller?????)

Sadly, my OH not a book lover but I did smile at your comment :)

Was a bit confused about Ann Cleeves as I know I have put books from your blog on my wish list on Amazon but can't remember which! I really enjoyed it and will work my way through her books. Always good to find a new author you enjoy :)

Ragged Robin said...

Bovey Belle - Meant to mention that I am still miffed I didn't go to the recent Enchanted Dreams Exhibition at Gas Hall, BMAG - kept putting it off until it was too late and seeing items in their shop made me realise what I had missed :(

Toffeeapple said...

I should love to see the Hoard, it reminds me of an exhibition of Scythian gold and jewels that I saw in Finland, some years ago. The standard of execution was absolutely stunning. You can see a few pieces here:


I wish there was 'proper' museum close to me, mine is very parochial.

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Thanks very much especially for the link to Scythian gold and jewels. What stunning pieces and absolutely amazing when you look at how old they are. It must have been a wonderful exhibition :)

I often get fed up that we aren't closer to London and the NHM and British Museum there but we are lucky that a museum such as BMAG isn't that far away. Have you been to any of the Oxford museums? Not been to the Ashmolean museum but the Natural History and Pitt Rivers ones are superb. In fact there is a Kurt Jackson bee exhibition on there at the moment I would love to see although Oxford is further than Birmingham!