10 March 2013

Obituary: Maire Noonan


Máire Noonan, whom many of you will remember from her years as Ethnography curator at Glasgow Museums, died on 15 February, 2013 after a short illness. Originally from Ireland, Máire did her undergraduate degree there in archaeology, but moved to London to do a postgraduate degree in conservation at the University Of London Institute Of Archaeology where her dissertation “Examination and Conservation of Archaeological Textiles” was published in 1979. Máire then worked as a conservator throughout Northern Europe, including Denmark, before moving with her husband and daughter to Scotland, first to Inverness Museum and then, in 1985,  to Glasgow Museums where she spent the remainder of her life. She was appointed Senior Conservator for the Human History department, just before Glasgow was European Capital of Culture in 1990.  Máire worked closely with Antonia Lovelace, then Glasgow Museum’s curator of World Cultures as conservator in the development of St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art in the early 1990s, now an established part of the museum scene, but at the time regarded as a risky adventure, which Máire embraced not only professionally, but through her interest in cultural diversity.  According to Antonia Lovelace, “Máire introduced great visual labelling on the exterior of object movement boxes, so we could find things quickly for the many mock-up displays we did with the full project team and designers. She was both enthusiastic and meticulous, and also a great calming influence in disasters.”

Máire’s work for St Mungo set in place many of the core processes for the documentation and care of object goings on display.  She married this care of objects with an interest and enjoyment of the people involved with the objects. Once St. Mungo was open Máire was part of the conservation management tasked with providing a unified conservation cover for the whole of Glasgow Museums.  This involved exploring the philosophical and practical differences of the branches of conservation and the collections.

When Máire left conservation and became a senior curator in Glasgow Museums she took with her a knowledge of the physical requirements of the objects and a strong awareness of its human aspects. Her love of the Indian subcontinent determined the way she approached projects like the Vaisakhi and Singh Sisters exhibitions and the community-led I Belong To Glasgow display in Kelvingrove’s Glasgow Stories gallery, by working from the people to the objects.

Máire had been involved with the Lakota Ghost Dance shirt from the time of its display in the exhibition “Home of the Brave” at McLellan Galleries.  It was following this exhibition the requests for repatriation came.  Over the years in which this claim was pursued, Máire became the curator responsible and worked to display the shirt and other Lakota material in ways that would tell the multiple stories of the shirt and the other pieces.  Máire combined the museum correctness of the physical care of the objects with an equal care and concern for the people of the past and the present connected to the Ghost Dance Shirt. Her last major contribution before she left the service in 2008 was to the refurbishment of Kelvingrove, for which she was senior curator for the Cultural Survival Gallery and a number of other displays. In the years after her time as World Cultures curator, she worked on the Riverside Museum Project, and following her official retirement, continued her active involvement with cultural diversity in museums through DivCom, the Committee for Diversity in Museums as well pursuing her many interests and talents such as water-colour painting, steel drum playing and Indian classical dance. She is survived by her husband and daughter.

Máire will be missed by many of us, as a friend and a colleague.

The Future of Ethnographic Museums Coference

The Pitt Rivers Museum and Oxford ASPIRE are offering 10 bursaries to attend the:

The opportunity: to attend the major international conference on ‘The Future of Ethnographic Museums’. Held at the Pitt Rivers Museum and Keble College, Oxford, the conference includes: lectures given by leading authorities on museums and ethnographic collections, opportunities for networking and giving poster presentations, a performance art piece by the acclaimed Aboriginal Australian artist Christian Thompson, and a reception and torchlight music event at the Pitt Rivers Museum.

For further details see: http://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/PRMconference_details.html

What the bursary covers: the full costs of the conference including accommodation in Keble College, conference dinners, lunches, teas, coffees, attendance at receptions etc., but excluding travel costs.

What you have to do: write up a supporting statement of up to 800 words. This should include the following information:
Your name, job title/role and place of work (confirmation will be sought from successful candidates that they do work in or for the institutions they have cited)

Up to 300 words describing how attendance at the Conference will have a positive impact on your professional development

Up to 300 words describing the potential positive impacts on your organisation or organisations you work for. Please consider if there are links to your organisation’s public programme or research priorities

Up to 200 words describing how you could share learning from the Conference within your region.

Send your entry by March 31st 2013 to: Lucy Shaw, ASPIRE Office, Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Parks Rd, Oxford, OX1 3PW or by email to lucy.shaw@prm.ox.ac.uk
Assessment of entries: assessment will be by ASPIRE staff with support from museum experts. Successful applicants will be informed by May 1st 2013. Decisions will be final.

Scandinavian jewellery collection seeks good home

The Whitworth Art Gallery has a very good collection of Scandinavian folk jewellery available for transfer to an Accredited museum. The jewellery dates mainly from the 19th century and includes a number of very fine silver ring brooches, clasps, pendants and other miscellaneous items. The majority of the jewellery is of Swedish or Norwegian origin but there are also two Amager bodice clasps in the collection.

A full list of objects and images is available on request.

For further information please contact Sarah Fellows at sarah.fellows@manchester.ac.uk or 0161 2757479

Jane Perry, author of Traditional Jewellery of Nineteenth-Century Europe, London: V & A Publishing (2013) writes:

This is probably the largest and best collection of Norwegian traditional jewellery in Britain, and is certainly the best that I am aware of.  It would be quite impossible to put together such a collection today, as pieces of this age and quality rarely come onto the market, either in Scandinavia or the UK.  Their condition is also generally good; it is rare to find complete sets of bodice fasteners, or objects with all their little pendants intact.  The group mainly consists of Norwegian jewellery, but there are two important Danish Amager pieces, two north German buttons, and a dozen pieces from Sweden.  All the pieces are silver or silver-gilt, as far as can be seen. 

Although the objects were received at the Museum at two different times, according to their accession numbers, the two separate groups are not easily distinguishable by eye, and it is possible that they were originally part of the same collection.  It appears to have been put together at the end of the 19th century, when traditional jewellery was popular in Britain not only academically but also among fashionable women.  Most of the objects date from the first half of the 19th century, and none from later than around 1900. All of the small group of late 19th century pieces which are marked were made by Marius Hammer of Bergen, and it is possible that the whole collection was put together by him for a foreign customer; all the leading Norwegian traditional jewellers of the time, including Jacob Tostrup and David Andersen of Oslo as well as Marius Hammer, sold antique traditional jewellery to foreign collectors.  The pieces marked by Marius Hammer are not typical of his usual output, and are more representative of traditional jewellery from other districts of  Norway.  Several of the pieces have been adapted for modern use by the addition of brooch fittings, and this also suggests a late 19th-century Scandinavian origin for the collection.  The additional brooch fittings all appear to be 19th-century in date, and one (MWI 7966) has had a petal added which carries the same maker’s mark as the original object.  This must have been done either by the original maker himself, or by cannibalising another piece by him.  This would have been unlikely outside Norway.

The general distribution of the Norwegian pieces also suggests a collection which was acquired at one time, or in a small number of groups, rather than accumulated slowly over time.  There are fewer makers represented than would be expected in a collection put together piecemeal.  Another striking, and unusual, aspect of the collection is the number of pieces (5 ring brooches and 6 clasps) which appear to come from the area around Heddal in northeast Telemark.  Jewellery from this small area is scarce, and there are very few examples published.  This would imply a single acquisition. 

Visiting with the Ancestors: The Blackfoot Shirts Project Exhibition

Pitt Rivers Museum
7 March - 1 September 2013