Ashley Van Dyck, a colleague at both the Whitworth Gallery and Manchester Museum, is hosting an exhibition!

The Lost & Found Museum

This is an exhibition which explores loss and discovery, expect to find the unexpected from everyday life to some of the more profound personal recoveries and life defining stories.

Here is an extract from the exhibition’s website:

Exploring Loss and Discovery

One thing we all have in common is that at some point in our lives we have lost something and we have found something. Losing a favourite object or a loved one and everything in between is what this project seeks to explore. Finding a new way to live or £20 on the ground and everything in between. How we all view and deal with these things is what sets us apart. Some losses are harder to deal with than others of course due to their nature or our individual resilience and the same with discoveries, some are profoundly life changing, some just make your day a little brighter.

Mass disasters are a great loss to many people at once and a community or entire nation will come together to heal the wound and console each other, art is very often at the core of these instances. For example what is happening in Boston since the bombings. Art helps us to heal and to celebrate, it is the purest way humans have of expression so it makes sense in situations like there for art to be the centre of the rebuilding, the healing or the attempt to make sense of something.

In the wake of the Japanese tsunami this project came about to help people salvage their lives and memories.
Similarly Ai Wei Wei compiled the backpacks of Chinese students killed in an earthquake. It was a powerful statement saying we will not forget the people who were lost.

Discoveries can be physical, tangible and archaeological in nature or they can be profound and personal ethereal occurrences, how and why we assign value to each of these things is of great interest. Is something more valuable because of the nature of its acquisition? How does loss affect and change us?

Submissions are ongoing!


Come along, everyone welcome!

At The Wonder Inn, Shudehill
December 3rd – 6th 2015
Opening reception Thursday December 3rd from 6 til 9pm


In times of peace, how do highly skilled makers of armour fill their time? This was the plight of the Japanese metalsmiths during the Edo period.

Jizai Okimono translates literally as ‘move freely decorative object’. They are small articulated iron figures of animals, but can also be made from copper, silver and gold alloys. Fully articulated of both limb and body, this enables them to imitate all the movements of their natural counterparts – and it was these that arms makers created both to demonstrate and maintain skill in quiet periods. Even the scales on dragons are reminiscent of Samurai armour.

They represent craftsmanship of the highest quality. The earliest known dated example is a dragon bearing a line-engraved signature of its maker Myochin Muneaki dated 1713, during the middle Edo period.

Manchester Museum also has an impressive dragon, and the magic is in the movement!

Filmed as part of the Objects in Mind project, this is a great example of how the museum can provide enhanced access to its collection, with an object too fragile to be handled regularly. Conservator Irit Narkiss and Curator of Living Cultures, Stephen Welsh, discuss the luck dragon from the Living Cultures collection.

It was made in nineteenth century by Miochin Munetane. The Miochins were a manufacturing dynasty renowned for their arms and armament and were established in the twelfth century. Miochin Munetane was working in either the Edo or Meiji period. Dragons were important in East Asian religion and mythology, they represent bodies of water, lakes, oceans and rivers; they also bring rain and are responsible for flooding. There are many temples in China and Japan dedicated to dragons.

mcr dragon

It is little wonder that these intricate and lifelike sculptures became some of the most collected objects from Japan by European collectors. After the Meiji Restoration the Samurai were disbanded, leaving high quality carvers and metal workers unemployed, these workers became makers of traditional goods and crafts for export, in response to huge demands for goods from the West.

Robert Wylie Lloyd (1868-1958), a mountaineer from Rochdale was one such collector, who certainly had exquisite taste and an aesthetic eye, described as a connoisseur of fine arts. He also had a keen interest in bugs! He became renowned in Entomology societies for his collection, which on his death in 1958 he bequeathed to Manchester Museum. At this point his fine art collection was also distributed, with the British Museum receiving 50 Turner watercolours. But then again, Manchester Museum didn’t come off too badly, receiving over 1,000 Japanese objects including a tachi long sword, and the Luck Dragon and several articulated iron models – some of them so lifelike that they could rival the real deal!

Another of Robert Wylie Lloyd’s bequests is on display on the Living Worlds gallery in the ‘Symbols’ case;

This jizai okimono, also signed by Munesuke, is used in this display to illustrate the ways in which people use nature symbolically, drawing on characteristic qualities of species. Snakes have been used to represent treachery in some cultures, while in others fertility, renewal and rebirth. Sometimes they are feared, and at other times worshipped.

The real beauty of these objects is in their animation, when they seem magically to come to life!

By Michelle Scott



Discussing The Luck Dragon – Jizai Okimono (2014) YouTube video, added by Manchester Museum [Online] (above).

Logunov, D. and Merriman, N. (eds.) (2012) The Manchester Museum: Window to the World, London, Third Millennium.

Okimono Project (2011) Western Influence on Okimonos [Online]. Available from: 

Tokyo National Museum (2011) Jizai Okimono – Articulated iron figures of animals [Online]. Available from: 

Welsh, S. (2012) ‘Collecting Cultures, Making Connections’, in Logunov, D. and Merriman, N. (eds.) The Manchester Museum: Window to the World, London, Third Millennium, p. 46-57.

It is said that every object tells a story. Some are short stories, others novels; some are filled with romance, others with mystery and intrigue, meaning the archaeologist or historian has to rely on their “little grey cells” to figure it out.

It is easy to see objects as evidencing the lives of the people who made and used them. But objects histories go beyond their ancient lives – in their afterlives, they also become a part of the story of those people who found and collected them; just as the name of Howard Carter will be forever linked with the treasures of Tutankhamun.

Howard Carter

Howard Carter examines the coffin of Tutankhamun

Looking at a small group of ivory objects on the Ancient Worlds Gallery, the plot thickens to reveal Manchester Museum’s connection to a detective famous writer and her husband.


Carved ivory from Nimrud (Nos.: 1966.1-4, 43222)

These tiny, but intricately carved ivory objects were excavated in Nimrud and Ur, in modern day Iraq, by archaeologist Max Mallowan. Max Edgar Lucien Mallowan was born in 1904 in London. After graduating in Classics at Oxford he joined Leonard Woolley as General Field Assistant at the excavations at Ur, Iraq (1925-30). During his excavations in Iraq Mallowan recovered thousands of small ivory objects that that have become known as the ‘Nimrud Ivories’. But ancient objects were not all he found …

Author Agatha Christie, creator of the famous fictional detective Hercule Poirot, divorced from her first husband, Archie Christie in 1928. She met Max Mallowan when she travelled on the Orient Express to the archaeological site at Ur. They were married on September 11th 1930.

Max and Agatha

Max Mallowan and Agatha Christie at Tell-Halaf

The ‘Nimrud Ivories’, dating back as early as the 9th century BC, are made from elephant ivory. They originally formed the decorative elements of furniture, chariots and other high status objects, made in Syria and Phoenicia, and brought to Assyria as tribute. Their excavation in modern day Iraq tells an important story about trade, economics, society, and craft production in the Ancient Near East. These beautiful little objects are renowned worldwide and many of these finds were purchased from the British School of Archaeology in Iraq by museums in the United Kingdom and abroad.

Agatha accompanied Max on all of his excavations, where she would photograph, clean and record finds; she even explains in her autobiography how she would clean these miniature ivory carvings with a knitting needle and expensive face cream – she wrote, “There was such a run on my face cream that there was nothing left for my poor old face after a couple of weeks!”

In his married life, Max continued his archaeological work in the Near East, and Agatha’s intimate connection with archaeology can be seen in several of her mystery novels, but not least ‘Murder in Mesopotamia’, which alludes to both sites and characters she met along the way.

By Michelle Scott

Further resources;

Our money gallery boasts a vast collection of objects, all with their own unique history. It is reflective of the fact that money has had an important role in the evolution of many societies. One of the special items we possess is the Katanga cross, which appears to captivate many audiences. This particular piece is very interesting as it illustrates how money has varied over time and across continents. This post explores more of its history.

The Katanga cross gets its name from the region it originates from – the Katanga area in the southeast Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC].

kat pro

Initially, it was dated back to the AD 19th century when Europeans had documented its use. Since then, however, it is generally thought to have been in use since at least the 14th century.

It had a striking shape, cast in the form of a cross, and this object varied in size: they were either were small, medium, or large. Both of ones we have here appear to have been average-sized ones. They were copper ingots – ingots being pieces of metal cast in a form for shaping, melting or refining. Applying heated copper over sand, cast in the shape of a cross, produced this peculiar, but lovely, item. Once cooled, the dominating feature was a ripple pattern, giving it a fascinating look.


As money, it was worth about six cows, or twelve bags of flour in general society, and it was used as a bartering currency between different villages. Its use as currency formally ended in the 20th century; however, it still functioned as a ceremonial gift for a while. The flag of Katanga also used the cross as an emblem briefly during the 1960s, when trying to gain independence from the DRC.

Katanga flag.rtf

As such, it is easy to see how it may immediately draw one’s interest. It is a very popular item for discussion when brought out during object handling sessions, as both children and adults alike can hardly believe it was used as a form of money! It is far different from the coins, paper currencies, and bank cards around nowadays. Today, we largely think of money in a different way – cash or cards used to make payments. The introduction of electronic credit has only continued to accelerate this shift towards this; therefore, the unique features of the Katanga cross remain a great example of the wonders of money!

By Khirone Bandama

As any insect-phobe will most likely tell you, possibly the worst thing to have in your room at night is a moth. Fluttering erratically, drawn to any light source (strange for a creature of the night) including the one right by your head … If there’s anything that’ll get your heart racing and your pupils dilating, it’s a moth. So this Hallowe’en, I’m here to tell you about a very special moth, an especially large specimen with a skull painted across its back, one that screeches out loud, one that can be found right here in the UK – it’s the Death’s Head Hawk Moth.

moth 1

Death’s Head Hawk Moths on Nature’s Library, Manchester Museum

This moth has long been an omen of death and torment – in 1649, they were reportedly seen at the scene of King Charles I’s execution. In 1801, King George III was thrown into one of his infamous fits of madness by two of these moths being found in his residence. In William Holman Hunt’s 1851 painting The Hireling Shepherd, we are expected to see doom between the young lovers because of the death’s head hawk moth clutched in the shepherd’s hand.

moth 2  moth 3
The Hireling Shepherd (1851) by William Holman Hunt

Similarly, it appeared as an omen of doom in Thomas Hardy’s novel The Return of the Native in 1871, followed Bram Stoker’s Dracula where the eponymous character sent them for Renfield to consume in 1897. The most familiar use of this symbol for modern audiences is its use in the film The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – the serial killer would place the pupa of this moth into the mouths of his victims, which inspired the famous poster.

moth 4

Silence Of The Lambs movie poster, 1991

Now, for all this scare-mongering… this moth is totally harmless! Far from eating people, it actually has a bit of a sweet tooth, preferring fermenting fruit, tree sap and honey in its adult form. It can produce a scent that mimics bees in order to invade beehives and steal this last treat, an unusual and clever adaptation.
And far from being scary, the noise it makes is actually quite adorable. Don’t believe me? Here’s a video!

Aww! And on that note, a Happy Hallowe’en to all! At least the moths don’t bite.

By Bryony Rigby

For further reading


A very interesting post by Bryan Sitch, Curator of Archaeology at Manchester Museum.

Originally posted on Thematic Collecting :

Little Owl in Stoupa, Little Owl in Stoupa, Peloponnese, Greece

My family holiday in Greece last spring has proven to be especially productive in that some chance footage of local wildlife that I recorded on my small compact camera has proved to be the inspiration for an interview with Henry McGhie, Head of Collections and Curator of Zoology at Manchester Museum, on the subject of the Little Owl (Athene noctua).  Whilst my wife Christine and I were staying in the small resort of Stoupa in the Peloponnese we became aware of a rather unusual bird perched on the roof of the appartment block opposite where we were staying. I filmed the bird, which turned out to be a Little Owl, and spoke to Henry about it when I came back to work. Henry, who has a passionate and lifelong interest in birds, told me that the Little Owl is often seen during the day and…

View original 751 more words

The ostrich lays the largest egg of any bird in the world today – it can be up to 15cm in diameter, and weigh as much as 1.3kg! Compare that to a hen’s egg – ostrich eggs are nearly 25 times the average weight of a chicken egg.

However, this particular claim to fame on the part of the ostrich is only because the ostrich itself is so big – in reality, the ostrich egg is one of the smallest compared to the adult size of any bird in the world, only about 2% of the adult’s body weight per egg. It is the biggest bird, so it lays the biggest egg. So far, so simple. Below is a display we have in the museum of some of the largest eggs in the world. The emu and the cassowary are similar to the ostrich and quite large, a species of albatross has the largest wingspan of any bird in the world (up to 3.5m, in case you were wondering) and is, as anyone who has visited our Living Worlds gallery can attest, also quite large, but wait… what’s that in the corner?

egg display                            Case of large eggs, Nature’s Library gallery, Manchester Museum.

The kiwi is the national bird of New Zealand, and is best recognised as the nickname by which New Zealanders are affectionately known by other countries. The bird itself is, like the ostrich, flightless, and has distinctive nostrils right on the end of its long beak. To illustrate further, they look like this:

actual kiwi 2

Brown Kiwi, from the Living Worlds gallery at Manchester Museum.

Yes, that’s right – they’re actually quite small birds, about chicken-sized. Yet while the ostrich egg is about 15cm, the kiwi egg is nearly that size at about 12cm. The kiwi’s egg is up to 20% of the adult bodyweight! It takes roughly a month for the egg to grow inside the female kiwi, during which time it eats much more than normal and then for the two to three days before it lays its egg, it often cannot physically eat anything due to lack of room. To illustrate, here is an x-ray:

X-ray kiwi

Ouch! Their behaviour while pregnant suggests this just might be as painful as it looks – females’ bellies drag along the ground, particularly in the later stages, and they may seek out cool water to bathe in to relieve some of the pain and weight they are carrying.

After ‘ouch’, many peoples’ next reaction is ‘why?’, and with good reason – quite simply, there are several theories about why on earth kiwis have evolved to have such disproportionately large eggs, but no consensus.

What do you think? Come on by and see it for yourself – you won’t be able to believe your eyes!

last pic kiwi

Little Spotted Kiwi, Nature’s Library gallery at Manchester Museum. Ouch!

-Post by Bryony Rigby

P.S. Want to find out more?


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