Legionary 2017 – Exeter games show

The annual wargames show in Exeter

This year’s show lived up to expectations. Plenty of great looking games spread across history with quite a few non historical games. The Star Wars competition looked spectacular with all the space maps joined together. I was so impressed I forgot to take a photo!

A good variety of traders with plenty of stock meant temptation but I mostly managed to resist. And an impressive bring and buy where I got a couple of bargains.

Helms Deep besieged in Exeter

The Exmouth Imperial Wargames Club who run the show had a good looking siege of Helm’s Deep game. The fortress itself was very impressive with the stone beautifully painted. Talking of painting I was impressed to hear the elves had been painted for the game.

The elves in the siege of Helms Deep game

Napoleonics in America

Another game that caught my eye was Graham Cookson’s War of 1812 game. The smoke effect on the rocket team looked most convincing!

British rocket team firing

Catching up

As usual the show was a great opportunity to catch up with people. I had my annual chat with Martin Goddard from Peter the Pig who seems to be making the Russian army of the Second World War on a 1:1 basis.

I was interested to hear from Helion Books that Bicorne Miniatures are to release a set of figures depicting the Royalist Oxford Army. Good news for English Civil War collectors.

I look forward to next year’s show

Magic Lantern Slides at Hove Museum & Art Gallery

a magic lantern slide showing a learned cat

 The optical, film and cinema collection at Hove Museum

While exploring Hove museum I was really impressed by the two galleries dedicated to their optical toys, devices, film and cinema collection. A great mix of stories, machines, objects and historic films playing in a tiny cinema. Part of this collection includes magic lantern slides and a fine selection of projectors.

Why magic lantern slides?

At work (Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery) there’s a research project about the museum’s magic lantern slide collection. The A Million Pictures  project is international in scope involving museums and universities. Part of this includes digitising and adding the slides to the museum’s database and collections website. Being involved in this project kindled an interest in magic lantern slides as social history and as objects in their own right.

Assisting my more learned colleagues with slide shows at museum events added fuel to the fire. Thinking of fuel we used an electric light rather than anything more inflammable and exciting. From this my interest in both slides and projectors has grown.

Photo of myself Ready to be a projector's assistant

Ready to be a projector’s assistant

 

The collection at Hove Museum

Finding a gallery with lots of magic lantern slides related content was a lovely surprise. There were full size projectors along with smaller ones for home use and even toy ones. A two lens (biunial) projector from the 1870s was very impressive. The brass was gleaming and the wood glowing with polish.  A later projector was displayed with its case and accessories showing how bulky these were.

By way of contrast small projectors for home use and toy projectors were displayed, These also had slide mounts and strips of images with them. The strips of images often had amusing images for home entertainment on. There is also an impressive backlit wall of slides to give an idea of the variety of subjects found. I didn’t look at every one but could have happily done so!

 

If you’re in the Brighton and Hove area I recommend a visit to Hove Museum and Art Gallery

 

 

 

 

Sutton Hoo display at the British Museum

Display case with helmets and shield

Ship burial from Sutton Hoo redisplayed

The Sutton Hoo ship burial and the dark ages artefacts found there have fascinated many of us from first sight. The full face helmet alone is an amazing object in its own right.  The other treasures create an impression of wealth not normally associated with the popular idea of the Anglo-Saxons in the dark ages.

Three silver plates from the Mediterranean

Silver plates from the Mediterranean

The recent redisplay of the Sutton Hoo discoveries at the British Museum shows the objects familiar to frequent visitors in a new setting and with new interpretation. What I liked most about the redisplay was the context given to the finds. The display case is long and tall with the outline of a ship in white. The photo shows this is faint but helps remind visitors that the objects come from a ship grave. This is underlined by the simple labels showing whereabouts in the ship the objects were found.

Sutton Hoo display case

Centre of the new Sutton Hoo display case

Interpretation panel showing the ship

Panel showing where objects were in the ship

Recreated objects and interpretation

A big change in this display is the number of modern recreations of objects displayed alongside the originals. I liked this approach because it helps the non-specialist understand what the original looked like and can help see how it was used. For example the modern versions of the cauldron and chain make it clear the size of the object and it’s use. Not least the length of the chain shows it was hung from a high support. I also liked the way the modern versions were clearly marked to avoid confusion.

Cauldron and chain display

Modern cauldron and chain beside original chain

Inevitably the modern helmet attracted most attention while I was in the gallery. Having it displayed by the original allows a compare and contrast the two. Plus it shows how much the Anglo-Saxons liked to create an impression with polished metal objects.

Modern version of the helmet

Modern reconstruction of the Sutton Hoo helmet

The reconstructed helmet has more detailed interpretation than I expected. It highlights the pagan horned dancing figures similar to other pagan depictions. It also points out the similarity to Roman cavalry tombstones that show a Roman (or auxiliary) riding down a barbarian.

Dancing figures on a helmet panel

Dancing figures on the modern helmet

Helmet panel with Roman style horseman

Modern helmet panel showing horseman riding down an enemy

The shield was a reconstruction to provide a display for the original shield fittings and this is essentially unchanged. It has a modern and an original sword below it. Seeing the modern sword in pristine condition helps the visitor imagine the impact visually and physically of this finely made weapons.

Shield and swords display

Modern shield with original fittings and modern and original swords

Sutton Hoo and the Anglo-Saxons

What does this splendid display tell us about the Anglo-Saxons and their world? It makes clear the wealth that an individual could command. From gold metalwork and red garnet fittings on the pouch cover to the workmanship of the helmet’s decorated panel and ridge it shows the love of bling and display. Identifying where objects come from gives an insight into the wider world of the time. Clear links between East Anglia and East Sweden are seen along with silver plate from the Mediterranean (more dark ages bling!).

The discovery is significant enough to feature in the name of Room 41 at the British Museum. Room 41 is now the Sutton Hoo and Europe, AD 300-1100 gallery.

 

 

Terence Donovan exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery

Photo of the Donovan exhibition poster

Terence Donovan retrospective in Soho

This 2016 exhibition is spread over two floors of the Photographers’ Gallery in London. My interest in Donovan’s work comes from his taking fashion out of the studio and into his East End. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of conventional fashion shots in the exhibition.

The exhibition includes studio, outdoor work, portraits and video. Something that really comes out is how Donovan was very much a man of his time whether commissions from Town magazine, photographing a young Julie Christie, musicians’ portraits in the 1990s or directing pop videos.

Seeing his studio day bookss give a reminder that he was earning a living from his work. The more bread and butter commissions recorded for Woman’s Own are a good example of this.

What made Donovan different?

One of a trio of working class photographers in the 1960s Donovan does stand out (David Bailey and Brian Duffy were the other two). I see him as different because he used photojournalism techniques with fashion. Whether on East End streets, power stations or shooting through a car window he took fashion photography out of the studio and safe landscape.

This technique is maybe taken too far though in his Spy series of photographs for Town magazine. Or perhaps time simply has made them lose the innovative look they had when published.

There’s an exhibition catalogue for anyone who missed the show.

 

 

 

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