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News - Auld Reekie Retold

  • Auld Reekie Retold is a major three year project which connects objects, stories and people using Museums & Galleries Edinburgh’s collection of over 200,000 objects. Funded by the City of Edinburgh Council and Museums Galleries Scotland, the project brings together temporary Collections Assistants and permanent staff from across our venues. The Auld Reekie Retold team are recording and researching our objects, then showcasing their stories through online engagement with the public. We hope to spark conversations about our amazing collections and their hidden histories, gathering new insights for future exhibitions and events.

    In this blog, Gwen Thomas, Collections Care Officer, explains the process of  marking our diverse museum collections:

     

    We have a huge variety of objects in our collection, from tiny to huge, from chocolate to marble. As part of the Auld Reekie Retold project, we are going through the whole collection to make sure everything is counted, recorded and numbered. One of my jobs as Collections Care Officer is to number the objects and materials that are extra fiddly, that my very capable colleagues would rather not tackle. This includes small or awkward objects or tricky materials like plastic, which can melt if you use the wrong chemicals for marking.

    Conservator applying number to plastic object

    It is really important that each object is numbered, so it can be matched to its record on our database and found easily when someone is looking for it in store. We assign each object a unique number, then choose the most suitable method of marking. In every case, the mark must be removable or reversible. We also have to mark objects in a discreet spot, so it isn’t really obvious if a curator chooses an object to go on display. Sometimes I have to discuss this with the curators, if it isn’t obvious how or in which position it might be displayed; or if the object doesn’t have a natural back or underside (like a Rubik’s cube or a pamphlet printed on both sides). 

    Costume and other textiles will often have a cotton tape label, which can be marked instead of the object, tacked into them.  

    Curator stitching label onto textile object

    Paper and card are marked with a 2B pencil – not too hard or too dark and powdery.  

    Number in pencil on paper object

    With most other materials we paint on a protective coating, write the number on this layer with black or white ink (depending on the colour of the object), then apply a top coat.  

    Numbers in white ink on iron punches
    Number in ink on ceramic object

    These protective layers are glue based, but all can be removed using the right solvent. In the case of plastics, sometimes a PVA glue base layer is the best choice because it won’t melt the object. On the downside, it takes a lot longer to dry and is more likely to peel away over time. 

    Applying a barrier layer to an object

    The last objects I marked before the lockdown were at the Museum of Childhood. They made up a 1960’s Sindy kitchen set, which is incredibly complete. As well as kitchen units, an oven and ironing board, there are plates, tins of food, a laundry basket, a swing top bin – even minute cutlery. My biggest challenges were some functioning pegs and a Sindy-sized dish-washing brush. This was so much fun! 

    Detail of number in ink on plastic Sindy doll brush
    Numbers in ink on small plastic Sindy doll objects

    You can see more objects from our collection online at www.capitalcollections.org.uk

  • Auld Reekie Retold is a major three year project which connects objects, stories and people using Museums & Galleries Edinburgh’s collection of over 200,000 objects. Funded by the City of Edinburgh Council and Museums Galleries Scotland, the project brings together temporary Collections Assistants and permanent staff from across our venues. The Auld Reekie Retold team are recording and researching our objects, then showcasing their stories through online engagement with the public. We hope to spark conversations about our amazing collections and their hidden histories, gathering new insights for future exhibitions and events.

    In this blog, Oliver Taylor, one of the project’s Collections Assistants, looks into the museums’ collections to see how they can showcase the life of Greyfriars Bobby, and explores some of the items mentioned in our podcast:

     

    Museums &Galleries Edinburgh is the master of Bobby, well, the statue at any rate. The real Bobby was scampering around Edinburgh during the 1850s and 60s. Anyone familiar with Edinburgh will know the story of Greyfriars Bobby. He is alleged to have looked over his master’s grave, night watchman, John Grey, in Greyfriars Kirkyard long after his death.

    However, some say that no one really knew who Bobby’s owner was, and that he wasn’t pining over a grave after all. What we do know is that Bobby had a very interesting little life. It is thought that Bobby did keep the kirkyard as his permanent residence, but he freely wandered around the local area. He was looked after by various local people and his popularity helped the surrounding businesses. When he died in 1867 a replacement dog was found, a Skye Terrier, which the famous statue on Candlemaker Row represents. The original dog was thought to be an elderly terrier mongrel.

     

    Sepia photograph by W. G. Patterson of Greyfriars Bobby

    The new and improved Bobby was officially adopted by the city of Edinburgh after the lord provost learned he would be destroyed as he was technically ownerless. The provost paid for Bobby’s licence and gave him a leather collar with a brass plaque inscribed, ‘Greyfriars Bobby From the Lord Provost 1867’, and a small tin dish for his food. The collar proved that Bobby was a licenced dog and was free to wander his popular haunts. Both these items are on display at the Museum of Edinburgh.

    Greyfrairs Bobby's dinner dish
    Greyfriars Bobby's collar with label inscribed with his name

    When Bobby passed away for a second time in 1872 he was buried just inside the gate of Greyfriars Kirkyard. Bobby was so well regarded that a lasting monument to him was erected in bronze and granite on Candlemaker Row. The monument is also a water fountain and was created by Edinburgh sculptor William Brodie. The monument is on two levels, the lower part is for dogs to drink water from and the upper part is for humans (or especially tall dogs). 

    Water fountain with statue of Greyfriars Bobby

    The monument was paid for by English philanthropist Baroness Burdett-Coutts. The baroness was involved in the establishment of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and so had an interest in cases like Bobby’s.

    Joined to the fountain by an iron chain was a small bronze drinking cup, now on display in the Museum of Edinburgh. The cup was removed as it was deemed a little unsanitary for everyone who passed by and fancied a drink to share the same vessel.

    Metal drinking cup with chain from the water fountain with Greyfriars Bobby statue on top

    Bobby has since been brought to life in two film portrayals, the first was in 1961 and the more recent in 2006. After the first film the dog who played Bobby, known as ‘Wee Bobby’ was given to Chief Constable William Merrilees as thanks for his work in scouting out filming locations around Edinburgh. Wee Bobby went on to appear at local charity events. The latter film was not actually shot in Edinburgh and to confuse matters Bobby was played by a West Highland Terrier, a completely different breed! In the collections of the Museum of Edinburgh we have several posters advertising the film, some in Japanese which goes to show how far the story of Bobby has spread.

    As well as his appearance in international films Bobby has been taking himself out for other outings. At the twentieth Commonwealth Games in Glasgow he made an appearance at the opening ceremony as a replica fibreglass puppet of the original statue. This puppet guards the Museum Collections Centre and can be seen on pre-booked tours.

    Fibreglass model of Grayfriars Bobby used at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, front view

    In future you can come to the Museum of Edinburgh and delve into the ‘tail’ of Greyfriars Bobby.

    You can see more from our collection online at www.capitalcollections.org.uk 
    You can find out more about Greyfriars Bobby on our Auld Reekie Retold podcast here

  • Auld Reekie Retold is a major three year project which connects objects, stories and people using Museums & Galleries Edinburgh’s collection of over 200,000 objects. Funded by the City of Edinburgh Council and Museums Galleries Scotland, the project brings together temporary Collections Assistants and permanent staff from across our venues. The Auld Reekie Retold team are recording and researching our objects, then showcasing their stories through online engagement with the public. We hope to spark conversations about our amazing collections and their hidden histories, gathering new insights for future exhibitions and events.

    Welcome to the Auld Reekie Retold Podcast from Museums & Galleries Edinburgh. Today is the launch of our first episode! We have been creating the podcast from home, so please excuse any inconsistencies in the audio. Today you’ll hear from Gabriella Lawrie, Gwen Thomas and Suzy Murray, three of the team working on the Auld Reekie Retold project. They are talking about Edinburgh’s most famous dog, Greyfriars Bobby, and his journey from small dog to major cultural icon.

    For more information on Bobby and the rest of the Museums & Galleries Edinburgh collections, explore this website or join the conversation at @EdinCulture on Twitter, @museumsgalleriesedinburgh on Instagram and Museums & Galleries Edinburgh on Facebook. Tag us using #AuldReekieRetold

     

    Auld Reekie Retold Podcast, EP#1 Greyfriars Bobby

    Images featured in the video are:

    Candlemaker Row - 'Greyfriars Bobby', more information here.
    The Genius of Architecture statuary group, West Princes Street Gardens, more information here.
    Baroness Burdett Coutts (1814–1906), Julius Jacob, more information here.
    Baroness Burdett Coutts (1814–1906), Julius Jacob (Photo: Eion Johnston).
    Greyfriars Bobby, more information here
    Greyfriars Bobby Monument drinking cup, more information here
    Greyfriars Bobby's Collar, more information here
    John Traill, his wife, and two children, with GreyfriarsBobby in his wife's arms, more information here
    John Traill's Temperance Coffee House, more information here
    Edinburgh Castle from Greyfriar's Churchyard, 6th July 1825, more information here
    Candlemaker Row from Greyfriars Churchyard, more information here.
    Greyfriars Churchyard, east division, west wall, general view showing position of John Byres' tomb, more information here.
    Greyfriars Bobby, more information here.
    Bakehouse Close, looking north.
    Japanese Film Poster for, 'The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby', Museums & Galleries Edinburgh.
    Greyfriars Bobby, more information here.
    Greyfriars Bobby Prop from the 2014 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.
    Opening Ceremony Live | Glasgow 2014 | XX Commonwealth Games, Greyfriars Bobby Puppet (7:40 timestamp), more information here.
    Repatination of Greyfriars Bobby Statue, Museums & Galleries Edinburgh.