Welcome to Objects in Focus at the VG&M

This Blog will focus on individual objects from our extensive fine and decorative art collections and the museum heritage collections. You will be regulary treated to an in-depth look into both familiar and unfamiliar artworks and objects, discovering some of the secrets and stories behind them.

You might recognise some objects from display, but others from departmental teaching collections will be seen publicly for the first time.


Story of the Willow Pattern

Posted on: 15 January 2021 | Category: 2021

Traditional Willow Pattern (detail)

Blue and white ‘Willow Pattern’ tableware is considered traditionally British, seen on plates, dishes and tea services on dressers and sideboards across the land. The pattern is clearly inspired by China, and its story certainly starts there, but we need to go back a long, long way to find out why.


Away with the Fairies

Posted on: 18 December 2020 | Category: 2020

Two adult fairies are shown from the waist up plus two boy fairies follow. They fly towards the left.

Outside, Winter’s long, dark nights are bringing frost-tipped chills, so far nicer to stay inside and curl up with a book about mystical enchantments, magical creatures and monstrous beasts. And who better to illustrate our story but Arthur Rackham? Here is the bewitching tale of one of our visitors’ favourite paintings: Twilight Dreams.


Packing in a Pandemic - Moving the museum store

Posted on: 11 December 2020 | Category: 2020

A seal skeleton being packed away ready for the move.

This time last year, it was with mixed emotion that the curator of the Heritage Collections and I received the news that we would be getting a new Heritage Store. Hooray! - we thought - much improved storage at last, oh but hang on… the thought of moving more than 14,000 objects from our current store to our shiny new store was daunting indeed - and that’s putting it mildly.


Liverpool and Manchester Railway

Posted on: 27 November 2020 | Category: 2020

A railway line runs diagonally across the image from top left to bottom right, and a steam locomotive pulling three coaches heads to the bottom right. Another steam train can be seen in the far distance. A patchwork of flat fields lie either side of the track. This is a section of the second image down

We are going to celebrate Lancashire Day with a look at a world-changing innovation that spans the historic county from one great city to another and is still used today: the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.


Spare a Thought for Samuel Pepys!

Posted on: 13 November 2020 | Category: 2020

Bladder stone crusher from the Medical Museum Collection

‘What is the purpose of this strange looking instrument?’ I hear you ask. This is a bladder stone crusher from the Medical Museum Collection, part of the University Heritage Collections. Note the ivory handles and the beautifully crafted mechanism.


Liverpool by Tony Phillips

Posted on: 30 October 2020 | Category: 2020

A young girl with brown skin and dark brown shoulder-length curly hair looks up at a stone sculpture of a lion lying on a plinth with its head raised and its paws near the girl’s head. The girl wears a jacket of pale greeny-yellow with white sleeves.  Behind them are buildings jumbled upwards.  This is a detail of the picture below.

A young girl looks up at one of the famous stone lions outside St George’s Hall in Liverpool. How does she and the lion represent our city’s past and hopes for the future? Let’s look closer at this painting by Liverpool-born artist Tony Phillips and find out more.


In Celebration of Hagfish Day!

Posted on: 21 October 2020 | Category: 2020

VG&M Hagfish

Most people agree that one of the most repulsive specimens in our Nightmares in a Bell Jar display is the hagfish – but this doesn’t mean that hagfish don’t deserve our attention and protection. That is the message behind Hagfish day, which is on the third Wednesday of October – every year.


More than just a Cheeky Bum

Posted on: 16 October 2020 | Category: 2020

The Sluggard Close Up

In recent weeks a particular part of one of our sculptures has been getting a lot of attention: its buttocks. They have featured in the Liverpool Echo and on various social media platforms including one called @museumbums (yes, really …). But there is more to ‘The Sluggard’ than its pert behind, so let’s get to the bottom of the story.


Slavery and Snuff

Posted on: 6 October 2020 | Category: 2020

Snuff box from the VG&M Collection.  A smooth, round dark brown box with the profile of an African man's head. He has curly hair and has an earring. He is also shown with the band of a slave's collar round his neck.

Sometimes, as a museum curator, you are responsible for items in the collection that you find distasteful and even upsetting. And yet, they represent a story that needs to be told. Here is a little snuff-box which represents a huge injustice in history: the transatlantic slave trade.


Bone of Contention

Posted on: 18 September 2020 | Category: 2020

Skeleton specimen lit from the side in a museum setting.

As you enter the Tate museum one of the first parts of the natural history collections that greets you is this incredible skeleton of a python. The museum has a large collection of natural history including full skeletons of mammals from gorillas to tiny mammal skulls, taxidermy teaching models and osteology teaching models (real skeletons prepared and articulated and mounted on wood). The python being the most intricate and impressive in my opinion of the teaching models deserves this week’s blog spotlight. You can look at it for a long time and marvel at the amount of bones a python skeleton has, work out how they function and move but what is incredibly striking is the workmanship in creating such a fascinating model, who made it and why?


    Blog

    Story of the Willow Pattern

    Traditional Willow Pattern (detail)

    Posted on: 15 January 2021 | Category: 2021

    Blue and white ‘Willow Pattern’ tableware is considered traditionally British, seen on plates, dishes and tea services on dressers and sideboards across the land. The pattern is clearly inspired by China, and its story certainly starts there, but we need to go back a long, long way to find out why.


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Disclaimer

We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought.

The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.