What I learned- shrinkage, poop, and knops

I did something cool today. I touched old things.  In this case old=medieval and things=cauldron, keys, shoes, candlesticks, buckle, ceramics, spoon, dagger sheath. Basically, for my medieval history class we went to the Museum of London and after talking about how the museum presents the evidence of everyday life in medieval London and how problematic it is to try to do that (and also after laughing at school boys in purple and black striped blazers– awful uniforms), we went to meet a lovely woman who I thought was the medieval collections curator (but, I don’t remember her name and the internet is failing me). (Sorry, really long sentence, but I can’t be bothered. Also, sorry for all the parenthesis.) The really lovely woman showed us lots of cool stuff that we could touch with our very own real hands. Those things were from the handling collection, which is basically the kind of stuff that they have loads of (like “mass-produced” ceramics) so they can sacrifice a few. Which means lots of students and curious people get to put their sweaty, dangerous-to-old-excavated-things hands all over them. My table was particularly fond of the spoon and we fondled is a lot. A few of the objects (like the candlesticks and keys) were from the core collection which meant we had to put gloves on and be careful with them. Still cool. It was a fancy key.

In the end we learned lots of things. Like how conservationists basically freeze dry leather finds in order to preserve them, and how there’s only about a 5% shrinkage rate when they do that, and how the leather that is well-preserved in wet areas like by the river shrink anyways because of wet years and drought years so there’s no way to tell how much a shoe, for example, has even shrunk before someone finds it in the dirt, and how old methods of leather conservation usually meant the leather became stiff and blackish. And we learned how pointy shoes were really fashionable, but weren’t ridiculously pointy, they were like 2 inches max, and how there were laws about how long the point could be or who could wear them, and how shoemakers and cobblers didn’t like each other, and how low shoe edges were meant for men to show off their fabulous colored hosiery. And we learned that the decorative thing at the top of a spoon is called a knop, and the knop on top of our spoon was one of the apostles, but it’s been worn down so much you can’t tell which one it’s supposed to be, and the spoon probably came in a set with all of the other apostles keeping it company. And we learned that the maker’s mark stamped into the inside of the spoony part of the spoon was basically just a couple of initials and pictures of spoons, and not O’s with weird sticks like we thought. And we learned people dumped dirt and old things and garbage between their walls when they needed to fill is up, or cesspits would be filled with people’s garbage when it needed to be filled, and also, I didn’t learn this in class, but there’s a record of someone falling into the latrine and drowning in filthy medieval poop water. Sucks to be him. We learned other things, but this is getting tedious, and you probably didn’t read all of that anyways. Also, it’s 2am, almost.

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