Lindow Manchester

Lindow Man Big Saturday
May 12, 2008, 9:07
Filed under: Events

Saturday 3rd May was Lindow Man Big Saturday, one of the days when we organize family friendly events and activities in the Museum. I worked on the object handling table. Visitors could see and hold a range of Iron Age and Roman artefacts including a horse bridle bit, a plough tip, Roman coins, hair pins, brooches, iron nails and a range of pottery. We also displayed the recently discovered  altar , the first Roman inscription from Manchester in 150 years and, amazingly, still only the second example of an inscription naming an individual from the settlement.

Whilst doing my stint at the handling table I spoke to a gentleman who had come to review the Lindow Man exhibition for Antiquity. He was very interested in how we had gone about putting the exhibition together, the public consultation, and the multiple voices approach.  Some visitors have come to the exhibition with a preconception of what the Lindow Man exhibition should be about, but given all the questions raised about the interpretation of Lindow Man it seemed to us to be honest to say there is much that we just don’t know. People coming to the museum in the expectation of finding a single story or interpretation are bound to be disappointed but that is what life is like. It’s messy and complicated. CSI on television may find the guilty party every episode. With Lindow Man it really is a question of different people interpreting the evidence in different ways. 

Yesterday I gave a talk about using Rene Girard’s Mimetic or Sacrificial Theory to make sense of Lindow Man as part of the Museum’s Showcase seminar series. At the end a gentleman in the audience complimented us on the exhibition and asked a very interesting question about the implications of moving away from the “single authoritative voice” approach. Is it a ‘cop out’? Is it saying ‘anything goes’? I don’t believe so. There is obviously a lot of variety in the possible responses on a spectrum that runs from ‘single authoritative voice’ to ‘anything goes’. The Museum as an organization has a lot of control over what appears in the exhibition but we decide in collaboration with contributors.  That seems to be an adult and mature way forward.


2 Comments so far
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Who was this exhibition aimed at?
Certainly not anyone interested in History or anyone wanting an insight into what is known of life at that time in history and certainly not for children.
There were only a few artifacts on show and too much writing at various heights, both difficult to see if many people were trying to read.
Where was the head of Lindow man that the university made to show how they thought he looked? Or even pictures of him. We had to go into the shop and look in a book to find a picture of the head made by the University to interest our Grand-daughter. There were no postcards available to buy at the shop relating to this exhibition.
The display case with Lindow Man in was badly lit, with too many reflections. It was much better displayed at the British Museum.
Altogether it was a drab, colourless exhibition which did little to add to anyones knowledge.

Comment by C. Avery

I think it only fair to respond to this comment. The exhibition is aimed at families with children and colleagues and the contributors deliberately included a wide range of material, not only historical or archaeological, precisely in order to encourage that interaction with the exhibition. The sound recordings of the interviews for example have proved popular with visully impaired visitors. Full transcirpts are available in bold type too. With children in mind there is a care bear and tonka toy diggers as well as colouring activities, a blanket dig and handling materials. Some of the display units are deliberately set at a lower child friendly level for that reason. The objects selected for exhibition were not intended to depict the life and times of Lindow Man, though the exhibits in J.D.Hill’s and my section do so to an extent. The “life and times” approach was taken in the exhibitions of 1987 and 1991 and we wanted to do something different this time around. The objects were selected by the contributors with a view to illustrating their lives and interests, their involvement with archaeology or to explore their particular perspective on Lindow Man. They are there to stimulate thought and we welcolm visitors’ responses. Lindow Man’s head was not included, because it was never really suggested by the interviewees themselves. We did put a copy of an article about Lindow Man’s facial reconstruciton in the “Find out More” files that accompany our exhibition and which are freely available to visitors. I actually think it is more moving to look upon Lindow Man’s face than to look at the reconstruction but it is a matter of taste or preference. We have had a number of comments about lighting and are meeting shortly to look at improvements but we must remember that Lindow Man is sensitive to light and in any case there is a good reason not to light him too brightly. We want to encourage people to stop and think about what they are seeing. Standing for a time whilst your eyes become accustomed to the light is one way of slowing down the visitors’ interaction with Lindow Man. Comparisons with the British Museum are always going to be value judgments. I think we have an opportunity to explore contemporary responses to Lindow Man in more detail in this exhibition than would be possible at the BM, simply because at the BM, he is one of many many treasures. We have tried to explore Lindow Man in a thoughtful, imaginative and engaging way for a popular audience and I can’t agree that this is drab or colourless. I think for people who are prepared explore the various materials on offer there is a lot to add to find out but it does require more of visitors. This is a challenging exhibition.

Comment by bryansitch

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