Lindow Manchester


New Book on Lindow man
Lindow Man book cover

Lindow Man book cover

Wendy in the Museum shop rang me late this afternoon saying that I probably wouldn’t be interested and it was probably too late but that she had received a newly published book on Lindow Man. I took myself down to the shop and am now the proud owner of Jody Joy’s Lindow Man (The British Museum Press, 2009). The author  needs no introduction to those of us who worked on the Lindow Man exhibition at the Manchester Museum.  Jody is responsible for European Iron Age collections at the British Museum and gave us every assistance when we were preparing our exhibition Lindow Man a Bog Body Mystery.

Like other books in the series (which includes one on an Easter Island statue and the Gayer Anderson cat) this is a highly readable and beautifully illustrated account of the “artefact” in question. Indeed it is almost too well-illustrated with detailed views of Lindow Man’s body. It sets Lindow Man in the context of other discoveries at Lindow Moss, the contemporary murder investigation and the wider pattern of European bog bodies. Although radiocarbon dating showed the body to be ancient, Lindow Man’s death some time between 2 BC and AD 119 raises the question whether Lindow Man died in the Iron Age or some time after the Roman Conquest of  northern Britain.  Separate chapters discuss how Lindow Man was preserved, how he was  investigated forensically and what he looked like. The account notes the more recently discovered Irish bog bodies and refers tantalizingly to the future analysis of Lindow Man’s hair, the kind of research, writes the author that is only possible if human remains are stored securely by museums…

Perhaps the most interesting part of this fascinating little book is the final chapter about reconstructing Lindow Man’s death. After giving the orthodox account of  Lindow Man’s death, other interpretations, notably  Robert Connolly’s critique, are given, but without reaching a definitive conclusion.  And there is a brief discussion of Ronald Hutton’s challenge to previous accounts of Lindow Man’s death. Last but not least there are photographs of BM staff preparing Lindow Man for his temporary exhibition at the Manchester Museum. This book would have benefited   from touching on the current debate about human remains in museums and the 1980s repatriation campaign to bring Lindow Man back to the North West but this being a British Museum publication, this omission is hardly surprising.  All-in-all this is an attractive and highly readable little book that neatly summarizes the current state of knowldege about Britain’s best-preserved bog body. For £5 it represents excellent value.

Lindow Man book cover

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Museums Journal Review of the Year

The December issue of the Museums Journal looks at some of the highs and lows of 2008. Apparently among all the offerings from the big nationals two exhibitions in less high-profile museums stand out. One is Lindow Man  at the Manchester Museum, which the reviewer said “gave a real sense that this is a community museum and that the community is engaged in truly public history.” Incidentally the other exhibition is Helmand: the Soldiers Story at the National Army Museum. It’s  on page 22 if you want to have a look.



Review of Lindow Man Exhibition

Several months after the opening, a review of Lindow Man A Bog Body Mystery has appeared in this month’s (July) Museums Journal. Written by Stuart Burch, who is a lecturer in museum studies at Nottingham Trent University, the review is perceptive, thoughtful and fair in its criticism. The reviewer picks up on the fact that human remains are a subject of quite intense debate in museums at the moment and says it is ‘to the Manchester Museum’s enormous credit that it has sought to tackle these issues whilst stressing there are no “right” answers… it is impossible to accuse this exhibition of being simplistic or shallow. It manages to convey intellectualy challenging information and balances often contradictory interpretations’.

Stuart notes that much of the information is tucked away in folders or sound booths and worries that some visitors might leave thinking there was nothing to see. He suggests placing a visitor assistant at the entrance to the exhibition to help visitors. In fact this is one of the things that we looked at recently when we evaluated the exhibition and proposed some improvements. One of them was to make sure our Visitor Services Assistants engaged with visitors more directly about the exhibition, and to explain why it was presented in this way.

Another planned improvement is to re-write and re-position the introduction to the exhibition, again to help visitors orient themselves. The reviewer says this isn’t a perfect exhibition – though he says he thinks it is excellent – but then there is no such thing as a perfect exhibition. All are of their time, representing the pre-occupations of the moment, contingent and not definitive (is that perhaps why some of our visitors have struggled with the exhibition, because they expect museums to tell them objective facts?.

Reading out a selection of comments from the review to colleagues at the diary meeting last Wednesday I felt a real sense of pride that another museum professional had understood what we were about. Read the full interview in the Museums Journal for July (pages 50-51). If you are a member you can access the review electronically at this address – http://www.museumsassociation.org/ma/7758.




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