Lindow Manchester


More Bog Body Poetry

Recent contributions of poetry relating to Lindow Man seem to have struck a chord. Earlier this week I had a letter from the writer and artist, Eve Coxeter, who tells me she bumped into Joan Poulson and heard about the Lindow Man exhibition.

Like Joan, Eve was inspired by the bog body phenomenon to write a novel about Tollund Man. Eve visited Silkeborg some years ago to see his body and actually met P.V.Glob, who wrote the seminal work The Bog People, with its beautiful black and white photographs of bog bodies and associated discoveries.

Joan writes that Prof.Glob was elderly but still used his own plane to fly up to his farm near Silkebord every weekend. There were even burial mounds on his property, she says. Eve’s novel was intended to bring Torlund (the medieval name) to life.

Although it remains unpublished, the script can be accessed via Eve’s website, http://www.evecoxeter.com,  and anyone interested can see the novel under ‘Novels:Torlund?’ . Eve has also kindly allowed me to post a copy of her poem on the Blog and reproduce her drawing and a sculpture of Tollund Man. So thanks to Eve for allowing me to share this:-
TORLUND THE MAN GOD
By Eve Coxeter

Torlund
how sunken are you?

Dredged from the peat
where you have slept
through autumn mists.
fog sweep your soul
yet rise so whole
in face and foot
not man made flesh
but gods returned
your incomplete reality.

How past gives back
presents your face to man
in all but breath.

You speak
through humic acids
no words commune
unconscious host
fen sacrifice noosed
for a lost goddess
your sacred seed
germinating the archaic
silence in us all,

Convey, tell that which
human knowledge would compel
our hoped communication
divided from you at last
by the glass case
only of time.
Which reminds me that there is a copy of a novel ‘Lindow End’ by local writer Christine Pemberton in Susan Chadwick’s section of the Lindow Man exhibition. This contemporary thriller involves ancient bog body DNA and a test tube baby. I don’t want to give anything away but I haven’t been able to look Christine in the eye since I read her book.

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Lindow Man Exhibition Publication

I was out with a colleague from the Manchester Museum’s education team, Neil Dymond-Green,  this morning to talk to pupils at St James’ Primary School about our new Ancient Worlds displays.

When I walked in my office there was a thick, new book on my desk still inside its wrapper and a pithy message on the outside from Jeff Horsley saying ‘The exhibition looks fantastic’.

I opened New Exhibition Design/Neue Ausstellungs Gestaltung 02 suspecting it was something to do with the Lindow Man exhibition. It’s always nice to open a brand new book, with that peculiar fresh smell of printing but even more of a thrill to find some rather nice images of Lindow Man displays taken by former colleague Bryony Bond.

There’s only a couple of short paragraphs by way of text. The book focuses on exhibition design so it’s what it looked like that’s important.

There are three pages of tasteful shots showing the innovative shelving, the biographies of the contributors and visitors interacting with the various sections. It’s all very atmospheric and brings back happy memories of the Lindow Man exhibition.

From now on I won’t have to scrabble about looking for images on the shared drive. I can simply refer them to this beautiful and thought-provoking publication.  Thanks to Jeff for dropping this off.



Repatriation Campaign

Having signed up to giving a paper on the unsuccessful campaign to repatriate Lindow Man at next month’s Restitution Conference at the University of Manchester, I am revisiting my notes from 18 months ago in preparation. One of the people I’d have loved to meet when we were working on the exhibition was Barbara O’Brien who co-ordinated the campaign to bring Lindow Man back to Manchester back in 1987. She got support from local MPs but didn’t get the support she felt she should have had from museums and called off the campaign.  She used to work for Granada TV but they couldn’t put me in touch with her.  She used to live in Hale, Altrincham. Attempts to find her via the internet have met with a blank. I don’t even know if she’s still alive. If you’re still out there Barbara it would be great to talk to you.

Article about Lindow Man repatriation campaign (1987)



Bog Bodies book

I recently got in touch with Karin Sanders whose book Bodies in the Bog and the Archaeological Imagination came out earlier in the year. She is Professor of Scandinavian at the university of California, Berkeley.

Oldenbourg bog body display (courtesy of Karin Sanders)

Oldenbourg bog body display (courtesy of Karin Sanders). Use of MDF in the Lindow Man exhibition was intended to replicate the organic feel.

Some of the chapters cover similar topics to those of the Manchester Museum’s Lindow Man exhibition in 2008-9. There is a chapter on ethical treatment of bodies on display in the book.

What really caught my eye though was a photograph of a bog body display at Oldenbourg in Germany. The body is displayed in what looks like a peat bog section and it immediately reminded me of the use of MDF in the Lindow Man displays, which does have an organic, vegetation-like appearance from a distance. Karin kindly allowed me to reproduce this on the Blog to see what other people think.

Entrance to Lindow Man exhibition showing use of MDF

Entrance to Lindow Man exhibition showing use of MDF

It is unfortunate that because of the scheduling Karin’s book had effectively been completed before our exhibition but she was gracious enough to say that she would have used the exhibition as an example had we opened earlier. Meanwhile a short account of the exhibition has appeared in the latest UMAC Journal and we are regularly receive enquiries from students and museum professionals about our project.



Is a Care Bear Appropriate?

Nearly 8 months after Lindow Man a Bog Body Mystery closed the Museum is still receiving comments about the exhibition. We receive between 500 and 1000 visits to the Blog every month. This is an email received by Stephen Devine (New Media and Photographic Officer) from Jean N.:

‘I have just visited the Lindow Man web page. How can you hold
a ‘responsibility to treat human remains with respect and dignity’
yet show an image of a ‘Care Bear’ underneath the heading ‘Lindow
Man’? It conveys the wrong message completely!’

This is Steve’s reply:-
Thank you for taking the time to contact us and apologies for my slow response.

 

Our human remains policy restricts the use of image of human remains which is one reason why you do not see an image of Lindow Man himself on our website.

Our Lindow Man exhibition presented a number of perspectives relating to memories of the discovery of Lindow Man. The Care Bear, selected by one of the members of the public involved in the exhibition, represents one of these.

The Care Bear was something that reminded the participants of that time in her life and of the discovery of Lindow Man.

This was one of a number of images used extensively in the exhibition and for the marketing of the exhibition. As such I feel that on our website the image represents the exhibition rather than Lindow Man himself.

While there was a number of different reactions to the use of the Care Bear there was never any intention of disrespect towards Lindow Man.

Personally I feel that connecting Lindow Man with viewpoints of the living and the focus on related objects from modern times as well as his own the exhibition showed a great deal of respect.
Many thanks, Steve

I replied:-

“A number of people have commented on the Care Bear. It might help you to appreciate why we put this in the exhibition if I explain about the consultation that we did over a year in advance of opening.

Recognizing that human remains are more of an emotive topic nowadays than the last time the Museum displayed Lindow Man back in 1987 and 1991, we invited a wide-ranging group of people to consult about the exhibition. The invitees included curators, archaeologists, students, members of Manchester City Council, members of the public and pagans. We put them in mixed groups and all five groups reported back that they wanted a respectful treatment of Lindow Man and for his interpretation to reflect the different theories about how and why he died.

We decided to implement those recommendations by interviewing a number of different people, each of whom had had experience of Lindow Man in one way or another. They included a forensic scientist, two peat diggers, a landscape archeologist, someone who lives at Lindow Moss, museum curators from the BM and Manchester Museum and a Pagan.

We asked the interviewees to recommend objects as exhibits for each section. Susan Chadwick, who lived at Lindow Moss when she was a little girl, told us about her Care Bear and how it reminded her of the time when Lindow Man was discovered. We thought that it was useful as a device to help people remember when Lindow Man was found and to think about what they were doing when he was discovered and reactions to the discovery.

The toy was intended to show visitors that the perspective on Lindow Man was that of someone who is now a mature adult but who was just a child in 1984. Susan’s testimony gives us a unique perspective: through her eyes we find out what it was like to find her favourite paths closed off by Police “Crime Scene investigation” tape or the feelings of local people when Lindow Man goes off to London. As this section was separate from the display of Lindow Man, I personally don’t think it was insensitive to show the Care Bear and it also helped young children to engage with some of the ideas.

Of course I accept that different people will have different ideas of what constitutes respect and sensitive treatment but we did consult and, in the context of the approach we took to the exhibition, I still personally feel that it was respectful. Human remains are such a contentious area that probably no two people are going to agree entirely. It was that kind of exhibition I’m afraid but we did try to obtain consensus through our consultation.”

Jean has replied:-

‘Thank you for your reply. My comment was in no way a criticism of the exhibition (which I have not seen) but the strange juxtaposition on the web-page. I am sure that the exhibition treated the remains with respect and I now appreciate that in 1984 the Care Bear might strike a chord with other children.

What struck me as strange, however, was the motif of the Care Bear directly underneath the title ‘Lindow Man’ on the web-page as if the Care Bear was a representation of Lindow Man. That surely wasn’t the intention. Maybe no-one else has made that assumption?

My present interest in Lindow Man is as a student on the new OU course Understanding Global Heritage although I was aware of him from previous studies. I come from a museum family and I write also as one who has been involved in museum display and interpretation in the Highlands on an occasional consultancy basis.’

Our thanks to Jean for these comments and allowing us to post the correspondence on the Lindow Man Blog.

 

 



A Poem from the Lindow Man Offerings Box

This is one of several poems placed in the Lindow Man offerings box as a mark of respect for Lindow Man

“Crumpled, folded, left lying for the peat
Flesh becomes water, became earth
Became stone in time.
No hope of that now, leather man, stone
Interrupted,
Your journeys unexpected direction?
To offer us questions
It’s always questions, that’s what we have of you.
Maybe questions are what we need
No certainties, no mysteries finally revealed”

“It’s spring outside now,
The frogs have broken the hibernation dream
And fill the world with bubbling, copulating life
I would bring you flowers and new shoots,
Pussy willow and hope.
But they cannot, could not, touch you in you
Sealed crystal coffin, defying even handsome princes
So I bring you the dream of spring and the wind
that blows over the hills, with the rain and
the sudden sleet, And I offer you, spring mornings
and the air full of promise, stones warming
slowly under a glowing sun.
I feed you dreams and a blanket of memories,
A thicket of hope to shelter you from the
Endless staring eyes in that cold, climate controlled
Bubble
We will hold a space for you in the dancing circles,
A place at the table, a welcome in the Feast for the Dead

With love, Gordon the Toad”



Lindow Man Visitor Figures

As part of the work on evaluating the Lindow Man exhibition I rang Carole Knight, Project Administration Assistant at the Manchester Museum, to ask how many people visited. 133,413 people came to see Lindow Man.




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