The incredible collections in the care of Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums include decorative art, costume, paintings, sculpture and objects relating to our city’s archaeology, maritime history, science and industry.
Together they are recognised as a Collection of National Significance. From everyday objects, to masterpieces of art, these diverse collections belong to each and every one of us in Aberdeen. We are proud to care for them on your behalf and to share the stories they tell.
In this new regular feature in The Aberdonian, week by week we’ll introduce you to some amazing art, archives and objects and fascinating stories. I’m delighted to kick off the series with two of my favourites.
I’ve always loved boxes, from pretty ones storing jewellery and nick-nacks to practical, serviceable ones holding elastic bands, drawing pins and screws. We have some fascinating examples in the collections.
First, the story of a wonderful piece of Aberdonian craftsmanship and generosity. In 1811, William Knight was presented with a magnificent gold snuff box set with a large polished agate stone by the “Students of the 2nd Class” at Marischal College. This incredibly rare box was made by one of Aberdeen’s superb goldsmiths, James Erskine, who worked in the town from 1789 until 1820.
An inscription on the base tells us that this lavish gift was an expression of the students’ appreciation for his teaching. What an astonishing gift and expensive token of support! Knight had just lost out on an expected appointment to the post of Professor of Natural History after a bitter and heated debate. Despite this, he went on to have a successful academic career, returning to Marischal in 1823 as Professor of Natural Philosophy.
Around the same time William Jamieson, the founder of Jamieson & Carry, made an exceptional spice box with three compartments for storing ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon.
The pull-off cover conceals an integral pierced grater for the large nutmeg seed.
Nowadays we are accustomed to buying spices in any supermarket, however, in the 1800s, exotic spices from the East were highly valued. Used to flavour bland food, spices became something of a status symbol, indicating wealth and good taste.
Lots of different sizes and shapes of containers were used – some small for personal consumption and others, like this spice tower, for use at the table. The fact that the box is made from silver and engraved with a family crest demonstrates just how much these spices were valued.
- Join us at Aberdeen Maritime Museum to explore the Silver City’s stories through our collections of art, social and maritime history.
These informal dementia-friendly session for adults will take place on Mondays at 2pm–3.30pm from May 27 to July 1. Free – donations welcome. No need to book, just come along. Find out more at www.aagm.co.uk or pick up a leaflet at one our venues.
Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums:
- Aberdeen Art Gallery (reopening autumn 2019)
- Aberdeen Maritime Museum (open 7 days, admission free)
- The Tolbooth Museum (open 7 days, admission free)
- Aberdeen Treasure Hub Museum Centre
For visiting information go to www.aagm.co.uk
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