Sunday, December 6, 2009

PS to recent items...

Sometimes you are the zeitgeist. I think. Or something. Glittery stuff calls your attention even when you might want to move on.

Steampunking in the Museum
'Signage going up' - Credit: Museum of the History of Science Steampunk Blog.

Coincidentally to my post on the British Steam record car, I mentioned Steampunk, and a few days later my attention was drawn to an exhibition of Steampunk items at the Oxford Museum of the History of Science. (What place could be better for such a mix of conservative retro and cutting edge brass widgets?) The museum has its blog on the exhibition here, and the exhibition web page here. Make chuffing noises while manipulating your mouse, please.

I tried to ignore it, but via an article on bees (don't ask) I was redirected to a photo review in New Scientist (here) so I give up and mention the thing. It's (apparently) the first exhibition of its kind. How retro-futuristically-timely am I?

New Scientist also carry a review. Anyone who gets to see it - it's a bit far for us, please let us know what you think. Seems to me to be a mix of interesting ideas and someone awaiting the invention of the steam-battery.

Hey - look again at the lumps of gold!
Not the Staffordshire Hoard, just a boring old gold bar.

Meanwhile there was a very interesting article on the 'mis-reporting' of the Staffordshire Hoard in History Today. The author, Justin Pollard, takes one of the issues Bev and I lightly touched on (here) and went to town on it:

...this extraordinary collection was referred to as little more than a lump of bullion – ‘Hoard contains 5kg of gold and 2.5kg of silver’– both of which figures are, for the record, rather exaggerated.

Having studied and written about Anglo-Saxon England for many years, it is sad to see a subject I love reduced to a weight in metal. Certainly there were expert sound bites telling us that this was ‘like finding another Book of Kells’, although no attempt was made to explain what this might actually mean.
The full article is here, and well worth a read (you may have to register - for free - but nothing more than that). A couple of points for those in a hurry:
It is not 5kg of gold; it is a remarkable collection of very high status decorative pieces, nearly all of which seem to have been stripped from military equipment, mainly swords. This is, in itself, very odd.
These might be the war trophies of a successful warrior, stripped from the weapons of vanquished foes; they might be the gleanings from one bloody battlefield or perhaps a lifetime’s acquisitions. As yet we cannot say and, no doubt, arguments will rage for many years, but then that is how our knowledge of the past progresses.
When it was recovered it was no longer bullion, not gold or silver. It was history. A little piece of a long-gone world washed up on a very alien shore. That is what we should be celebrating as the story it may one day tell us will be so much rarer than gold.

Looking to historiography in journalism. It's a thought.



Brett said...

I'm a bit over steampunk, to be honest. I liked The Difference Engine and Space: 1889 and other early examples of steampunk, but now it seems to be purely an aesthetic no longer informed by awareness of the history it's diverging from -- it should be more than just brass goggles and steam valves. At least, it should for me!

Good article from Justin Pollard, who is somebody I became aware of through Twitter:

Taccola said...

Good points, Brett.

Some of the stuff in the exhibition looks fun, but while a 'dress-up' computer or iPod is an interesting idea - and challenges assumptions about the inevitability of design, it's not down any divergent reality as much as fairy-tails.

I'm still hanging out for the Imperial Airways airship-liner to dock at Point Cook, though.