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Gentleman's Military Interest Club


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About helen

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    Colonial encounters
    First World War
    Social History
    Ethnographic (global) arms and armour
    Medieval warfare, arms and armour
    Museums, heritage sites and re-enactments: research, display, interpretation and access to weaponry

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  1. Dear Helen, Great to see someone from the Pitt-Rivers Museum on GMIC! I'm and anthropologist with research affiliations with the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University and a Consulting Scholar with the American Section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. I have a collection of 1,311 very well documented artifacts that I've donated to the UPENN museum from my 30 months of fieldwork among Pumé hunters and gatherers of the savannas of Venezuela. I'm getting another few hundred ready for an additional donation this coming year. A fun range of everyday material culture, not necessarily of interest to most GMIC members. I've attached a popular article, unfortunately with low-resolution images, for your amusement. Best regards, Rusty


  2. helen

    powder ingredients

    hi vonmesser - yes, the 'natural' methods of procuring nitrate sounded rather more cumbersome and unpleasant than just popping over to the chemistry department! Mervyn - no explosions as yet, and these displays were installed two years ago. We have a black powder box tucked away in the stores which we keep an eye on too! Kev - no, no 'don't try this at home' warnings - we are not obliged to legally, and the information regarding ingredients is out there online / in print etc anyway if they're really that keen to try blowing themselves up! Helen
  3. helen


    Lovely little shaving jug. I'm not in a position to comment about the death-defying feat that is a man's cut-throat razor shave (female shaving and eyebrow tweezering and so on are hazardous enough!). However, thought I might take the opportunity to point out this page on a new website I've created looking at objects from the Pitt Rivers Museum's collections used for decorating, styling, grooming and modifying the body. These razors date to the 19th century and give a nice idea of what might have accompanied this jug in a gentleman's 'toilet'. Helen
  4. Lovely piece! I am not an expert on these things. I know I've seen a Weller piece in the V&A (I used to volunteer in their ceramics department), a jardiniere, of similar dark glaze lustre and finish. That piece is dated to the very early C20th, as Brian suggests this might well be. After checking up on it in their catalogue, it is labelled 'Aurelian ware', a variation of Louwelsa in which the background colour was applied by hand with a brush rather than with a sprayer/atomizer. My guess is this would render it more valuable than the mass-produced stuff. Is the bird painted or 'scratched' (i.e. sgraffito'd) on? Can't really tell from the image. Seems the 'scratched' items are rarer too, as it was a pretty labour-intensive process and Weller soon switched over to embossing which replicated the effect at lower cost. That last bit of info is from this quick History of Weller Pottery here. Something else of interest that it points out is that the name 'Louwelsa' is derived from a combination of Weller's name with that of his new-born daughter, Louise. Had a quick look on auction sites (not eBay) and these sorts of pieces seem to be going for at least 300 USD. Thanks for sharing. Helen
  5. These are wonderful - really evocative drawings full of character. Thanks for sharing! H
  6. Necklet of wooden beads believed to be called 'iziqu zomnyezane' and presented to Zulu warriors as an award for valour. This one collected c. 1879 by James Andrew Kennedy whose estate was in Victoria County and said to be 'a pioneer in Natal' although I can't find out anything about him! Helen
  7. The beaded items are really beautiful...
  8. helen

    Manchu soldier's badge?

    Hello, Can anyone help identify this item? Think it may be one of the animal Manchu silver badges I've heard about but I know nothing of Chinese military insignia, nor can I really make out the creature in the centre (if it is a creature!) It was collected in China by one Major-General Rigaud sometime before 1887. His regiment, the Kings Royal Rifle Corps took part in the Opium Wars of 1850s so there's a chance it was picked up then? Any information whatsoever would be much appreciated. With thanks, Helen
  9. Splendid information as always Mervyn, thank you! Interesting to learn that it may be something of a rare item...perhaps I ought to let our auditor know! I did wonder how it might have been carried (tucked in a waistband or suspended from the neck, etc.) so now I know it would have been carried in the hair. Best, H
  10. hi to all, Apologies for a rather long absence from the forum! Here is something for this thread (not a weapon I'm afraid, sorry), but I would be interested if anyone has anything to say about it. I think it is a type of strigil (sweat scraper), made of horn, with a little snuff box perched on top. It's beautifully made. C19th, not sure from where. Nguni-speaking people but not necessarily Zulu. I've seen Zulu knobkerries with snuff boxes incorporated into the handles so this concept would seem fitting! Mervyn - any thoughts? Best, Helen
  11. helen

    Just initials and a date

    Interesting and a great object to call one's own. Thanks for sharing!
  12. helen

    powder ingredients

    hi, well the charcoal was easy, and managed to palm some potassium nitrate from the local university chemistry department. We were advised by conservationists that the sulphur might deteriorate and 'leak' vapour over time (even though the substances are in sealed crystal boxes, no doubt some gas will escape over the course of several years) so in the end we got some bright yellow chalk and crushed it down into powder - it looked a fairly good match and it was just to give folks an impression. I wouldn't think about trying to mix my own gunpowder as I've heard it's very tricky to get the amounts right! Thanks for all your comments. Helen
  13. helen

    Arab Daggers?

    The first weapon is what I believe collectors term a 'Wahhabi jambiya' a type of jambiya originating in the Asir, Hejaz, Nejd (generally the South, West and Central Saudi Arabia and Yemen border) and so-called after its use by the followers of Muhammed ibn Abdul Wahhab from the C18th onwards. Locally they are known by vernacular names ('sabak', 'sabiaki', etc). Seen some go for sale in internet for 450 USD and upwards, depending on age and quality. The second dagger is a Moroccan koummya. These weapons are interesting in that aspects of their design are intended to ward off the evil eye. The curved blade imitates the curved boar's tusk, an animal that responds aggressively if threatened. The commonly seen fretwork on the scabbard is often made so that it creates eye-like gaps and crosses with five points, corresponding the five fingers on the protective Hand of Fatimah. The belt holes look very 'fresh' which suggests the dagger has not been well used. On historical examples, these holes are often worn quite large and uneven by the baldric. As Mervyn pointed out, the blade does not seem in as good shape as the first example. Also, is the scabbard fully decorated on one side or both? If both, it is more likely to be a later, 'souvenir' item as many authentic koummya scabbards were only fully decorated on the side 'on show' to the world when the weapon was sheathed at the hip. Sword Forum International (www.swordforum.com) are bound to have a thread or two on these types of weapons so might be worth checking that out. Plenty of info on koummyas on the web. For Arabian weapons, try Robert Elgood's very good book 'Arms and Armour of Arabia in the C18th-20th' - if you don't want to buy it, you can probably read snippets via keyword searches on Google books. May not help you with valuations but will give you some historical background if you desire it. Helen
  14. Thanks for the added bit of history about the miners Mervyn, that's really interesting. I will try to incorporate it into the information we give to visitors. Cheers!