Last weekend I finally made it to Mid-Antrim Museum for the final weekend of both ‘No Batteries Required’ vintage toy exhibition and the ‘Treasures of Medieval Poland’ jewellery touring exhibition. ‘No Batteries Required’ was the perfect exhibition for Christmas time, and showcased interesting pieces from a local man, Kevin Timoney’s, collection of vintage toys from the 1950’s onwards. The information panels explained the history of the toy manufacturers Tri-Ang, that Mr Timoney collects, and photographs showed how his collection is stored in his garage. The museum had been allowed to borrow some of the collection for display, and there were some lovely examples, including a little red trike that reminded me of one I had when I was younger. It made me realise that I’m officially vintage! There were also copies of newspaper advertisements from the 1950s onwards for Christmas toy gifts from toy shops formerly in Ballymena, and it showed just how different advertising was from today. Christmas adverts for toys had much more text and were designed to appeal to adults, rather than television adverts featuring children playing with toys and the minimal text of today’s advertising.
In the next room there was an exhibition called ‘From Tullygrawley School’, which I hadn’t heard about and there were a lot of artworks on the wall. Intrigued I went to have a look and discovered some beautiful woodcut prints. The exhibition was about Robert Lamont Russell who taught at Tullygrawley School in Cullybackey at the beginning of last century, and how he encouraged his pupils to explore their creative sides in printmaking, art, poetry, and writing.I thought this was an inspirational story of a teacher in a rural school, where the majority of students would go into farming when they left school at 14, teaching subjects from a different perspective. Russell used farming, nature and the landscape around Cullybackey as subject matter for the printing, teaching the pupils how to carve wooden blocks to use for the prints.
As well as the prints there were a selection of Christmas cards coloured in with handwritten poems inside and books with stories on one side of the page and the illustrations to accompany the story on the opposite page. The finished prints could have been part of a professional print exhibition, they had amazing detail on the finished work, and the scenes and animals portrayed were beautiful.
The next exhibition was from further afield than County Antrim, the ‘Treasures of Medieval Poland’ exhibition has been travelling around Northern Ireland during 2013, and is still to visit Coleraine and Derry. I really like medieval jewellery pieces as the manufacture must have been a more complicated process than with modern-day technology, yet the pieces are still as beautiful and have as much detailing. The first discovery I made was that back in the tenth century earrings were not worn in the ear as there are today. In medieval Poland earrings were worn fastened to headbands, but still had similar designs and styles to modern-day earrings.Then I saw a beautiful cross and read more about the meaning behind the detail on it. I discovered it was an ‘enkolpia’ or reliquary cross, which has a small recess for relics, and the arms were shaped into rounds and were decorated with images of apostles and archangels. The enkolpia were usually found in eastern Poland and were used between the 11th and 14th centuries. In the exhibition there were also lots of necklaces made from brightly coloured glass beads, and of course Baltic amber jewellery.My favourite item was silver filigree and really showed how complex the jewellery crafting was, the design was so intricate, especially the woven pattern at the bottom of the piece. I liked the exhibition video showing how the pieces would have been made in medieval times, and there was a lot of information about the methods used and the type of people who would have worn the jewellery.