Bomb damage

Looking back over the 20th century history of the Leeds City Museum, it’s impressive that the Cypriot artefacts and associated records have survived as well as they have.

At 3am on Saturday 15th March, 1941, the museum was struck by a German bomb. No-one was killed or seriously injured, but there was major damage to the museum’s structure and contents – including the Archaeology collection.

Bomb damage to the Archaeology collection
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

I find it amazing that, among this utter confusion and destruction, someone found the time and inclination to take a photograph of the archaeology shelves. All those objects, so carefully collected and curated, lying in disarray. Travelling thousands of years and miles to be in that place at that time. Those in charge of the museum were faced with a task akin to the original excavation, as reflected by the archaeological metaphor used by the Curator, Mr Herbert Ricketts:

Report on bomb damage
© Yorkshire Evening Post

It’s no wonder that there are a few chips and cracks among the Leeds collection; what’s more surprising are the pieces that survived virtually unscathed. These include the jug visible on the fourth shelf on the right of the 1941 photograph:

Hellenistic jug
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

It has survived to tell its story – more on that another time.

Exploring the British Library

Recently I had a great day out in London – not at the Olympics, but my first ever visit as a researcher to the British Library. I remember when I first arrived at university we were told that the Bodleian Library was like a venerable musical instrument which needed some practice to get the best out of it. The British Library is not dissimilar, but when I’d mastered the intricacies of the online catalogue it all went fairly smoothly.

British Library reading room

I finally got hold of the Colonial Office reports on Cyprus from the 1920s, which shed some light on the background to the Wembley Exhibition, from which some of the Leeds Museums Cypriot collection came. I’ve also made a little progress on the subject of amphora handle stamps. The Leeds Museums and Galleries collection includes an amphora handle with a stamp which is described in all the accompanying documentation as reading ‘ΦΙΛΑΙΝΟΥ’. The problem is, it doesn’t:

Amphora handle
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

So I’m trying to track down what this means and how it can help us date the amphora fragment. I also read up on the Amathus style – which confirmed that none of the Leeds University collection is decorated in this style – but that’s helpful in a negative kind of way, and there was some useful bibliography.

I enjoyed looking through Mr James Boyd Glenhead’s self-bound annotated volume of sale catalogues from the late 19th century. Unfortunately it didn’t help much with tracking down the origin of the two vases in the Leeds Museums collection which are said to have come from the Lawrence-Cesnola collection (more on this another time). However, I remain hopeful that the missing piece of the jigsaw is out there somewhere.

So a mixed day in terms of progress, but at least I was able to see everything I’d planned, and to enjoy a cup of tea in the cafe, surrounded by books, which is a very pleasant experience. Can’t wait to go back again.

View from British Library cafe