Earlier on this year I completed the largest museum reproduction commission I have undertaken to date. The work was outfitting Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery’s permanent new exhibition: Vikings Revealed, containing some of the material from the Viking-age cemetery at Cumwhitton, excavated in 2004. As one of the lead authors on the volume, I spent a good deal of time making reproductions during the analysis phase to understand some the artefacts better, and as such, understood a lot of detail about the objects and their manufacture.
There were a lot of objects required replication, involving a huge variety of craft materials and techniques. For the exhibition a Pattern welded sword with a silver inlaid hilt, a shield, and axe head, and a spear were chosen as reproduction weaponry. In addition, an iron bound maple box, a drinking horn with brass mounts, a pair of tinned spurs, with leathering and buckles, a ringed-pin, a pair of tinned brass buckles and strap ends, and a bone comb, sickle, and shears. Given time constrains, and the complexity and skill required in some of the weaponry, I enlisted the help of two friends; Dave Barnes a Blacksmith from York, and Paul Binns, a well-respected bladesmith. Dave did the axe, spearheads, and some of the ironwork, and Paul constructed the pattern welded blade. I made all the remaining items, and hafted the spearhead, and constructed the horn handle and hilts of the sword, and inlaid it in silver, the latter after some expert help and advice from a friend at Newcastle University.
A group shot of all the objects. From left to right: axe head, iron bound maple box, the shield, shears, buckles and strap ends, spear, spurs, ringed-pin, comb, sickle, and drinking horn.
The Pattern welded sword, with a horn handle, and silver inlaid iron hilt.
Finally I have a few pictures of the objects in the final exhibition, showing them mounted in the display cases. The majority of the objects were mounted within plinths to physically represent the graves, which the designers chose to embody the interred individuals, as their skeletons had degraded leaving nothing but their graves filled with objects.
The iron-bound maple wood box on the Grave 1 plinth
The Buckle and Strap end in the Grave 2 plinth
The comb, sickle, and shears in the Grave 2 plinth
The sword mounted in the Grave 3 plinth
The remains of the Grave 3 objects on display
The axe head in the Grave 4 plinth
The shield mounted on the wall next to the Grave 2 plinth
The drinking horn in the Grave 5 plinth
The spurs in the Grave 5 plinth
The spear head mounted on the wall, close to the partial plinth representing the damaged Grave 6
Last of all, here I am dressed as a 10th century viking, waiting to talk to the press and Tullie House members and VIPs for the open evening! It was a great opportunity to incorporate reproductions into an interpretations scheme, and whilst there is always more you wish you could do, they were a very striking and cost-effective addition to the exhibition.