100 treasures of Bangor University

Teapot made in Worcester, c. 1760
Teapot made in Worcester, c. 1760
Bowl, porcelain, Chinese, Wanli period, 1573-1620
Bowl, porcelain, Chinese, Wanli period, 1573-1620
Red Sanders
Red Sanders
Termites’ nest and wood damaged by termites
Termites’ nest and wood damaged by termites
Ocarina with four finger-holes: ‘Turtle-Man’
Ocarina with four finger-holes: ‘Turtle-Man’
‘Of Gardens, an Essay’ by Frances Bacon 1909
‘Of Gardens, an Essay’ by Frances Bacon 1909

Visitors to Storiel, Gwynedd’s museum and art gallery can enjoy a new exhibition, 100 treasures of Bangor University, displayed in a case in the reception area. This case highlights Bangor University collections and a new exhibition is programmed for every six months.

The items on show until April 2019 represent a selection from the University’s vast and various collections.

The items were selected for the exhibition by individuals connected with the collections, staff, students and volunteers who assist to maintain and conserve the culturally valuable exhibits.

The exhibition is based on a booklet 100 Treasures of Bangor University produced with funding from The University’s Bangor Fund. The booklet was co-ordinated and edited by Elen Wyn Simpson, Bangor University Archivist and Helen Gwerfyl, Bangor University and Storiel Museum Collections Officer.

Bangor University’s Collections were amassed at the beginning of the University’s life, when there was a desire to ensure that the University had teaching resources and have grown over the years. Part of the collections including the zoological, geological collections the herbarium, musical instruments and art and ceramics collections have remained within the University, while the furniture, archaeology and Welsh antiquities have formed the basis of the collection at Storiel. Bangor University and Storiel now work in partnership to ensure access to communities, staff and students to these collections and to safeguard them for the future.

Emma Hobbins, who works in Storiel and volunteers to look after the ceramics collection selected a Worcester Teapot from 1760 and a Chinese Bowl dating from 1573-1620.

She says:

“I chose this small teapot because basically I like the shape and the decoration of the carefree colourful birds and flowers that have been rapidly hand painted onto it. It was made in about 1760 in Worcester – another reason I like it, as I grew up in Worcester. It is painted in a style heavily influenced by 17th century Japanese Kakiemon ware. The relationship between China and Japan, where porcelain was first invented, and Europe is also a fascinating story. Porcelain was first made in the West in the early 18th century over a 1000 years after China. So the teapot was made when porcelain firing was a fairly new technique in the Worcester factory which started in 1751. The metal rivets that hold the body suggest this – pouring boiling water into a new teapot exposed flaws in the porcelain firing, but the value and attractiveness of this little teapot made mending worthwhile.”

Explaining why she chose the bowl, she says:

“This beautiful bowl always gives me pleasure. I love the shape and colour, and I appreciate the regularity, but also the individual nature of the flowers hand painted around the outside of the bowl almost 500 years ago.”

Former Bangor forestry academic Pat Denne, who curates the Timber and Damaged Wood collection said:

“My favourite bit of timber is the red sanders, not only for the local connection of this piece, having been dredged up from off the Great Orme, but also for its fine texture and intense red colour. It was once highly valued for dyeing wool, but now it is very lucratively smuggled for high market decorative items.”

Helen Simpson, a technician at the School of Natural Sciences also assists with the collection along with former PhD student Sian Turner. Helen said:

“I think Termites are spectacular in how they organise themselves to produce enormous living mounds up to 6m tall and the sheer destruction they can cause to timber buildings, frightening!

Stina Homer, a PhD student in Ethnomusicology at the School of Music and Media has selected an item for the Exhibition.

She says “I was awarded an AHRC grant in September 2015, and work in collaboration with Storiel. My topic is the collection of ancient Mexican musical artefacts, collected by Peter Crossley-Holland which now resides at Bangor University. There are 329 objects in total, but I chose one in particular for the 100 Treasures display: a small ocarina. It is shaped like an anthropomorphic turtle - Crossley-Holland named it "turtle-man". It probably depicts a person turning into an animal during a ritual, or someone dressing in a ceremonial turtle costume. There is a really strong link between art, religion and nature in ancient west Mexico, and this ocarina is a perfect example of that.

“The ocarina is one of my favourites because it is so characterful. It's about 2000 years old, from the area of coastal west Mexico which is now the state of Colima. The personality and skill of the instrument maker still shine through in the detail of the figure and its intricate decorations.”

Elen Wyn Simpson, Bangor University Archivist said

“I chose the “Of Gardens, An Essay” by Frances Bacon because it is a wonderful example of a modern, 20th century illuminated manuscript. The ornate, jewelled binding depicting two peacocks is truly breathtaking whilst the vellum pages within are beautifully preserved and decorated in vibrant colours.

The fact that it once belonged to Sir John Morris-Jones, Professor of Welsh at Bangor University, adds to its significance. As one of the giants of Welsh literary life he would have certainly appreciated the craftsmanship of the calligrapher and illuminator, Alberto Sangorski.”

Sheila O’Neal, Director of Development at the University’s Development and Alumni Relations office said: “We are delighted to be able to share some of the archives, rare books and artefacts that were gifted to the University for teaching resources.  We value our cultural treasures and want to share them as widely as possible.

Donations from our alumni community are helping us to do this as well as supporting current students with their studies.”   

Publication date: 18 December 2018