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Friday, September 23, 2011

Wild about Culture

My, What Big teeth you have....

Explore history, music, live performances, crafts and environmental education!

Saturday October 1st from 11 to 4 we are celebrating Culture days in Clarington. We will be discovering our communities history, learning about environmental conservation, enjoying music and puppets and all in a gallery setting full of incredible art. If you are asking what kind of event is that? I can tell you it is a WILD one!

We are looking at wolves.
Wolves hold a special place in the our psyche. To the Pioneers they were the enemy, a top predator who was a threat.
Thomas Conant writes in 'Life in Canada' about the fall of 1806, at a time when our Government was offering a $6 bounty for wolves. He was "keeping company" with a young woman who lived some 3 miles back from lake Ontario. He had been courting until late and left to walk home in the dark. getting about half way home he heard in the distance the baying of wolves. He further describes the encounter as such;
"In a very few minutes the wolves were upon him, in full cry, eyes protruding, tongues lolling, and ready to devour him. A near-by beach tree, which his arms could encircle, furnished him with the means of escape. He climbed and climbed, while the wolves surrounded him and watched his every motion, never ceasing their dismal howls the live-long night. Thus he kept his lonely vigil. To lose his hold for a single second meant instant death."

This is not the only account of early settlers spending the night in a tree. In one case a fiddler was stuck in the rafters of his unfinished house.
What we can learn from this is not so much about animal behaviour, but a great deal about the fears and attitudes of the settlers. The woods were a scary place full of dangerous animals, and the settlers saw it as their responsibility to civilize those woods.

Now we understand a great deal more about food chains and the complexity of ecosystems.
Wolves still hold a power place in our imaginations. The wolf is a re-occurring character through out the Patria plays. We are lucky enough to be displaying costumes, props puppets and set pieces designed by Jerrard and Diana Smith for these plays. We have wolf masks for 'The Enchanted Forest' and a 10 foot tall wolf puppet that was used in the 'Princess of the stars' an incredible piece of theatre staged on a lake.

Come by and make your own wolf mask, explore the exhibit and see the great show by Glen the paddling Puppeteer. To top it all off it is all FREE.

Thanks for looking D.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Greatest Show

We are so lucky to have this show at the Clarington Museums and Archives.

It is an exhibit of designs, costumes, puppets, masks and set pieces designed over the past 30 years by Jerrard & Diana Smith for the Patria Cycle of music dramas created by composer R. Murray Schafer.

Displayed are designs and pieces from; 'The Greatest Show', 'Princess of the Stars', 'The Enchanted Forest', 'Ra', The Palace of the Cinnabar Phoenix' and 'The Crown of Ariadne'.

The Heritage centre has become a magical place to visit, and to come to work. One of the striking pieces is a 10' tall wolf puppet that was used in the Princess of the Stars- It had been mounted to a boat for that production as it was staged on a lake. The Audience would go to the lake front before dawn to watch the theatre piece. Part way through the performance this giant wolf lit from within would come floating across the lake calling and singing.

It is always interesting to see how the public react and interact with pieces like this in the context of a museum. This summer we ran camp, essentially around the feet of this representation of 'Fenris' (the camp kids called him 'Bruce' instead).

It was wonderful to have the kids creating art surrounded by designs of incredible things and those designs made solid.

This is an interesting and inspiring exhibit, on display until the end of January. Drop by and have a look when you get a chance

Thanks for looking


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's the End of the World...but not as you know it!

The News lately has been kind of grim. Between floods in Manitoba and Quebec, wild fires in Alberta, earth quakes in Italy and draughts in Germany things are looking sad. My heart goes out to all those effected. I hear that there is a christian group in the States that is telling every one to get ready because the 'Rapture' is going to Happen, and not just happen sometime, but happen this Saturday May the 21st. Followed by months of tribulations and the world will end in October. -Oh poop!
Well looking into it - people have been predicting the end times regularly since the year 53.

The Norse of course had a different take on how the world would end. They called it Ragnarok or the destiny of the gods. This is the final battle between the gods and the giants and it would mean the end of the world and indeed the cosmos.
The Norse believed that Giants in Wolves clothing (Skoll and Hati) would devour the Sun and the moon, plunging the earth into darkness. The world serpent would writhe creating great waves. This frees a ghoulish ship called Nagelfar, made out of the finger and toe nails of the dead (bet you wont see that in the "Thor" movie...) Brothers would turn on brothers and all would be chaos. They predicted that the earth would quake helping the wolf Fenris (Fenrir) to break his chain and join the fight, eventually to devour Odin the all father the head of the Norse Pantheon.

The Norse believed that the fates or Norns measured out the length of a mans life, and that all things must end. In the end this battle would consume all the gods and giants leaving nothing but the new born daughter of the sun. It was this new sun that would be the start of the life again.

Up lifting stuff right?

If you would like to learn more about Norse mythology, there are some great books you could find at your local library. You could stop in at the museum and learn more about the Norse.

We are presently planning an exhibit on the end of the world for next year to coincide with the end of the Mayan Calender. It will focus on a variety of movements including the Millerights who had a lot of following in the Bowmanville area. They predicted the end of the world in the 1840's.

Be sure to look for it then... assuming we are still here.

thanks for reading.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Spot The Viking!!!

Have you seen this Viking?

Is your head cold? Do you need protective head gear to guard against a hazardous work place, or non- compliant Saxons? Well look no further. Try a helmet! Not just any helmet, this conical spangenhelm based on sample from the 11th century. All you need to do is spot our Viking around town or at a community event. Snap a photo and send it to the Clarington Museums and Archives face book page - or bring it in to the Sarah Jane Williams Heritage Centre and you are automatically entered in a draw to win THIS spectacular helmet!

Thanks for looking


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

'Norse-ing around’ Viking Fun and Games

Through reading and preparing for the exhibit here and for Educational programmes to go along with the exhibit an interesting view of the Norse has developed. These people were so much more than just the violent hairy raiders that History remembers them as. They loved games and contested. There are numerous references in the historic record of ship races, wrestling or ‘glima’ word games like riddles and often of Hneftafl- or ‘Kings Table’ a 1000 + year old board game.
This is a game played on a grid with 2 players. The ‘Attacker’ side is set up with his men clustered some on each side of the board. The ‘Defenders’ are clustered around the King which starts on the centre square. The Attackers are trying to capture the King, and the Defenders are trying to get the King off the battle field – to one of the corners of the board. All the pieces move like rooks in chess- in straight lines as far as is clear front to back or side to side but not diagonally. Each piece is thought of as a ‘Viking Warrior’ equipped with a Shield and Axe, they are evenly matched. You can not capture a piece one on one, but if you sandwich an opponents piece between two of yours it is as one of your soldiers ran up behind the enemies warrior and hit him from behind. The king is not captured this way. The King is naturally the best warrior on the field. To capture him he must be surrounded on all four sides. This is not an easy task.
This game seems to give us a lot of insight in to how these people thought, and played. It is interesting how connected you can feel to people who lived over a thousand years ago.
We have had a version of this game out for people to try and we have enjoyed watching people play it. Be they kids at camp, parents with kids or adults together, everyone I have seen try it really enjoys this game.
It isn’t exactly x-box but ….. Wait a weird thought just occurred to me. The example we have in the exhibit is, well carved in the top of a box sea chest and the grid on top has the centre square marked with an ‘x’- so you could call it the original x- box. Regardless it has proven to be a lot of fun for or visitors to ‘play like a Viking’.

If you are interested in more information about Viking games check out the exhibit, or come to this months Thor’s Day Thursday “Viking Pastimes’ By Neil Peterson May 26th 7 pm to 9pm
Thanks for Reading

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March Break Adventures

March 14-18th. Discover the exciting history of the Vikings.

Interactive displays include a 32 foot boat, weaving loom, weapons of war, games, and a Viking encampment. Activities include making shields and helmets and writing ancient Norse ruins.

Call or visit the museum for more information.