The Yorkshire Witch’s everlasting spell

Studies of witchcraft often centre on groups of witches or spirits, the Salem witch trials, the Pendle and Samlesbury witches or even the Loudun possessions in 17th century France. Persecution and superstition of witchcraft began to fade towards the end of the 18th century, yet the concept of spirits and possession which were often associated with witchcraft began to be overruled by notions of deviation, criminality and manipulation. One example of individual witchcraft is the extraordinary life of the “Yorkshire Witch”, the creator of “The Prophet of Leeds Hen Hoax”, the serial thief and convicted murderer of Rebecca Perigo.

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Behind the scenes at the Museum: Handling Medical Costume

The title for this post is an amalgamation of one of my favourite novels (a text set in York, it’s by Kate Atkinson, you need to read it) and one of my recent museum projects. The purpose of this post is fundamentally the latter; I just needed to use the pun…

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Women in Science: Hedy Lamarr

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I originally wrote this post two years ago, but recently I had been thinking about the Hedy Lamarr and wanted to do further research into her brilliant mind and life. Coincidentally “Hollywood’s Brightest Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” was aired on the same day I had thought about Hedy (with no knowledge that the documentary was going to be on) – so I have edited this post a little to add new information learnt about Hedy! – The documentary is fabulous, I suggest you all watch it.

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Women In Science: Madame Caplin’s Reformed Corset

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19th Century S&S Corset (Registered in Belgium) Image Courtesy of York Museums Trust

I have various historical interests and for my MA dissertation I decided to integrate my different interests and academic skills – focusing on the medical effects of dress reform and also putting a philosophical spin on it! The focus of my dissertation was the life and work of Madame Roxey Ann Caplin, a Canadian born writer and corset maker (or stay-maker, as Madame Caplin stated) who worked at 58 Berners Street, London throughout nearly the entire 19th Century. She was born in 1793 and died on the 2nd August 1888 – her long life was full of innovation, inspiration and individualism.

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Storytelling with museum objects

In connection with an upcoming historical redevelopment, the history team at York Castle Museum recently hosted a series of object “speed dating” events, which introduced the public to a range of unique pieces within the museum’s extensive collection – and only having four minutes to connect the public with the object. I was quick to accept an invitation to help out at one of these events – it was such great fun and full of really enthusiastic attendees with brilliant ideas for redevelopment.

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Wonder Women

What do does Wonder Woman, Florence Nightingale and Rachel McAdams have in common?

My visual culture module this term is super interesting; public health campaigns and medical knowledge depicted in various mediums – films, comics, even stamps. This week’s task was a 2 minute presentation on a more recent campaign or method; I chose comic books because it gave me an excuse to scroll through Pinterest for a couple of hours. Seriously, Pinterest is a great source for this module.

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Log Cabin Patchwork

Manx Log Cabin was a popular quilt pattern in the Victorian era, along with the traditional hexagon pattern (variations include Grandmother’s Flower Garden) and the ‘Crazy Patchwork’; which uses all the scraps of fabric regardless of shape or design. The Victorians wasted nothing. The log cabin is an interesting pattern; the stitches hidden by folding the strips of fabric.

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Musing: Mathematical Beauty (Golden Ratio)

 

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Maths and beauty? Are the two really linked?

In a sense, yes.

The term ‘Golden Ratio’ was not used until the 1800s, but the mathematical
ratio, arguably, dates back to Ancient Greece.

It’s all to do with proportions. My limited knowledge of maths would be fibonacci-1601158__340.pngpoor at attempting to explain the real formulation, but a specific proportion also known as 1.618 is deemed to be ‘aesthetically pleasing.’ Rumour has it the proportions are embedded within the Parthenon, and the ratio has been proved to be within
nature – a spiral arrangement of leaves and ‘perfect flowers’.

Developments have extended the Golden Ratio to human faces, claiming to deem some human faces more pleasing than others. Historical examples which fit with the Golden ratio include the bust of Nefertiti and slightly later example of Audrey Hepburn – who ironically stated “I never thought I’d land in pictures with a face like mine.”
So what does this mean? That something is beautiful just because of it complies with the golden ratio? I mean, maths is either right or wrong…..

Nope, definitely not! golden-beauty

The formulation may be always right, and tested continually on different objects but what is ‘aesthetically pleasing’ is surely dependent on your own tastes or other individual qualities within those objects.

A flower may be beautiful with full petals which coincidentally falls into the proportion of the ratio – but so is a wilting flower, a brightly coloured flower, a fake flower.

And the Parthenon may be spectacular, perhaps for its equal columns, but also for its historical context and the beauty and interest of its ruins. Or maybe it’s not aesthetically pleasing to you at all.

As for faces – surely you are drawn to particular features of a face rather than proportion? You may be drawn to someone’s beautiful eyes or their unique beautiful smile. Individual qualities may not even be part of their face, but something deeper – their warmth, compassion or general personality.

Beauty is not dependent upon maths.

What do you think? 🙂