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Antiquarian collections

29 August 2014 by Liz

St Menas flask

St Menas flask

The Museum of Liverpool is always expanding its collections in many different ways. This includes contemporary collecting items which reflect current lifestyles or events and acquiring finds from archaeological excavations undertaken before new construction work. However, the roots of collecting objects which reflect the history of Merseyside goes back to the 19th century, and the Museum and exhibitions you see today owe a debt to the work of early collectors and antiquarians.

Hume 1863 plate IX

Page of illustrations of medieval buckles from Abraham Hume’s 1863 book about Meols

In the History Detectives gallery there is a display of archaeological finds from Meols, Wirral. These objects were found on the beach in the early 19th century, before the existing seafront embankment was constructed. The objects on display are just a small sample of those collected by local antiquarians, most notably Abraham Hume.  Hume, a parson, first learned of Meols’s archaeological importance when visiting a fellow clergyman. Hume saw objects on his mantlepiece and asked where they were from.  In the following  years Hume coordinated the collecting of thousands of finds, an  published a book itemising and illustrating them.

The site has proved to be a fascinating one – a port in use for centuries, with links far and wide, for example an ampulla (small two-handled flask) dedicated to St Menas, and made in Abu Mena, Egypt was discovered at Meols in 1955.  In the medieval period written historical evidence overlooks the place, but under the radar it was probably in used as base for military campaigns in Wales and Ireland. In the nearby City Soldiers gallery, items from the De Peyster collection are on display.

Colonel Arent Schuyler DePeyster

Colonel Arent Schuyler DePeyster

This very significant group of Native American objects was collected by Colonel Arent Schuyler DePeyster of the King’s Regiment, who was involved in treaty negotiations with Native Americans in the late 18th century. The DePeyster collection features items that were valued by the Native Americans and that were given to DePeyster in return for small items, such as beads. The tribes, who based a lot of their actions on the instructions of the spirits, gave DePeyster stone carved tobacco pipes, which they used to contact the spirits and also quillwork accessories that were worn by the tribal people to suggest importance.

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