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History in the Making

The County Collections “History in the Making” project is scoped to re-engage communities in Oxfordshire with collections from their local area. Working with local artists and craftsmen the Oxfordshire Museum Service is using its expertise to help communities engage with objects in new ways and to link archaeological and social history collections to traditional crafts still practiced in Oxfordshire.

Anglo-Saxons ‘Unearthed’. Autumn 2013-Spring 2014

The County Collections hold material excavated from nationally significant Anglo-Saxon sites in Oxfordshire, and this has been the focus for a series of events and engagement activities, which started with an Anglo-Saxon day at the Oxfordshire Museum back in July 2013.

Since then the learning and engagement team has been taking some of our most treasured Anglo-Saxon objects out into the community and delivering sessions with different groups including Watchfield Primary School and Oakwood Day Centre with the help of professional artists and storytellers. These objects also provided the inspiration for students from Marlborough School studying for their Bronze Arts Award.

One of the star items is a pattern-welded long sword that was excavated from a grave site in Watchfield. As part of this project we have been working with contemporary blacksmiths and a replica of this sword is being produced. 

The project, including our work with the blacksmiths, is being documented in a film by independent filmmaker Sharon Woodward.

The results of all this work will be on display in our new Unearthed exhibition at the Oxfordshire Museum, opening February 2014.

The Oxfordshire Oar Makers. Summer 2013-Spring 2014

This project centres on the story of Ron Cousins, an Oxfordshire oar maker, and this specialised, traditional local craft. It takes its inspiration from an oar, a collection of tools and related material in the county collections and follows the story of how and why such skills survived in Oxfordshire and how Collars, the company he worked for, retains an international reputation for its products.

Filmmaker Sharon Woodward was commissioned to produce this film to follow the story:


This film went out on television on the Community Channel on 26th November 2013 and has already sparked interest from other people involved in oar making in Oxfordshire who wish to tell their own stories.

The Alchester Tombstone. Spring 2013-Spring 2014

On a rural site just south of Bicester, large excavations have revealed evidence for an early Roman fort and the subsequent development of the Roman town of Alchester. In 2003 the tombstone of Lucius Valerius Germinus, an army veteran from Alchester, was discovered. This project centred on the tombstone and the man it was made for: Britain’s earliest known legionary.

The tombstone was photographed, conserved and mounted with the assistance of Ian Cartwright from the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. Monumental sculptor Giles MacDonald created a replica of the tombstone using traditional Roman techniques.

The Oxfordshire County Museum Service also partnered with the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum to lead a series of activities with cadets from the Woodstock Army Cadet Detachment. They visited the site where the tombstone was found, went to the Oxfordshire Museum to learn more about Romans in Oxfordshire, and then worked with sculptor Alec Peever to create their own memorial to service men and women from Oxfordshire.

This film produced by independent filmmaker Sharon Woodwood captures their story:

Much of the work they produced featured in a History in the Making exhibition at the Oxfordshire Museum throughout autumn and winter 2013. The tombstone will now go on display in a new large exhibition in February 2014, whilst the memorial will be installed in the Museum garden, together with the replica tombstone, to provide a link between the collections and stories curated by the two museums.

The Hanney Brooch Project. Spring 2013-Autumn 2013

A garnet and gold brooch that had been buried for almost 1,500 years was found at West Hanney, Oxfordshire, in 2009. It was bought for £2,750 with the assistance of the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Headley Trust, and the Friends of the Oxfordshire Museum.

The brooch was found with the skeleton of a woman aged in her mid-20s who is thought to be of high social status. Throughout 2013 different teams from the Oxfordshire Museum Service took the brooch back into communities around Hanney to tell them about its discovery and on-going conservation, starting with activities at St James Church of England Primary School and continued with a workshop at Hinton Waldrist’s Kingsmoor Day Club.

Much of the work they produced featured in a History in the Making exhibition at the Oxfordshire Museum throughout autumn and winter 2013. The Hanney Brooch itself will be an important part of the new Unearthed exhibition opening there in February 2014.

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