University of Cambridge Museums

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Precious memories and souvenirs

The daughters of Sir Matthew Decker, by Jan van Meyer

This week on Twitter is Museum Week and the Tuesday has been dedicated to museum souvenirs people have bought and treasured: #souvenirsMW

It just so happened that today the Fitzwilliam Museum opened an exhibition which, in part, explores beautiful objects that in some way capture a time, a place, a memory or a person: Treasured Possessions.

Given today is all about souvenirs and memories, here are three objects from the 300 in the show that are mementos all in different ways …

Loreto bowlVirgin Mary pilgrim bowl – a traveller’s memory

This is an eighteenth century souvenir of a pilgrimage.  This tiny pilgrim bowl comes from the shrine in Loreto, Italy.  According to legend, in the late thirteenth century, angels carried the Virgin Mary’s home all the way from Nazareth to Loreto.  The inscription reads: ‘CON POL. DI S. CASA’ – ‘made with the dust of the holy house’.

C.1462-1928Money box – a christening memory

Colourful money boxes shaped in friendly animal characters are popular today – but this child’s money box dates from 1717.  It most likely celebrates a christening: a girl’s name is written on the dog’s collar and the base: ‘Ann Wittin / was born ye 14 of / october 1717.’





English gold watch and chatelaine with rococo designsWatch and chatelaine – a wedding memory

In 1836 Miss Whitehurst donated her mother’s watch and chatelaine to the Fitzwilliam.  They were a treasured gift given to her mother on her marriage 81 years before in 1755.

The Chatelaine has a gold heart-shaped locket containing woven hair beneath a rock crystal cover with ‘toi seul me fixe’ (‘I am constant to you alone’) on an enamelled ribbon.  Not only was it a romantic gift, but most likely a very extravagant one – this luxury timepiece was made by three of mid-eighteenth century London’s most outstanding craftsmen.

Not all the objects in the show have given up their secrets.  Still, we hope you will enjoy finding out what objects were considered irresistible in the past and bought, hand-made or inherited into people’s lives.

Treasured Possessions from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment is on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum for free until 6 September 2015.

Lucy Theobald, Press Coordinator, Fitzwilliam Museum

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This entry was posted on March 24, 2015 by in Culture, News and tagged , , , .
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