Distinguished Lecture: Quilting history with Pam Holland’s replica of the Bayeux Tapestry

Editor’s Note: The Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidered textile 230 feet long, visually recounts the conquest of England by the Normans in 1066. Professional quilter Pam Holland of Australia has nearly completed a full-scale quilted replica of the Bayeux Tapestry. In the process of her work and research, she has become one of the leading experts on the original piece, which is on display in Normandy, France. The replica quilted panel on display in the HMNS Magna Carta exhibition is an example of Holland’s work. This blog post is written by Holland.

Last year, I was approached by the Houston Museum of Natural Science to display a sample piece of my “Bayeux Tapestry – To Quilt” project in their upcoming Magna Carta exhibition. I was thrilled, as you can imagine, while a little taken aback at the same time. However, during the Houston Quilt Festival, we met and I agreed they could have it for the duration of the exhibition.

I made the arrangement thinking I wouldn’t get to Houston to see it on display, but an opportunity came my way and I found myself in Houston this past March, only a short while after Magna Carta had opened! Blessings. And my, what an experience it was to see the exhibit.

The entrance to the exhibition is imposing and continues through several distinct spaces. The first room covers really interesting information about the day-to-day lives of people who lived in Medieval England.

Of course, I was drawn to the section with products used to dye fabric and thread. There was so much information I could barely take it all in. I’ve been studying these subjects for years, and here it was, all in one place: dyeing, weaving, daily chores and tasks. I was amazed.

I walked down a corridor and into the next room.

It was beautiful; it looked forever like a cathedral. The light was low. Facsimiles of stained glass windows and the sounds of Gregorian chanting adding to the ambiance.

And there, in the center, was my quilt. I almost burst. I just thought it would be pinned to the wall. Never did I imagine my piece would have its own beautiful display.

Bayeux Magna

The more I looked at it, the more I thought, “It’s fitting.” I have a small inkling now of how the entire quilt will look on display — all 263 feet of it.

My spirit soared. I’m so thrilled. I was absolutely delighted to play a small part in this collection.

Serendipitously, I am making my way back to Houston on Tuesday, July 22, and will give a lecture at HMNS on the Bayeux Tapestry in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre at 6:30 p.m. I couldn’t be more excited!

HMNS Distinguished Lecture
The Bayeux Tapestry: The Story-Telling Textile of the Norman Conquest
Pam Holland, Author and Artist
Tuesday, July 22, 6:30 p.m.
Sponsored by the Favrot Fund
The Museum’s Magna Carta programs are sponsored by the British Council.
Click here for advance tickets.

The Magna Carta exhibit is on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science until August 17, 2014. Click here for tickets and information.

See below for details of Pam Holland’s quilted replica of the Bayeux Tapestry:

Home is where Hereford is: My trip to Magna Carta’s British stomping grounds

Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to go to the United Kingdom and visit the home of the Magna Carta, which is currently on display at HMNS.

IMG_0461 - CopyLocated in the town of Hereford (which may sound familiar because of the Hereford breed of cattle that comes from the same area) this 1217 Magna Carta was discovered in the library of Hereford Cathedral. I was excited to see its chained library and another of Hereford Cathedral’s historical documents, the Mappa Mundi.

The Cathedral is quite large, so it was easy to spot as I entered the city. I had some free time to explore all the chapels and prayer rooms of the Cathedral before I met with the Chancellor of Hereford Cathedral, Reverend Chris Pullin. Luckily, he offered to take me on a tour of the Cathedral to see the Mappa Mundi, the chained library and the cloisters.

First stop, Mappa Mundi, the largest medieval map in existence. Created on calf skin, this map references large cities of the late 13th and early 14th centuries, from Jerusalem to Rome to the current home of the Mappa Mundi, Hereford. The map also depicts mythological creatures and biblical events. Although the Mappa Mundi only measures 5 feet 2 inches by 4 feet 4 inches, it contains most of the known world at the time, including Europe, Asia and Northern Africa — an impressive feat for the medieval cartographers. 

Just beyond the doors to the Mappa Mundi lies the chained library, which was the next stop on our tour. I was looking forward to seeing the real one after having seen the mock-up created for our exhibit at HMNS. The library was designed with chains to prevent people from walking away with the handwritten books, which were costly and time-consuming to make.

Although the chained library in Hereford looks like an exhibition, it is still a functional library. Visitors can look at illuminated manuscripts from the 12th century or even more recent additions to their collection.

IMG_0482 - CopyThe last stop on the tour was a visit to the college cloisters. Although these areas are not open to the general public, the education department at the Cathedral uses them for educational tours to show what life was like during Tudor England. Although many of these cloisters have been remodeled, there is a section that shows how the cloisters would have looked in the original wattle and daub. This method involved creating latticework out of reeds and sticks and covering the woven frame with mud. The result is a sturdy wall that was used to build homes like the cloisters in Hereford.

My trip to Hereford was short and sweet, and definitely worth the trek to see the official home of the Magna Carta of 1217 — not to mention the Mappa Mundi and chained library! 

Bummed that Hereford is so far away? Me too, friend. Luckily the Magna Carta is now at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. From stained glass to the chained library, we’ve captured the feeling of Hereford in H-Town. Don’t miss out!

For more information about the Magna Carta or to plan your visit to HMNS, click here.  

IMG_0496 - Copy

Celebrate Memorial Day all weekend long at HMNS

It’s almost Memorial Day weekend! Once again, it’s time for family, barbeques and — if you’re the traditional sort — white pants and shoes. And that’s not to mention the action-packed weekend we have in store at HMNS!

With a movie premiere in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, two brand new special exhibitions (highlighted by a historic reenactment), several limited engagement exhibits, and our stunning permanent exhibit halls open to you, this is sure to be a weekend to remember!

Here’s the breakdown:

On Friday, May 23, the epic 3D film D-Day: Normandy 1944 opens in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre. Telling the story of the largest Allied operation of World War II through a stunning visual spectacle, the film’s seamless transitions between live action, animation, and CGI bring this historic battle to life.

We’re also opening two new special exhibits on the same day: Battleship Texas and Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters.

Battleship Texas, organized by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, highlights the history of the Battleship Texas in service to the United States Navy through World War II. On the other hand, Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disastersimmerses you in the most powerful natural phenomena on Earth: earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes and hurricanes.

From Saturday, May 24 through Monday, May 26, you’ll find members of the Sixth Cavalry, a WWII reenactment and technological preservation group, camped outside the museum. A non-political, non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the memory of our nation’s veterans, the Sixth Cavalry will display military vehicles, including a half-ton truck, Jeeps, and a half-track outside the museum.

On Memorial Day, May 26, they will perform a two-bell ceremony at noon to honor those who have fallen.

In addition to our permanent exhibit halls, special exhibits Magna Carta and Bulgari: 130 Years of Masterpieces are here for a limited time.

So there you have it — something for everyone, all weekend long at HMNS. Come see us!

 

The tie that binds: Why the United Kingdom, United States & Magna Carta matter to each other

Editor’s note: This guest post was written by Andrew Millar, British Consul General in Houston, Texas.

Andrew Millar - PhotoI spend a lot of time in this job talking about the core values that the UK and the U.S.A. share.  These values underpin the closeness of our bilateral relationship and provide the foundation for what President Obama called “one of the greatest alliances the world has ever known.” 

Our relationship with Texas is especially close. We appointed my first predecessor in 1842, accredited to the newly formed Republic of Texas. That seems like a long time ago, but that span of time is dwarfed by the recently arrived copy of the Magna Carta dating from 1217. There is a real sense of vertigo when looking at this small piece of vellum: both because of its age (nearly 800 years) and its significance in defining those core values that bind our nations together. 

When King John signed the document in 1215, no monarch had ever before ceded absolute power to the rule of law. The Magna Carta is the first legal document to protect the rights of citizens and limit the power of the monarchy — the end of the tyranny of Kings etched on to a piece of sheepskin. 

Of course, it took many years for its values to become entrenched and some Kings were less bound by it than others, but it remains the stuff of legends. Even today, every British child knows the story of bad King John, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood. It was the punitive taxes imposed by King John and enforced by his Sheriffs that drove the Barons into rebellion and forced a weak King to sign away his absolute power.  We have not had a King named John since.

The Magna Carta has been universally recognized as a key milestone in the global history of democratic governance, and its impact extends well beyond the UK’s borders. The Magna Carta’s message of liberty and human rights has served as a foundation for the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the European Union Charter of Human Rights, and it has also inspired the constitutions of countries all over the world — including the United States Constitution.  

When America’s founders first drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they looked to English law and the Magna Carta as a template for guaranteeing freedom and justice in the new nation. Many basic legal concepts that are held dear by Americans today, such as the right to a free trial, can be originally traced back to the Magna Carta.

Today the UK also proudly maintains a tradition of promoting civil liberties and the rule of law throughout the world. In its recently released Human Rights and Democracy Report, the British government has outlined its goals to continue working with the U.S. and others to end discrimination, censorship, and other undemocratic practices internationally. This reflects a strong worldwide commitment to upholding the values that were enshrined in British law nearly 800 years ago.

I hope that readers living in Texas or close enough to visit the Museum of Natural Science in Houston will go and reflect on this magnificent piece of history.

 
About Andrew Millar, British Consul General in Houston
Andrew Millar has served as the British Consul General in Houston since August 2011. He joined the Civil Service in 1994 working as a regulatory economist within the Office of Gas Supply and joined the FCO in 1996, as a regional economist for the Americas and Caribbean. In 1998, was promoted to cover the Asia regional economy portfolio.

Andrew was posted as First Secretary to Pretoria (2000-05). On return to London, he took over as Team-Leader for Energy Security in the Climate Change and Energy Group within the FCO. He also served as UK representative on the non-member country committee in the International Energy Agency and was a member of the G8 Energy Experts Group in the run up to the St Petersburg Summit.

He moved into Human Resources in 2007, as Team Leader – Training and Development, before being pulled back into energy security. He was appointed lead within the FCO on preparations for the London Energy Meeting in December 2008.

Andrew started work in the Health Physics department at Torness Nuclear Power Station in 1983. He left in 1990 and obtained a Degree and Master in Economics from the University of East Anglia. Andrew is married with two children.