Student Experience – Kevin

Over the course of the Historic England Project, we have been able to offer placements to some of the undergraduates in the Department of Archaeology at Liverpool University. The aim was to give the students an opportunity to work in a museum environment; a chance for them try their hand at the sort of tasks a museum curator might be expected to undertake on a day-to-day basis. This could be anything from re-bagging or boxing objects, to cataloguing and photography.

We thought it might be quite nice to let our students tell you, in their own words, what they thought of their time with the Archive.  The first student up is Kevin …

During my time with the Pipe Archive at Liverpool University I’ve learnt valuable skills within a professional setting. Working in a museum setting has always been a professional goal of mine, whilst here I’ve learnt more about the meticulous approach needed to succeed in such a field and feel more focused than ever to reach my goal.

In the Pipe Archive I’ve experienced the development of important databases, the archiving of large collections and the art behind photography. My favourite part of the experience was the photography, the art behind creating the perfect photo that captures everything important about the item in one sitting was a learning curve for me but one that I enjoyed attempting.

My item was a pipe, which had a hand wrapped around the bowl, it was nothing eccentric or special especially when compared to some of the French made pipes in the collection, but its odd shape and peculiar details made it a challenge to photograph. I had to move the object a number of times and there was a lot of trial and error on the lighting to find the perfect balance with the contrast.It was also important to make sure all elements of the pipe were on display and looked natural. Not only did this exercise help me learn a lot about photography itself, but it made me appreciate the craftsmanship behind the pipe itself – something I wouldn’t have thought about before my time here.

Clay pipe in the form of a hand holding an egg. This has a meerschaum wash and was made by Charles Crop of London (Green Collection LIVNP 1999.01)

Another challenging piece was a glass ash tray. In certain light it changed colour and during photography some parts became transparent. With so many points of light it was a huge test to photograph and present exactly what it was. This piece is so peculiar, but crafted so well.

Green glass ash-tray from the Cole Collection (LIVNP 2014.03)

I’m much more confident in my ability to work in a professional setting like this in the future. Working alongside the Curator, Susie White, who has an enormous passion for her work, has encouraged me to do the same.While pipes may not be my own personal passion I can now appreciate the skills and craftsmanship behind these pieces, their significance in understanding the past and just how important the Pipe Archive is in achieving this.”

Have you missed us?

If it is not too late – Happy New Year!  We’ve been a bit quiet on here lately and you may have thought we were not up to much, but things have been very busy.  Back in November the Archive was invited by the Académie Internationale de la Pipe to give a paper at their conference, which was being held in Japan at the Tobacco and Salt Museum in Tokyo. This was the perfect opportunity, and setting, for us to present a report on how  the Historic England project that we have been working on has been progressing, and to highlight some of the Archive’s collections.

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Members of the Archive giving an update on the Historic England Project (Photo. B. van der Lingen).

The whole smoking culture in Japan is very different from here.  The pipes look completely different – called Kiseru – and the tobacco is also very different, being incredibly finely shredded.

As part of the conference we were very lucky to have been given the opportunity to visit a traditional kiseru maker in Tsubame.

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Last traditional Kiseru maker with a show pipe outside his workshop in Tsubame, Japan (Photo D. Higgins).

He makes his pipes out of metal.  The basic pattern is cut out of metal and then the maker painstakingly hammers them into shape.  In order to help us understand the process he had a series of different stages of the process laid out for us.  Gradually the pipe emerges from a flat piece of metal into a full formed pipe.

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Different stages of making a metal kiseru – from a flat cut out to a finished pipe. (Photo S. White).

The whole process is far too time consuming for him to show us the production of a pipe from start to finish during the short time we had with him, but he did allow us to film him at work (see the video below).  This gave a chance to get a feel for how it was done.

Video of a Tsubame kiseru maker.

Some Kiseru are made completely out of metal, but others have a metal bowl and metal mouthpiece section, with a simple bamboo stem in between.  We have two such examples in the Archive’s collection.

The first example is from the Cole Collection (LIVNP 2014.03.099).  This pipe has not been hand crafted as the examples we saw in Tsubame, but has been cast.  Both the bowl and the mouthpiece have intertwined animals.  The stem is made of bamboo.

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The second example is from the Orlik Collection (LIVNP 2016.13.01). This pipe also has a bamboo stem and but this time the bowl and mouthpiece are made of silver, which has been engraved with flowers.

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Since we have been back we have been working hard on the Archive website; putting up lots more pages with even more pipe information.  There is still more to come and now we are back, regular posts will resume.