Posted by: Footler PJ19 AUG 2009
Most of us will have formed a collection of one sort or another over the years. It may have been postage stamps or coins or, on a different scale, vintage cars or historic agricultural machinery.
We may have been fascinated by old medicine bottles and antique fishing tackle or the works of specific artists or musicians.
I hope you have never collected wild bird’s eggs. This hobby has been illegal since 1954 and, since 1982, even just owning the egg of any British wild bird has been against the law.
It is still possible to find cabinets of curiosities but those drawers full of butterflies, beetles and moths, along with wall-mounted hunting trophies, might be thought politically incorrect nowadays.
Cigarette cards were once highly sought after, although it occurred to us more recently that these collections were made while ruining someone’s health.
Footler’s wife still believes that a hoard of lipsticks and handbags is perfectly reasonable, while Footler personally would have to admit to a penchant for old scientific instruments, preferably made of brass and wood.
All of these collections could be considered fairly commonplace but sometimes one finds a display that can seem a little, well, different. Let me introduce you to the National Slag Collection. Slag, in this context, is a by-product of metal smelting and the collection is held by the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust in Shropshire.
The National Slag Collection originated from the samples gathered by members of the Historical Metallurgy Society and the Ancient Monuments Laboratory as well as a quantity of archaeological finds. The collection is not open to the public at the moment but an online catalogue (PDF 1.3MB) includes some illustrations of these archaeometallurgical residues.
Many of the samples came from the West Midlands and the North West of England and represent evidence of metal working from the Iron Age up to the present day. I am told that their collection of post-medieval blast furnace slags are of particular importance.
After studying the online catalogue you will be able to define ball slag, bloom, cinder tap, cupellation, puddling, hambone and mosser. The processes that yield litharge, tap slag, and smithing hearth bottom may become familiar to you.
It might introduce you to a fascinating new world and you may even be inspired to make a start on your own collection. And why not?