In 2017-18 Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, in partnership with The Hive and Museums Worcestershire delivered a project to celebrate over half a million years of the area’s prehistory from the time our ancestors first arrived until the end of the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago. Following 18 months of research and conservation, the project culminated in an art installation and two exhibitions in The Hive and Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum in summer 2018, alongside an exciting programme of education and exploration.
Largely funded through Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England, the project also benefited from match funding and support from a range of other organisations including West Midlands Museum Development, Council for British Archaeology West Midlands, Tomlinson-Brown Trust, Severn Waste and Worcestershire Archaeological Society. A full list of everyone who supported the project can be found in the evaluation report alongside more details of what the project achieved.
Ice Age @ Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum
This exhibition told the story of Worcestershire’s Ice Age and the people who made a home in these harsh, dynamic and ever-changing landscapes over the last 500,000 years. Traces of our ancestors are hard to find and rare, but they are right beneath our feet. Worcestershire has produced some incredible finds, many of which had never been exhibited before 2018.
Origins of Us @ The Hive
Set against the back drop of Darwin’s Origin of Species and emerging understanding of the earth’s antiquity, the story of how 19th century scholars and collectors came to revelations about the age of rocks, fossils and human-made artefacts is the story of how we understand what it means to be human. The exhibition was designed around a giant copy of the first geology map of Great Britain, produced in 1815 by William Smith (1769 – 1839). Known as “the map that changed the world”, it was instrumental in forming our current understanding of British geology.
Loose the Moose – How and why did we get a moose out of the attic, conserved and on display?
Accompanying The Hive’s exhibition was Through the Mists of Time – an interactive audio visual installation celebrating imagination and human ability to go beyond the here and now, creating artwork, ceremonies and rituals.
Inspired by the traces left by humans towards the end of the last Ice Age, this project saw a large wooden structure with a small entrance, creating the sense of entering into a cave. Within the ‘cave’, projections of Paleolithic cave art were displayed on two walls, animated so that the animals moved as if alive. On the third wall was an interactive display. Ice covered the wall, which melted as the visitor approached to reveal figures in strange head dresses. If the visitor moved too close, the figures were again covered by ice, disappearing from view, like our ancestors in the mists of time.
The installation, created by digital artists SDNA, was accompanied by participatory workshops with professional artists and run by Meadow Arts.
Workshops and Events
Events ranged from visual arts workshops linked with the art installation to formal lectures on the Ice Age environment delivered by experts in the field. Almost 3000 adults and children engaged with the project across its programme of 60 events.
Training sessions for metal detectorists were also delivered across the West Midlands region, as many Palaeolithic artefacts found in this area have been spotted on the surface by fieldwalkers. Detectorists are keen eyes on the ground, but Palaeolithic artefacts are notoriously difficult to identify. The training, organised in partnership with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and funded by the Council for British Archaeology West Midlands, equipped detectorists with the skills to recognise Paleolithic and other prehistoric stone tools.
Full details can be found in the project’s evaluation report.