Amulets

Hello, I’m Lucy. I was a volunteer at the museum previously but I’ve been working for three months as an Assistant Curator in the World Art department.  I’ve really enjoyed and appreciated the experience, learned more about the huge World Art collection and about working practices in the museum. One of the most rewarding aspects of the job is being able to handle the objects, and one of the projects I enjoyed the most was photographing a collection of 78 amulets.

These amulets are from different parts of world, differ greatly in size and are made from both simple and sophisticated materials. I found them fascinating and was struck by the consideration taken in making even the crudest objects and how widespread the custom is of imbuing banal-seeming objects with supernatural powers.

The amulets range from a piece of decorated dough, a bundle of twigs, a bird’s foot, a tiny pair of knitted socks to elaborately carved, painted or packaged pieces. Many of them contain religious iconography, such as the Arabic Hand of Fatima, or evil eye, tiny Koran booklets or paper saints; whilst others contain natural substances like sulphur or cloves, considered by many cultures to ward off evil.  So I felt strangely protected and wary, surrounded by these potent talismans.

It was quite a challenge photographing some of the amulets, particularly the smaller pieces, in order to bring out the tiny details and I enjoyed finding ways to present them in the best light.

After the amulets were photographed, I resized the images and linked them to our collections database (Mimsy), so that eventually they can be seen on our website.
I hope that one day they will be displayed in the museum as they are enchanting pieces – in more ways than one.

Here are some of the amulets in the collection:

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