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Saturday, 14 October 2017

More news on the entertainments lined up for the Brighton Toy and Model Museum Steampunk Soiree.

As you’re no doubt aware, we’ve had Adriano Fettuccini booked for our steam punk event for a few weeks and we’re looking forward to that very much, but we’re also able to announce more attractions for your edification and delight.

Music and Poetry

First of all, we can now confirm that we have Rohan K on the bill, adding to the musical component. Rohan is a writer, composer, poet and violinist.

Further to the entertainments, we also have a stall which will be supplied and manned by Belle Epic. Belle Epic are a vintage costumer, collector and restorer of vintage and antique apparel. Their finest wares will be on display and for sale, fitting with the Steampunk theme.

Costume and Competition

And did we mention hats? Love hats. I was thinking of becoming a milliner when I was at college. So it’s with a great deal of anticipation that we’re also able to introduce the good people of The Yellow Book who will be bringing a range of hats and headgear for you to try on. Because you’re not properly dressed without a hat. It’s probably a moot point, but being a steampunk soiree, most attendees will want to come in full, appropriate dress. However, this isn’t absolutely necessary. It’s not just for those who live a steampunk life, it’s also for those who love the ethic, the aesthetic and those who love people who live steampunk.

And I know how shy and retiring Steampunk devotees are, so it’s necessary to warn you that a photographer will be in attendance making images of the finest dressed.

Now, onto the most important aspects of the evening; the much vaunted and highly charged excitement that is surrounding the tea duelling. Tiffin Masters and Mistresses from all over the country have been approached. However, as the saying goes, many are called, yet few are chosen. So we plumped for whoever was available. The tea duel will be open to all, unless you a) don’t like tea, b) you don’t like Malted Milk, or c) you think such things are silly. We anticipate the calibre of the combatants will be very high, with duellists having gone away to dojos to refine and hone their duelling skills. I for one went and had a cuppa and a biccy with my nan, because she knows many of the most ancient arts. She’s 89 after all.

Book your tickets to the Steampunk Soiree online through our Facebook Events page, on Eventbrite or call in at the museum. We’re on Trafalgar Street, directly under Brighton Train Station.

Doors open at 7pm, 28th October 2017. Admission is £5.00 Call 01273 749494 for more details.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Brighton Toy and Model Museum Heritage Open Day

As part of Heritage Open Days, Brighton Toy and Model Museum threw open its doors to visitors and provided free after hours tours of the museum, its exhibits and architecture last week.

We welcomed several groups of people who were led on tours by Eric and
Jan, who pointed out the rarities and unique artefacts that we are lucky enough to be custodians of. Not only did we learn that The Princess Elizabeth model train was top of the range for Hornby but we also learned that it was so expensive to buy that HP agreements were available to customers to buy it. We also learned that the buildings used to be the stable and cellar for the Bass Brewery, the holders of the first ever trade mark. They trade marked their symbol, the red triangle so that everybody, whether literate or not, was able to identify genuine Bass beer.
The photos in this article show the guests that our new Deputy Manager, Jan showed around. Jan has only been with us here at Brighton Toy and Model Museum for 4 months and this was her first event guiding visitors through the museum and telling us about its history. 

A Human Touch

Many of the items on display have a local or human connection. If you’re familiar with local Sussex landmarks you’ll recognise many of the features on the OO model layout, from the Wilmington Long Man to the Clayton railway tunnel entrance, designed to look like a mediaeval castle. We even have a working model of the East Hill Cliff funicular railway in Hastings.

Exhibits which don’t conform to the local aspect generally fall into the category of ‘human connection’. Most of the exhibits were collected by donors and contributors as a part of their own drive to build up a collection of their own which is not only so good, but so big that they no longer have space to display it themselves, and rather than packing it away, they choose to share it through the auspices of the museum. That human touch isn’t limited to the way the toys and models were collected. If you’ve been to the museum, you’ll probably have noticed that we don’t have a huge collection of modern toys, despite their being incredibly collectible and popular. The reason for this is
mass production. Rather than have toys that were produced in huge volumes which are still available in collectors markets and vintage shops in any town throughout the land, we concentrate on toys that were built by toymakers and craftspeople who would have taken the time and patience to hone their skills building miniature engines, sewing miniature clothes or painting miniature figures.

But what else did we learn from our Heritage Open Day?

  • Frank Hornby sent his sons to school, one in France, one in Germany, so they would be familiar with the markets when the Hornby and Meccano brands expanded into Europe.
  • Dolls were deliberately made with emotionless, blank expressions because infant mortality was so high that it would seem inappropriate to have a laughing doll, just in case.
  • Tri Ang was established by three brothers whose surname was Lines. 
  • Spot On were made by Tri Ang, produced to be in perfect scale to one another (1:42) where previous cars, trucks and vans had all been approximately the same size. 
  • Hilary Page at Kiddicraft invented the interlocking brick, a design which was later ‘adopted’ by Kirk Kristiansen in a toy which became universally known as Lego.
  • The Marklin model bridge in the centre of the O gauge display is the only known surviving example of this Eiesenbahnbrucke. 
  • The model of the Kamov co-axial helicopter was built on the original designs supplied by Kamov themselves, despite the fact that the Cold War was ongoing at the time. 
  • The Kamov 'Hormone' as it was known by NATO, and all the other large scale model aircraft you can see hanging from the museum ceiling are fully functional and have flown.

The Toy Museum will be playing host to many more events and using our space as a venue for installations and performances in future. We do our best to keep everyone informed about what we do, but to be sure to get all the latest news, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to get all the news first. 

Saturday, 26 August 2017

If It's Mod One Thing, It's Another

It’s August Bank Holiday and that can mean only one thing if you’re in Brighton: Scooters!
If you live in the city you won’t have missed the putt-putt of well polished Lambrettas and Vespas as they scoot around town looking for a rocker to reminisce with about the good old days. With manifold mirrors, lamps and the inexplicable, yet ubiquitous fox tails wagging from the aerial (and why does a scooter have an aerial in the first place? You can ask a Mod, you’ll get an evasive reply…)

August Bank Holiday Ride Out

If you want to find a Mod to ask, then you couldn’t want for a better focus group than Brighton this weekend. Mods from all over Europe and beyond will be down on the seafront on Madera Drive comparing their pristine machines against one another and then riding out to Beachy Head.
As well as all the action, the more sedate types will be able to enjoy a big screening of Quadrophenia at 5pm on Saturday, followed by a Q&A with Phil Daniels, Trevor Larid and Gary Shale. Once that’s all done and dusted, the music starts! With a live show by tribute band Who’s Next and a DJ set by Drew Stansall.

There are also events at Komedia, Volks Nightclub and so many venues all over the city it’s impossible to list them all.

Why Mod?

The Mod phenomena started in the 60s when city kids needed to get around and a cheap moped was the vehicle of choice. People who enjoyed Modernist Jazz needed a way to get around town that was easy to ride, easy to park and looked stylish, hence the Vespa. As well as the Italian moped, they also adopted the Italian suit, a tailoring style that suited a slim figure much more than that British suit which had a more military look. However, to keep their suits clean and dry in the British weather, it was necessary to cover up from head to toe, and the perfect accoutrement for that was the Parka. The need to see and be seen led many to add extra lamps and mirrors to their machines, which, in itself also became iconic to the Mod movement.

The thing that really brought the Mod to the attention of the nation’s media was the run of fights on Brighton seafront between the Mods and the Rockers. The Rockers were, and are, a group who preferred their bikes to be big, powerful and fast. The Ton Up Boys were a distinguished group within the Rocker community as they had achieved 100 mph (a ton) or more on their motorbikes. They took speed and motorcycle maintenance more seriously than what they would see as the pretentious Mod, in his fancy suit riding a silly bike, and so the field of battle was set.

A Trip to the Sea Side

If there’s one thing everybody loves it’s a trip to the seaside and in 1964 both Mods and Rockers fancied a trip to Brighton. The two communities, with such different attitudes were bound to clash and clash they did. The local constabulary was overwhelmed by the running fights that took place not only in Brighton but further along the coast from Margate to Bournemouth and Clacton. These fights led to a moral panic about the wild youth and the media set up a campaign to outlaw anything that they saw as contributing to delinquency. (Of course, in order to fuel sales outrage needed to be maintained and several news magnates were found to have encouraged trouble between otherwise non-committal teenagers.)

Today there is no animosity between the rival gangs and all anybody wants is to admire well maintained and embellished mopeds and enjoy a ride along the clifftops with likeminded lovers of the Modern.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Save Mareira Arches! How Can You Play Your Part?

Brighton has many landmarks, all of which will bring back particular memories to any of the people who live in, or have visited the town since it became a popular tourist destination, thanks to George IV, all those years ago.

Some of those landmarks are permanent, such as the Corn Exchange and Pavilion. It’s hard to imagine Brighton being anything like the town it is without that Sussex take on Oriental and Indian architecture. The Georgian buildings, designed in a regency style that lent so much to the classical  Roman and Greek architecture that the great and good would have been familiar with from The Grand Tour.

Brighton is Famous for its Piers

Other attractions have turned out to be less permanent. Brighton’s first pier, the Royal Suspension Chain Pier was built in 1822 and thanks to its construction, Brighton became the busiest cross channel port in Britain. When other harbours along the coast became more popular Brighton became less important for shipping, but pleasure cruises and seaside excursions still kept people coming back.

The Chain Pier suffered significant damage in the 1860s and thanks to the attractions such as a bandstand and entertainments provided by the West Pier, it became less and less significant as a popular attraction. Finally it succumbed to the elements in the 1890s when it was blown down in a violent storm.

The West Pier is itself now a popular tourist attraction, despite having been wrecked by storm and fire over the years. It started falling apart in the 1970s and what was left of the timber was burned in a fire in the 1990s. The skeleton of iron still remains an iconic image of Brighton, and despite its continued decay, still attracts tourists. And starlings.

The Antique Sits Alongside the State of the Art

Other newer attractions continue to bring people from all over the country and beyond to Brighton. The i360 takes visitors hundreds of metres into the air to look down on the city, and we’d just got used to the Brighton Wheel when it was taken away to a new venue and replaced with a zip line which opens this year.

Two other structures, each dating back to the Victorian period, stretch along the seafront toward the marina. These being the Volks Electric Railway, the oldest serving electric railway in the world which has undergone significant reconstruction over the past years and the Madeira Arches. The Madeira Arches are often overlooked and underappreciated by visitors and resident alike, however they offer a unique service. Giving a shaded covered walkway under which it’s possible to watch the many rallies and motor events which take place along Madeira Drive while also supporting a raised platform upon which it’s possible to stroll along its half mile extent from the Aquarium along to Concorde 2.

These arches are painted in the familiar green that all iron street furniture in the city carries, but it also has latticework in cream which reflects the architectural features of the Pavilion. Each arch is decorated with a head at its apex, alternating between representations of Neptune and Aphrodite along its entire length. Today it looks as if the arches could be going the same way as the Chain Pier and the West Pier. After many years of being taken for granted, several sections of the terrace have become unsafe and the iron used in their construction has suffered badly from the action of the weather, accelerated by the salt air.

Save the Madeira Arches!

For the past year the arches have been fenced off while their decay is monitored. There was a plan to demolish a large section, if not all of the arches, however, another construction firm said they could rebuild the damaged sections for less than the cost of demolition. But that was some time ago and not much has been heard of any progress since.

Which is why it’s so pleasing to see a crowdfunding campaign begun to save at least three of the 151 arches. Saving the entire length of the arches will cost £24m, however, to rescue three of the arches, to preserve them for future generations and to show what could be done with the infrastructure investment, the crowdfunding campaign aims to raise £432,484. At time of writing, the campaign has been going for 3 days and £110,053 has been promised by 366 backers.

If you’d like to become a backer, and donate as little as £2 to the restoration project then follow the link to the Visit Brighton’s Spacehive Save Madeira Terrace Campaign to keep a little bit of Brighton’s history alive.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Brighton Toy and Model Museum is playing with science!

Over August we'll be hosting a number of Wednesday afternoon events where we will be looking at the science behind many of our toys and seeing how we can apply those principals to finding solutions to other challenges.

If you're interested in construction, physics, maths, energy conversion or engineering, then why not come along to see what we're playing at?

On August 2nd we'll be building spaghetti towers, researching the engineering principals behind construction.

On August 16th we'll be making kinetic carousels, exploring how chemical energy can be turned into potential energy that can be turned into kinetic energy when needed.

And finally on August 30th we'll be making balloon racing cars recycling and repurposing common household objects into zippy machines that we will eventually race against one another.

Each event comes at no additional cost other than regular admission, but booking is required. To book a place, just pop in to the foyer next time you're passing or give us a ring on 01273 749494

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Zip Down to Brighton For Thrills and Excitement!

The latest tourist attraction is taking flight in Brighton!
Design courtesy of @BrightonZip

Now, we thought that a zip wire along the seafront was a gag, rumour like the waterslides we read about and the fast lanes on Oxford Street, a fun idea that would never happen. But we were wrong! Walking past the bottom of The Stein your intrepid correspondent saw the tower through the mist and murk of a June afternoon.

The tower appears to be completed, and it must have gone up in a matter of only a few days at the most as I had been in the area the previous week and seen nothing but the workmen clearing up the last of the Brighton Wheel, which has trundled on to pastures new. But now there is a tower, and soon to be a landing pad adjacent to the Steve Ovett statue some 300 metres along the seafront.

It’s great seeing so many new and exciting adventures opening up in Brighton. I must admit, I had become used to the Wheel and was rather disappointed to see it go. The i360 has garnered a lot of attention and different points of view. Some love it while others prefer to scoff. The revamped Volks Railway will be re-opening soon too, with its new visitor centre, refreshed rolling stock and conservation workshop at Peter Pan Playground. It does seem funny, walking down to the Marina in summer and not having the trains trundling by, making their incongruent ghost-train like wails!

Brighton Zip, it is said, will be open from 10am until 11pm all year round. While we can see a ride
being fun and exciting on a summer’s afternoon, we’re a little more dubious about how we feel about going down in a gale in the depths of a winter’s night!

The spiral staircase leading to a zip wire isn’t an altogether new idea. We found pictures of a similar amusement that was installed in Gorki Park in the 1930s. And we were shocked at how much fun, and ridiculously dangerous it looked! Russian thrill seekers didn’t so much ‘zip’ down the line though, they leapt from the top of the tower in a semi-functioning parachute which was directed to the landing point, and prevented from blowing away, by a line. The tower also had a helter-skelter to slide back down on for people who got to the observation deck and decided that they didn’t quite fancy leaping from the top of a spiraling column, notwithstanding the parachute they were equipped with.

I’m looking forward to the opening of the Brighton Zip very much and can’t wait to go on it!

Paddington Author Michael Bond Dies

This week saw the passing of another children’s favourite, author Michael Bond. 

Anyone under the age of 50 will remember the opening theme tune of Paddington and the tones of Michael Hordern narrating the bear’s latest adventures on TV. And while Paddington was his most famous creation, Bond was also responsible for other characters beloved of children and adults including Olga da Polga and Monsieur Pamplemousse, the detective cum restaurant critic with his long suffering bloodhound, Pommes Frites.

At the time of his death, Mr Bond was 91, and had been writing children’s books right up until the end, his last Paddington book, Paddington’s Finest Hour, being published in April 2017.

He was born in Berkshire in 1926, and, like many of us here at Brighton Toy and Model Museum, he had a love of trains which developed from a young age. Once he was an adult, having served in the RAF and in the army in Cairo, where he discovered his love of writing, he never moved far away from Paddington station, and it continued to inspire many of the bear’s adventures.

While Paddington Bear is undoubtedly his most successful creation, appearing in at least 27 Bond authored books, several animated television series and movies, there were other strings to Bond’s bow. Olga da Polga was a guinea pig who lived in something of a fantasy land like that of Walter Mitty. She had no time for the mundane or banal, so everyday events would be elaborated into exciting adventures which would unfortunately be contradicted by Olga’s owners, the Sawdust family.

Monsieur Pamplemousse also featured in many books and stands alone as being both a main character who is human, and is principally aimed at an adult audience. He is largely unknown today as he diverges so far from Bond’s usual work, but he is an entertaining, put-upon character ably supported by Pommes Frites, his trusty bloodhound who offers dogs’ eye view sardonic asides when called for.

But it’s Paddington Bear for whom Michael Bond will be best and most fondly remembered. Alone and lost when he arrives in Paddington train station, having left his Great Aunt Lucy behind in Darkest Peru, he’s taken in by the Browns. They look after him, treat him to marmalade sandwiches and come to the rescue in many of his adventures.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Bring Your Dad to the Museum to Win a Free Family Ticket

Bring your father to Brighton Toy and Model Museum on Saturday 17th June, enter our prize draw, and you could win a free family ticket.

People of all ages love Brighton Toy and Model Museum, it’s a hit with kids, seniors and everybody in between. And so, for Father’s Day we’re offering you the chance to win a family day ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children).

That’s it. Just turn up and buy your tickets next Saturday, fill in a couple of details and, as long as you’ve got your dad with you, you could win a ticket entitling the whole family to come along for free next time.

If you have any questions, ask one of our team members, call or email for more. 01273 749494

Saturday, 27 May 2017

In Memory Of Roger Moore

This week we had the bad news about Roger Moore, who passed away at the age of 89. While he played many roles, including Ivanhoe on TV and Romulus in Romulus and the Sabines, Simon Templar in The Saint and Brett Sinclair in The Persuaders (all the while maintaining his authentic quoif and perfect British purr!) he will of course be remembered for his role as James Bond more predominantly than anything else he did.

He wasn’t everyone’s favourite Bond. To many, his acting style seemed limited to cocking an eyebrow, making a bad pun about the demise of a villain and always ending up in bed with anyone who passed in front of the camera sporting an XX chromosome.
However, for all his faults he was wildly popular in the James Bond role in the 70s and 80, something of a Golden Era for the franchise. Connery made the part a debonair cold killer, Moore played the part as a slightly comic, Boys Own adventure. He revelled in having gadgets, fast cars, even space shuttles to get the job done, and while Dalton and Brosnan tried to bring back the tough, gritty edge to bond, it wouldn’t be until Daniel Craig took on the role that James Bond would become the brutal spy who would do anything required, no matter how unpalatable, in the service of his country.

The great thing about the gadgets that Q was able to supply to Bond was that they were also perfect for making into popular toys for little boys all over the Western World. Every release would mean at least one new toy car, (Connery had the Aston Martin DB9, but who could forget Moore’s white subaquatic Lotus?) helicopter, plane or boat. And remember how only the cool kids at school got the James Bond digital watch which played the James Bond signature tune in an inimitable dissonant beep?

But why is it we associate characters so strongly with their cars in the first place? Bond has a couple of cars, as mentioned above, which are immediately synonymous with him. Starsky and Hutch would be nothing without a funky theme tune and the iconic ‘Striped Tomato,’ a Ford Gran Torino in red with a white chevron running down the side and over the roof. The Green Hornet had a Chrysler Imperial Crown which he dubbed ‘Black Beauty’ and The Saint had a beautifully reliable Volvo p1800 which he later traded in for an almost indistinguishable Jaguar in later series.

Today, when Disney release a new movie, McDonalds will invariably produce a range of characters and themed meals to go along with it. When spies ruled the silver screen on Saturday afternoons it was all about the cars. Anybody involved in the production of die cast or plastic model kits would jump on the bandwagon and try to cram in as many of the features that were shown on celluloid into the scale cars and other scale toys they produce.

The chase has always been key to driving the action in cinema since its inception. From foot chases and slapstick of the silent era to horse chases in the early westerns, now we have car chases, planes, boats and space ships all desperately trying to overtake one another or shoot it out. Of all of these the most relatable is bound to be the car, after all, we see millions of them on our roads every day, and dream of what would happen if, just once, we could put it in fifth, and slowly push our right foot as firmly into the floor as it will possibly go!

But until we can do that, we have to make do with pushing our corgis around the carpet, wondering, if it came down to it, who would win in a game of Chicken: You, or James Bond?

Happy National Volunteer’s Week!

Brighton Toy and Model Museum really does depend on its volunteers to keep it open and it’s nice to let our team of helpers know how much we appreciate them.

Its National Volunteer’s Week from the first to the seventh of June, a week where organisations who rely on people giving their time to operate recognise the contribution that these helpers make to keeping them running. The week is organised by the NCVO and it aims to show appreciation to all the volunteers who give up their time all over the country in order to help charities keep running, and without whom we’d all be the poorer.

Why We Need Volunteers

Brighton Toy and Model Museum opened 25 years ago as a way of preserving large collections of toys while also benefiting the local community. Today we still have those collections however, we don’t just benefit the local community. Each year we welcome volunteers not only from Brighton and Hove, but from France, Germany, Italy and Spain. These volunteers come to us as part of their learning programmes in areas such as hospitality, travel and tourism to see how an attraction in a tourist resort operates, and to perfect their English while they are also able to help our overseas visitors in their mother tongues. Along with students, we also provide work experience to people via the Job Centre. People who aren’t currently in paid employment are encouraged to come to the museum where they can get essential work experience and also add new strings to their bows. Working with the museum also means that you can get a current employer reference to add to your CV.

What Does Volunteering Give You?

We don’t just expect our volunteers to work and only receive a ‘thanks very much’ in return. Our work experience gives you the opportunity to learn real-life museum front of house and back office skills. Having these skills, which are of huge importance to the smooth running of a museum and are exactly the kind of practical experience that museums, galleries and heritage sites are looking for when you want to progress in the industry. Skills such as inventory, cataloguing, description, retail, marketing and hospitality are all attributes which any museum desperately needs. We need people who possess them too. We can teach them to eager staff who want to be prepared for a role in museums or archives, or indeed to people who simply have spare time and want to do something interesting in a warm, friendly environment surrounded by toys and games!

Brighton Toy and Model Museum is always looking for more volunteers to help. If you have time and you’re looking for a chance to improve your skills and experience, or you have expert knowledge of what it takes to be an indispensable member of a museum’s team then please get in touch! We’d love to hear from people equally willing to learn or share their own knowledge, so send us a CV with a brief note outlining what you would like to do and what you would like to get out of volunteering and we’ll get back to you.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Researching the museum: The Spedden’s, RMS Titanic and The History of Toys

During my time at the museum, I’ve found specific items in the collection that I’ve begun to research and have investigated where they are from and who might have owned them. I’ve also had the feeling you sometimes get in museums –  of the many items on display, there are some from the 1950’s that evoke a sense of a preserved time capsule. In particular, a children’s play size melamine set of dishes and a miniature stove.  Other items include the red Grand piano in the doll’s house and a silver ornate baby’s whistle, which I am informed, is the oldest item in the collection. 

I’ve also been looking through the reference library, one book in particular which stood out was Antonia Fraser’s A History of Toys. It detailed the historical record of artefacts and antiques from ancient civilisations to present day. I also read the museum copy of Polar the Titanic bear, which tells the story of the Spedden family’s international travels through the eyes of their son’s Steiff polar bear, named Polar. There are few of these bears in the world and one is in the collection here. The story was written by Daisy Spedden, in light of the unexpected end that their journey had and to help her son manage the trauma of the events that ensued.
Douglas Spedden playing with a spinning top on board RMS Titanic
In April 1912, the Spedden family arrived in the French port of Cherbourg, having travelled widely, from France to Egypt with their young son and having seen some of the wonders of the world. They boarded RMS Titanic, who had left England days before, on her maiden voyage. The family were returning to their home in New York. We are all familiar with the tragedy that ensued. In a few days’ time, on 14 April, it will be the 105th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Of the thousands aboard relatively few made it onto the limited number of lifeboats; the Spedden family was one of the only families that all survived. Douglas, their son, also clung to Polar in the bitter Atlantic air, under the pitch of a star-filled sky. I’ve been developing a story based on what the experience might have been like and will be continuing to draw on the collection pieces as inspiration over the coming weeks.

Louise Clement is a MA Creative writing student at University of Brighton. She is a poet and writer. She has run events in the Brighton Fringe, had her work displayed in a local gallery and published in avant-garde magazine Rag n Rock.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Volk's Railway Reconstruction: Peter Pan and the Car Sheds

In our last blog we mentioned that work was being carried out not only on the Aquarium Station of Volk's Electric Railway, but engineers are also rebuilding the Peter Pan station and Car Sheds. We didn't have any pictures at the time, so, in a sense of "better late than never" we have some shots of the work that Cheesemur of Lewis are conducting.
Of course, being big kids at heart, we have a special appreciation for deep holes and the diggers that make them so I'll just post pictures of the excavations and other atmospheric shots of the site for you to enjoy here.