Thursday, 11 March 2010

The Many Strands of a Web Blog

You never know who might be reading your blog. People all over the world might be just stumbling across your writings. Others, like the young lady below, will be "doing a Google" for something or other. Here's how this particular encounter evolved:

By means of a Google search, I found a comment you had posted on the blog "A Majority of Two" last December on hunting tapestries. I see that you mention Mellerstain - I am in the U.S. conducting archaeological research on early 17th C. hunting dogs, and currently trying to find an image of a hunting tapestry that is (or used to be) on display at Mellerstain Castle. It is a 16th C. Flemish tapestry including a large greyhound wearing quilted body armor for hunting large game like bear or boars. Having found no other leads, this a tapestry you are familiar with? Do you have any ideas as to where I might acquire an image of it for study? (Books, websites, etc.)

Thanks in advance,
Kelsey Noack

I went on to send Miss Noack a scan of part of the guide book on Mellerstain which has a VERY small black and white picture of the tapestry:

and this is her reply:
Hi Phil,

How exciting! I was able to crop the image that you sent me and enlarge it without too much distortion. (I then printed it out and showed it to several of the other staff since I've been talking about it for weeks and thought they might want to see it too.)

If you are not able to get permission for a photo, or if you are never able to reach Lord Haddington at all I understand. This scanned image you've sent is useful in and of itself. I would still like to have a more detailed image, but I can get by with this one if it's not possible.

Thanks so much, and I will look forward to any news you come up with.


Next, I asked Lord Haddington (who is an excellent photographer) if he would oblige with a full size photograph of the tapestry and he did so, as shown here:

This proved to be much more useful to Kelsey, but then she sent this:


Thank you! I am slightly overwhelmed at all the detail I can see in the photo. This is wonderful. Very helpful, indeed. However, now that I can see more I am interested in higher resolution photos, or perhaps having the camera focused on particular portions of the tapestry. I have been able to zoom in fairly close on the dogs in the foreground, which is originally what I was interested in. In the upper left half I can see that there are also depictions of dogs actively in the pursuit of several boars. Would it be possible to have closer images of those portions?

Thanks to you, again, and to Lord Haddington.


I forwarded Kelsey's message to Lord H, prefacing it with saying that I doubted it would be possible to get close-ups of the areas requested because of the poor light in the area of the tapestry (and said much the same to Kelsey).

There then followed four more photos from Lord H, which I emailed to Kelsey.

The end result was a final email from Kelsey:

Hello Phil,

Thank you so very much for your help in acquiring these, and please pass on my thanks again to Lord Haddington. Very exciting to have these photos! I think they are now going to be a much larger focus of the work I am doing. I will send a copy of my paper when it is finished. It's looking like the dogs that would have been brought here to Jamestown would definitely have been hunting dogs only, and we know that a few of them at least were greyhounds according to the documentary record. In effect, the dogs pictured in the tapestry are likely the same type brought here to Jamestown, right down to the coloring! Now all that remains is to confirm which continent the dogs were from through chemical testing with isotopic analysis.

Sorry I did not get back to you right away. It was a very busy weekend and I was away from the computer. What a great thing to have waiting for me in the inbox.

Thank you again,

Kelsey Noack, M.A.

Curatorial Assistant
APVA Jamestown Rediscovery
(757) 229-4997 ext. 109

So, from a blog by Jo, (A Majority of Two), with TAPESTRIES as the theme, and a small comment from yours truly on Jo's blog it was possible to help a young lady on the other side of the world in her research work.

The old cliché "It's a small world" is truer now than it's ever been!


willow said...

It makes blogging all worth the while, doesn't it Phil? How fun. Thanks for sharing this fascinating encounter with us!

Brenda said...

Wow...that is amazing isn't it? I know that I have found blogs just by googling a word or subject. The most traffic I have had to my blog is from a post I did about films made in St. Louis.
This particular tapestry sounds very valuable.
I hope Jo sees this post.

arlee bird said...

This is a tremendous story and goes to show how these sometimes foolish seeming blogs can have a purpose beyond our own amusement. The internet has opened so many new doors that were previously almost an impossibility to enter for underfunded researchers. On behalf of that researcher I thank you and your compatriot and congratulations as well.

Nicole said...

What fun! And you were so kind to help. I love that blogging connects us to people across the world!

Jo said...

Well, my goodness gracious me...! I have not heard of Kelsey until now. I'm so amazed that I was a missing link -- as it were -- between Kelsey, you and Lord Haddington. If you should get the opportunity, please say hello to both of them from me. :-)

Monkey Man said...

Quite impressive. What a great blog.

Shadow said...

this is downright amazing!

Pauline said...

How intriguing! And how helpful you were! Sharing that tale with the rest of us just might open more doors, who knows?

It's an odd experience, being googled. A former classmate whom I barely remembered (it was a large class) googled paper making, found my name via one of my blog posts, remembered the demonstration I gave as part of my graduation requirement, and has commissioned a book! Small world, indeed!

Barry said...

It is a small world indeed, but a very interesting one.

What a fascinating series of email exchanges and photographs.

It just goes to prove that it never hurts to ask.

Argent said...

This is what makes the internet so worthwhile! I'm always pleasantly surprised when somebody from out of nowhere suddenly comments on my posts or starts following. Sometimes you can tell where they've come from, others not. Lord H was a real gentleman to take all those photos and you were as well for approaching him on a stranger's behalf. Long live the internet and blogging! PS Great to have you back.

PhilipH said...

Willow - thanks; yes, it's nice when a plan comes together (apologies to the A-Team).
Brenda - I've no idea of the value in terms of price of these old tapestries but if the amount of work that goes into them is anything to go by then they have to be worth a small fortune. Jo has left a comment, so I'm glad she stopped by as it was her blog that kicked it all off.
Arlee: Nice to read your comment. I think blogging can be useful at times, as well as a hobby. Enjoyed reading you strong poem too!
Nicole, thanks for calling in. And what a superb family you have! And a very sensible and sensitive husband.
Jo, as you have given so much time and thought to your blogs I shall hereby bestow upon you the title: HRH Johann, Empress of Blogosphere. Thank you, Majesty, for all you purvey. (Philip H backs away, tugging at forelock..)
Hi MM: How're you doing of late? Hope all goes well with you and yours.
Hello Shadow. It did strike me as quite unusual that this young lady researcher had narrowed her quest down like this. Nice result too.
Pauline: that must have been most gratifying for both you and your former classmate. I sincerely hope the book project is successful. Dedication? perhaps??

Hi Barry. Yes, you're perfectly correct of course: if you don't ask you certainly wont get. And the worst that can happen is that you get a 'No' - but then you've lost nothing other than a few minutes of email time. Hope things are as good as possible right now. I loved the ironwork posting very much.

Good evening Silver! The vast majority of online bloggers will always be delighted to help out if they can. Lord Haddington, when he was younger (and as heir apparent was just Lord Binning) ran a photography business. He has always been a keen snapper and is still very talented with a camera. I was pleased that he obliged with a full size photo and doubted he would have time to agree to take four more close-ups. I emailed Kelsey Noack and suggested she did not 'hold her breath' as it was not an easy task to do as she requested. I forwarded my email to Kelsey onto Lord H. He probably viewed it as a 'challenge' and promptly proved me wrong! (But this might have been my Machiavellian method of persuasion... who knows?)

Star said...

How very interesting and enlightening and let's be honest - awesome. Must be more careful in future. Who knows what I've written in the past that I might now regret??
Blessings, Star

PhilipH said...

Hi Stella, yes - be careful, you never know who's ear-wigging.

In the war there was a saying, urging everybody to take care with what they said: "Walls have ears..."

Nowadays it's more like "The Web has eyes AND ears.."

Land of shimp said...

Philip! You're out of the well, I'm so pleased!

What's absolutely lovely is that people feel comfortable reaching out to each other in this manner...and the response she received was a kind one, and an exceptionally helpful one on both your part, and the part of Lord Haddington (I always picture Paddington Bear ...because it's fun).

The internet will be the death of Xenophobia yet.

Good to see you, Philip.

Cloudia said...

Thank you for finding my blog as it has led me back to your extraordinary one!

Aloha from Hawaii my new Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Vera said...

Blogging is a great networking tool, and its amazing that this lady found you, and that you were able to help her. Blogging makes the world feel like a cosier place to be living in.

Elisabeth said...

This is such a terrific story here Philip and it confirms my understanding of the blogosphere - it's wonderful rhizome type branches that reach far and wide and bring us closer together.

I, too, love the serendipitous nature of blogging and I'm delighted to meet you, Philip. Thanks for introducing yourself to me.

lovelyprism said...

It IS a small world! When I was researching places to blog I happened upon Jo at Majority of Two and decided Blogger was the place for me. Jo helped me out a lot through email and she has been a wonderful friend ever since. It's amazing the friends you can find these days in this small world. I've been away a bit, I'll catch up on the rest of your blog posts now. I've missed them!

Mmm said...

what an incredible strong of events. you helped her no end and how amazing the Lord helped as much too. she must have been blown away.

Shrinky said...

How incredible! Yes, we never know who we are likely to cross paths with out here, guess that is half the fun of blogging, isn't it?