Thursday, 21 April 2011
A coating of dust a million thoughts deep.
It is impossible to ignore this season, I think. It has been sliding its way in through every crack and cranny, superimposing itself on top of boring daily errands. In this city which is all built of grey granite, and often stands under grey skies, the sudden burst of spring colour seems exaggerated and the nicest kind of startling. People here are quite clearly mad for gardens.
A few days ago we went to the opening of a tiny museum in an old house on a cobbled street by the university (unfortunately the camera stayed home). It is a museum with two small rooms with display cases whose contents (from the large university collections) will rotate often, but there are also tables and chairs, set out so you could come in and sit with a friend and maybe have a snack if you like.
Their first exhibit, called '100 Curiosities in King's Museum', was modelled on old curiosity cabinets. Professors, children, poets, students, and many others who had visited the store rooms of the museum were asked to choose an object from these collections and write one hundred words about what made it interesting to them.
Then, when guests to the newly opened museum arrived they were handed a little book with all of these people's thoughts on the objects being shown. My husband was one of the contributors, so we were some of the lucky ones invited to the opening, to crawl around from display case to display case reading the little books that brimmed with excited anecdotes, recollections, explanations and reactions.
There were paintings, charms, taxidermy animals, old scientific teaching aids, stone objects that were sculpted by the ancestors of homo-sapiens, folk art from far away places, a narwhal tusk.... everything! A tiny Gaelic prayer book with a key tied to it sat next to a tiny note saying that the person who had acquired it for the collections had got it from a 'cunning man' who used to put the key in the book on particular pages and tie the string around it in order to work magic. The note complained they didn't know where in the book to insert the key to make it work.
As interesting as it is to see the notes of past curators next to the object on display, the note sort of encapsulates a lot of what can be negative about museums: the whole problem of removing things from their context (and sometimes through stealing). This sort of re-contextualizing of the exhibit was interesting though, and it was a gesture of giving the objects back to the public.
It also made me think of the layers and layers of meaning that are sitting on top of every object, and especially museum objects, which are seen by so many people, coming from so many places. The tiny layers of paint on the paintings are only a foundation for the invisible paintings that sit on top of them.
But to speak of lovely objects, I should mention that the post brought in some treasures this morning. A short while ago I was the very lucky winner of a giveaway of a batch of fabrics designed by the very talented watercolour painter, Holly, of Golly Bard.
I love Holly's work... lots of beautifully painted portraits of bugs and birds and branches, and I am thrilled to have these lovely patterns to feast my eyes on everyday. My photo doesn't do them justice, they are far more lovely and delicate in person. You can find loads more of her gorgeous artworks on her blog or in her shops.