Creating a museum

dolls house

When I first started thinking about this project I was interested in what constitutes a museum – what gives some objects value over others? What is this value – money? Age? If we change our value system to approach objects as we would writing or the creative arts, could stories and memories, personal vs monumental value and the ideas an object triggers, create a museum that speaks more to people than a sterile collection of beautiful things where it is explained to us why we should think a certain way about them? For my Car Boot Museum project I have been slowly acquiring objects that will feature in my travelling museum, that have personal stories, could trigger memories, spark off interesting ideas, and then join with objects added by members of the public during its journey. It is a strange way of curating – rummaging through the attic, charity shopping (I am somewhat of an expert in that pastime…), going to “junk” shops, scouring eBay for old Somerset souvenirs… It is interesting to think how a sparkly penguin might sit next to a ration book from Frome, a little embroidered picture, a thimble, a shell… How do these objects frame each other in a created museum narrative? What happens when old found photos are thrown into the mix – do we immediately create characters to link to the objects and before we realise are we creating stories? What is the jump from these ideas to text and how can that be situated in the museum? We are so used to reading prescriptive museum panels – what if they were completely made up – what if we could create them ourselves – does this change or add to their value and the definition of a museum experience? I hope my project will not answer so much as illustrate and facilitate these questions. Broaden out the definition of the contemporary museum experience, the value of displaying objects, how text can be used in an interesting way beyond the printed page and how the viewing experience, like that of the reader, is an essentially creative one. This should be particularly interesting combined with the site-specific nature of the tour – how does where we view something also affect our experience – I anticipate the landscape and towns of Somerset also collaborating with the objects to create the full experience, and using text and film in the project should help explore and document this. steart

As well as my curatorial trips and musings I have also been developing the museum structure. At first I had thought to use salvaged display cabinets and old printer trays, and whilst this aged look of wood would have been lovely, it became more and more apparent that I needed to custom build something for my car that really enabled all the features of this project to sit together – objects, photos, text to interrelate in a way that was unique to my vehicle (it’s a blue mini if any is on the outlook when we travel…). This led me to meet Colin Bignell – a master carpenter who works from his studio near Shepton Mallet. He has built the museum that I designed in such perfect detail that I would recommend him to any artists interested in carpentry. He is a great teacher and runs courses www.tollhousecourses.co.uk . Visually I was inspired by old cabinets of curiosities and dolls houses (especially after a peak at the V&A collection at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green – I recommend), but also the knick knack displays I had as a child in the ’80s – aesthetically there is something about them that takes the idea of a cabinet of curiosities away from a certain antique image towards something that I feel hasn’t been explored so much – that sense of childhood as well as historical curio collections – and maybe rather than curios as a term the prosaicness of some objects is actually more interesting – as a writer as well as an artist, and certainly as a teacher, this idea of how we can get the extraordinary from the everyday is endlessly important and fascinating to me. I hope my design has achieved this balance. So I am nearly there! The structure is built. It fits perfectly – couture carpentry! The objects are collected/found/curated. Now I am “decorating” the cabinet – initial text is scrawled on walls, each compartment in the cabinet is becoming a little room or a designed space for the objects that can be changed as they are interchanged. I spent a fantastic day with Richard at Somerset Film training as part of the Ignite! Somerset scheme, so my editing skills are hugely improved for filming on the tour… I am also binging on writing preparatory text – some to be used in decoration, some to spark off the poetic travelogue (there is an actual beautiful embossed leather bound travelogue which will be used for some of the collaborative evolving text…), some may be discarded but will spark a later idea… There is still a value in a piece of writing or a visual idea that is not used I think… It is all the process and in some ways the collaborative evolving nature of this project functions as a form of process art, even though it does have something concrete it is moving towards (the installation at the 44AD gallery during Art Weeks in October). The tour is now also all booked so watch this space for the final itinerary – however I can say that definite stops include: Wedmore, Priddy, Axbridge, Cheddar, Steart Marshes, Minehead, Porlock, Dulverton, Tarr Steps, Dunkery Beacon, Wiveliscombe, Wellington, Burrow Mump, Othery, Nunney… And more to come! Follow me on twitter @ghostsosilver for rolling updates. This blog will also evolve with the project – where I can during the tour I will upload images and text so this becomes like another form of archive/museum – a creative digital documentation of the project, that will continue to evolve until the exhibition (and perhaps beyond!). Schools workshops are now all booked for September, which is fantastic. So now my paint is dry, so back to work… But do watch this space – the first of August kick off is not that far away! Where will The Car Boot Museum take you…

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