Juteopolis

Juteopolis, an intervention performed at the McManus Museum and Galleries, as a part of the Festival of Museums on the 20th May 2017. The performance celebrated the launch of the new ‘Ship Models’ exhibition, presenting an impression of ‘The People’s Story’ through the collection of shipping history, found at the museum.

A story about the flow of culture connecting museum objects, to the people of Dundee.

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THRIVING DEMANDS

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CRAFTMANSHIP

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WOODEN VESSELS

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FISHING COBBLES

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MANY OUTSTANDING SHIPS

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THEY SAILED THE WORLD

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The philosopher Theodor Adorno argued that objects, once inside a museum, are removed from the flow of culture where connections can be established. In contradiction, the artists, Lise Olsen and Lada Wilson used this performance to argue against Adorno’s theory by creating a new story, engaging with the ‘Ship Models’ collection in a variety of different ways.

Photo Credit: A big thank-you to Stuart McAdam for taking such beautiful images.

 

The Ship Models are ‘Batten Down’

The ship models are ‘Batten down’.[1]

Dundee, Caledon and the Gourlay,

constructed the Tay’s floating crown.

 

The skilled and well-trained creators.

Drillers, engineers, and foundry workers,

hold memories of boilermakers.

 

The sailors in search for the whale.

Fisherman, sea captains, and the crew,

so many whalers were built to sail.

 

The Privateer[2] will prey to pursue.

Fore, Main Mizzen and the Spanker,

even a Bumboat[3] is here to view.

 

The industrial world of pride and concern.

Shipbuilders, shipmasters, and the owners,

inspecting their keels from bow to stern. [4]

 

The Beam end boats for your observation.

Skysail, Mainsail[5] and the Topgallant,

a legacy of Dundee’s shipping nation.

By Lise Olsen

 

The ship models have arrived at their final destination and can be viewed in the new permanent exhibition at the McManus Galleries.

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When I visited the exhibition, the display transported my mind to a magnificent vision of a fleet of ships, floating upon the Tay Estuary. The detail in each model shows off, the skill and craftsmanship needed to create such detailed objects. In Dundee, shipbuilding needed many Maritime related trades and different skills to build an actual ship, here is a list of just a few. [6]

Rope and Sail Makers

Carvers and Gilders

Tin Plate Workers

Wood Merchants

Iron Merchants

Ship Chandlers

Wire Workers

Electricians

Stevedores

Engineers

Tallymen

Joiners

Listen to a story about a Caledon apprentice engineer by clicking the link below.

To find out more about Dundee’s shipping history and the Ship Models exhibition, visit the McManus Galleries, early May 2017. (Free admission)

Please note: Audio file is on loan from the Cultural Services Oral History.

[1] ‘Batten down’ means make secure[1] “Archibald, M (1999). Sixpence for the Wind. Caithness: Whittles Publishing. P138-140

[2] ‘Privateer is a Private vessel licensed to attack ships of opposing nation” Archibald, M (1999). Sixpence for the Wind. Caithness: Whittles Publishing. P138-140

[3] “Bumboat carried waste from ships and brought back provisions” ibid

[4] “The Stern is the Backbone of a ship” ibid

[5] “Mainsail is the largest sail” ibid

[6] Robertson, H. (2009). DUNDEE SHIPBUILDERS. Available: http://ninetradesofdundee.co.uk/download/mariners_&_seamen/historic_extracts/2009%20Dundee%20Shipbuilders.pdf. Last accessed 6th May 2017.

The ‘Troupe’ Are Here

A group of older ladies called ‘The Troupe’, brought the gallery to life with a blether around the ‘Painted Colour Map’ of Dundee, found in ‘The Making of Modern Dundee Exhibition’ at The McManus Museum and Galleries.

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‘The Troupe’ inspected the map in great detail. The ‘You Are Here’ pointer suggested the map was used at the west Railway Station, Dundee and made sometime between 1937 and 1941. I loved listening to ladies examining and discussing their exploration of Dundee’s past, through topography.

Click link above and have a listen.

Shipbuilder’s and their Homes

With the safe arrival of the model ships, now being ‘put into’ [1] a new permanent exhibition at the McManus Galleries. I began to wonder where did the Dundee shipbuilders live? At that time, good housing was in high demand, the shipbuilding company Caledon need to build new homes for their employees. However, the shipbuilder’s built some unconventional, homes at Cragiebank with alternative building materials. Click the link below to find more…

The Caledon constructed house’s at Cragiebank in Dundee.

More traditional style Caledon Housing can also be found at Abercorn Street. I decided to visit the street to see if the houses were still there. Upon arrival, I found white semi-detached cottages with neat gardens.

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Feeling curious, I knocked upon a cottage door with a delightful garden, in hope that the resident might have a little shipping knowledge. To my surprise, the man who opened the door was a retired senior technical manager at Caledon, Mr. J. Riley. He shared his story by telling me he had started his career at the Caledon yard in 1955. Now, he dedicates his time to write and document Caledon’s history in his book called ‘The Caledon Shipyard: The Foundation, The People, The Ships and its Demise.’

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Mr Riley has over 500 images of ships in his book and his final objective is to get a picture of every ship the Caledon yard ever built…

Click the link below to hear a story from Abercorn Street.

To find out more about Dundee’s shipping history and the Ship Models exhibition, visit the McManus Galleries, early May 2017. (Free admission)

Please note: Audio file is on loan from the Cultural Services Oral History.

[1] MacMillan Publishers Limited. (2009). What ships and boats do. Available: http://www.macmillandictionary.com/thesaurus-category/british/what-ships-and-boats-do. Last accessed 26th April 2017.

These Splendid Ships

These splendid ships, each with her grace, her glory,

Her memory of old song or comrade’s story,

Still in my mind the image of life’s need,

Beauty in hardest action, beauty indeed. [1]

By John Masefield

The beautiful model ships conserved and stored at the McManus Collections unit in Dundee have now embarked upon a new voyage. Destined for a new display in the Albert Hall at the McManus Galleries.

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Bishop’s Move, a removal, and international shipping service ascended upon the unit at Barrack Street, to oversee the final voyage. The models had been packed carefully into boxes while other large models were carried by hand onto a bright yellow lorry. The museum staff Becky and Carly watched apprehensively, hearts racing as the fragile glass display cases were moved from their safe spaces. Each model was destined to travel adjacent to the flow of  River Tay to Noth Sea, roughly 300 yards to the gallery, in blustery windy conditions.

The Tay Estuary has seen many great ships built and launched, from high-quality wooden vessels, sailing barques and iron steamships. All built by local shipbuilders including David Livie and Sons, Alexander Stephen and Sons, Gourley Bros and Caledon. Each ship produced from Dundee’s past carried a tale to tell and by clicking the link below you can hear a ship launch story.

The Ship Models new permanent exhibition will be ready for visitor’s inspection at the magnificent Albert Hall in the McManus Galleries, early May 2017.

 

Please note: Audio file is on loan from the Cultural Services Oral History.

[1] Monroe, H & Henderson, A. ed. (1918). The New Poetry, An Anthology. New York: The MacMillan Company. P200-202.

Shadows of Ships

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I’m looking forward to the ship models being moved to ‘The McManus’ for a new permanent exhibition, opening early May 2017 and I have been invited to document the process at the end of the month. This invitation has launched my thinking upon the place of Dundee’s shipping past. I find myself transported back to ‘Stannergate’ overlooking the Tay Estuary. The image above presents the shoreline where ‘Caledon Shipyard’ once built many ships, the ship’s names float gently upon white capped waves.

Right Or Left For Queen Victoria?

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert have had a long-standing connection to Dundee’s past. This union will once again be transported into the future by the completion, early next year of the V&A Museum of Design Dundee.

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Victoria and Albert patiently await the completion of Dundee’s V&A

The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum is built upon Albert Square, a place named as a monument to Albert, the Prince Consort.[1] A statue of Queen Victoria can be found on the square and the museum was once named ‘The Albert Institute’. However, its name changed to ‘The McManus Galleries’ in memory of the former Lord Provost, Maurice McManus.[2] Historically Dundee has always had its own V&A, found on the first floor of the museum in the form of ‘The Victoria Gallery’ and ‘The Albert Hall’. You can also find two busts, sculpted by John Hutchinson in 1898, of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert located near the entrance of the museum.

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Queen Victora outside the McManus Gallery

My intention when photographing the busts was to represent, ‘Victoria and Albert patiently await the completion of Dundee’s V&A’. However, when I visited the museum I noticed the Prince Consort ‘s sculpture stood to the right of the Regnant Queen. Albert and Victoria seems a little odd so I altered the image in Photoshop, placing the queen on the right with the prince on her left.

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Original Photograph

A curatorial decision was made to place the queen on the left side of her husband. Was this decision made so the Queen would be nearer the front entrance? Or, was it an old fashioned concept of a woman’s place is on the left of man? If we think of a Christian wedding where the bride always stands or sits to the left of her husband and her family also sits on the left side of the church. I began to search for some context and I found an article suggesting:

“Traditionally, when a man escorts his partner, he offers his left arm. This tradition originates from medieval times when men escorted women around town and through the fields. Should a threat arise or the woman’s honor require defending, the man’s sword hand (his right hand) would be free, giving him quick and easy access to his sword, worn on his left side.”[3]

During my research, I also found a guide to the correct royal etiquette for various modes of royal seating at court and at other times, recommending;

The Sovereign sits to the right, with the Consort to His (or Her) left, if both are present.”[4]

When I think of any images I have seen of our current royals, we nearly always find Prince Philip sat on the Queen’s left side. Yet, regardless of the positioning of Queen Victoria or Prince Albert’s sculptures, when I consider the skill and craftsmanship of the work and the beauty of the marble. I reflect upon their royal romance, as we all wait patiently for their union to be transported into the future by the completion of Dundee’s V&A.

[1] Leisure and Culture Dundee. (Unknown Date). Streetwise: Albert Institute. Available: http://www.leisureandculturedundee.com/localhistory/streetwise/albertinstitute. Last accessed 31st March 2017.

[2] ibid

[3] Tan, N and Nicol, B. (2009). The History Behind Gentlemanly Action. Available: http://www.primermagazine.com/2011/learn/the-history-behind-gentlemanly-action. Last accessed 31st March 2017

[4] ‘William the Lucky’. (2002). SECTION VI — PROTOCOL, TITLES, AWARDS AND PRECEDENCE. Available: http://heralds.westkingdom.org/Handbook/vi_5-SeatingAtCourtAndBanquets.pdf. Last accessed 31st March 2017

Winter Is Dead, It’s Time To Spring Clean

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Wednesday 22nd of March

On a recent visit to the gallery, I found the McManus conservation team busy cleaning the ‘Tay Whale’, a skeleton of a Humpback whale located in the ‘Making of Modern Dundee’ exhibition. The ritual spring clean is an opportunity for the museum to clean and re-examine its displays. The conservators Becky and Carly undertook the intricate task upon a scaffold, equipped with a specialist vacuum cleaner and soft brushes. To prevent damage, they first gently brushed the dust from the many bones and then vacuumed the surface.

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I was not surprised to find the museum cleaning a day after the spring equinox (the 21st of March). Yet, I began to wonder, why do we spring clean? Traditionally, spring is a time to open all the windows, to do a thorough clean, but it is also a time to celebrate rebirth and new beginnings. The conservator’s act of cleaning helps to preserve the bones of a long-dead creature, maintaining its legacy beyond death.

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Image from a German exchange student inspired by a gallery spring visit

The whale story is immortalized by its preservation, allowing the story to be re-told. Visitors will question why this unfortunate whale a creature that lived in the sea, ended up in a gallery? It swam up the Tay in 1883, evaded capture, eventually died and was towed ashore at Stonehaven. [1] John Woods bought it at an auction and donated the skeleton to the museum. The famous Dundee poet McGonagall wrote a poem about the whale’s experience. On the strength of the Tay Whale poem and other verses, he was acclaimed to be “the worst poet in the English language”[2]. Here is an example of the first verse.

’TWAS in the month of December, and in the year 1883,
That a monster whale came to Dundee,
Resolved for a few days to sport and play,
And devour the small fishes in the silvery Tay.[3]

The whale lives on in object and tale. I believe each spring clean represents the preservation of the life force, still present in a dead inanimate object. [4] When we clean “we are negotiating with our mortality” [5]. In death, we return to dust and in time we are forgotten. The action of cleaning the bones, fundamentally allows the conservators to attempt to control the rate of the ‘Tay Whales’ demise.

[1] McManus. (date unknown). Tay Whale Skeleton. Available: http://www.mcmanus.co.uk/taxonomy/term/1253/all. Last accessed 23rd march 2017.

[2] Godfrey, P.C. (2012). Review. Available: http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2013/Sept13/Zuidam_McGonagall_CC72608.htm. Last accessed 22nd March 2017.

[3] Hunt, C. (2014). The Famous Tay Whale. Available: http://www.mcgonagall-online.org.uk/gems/the-famous-tay-whale. Last accessed 22nd March 2017.

[4] Putman, J (2009). Art and Artififact: The Museum as Medium. 2nd ed. London: Thames & Hudson. P 38.

[5] Lowder, B. (2014). Rethinking Spring Cleaning.Available: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/culturebox/features/2014/rethinking_spring_cleaning/spring_cleaning_it_s_an_antiquated_ritual_but_it_s_never_been_more_important.html Last accessed 22nd March 2017.

Celtic Atmosphere

On Wednesday 1st of March, I attended a workshop for school children, run by the learning team at the McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum. The workshop explored the ‘Refection of the Celts Exhibition’ where the children loved discussing the culture, discovering the exhibition and making Celt inspired helmets.

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On display in the ‘Refection of the Celts Exhibition’ hangs a painting called ‘Riders of the Sidhe’ by a Dundonian painter  John Duncan. He painted this after spending time exploring Eriskay, Barra and Iona. [1] He describes;

“The mystery, exuberance and restraint of Celtic art”.[2]

These feeling can be sensed as you wander around the exhibition and I began to think about artifacts and the exhibition experience, how do they add to the children’s understanding of the Celts? I believe the answer lies in a Celtic atmosphere created by the exhibition and the children freedom of choice.

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The school group gained knowledge by exploring, experiencing and researching the Celts through objects by applying;

  • Curiosity: Free to question and select what objects to look at and draw.
  • Collaboration: They organise themselves into groups for the creative activity, this allowed each group to work well together.
  • Creativity: Instruction was given on how to make the helmets but they were free to decorate using their own designs influenced by their research and experience.

 

Here some examples of their work.

[1] Jarron, M (2015). “independent & individualist” Art in Dundee 1867-1927. Dundee: Abertay Historical Society. P81.

[2] ibid

Strange Ships from Strange Places

I attended the Ship Model Study day on Wednesday 22nd of February, at Barrack Street Museum Collections Unit. The collection has over ninety different models, some built by local amateurs enthusiast while other models crafted by ship builders who commissioned them to attract support and investment.

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Over fifty people attended the study day, the majority, were local men who wanted to discuss and share their fascination for these models. It amazed me, how a model, a copy or imitation of a real ship could build discussions, sharing culture and establishing a romantic notion of Dundee’s shipping history. John Duncan described a nostalgic image of Dundee Docklands in his speech in 1911.[1]

“Strange ships from many strange places: huge swollen Dutch hulls that looked too lazy for anything but a canal, and lean sea-going ships; and full of foreign folk; swarthy creatures like pirates from the Spanish Main: Chinamen and Hindoos, and an occasional Lapp; lanky, blue-eyed Scandinavians talking together an unintelligible tongue. And queer rigging, and carving, the figureheads, and windows in the stern, the gilding, and the paint, and the whitewash, and the tar; and the moving water caught all this picturesqueness, and shook it into twisting Chinese dragons of liquid dancing fire. What a wonder it all was, what a delightful place for a Sunday afternoon.”[2]

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The group engaged with each model in three stages: denotation, demonstration, and interpretation.[3] I questioned a few visitors about the appeal of a model ship and the responses were varied. Some interest was developed from working in the shipping industry, while others simply admired the craftsmanship and attention to detail. All agreed these models evoked the imagination of what it was like to live and work on the ships. The model ships allowed the construction of a narrative beyond the object.

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A small collection of carefully chosen ship models, representing ships that sailed from Dundee or tell a Dundee story. Will be soon be moved and displayed in the ‘Dundee and the World exhibition’ at the McManus galleries.

[1] Jarron, M (2015). “independent & individualist” Art in Dundee 1867-1927. Dundee: Abertay Historical Society. P100.

[2] Ibid

[3] Frigg, R and Hartmann, S. (2006). Models in Science. Available: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/models-science/. Last accessed 26th Feb 2017.