An Object’s Crusade for Immortality

I visited the new ‘Dundee Preserves’ exhibition with Sharron, a member of the ‘McManus Creative Team’ and a group of visitors from a Broughty Ferry residential home. The new exhibition offers visitors insight into what the museum does with its objects.

 

Group photo
Lorrette Lorente, Sharron Phin, Pat Wood and Marget Poustie stand with the Atlantic Walrus

 

We walked around the ordered displays and we gained a better understanding of how curators and conservators care for; research, store, document and conserve the City’s collections.[1] In the crusade of immortalising objects on the battlefield of time, the ‘McManus’ understands its mission and recognises its enemy as the ‘Agents of Deterioration’.[2]

Fire

Light

Pests

Water

Neglect

Physical Force

Incorrect Humidity

Theft and Vandalism

Chemical Deterioration

Incorrect Temperatures

 Unexpectedly, we found the exhibition displayed “Moths from the Robertson Collection”, presenting the body parts of a slain enemy! The humble clothes moth ‘Tineola bisselliella’ is considered a pesky foe in the museums world.[3] The display highlighted how this historic collection holds import information about genetic profiling of the specimens, their environment as well as the underling motivation and attitude of its collector, Dr A Robertson.’

 

bug
 The Death’s-head hawkmoth on dispaly in the “Moths from the Robertson Collection”

 

“It is regarded not as the creation of a benevolent being, but the device of evil spirits—spirits enemies to man—conceived and fabricated in the dark, and the very shining of its eyes is thought to represent the fiery element whence it is supposed to have proceeded. Flying into their apartments in the evening at times it extinguishes the light; foretelling war, pestilence, hunger, death to man and beast.” Moses Harris (Entomologist 1840) [4]

Its perfectly reasonable for the McManus Museum to protect their objects from destruction. Understanding why and how an artefact deteriorates gives the museum a fighting chance in the crusade for an object’s immortality.

 

 

[1] Uknown Author. (2017). Dundee Preserves. Available: http://www.mcmanus.co.uk/exhibitions/dundee-preserves. Last accessed 25th June 2017.

[2] Arenstein, R.P. (2011). The Ten Agents of Deterioration. Available: http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/Ten_Agents_of_Deterioration. Last accessed 25th June 2017.

[3] Uknown Author. (2007). The Clothes Moth – Museums’ No.1 Insect Pest. Available: https://museum.wales/articles/2007-04-05/The-Clothes-Moth—Museums-No1-Insect-Pest/. Last accessed 25th June 2017.

[4] McCarthy, E. (2014). 12 Facts About the Death’s-Head Hawkmoth. Available: http://mentalfloss.com/article/57940/12-facts-about-deaths-head-hawkmoth. Last accessed 25th June 2017.

Museum Stories In-between

“It would be a mistake to think that an “object” as other simply seizes us, making us passive while it is actively dominating.”[1]

clockOver the past few weeks I’ve joined a variety of activities at the McManus Galleries, attended by groups of senior citizens from Dundee. While wandering around the displays, I have had the pleasure of listening to their stories. Allowing the memories of the past to be brought to life by objects found in the exhibitions.

I began to think about the relationship we have with these selected objects. Once placed in a display cabinet they become more that a mere object; placed beside ‘other’ chosen objects, each display tells a story, an object is a sign, a copy of itself, removed from the past and framed behind glass. The object transcends into artifact.

P1140077.jpg

“Although materially, these remain as they were, they become, on the plane of meanings facsimiles of themselves. They announce distance between what they are and what they were through there very function, once placed in the Museum, of representing their own pastness and, thereby, a set of past social relations.”[2]

The visitor who shares their story by observing a museum artifact, reveals their personal experience of an object. Reconnecting the past to present, the artifact to the everyday object, by placing a story in-between.

 

 

[1] Desmond, W (1995). Being and the Between. New York: State University of New York Press. P11.

[2] Bennett, T (1995). The Birth of the Museum. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge. P129.

 

 

 

The Centenarian Visitor

A Centenarian visitor joined the creative team at the McManus Galleries yesterday. Mr. Allan Whatley; is 104 years old, born in 1913, at Boscombe, near Bournemouth. Mr. Whatley is the oldest visitor to join ‘The People’s Story’. A new resident to Dundee, having only moved here last week and this was his first visit to the ‘McManus’.

104and whale

Mr. Whatley has had many different jobs during his career including, Librarian and Author of a book called ‘Whiskey, the Left-handed Dog’. He took great interested in the Gothic design of the McManus building after discovering it once housed Dundee’s public library. He thought the architectural style was very grand and the vaulted ceiling of the Albert Hall was rather impressive.

104oorwillie

The creative team, Sharron, and Kim enjoyed re-telling the stories connected to the Tay Whale and Mr. Whatley found the sculpture of ‘Oor Artifact’ to be rather curious, he even participated in a little weaving while telling us his own stories of his wife who enjoyed weaving and quilting.

104weave

When asked what’s the secret to living a long life? He advised exercise and diet, as he is a vegetarian who played a lot of tennis in his younger days. Before going home, Mr. Whatley told us he had enjoyed his visit to the museum and had learned something new about Dundee’s past and a little about its people.

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.

sneekypeek copy

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.

The troup

‘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.

shiphouse1

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.’

P1140031

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.

ship1

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.