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.

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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.

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.

Dundee’s Oldest Onesie

Last night I joined the ‘YAG’s’ (the Youth Action Group) for a wander around the ‘Dundee and the World’ exhibition located in the magnificent Albert Hall at the McManus Galleries. The group wanted to sketch and discuss some of the things on display. However, I did not expect a discussion to be focused on “Dundee’s oldest Onesie”, a quote from a member of the group.

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This ‘Onesie’ is not an adult sized babygro but an early 20th century costume worn as a disguise, by members of the Nigerian Ekpe secret society, made from Netted string and Raffia.[1] Yet the discussion provoked themes of youth culture and the fashion of wearing a giant romper suit. The interaction between the group and the object began to build their sense of identity by exploring something from the past and comparing it to present fashion culture, highlighting;

“The passage of time, which operate predictability on the objects themselves, can do strange things to their meanings, and the importance of some will change as a result.”[2]

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The museum carefully archives artifacts with specific historic details and dates to preserve valuable objects, a value created by a society it represents. Yet a different time and culture can randomly change meanings. In the future, will people venture into a museum to see the ‘Onesie’ on display? What meaning will it transcend? And will they think we are a society of big babies?[3]

[1] The McManus. (Date unknown). Masquerade costume for ‘Ekpe’ Available: http://www.mcmanus.co.uk/content/collections/database/masquerade-costume-ekpe Last accessed 17th Feb 2017

[2] Matarasso, F (1997). Use or Ornament? The Social Impact of Participation in the Arts. Stroud: Comedia. P84

[3] Graham, L. (2013). Babygro Britain. Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2275285/Onesie-The-fashion-phenomenon.html#axzz2JffrmPI9. Last accessed 17th Feb 2017.

Khalkha Mongol Headdress

A story about the restoration of a Khalkha Mongol Headdress (pre-1900), loaned to the McManus Galleries in Dundee by L J Miller (1931).[1]

The Khalkha Mongol Headdress has been selected, restored and cared for by the McManus. The conversation reveals an object expressing meaning beyond its physical presence within the history of specific events; Mongolian trade routes, craftsmanship and the possible design influence of a headdress worn in Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.

The vocal sound creates meaning found outside language and the spoken word.[2] Inside our perception, the vocal sound allows you to hear the affect the headdress’s journey has had, on the speaker’s feelings.

“Feelings may also link feelings, and this superimposed relationship leads us to an in-between of in-betweens…”[3].

What we hear in tone and vocal expression reveals emotion. To listen and contemplate to the story, bridges us between our personal and shared feelings towards treasured objects. Binaural microphones were used to create an intimate listening experience, locating us in-between the self and the other. And the reverberating sounds of space in the museum, places us from our physical location to the museum, in-between here and there.

[1] Uknown author and date. Khalka headdress. Available: http://www.mcmanus.co.uk/content/collections/database/khalka-headdress. Last accessed 6th Feb 2017.

[2] “… as Ricoeur says, meaning or significance is already both perception and word.” Ihde, D. (2007). Listening and voice: Phenomenologies of sound. 2nd ed. Albany: State University of New York Press. P148

[3] Asenjo, F. G. (1988). In-between : an essay on categories, Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology & University Press of America, Washington, D.C P139

Introducing ‘The People’s Story’

I have recently started  (a Making the Most of Masters) student placement at the McManus, Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum. Working on a project called ‘The People’s Story’, running as part of a programme organized by the museum’s Learning & Engagement Team to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the McManus. The project will explore the relationship between Dundee’s diverse communities, the museum and its collections.

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The McManus already has an established form of engagement with a wide range of groups, trustees and communities. Each group engages with the museum in a different way and I would like to consider, what is normal? How do these different audiences normally engage with the museum, the gallery space and interpretation of its artifacts?

Beginning a project is always a daunting task but I’m happy to be working with a fellow student, Stuart McAdam and the creative learning team.  To begin my journey, I have decided to treat it like a walk. ‘The People’s Story’ will allow for an exploration into the relationships between city and the museum. Giving me the resources to collect stories about Dundee and to continue my research, into the dynamic engagement of public and private spaces, using similar methodologies from previous projects involving the tramlines and edgelands of Dundee.

***

Quite unexpectedly, my first visit involved being followed by a Seagull who seemed to be heading in the same direction, the McManus, Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum.

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My initial walk through the McManus was to observe the building, space and collections.

Everyday objects from seemingly insignificant past events have just as much validation as an object from a significant historical event.

I noticed the reflections of objects, being mirrored upon the glass of the display cabinets. This reminded me of the process of memory and how people’s stories could place new memories, upon old memories projecting, spatially into a fourth dimension.[1] I wondered if a soundscape of stories collected around and about the McManus could also project into a new dimension.

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I considered how a walk around a gallery, allowed the place to suggest appropriate sounds. I felt a sense of urgency moving in-between emotions and happenings. A sonic signature is an in-between space where the place is the symbol and the sound, the meaning.[2] The sound of a museum creates an in-between awareness. How people feel in the museum, or about its historical objects, could add something unique to our perception of the McManus and within that thought I found a new line of direction.

[1] “the process is that of continually compounding one and the same topomnesiacal resource.” Casey, E.S. (2002) Representing place: Landscape painting and maps. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.p77

[2] “Thus for the poet in his ecstasy- or perhaps, agony- of the composition the trees are the symbols and the words are the meaning. He concentrates on the trees in order to get the words.” A.N Whitehead (1985). Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect. New York: Fordham University Press. P12.

copyright © Olsen 2017