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 ‘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.

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.

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.

va

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.

queen
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.

orig
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

whale

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.

spring clean

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.

cut-5
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.

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