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.’

 

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 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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.’

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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.

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.

celts

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.

blur

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

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.

onesie

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.