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.

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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

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.

Meeting Ninety school children

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Feedback from one of the school children

I was asked to attend the gallery as an introduction to how the creative team at the McManus work with groups. Ninety school children from Broughty Ferry ascended upon the museum, to learn about a Bonnie Prince and some Jacobites. Fortunately, the creative team had logistics already in place, to navigating so many children carefully around the gallery space. I watch as military precision and planning was organised that would make any soldiers heart race. Two hours later a troop of happy children marched out bearing newly made Jacobite shields and returned, homeward bound to the ‘Ferry’.

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Things I have learned about children in a museum:

  • Ninety children are very loud in an acoustic space.
  • Movement in the space has to well planned and organised.
  • Children spend a lot of time looking up or crouching down.
  • They mix factual and fictional description of things.
  • They enjoyed interacting with the space in the gallery.

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Please note: Documentation for this project has photographic restrictions in place.

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.

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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