Thursday, 21 April 2011

A coating of dust a million thoughts deep.

    It is impossible to ignore this season, I think.  It has been sliding its way in through every crack and cranny, superimposing itself on top of boring daily errands.  In this city which is all built of grey granite, and often stands under grey skies, the sudden burst of spring colour seems exaggerated and the nicest kind of startling.  People here are quite clearly mad for gardens.  

   A few days ago we went to the opening of a tiny museum in an old house on a cobbled street by the university (unfortunately the camera stayed home).  It is a museum with two small rooms with display cases whose contents (from the large university collections) will rotate often, but there are also tables and chairs, set out so you could come in and sit with a friend and maybe have a snack if you like.

   Their first exhibit, called '100 Curiosities in King's Museum', was modelled on old curiosity cabinets.  Professors, children, poets, students, and many others who had visited the store rooms of the museum were asked to choose an object from these collections and write one hundred words about what made it interesting to them.

   Then, when guests to the newly opened museum arrived they were handed a little book with all of these people's thoughts on the objects being shown.  My husband was one of the contributors, so we were some of the lucky ones invited to the opening, to crawl around from display case to display case reading the little books that brimmed with excited anecdotes, recollections, explanations and reactions.

   There were paintings, charms, taxidermy animals, old scientific teaching aids, stone objects that were sculpted by the ancestors of homo-sapiens, folk art from far away places, a narwhal tusk.... everything!  A tiny Gaelic prayer book with a key tied to it sat next to a tiny note saying that the person who had acquired it for the collections had got it from a 'cunning man' who used to put the key in the book on particular pages and tie the string around it in order to work magic.  The note complained they didn't know where in the book to insert the key to make it work.

   As interesting as it is to see the notes of past curators next to the object on display, the note sort of encapsulates a lot of what can be negative about museums: the whole problem of removing things from their context (and sometimes through stealing).  This sort of re-contextualizing of the exhibit was interesting though, and it was a gesture of giving the objects back to the public.

   It also made me think of the layers and layers of meaning that are sitting on top of every object, and especially museum objects, which are seen by so many people, coming from so many places.  The tiny layers of paint on the paintings are only a foundation for the invisible paintings that sit on top of them.

But to speak of lovely objects, I should mention that the post brought in some treasures this morning.  A short while ago I was the very lucky winner of a giveaway of a batch of fabrics designed by the very talented watercolour painter, Holly, of Golly Bard.  

   I love Holly's work... lots of beautifully painted portraits of bugs and birds and branches, and I am thrilled to have these lovely patterns to feast my eyes on everyday.  My photo doesn't do them justice, they are far more lovely and delicate in person.  You can find loads more of her gorgeous artworks on her blog or in her shops.


  1. Wonderful post - the exhibit sounds interesting, especially the written responses, as are your words and thoughts about it.

    I wish more folks were into gardens here - everyone has a veggie garden - unless you live in a dense, hemlock forest as I do where only a few brassicas will grow - but there are only a handful of folks about town who are as obsessed with flower gardens as I am. Pity. I loved the creative and exuberant flower gardens in the art-school city where I used to live, I miss that, though now I have more of the truly wild.

    How lucky to have won the Golly Bard giveaway, beautiful fabrics, her work is really great!

  2. Oh the woods and veggie gardens sound lovely!

    I have loads of memories of long, hot summer days weeding in the vegetable patch, eating asparagus stalks straight from the ground with my grandfather. The closest we get to that now are the dirt-covered organic veggies a local farmer brings once a week... lovely, but not quite the same! We can't have everything, I guess.

  3. Now that museum sounds like something right up my street! Oh how I'd love to take a wander round there.

    And I just adore those fabrics. I;m off to check out Holly's work now, thank you.
    We are fast galloping out of spring and into summer here. The weather is quite amazing at the moment. :-D

  4. A coating of dust a million thoughts deep ... I'm in love with these words. They bring me all the flowers, all the blossoms of this season ... to dive into them forever.

  5. I would love to visit that museum! I think there's something about the quirkiness of tiny museums that can make them even more fascinating places to visit than the huge ones.