Thursday, 13 June 2013

bet on your own

Objects of our affection. Warrington Museum, 11 June

Flat Iron, photo Courtesy of Warrington Museum and Art Gallery

my gran:

a house with black leaded grate

fire heated the oven

boiled the kettle

the old iron

spit on it to make sure it was hot

on a scrubbed table three irons going

a round scrubbed table

bleached wood, an old sheet on it

burnt iron marks, the smell


(by participant Sylvia)

Today we were thinking through the human connections that thread random objects together. How those bits of bric-a-brac many of us have cluttering our homes are more than rubbish, they're a symbol for someone we care about. So the morning's discussion was, on the surface, about a compass, a watch, a necklace, some wool, and a crisp bag. But really, it touched on the nature of how we connect with people, particularly family. The issue of caring for others was very strongly present – fostering, looking after someone with special needs and being fostered all came up in conversation.

Compass, photo with kind permission of Colin.

We asked people to describe someone close to them by talking about an object associated with them. We then complemented this with some museum objects. The intensity of feeling about handling objects varied from matter-of-fact through to near spiritual. But all the people in both morning and afternoon sessions were moved to talk with great warmth about the people they love, using objects as a kind of metaphor and a focus.
Archives, Courtesy of Warrington Museum and Art Gallery

The highpoint of the session was a trip to the museum archives, going behind the scenes to delve amongst the wondrous store of antiquities and novelties that Warrington Museum has to offer. Our guide and mentor in all this was archivist Craig. He not only gave us a whistle-stop tour of a range of historical relics from dugout canoes to plastic bags via taxidermy, botanical specimens and Star War memorabilia, but he also hunted out objects that related to people's personal memories. It is moving to me how much meaning we hang onto these items, these stand-ins for someone or something else.

Butter paddles, Courtesy of Warrington Museum and Art Gallery

butter paddle   for pats

came from my gran

pigeons on the back of my moped

you could bet on your own

my father born 1890s

went in the First War

like a lot of lads

lied about his age

coughing shrapnel onto a tin plate

at teatime

(by participant Dave)

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