A trip to the handling stores, allowed a relaxed encounter with the objects in the museum, unlike the museum stores, no white gloves were needed to reveal the collected objects. This collection is used by museum staff for workshops with children and reminiscence with older people, I felt like a child at Christmas unwrapping one box after another.
I invited the participants to try and find objects in the handling collection that revealed something about themselves. Colin's eyes lit up when he found a Babies Gas Mask.
|Colin and Babies Gas Mask|
In 1938 the British Government gave everyone including babies gas masks to protect them in case the German's dropped poison gas bombs on Britain. The gas mask was for children up to 2 years old. The parents would place the baby inside the mask so that the head was inside the steel helmet, and the baby could see through the visor. I can't imagine the horror of having to put one of these on my children or even the 'friendlier' so called 'Mickey Mouse' gas mask for the older children.
And yet for Colin the Babies Gas Mask just brought up joyous memories, he recalled using them as a boy after the war, as space helmets in dress-up play. A beautiful reflection of the space race and how children can turn virtually anything into play.
Another strand in the sessions used the photos from last weeks trip to the Museum Stores, and photos from the Handling Collection mixed with writing selecting lines from their poems.
|'Broken watch' photo/poem Colin|
|Flat Iron photo/poem, Sylvia|
Participants found connections between museum objects (and sometimes their own eg. Colin brought in a broken watch belonging to his birth mother, the only object of hers he owns) and lines recalling memories about loved ones, or descriptions of their own lives. The group open up more each time we meet and gradually reveal some of the realities of the life as a carer, with the help of these art and poetry exercises. When I asked Sylvia to described herself in relation to an object she explained;
"a cog in a wheel, just keeps going, every things going all the time, going, going, going, when you stop, you go to sleep"
|Like a cog in a wheel. photo/poem Sylvia|
Carol described herself 'like glue, I seem to be the one who keeps the family together, I hold everything together... I never associated myself as a carer, I just fell into it, I didn't realise at first- you do a little bit, then a little bit more and then before you know it you're there"
Josie created some monoprints inspired by the beach hut she has created in the garden.
"me summer house. We don't go out, my daughter won't go on holiday, so we go to me beach hut. It's my thing, floating my boat. No radio or telly, me table cloth with seashells, its only little, double doors, fairy lights. You lock the front door and you don't hear anybody. My daughter 32 with learning difficulties, she's happy staying in, wont go on holiday- so we have our holidays at home."