24 October 2013

Developing practice course - session 2

The third session is nearly upon us (2 November) and this post has been languishing as a draft for a few weeks now! I had hoped to report on visits to other museums as well, so will be making a serious effort in the next few days...

In the second session we spent the morning at the Hunterian Museum (Royal College of Surgeons), finding things to draw - perhaps some of the specimens, perhaps the very jars they were in, perhaps surgical instruments; it involved looking, considering, selecting, being spoilt for choice...
The Glass Gallery, on two floors; comparative anatomy above, pathology below (via)
First we had a short lecture about the history of the museum. Hunter had a huge establishment in Leicester Fields in 1783 - he trained surgeons (they did dissecting in winter only); his wife held soirées - with a lecture theatre and museum. He died in 1799, having spent tremendous amounts of money on buying the best jars (lead glass) for his specimens and similar extravagances; his wife managed to sell the collection to the nation for £15,000, and as the protracted deal was going on, his assistant William Clift looked after it. I like to think that some of the labels are in his writing. Richard Owen was custodian 1827-56, then two Pearsons, and Jessie Dobson 1947-72.

The galleries were once five times the current size, taking over the entire ground floor of the building. In 1941 there was a direct hit by a bomb, and 2/3 of the collection was lost. It has since been augmented so that there are no 60,000 specimens, 4000 of which are on show.

Even 4000 specimens, in jars and otherwise, are a lot of look at. After wandering about, bedazzled, I started making notes and finally started a bit of drawing. It takes a while to get started, and suddenly it's time to stop!
Forceps/scissors for microsurgery and for laparascopic surgery (not to scale)
Back at college, an afternoon of discussion about the experience - information collected in small groups -
What chimed with me was the historic aspects of the evolution of the collection; the fitting of the refurbishment to give it "sparkle" and make the display look impressive; the mystery of the objects, in their limbo - eg how are diseased specimens related to healthy ones, and what are these structures that have been taken out of bodies; speculating on what brought other visitors to see this; that the glass isolated objects and put them far out of reach; the human effort spent in collecting and preserving the specimens. I'm still thinking about "things that take you back to what attracts you about the way you work" (that's what's written in my book, and I sort of know what it's meant to mean...); figuring that out will lead to ... something ...

Most interesting was seeing examples of everyone's work.
Karen's books I knew about, from Camberwell; Sylvia brought in
a textile and some digital cards based on it
Sara's monoprints are a combination of linocut and stencils;
 "the fondue collection" is one of 
Ilana's jewellery lines
 Pam's textiles include "the five ages of woman";
Marianne makes floor tiles and wallpaper
John's basket purports to be woven around a fossilised emu egg; Rose's devoré textile is backed with vivid handmade felt
Rachel showed work from her website and talked about the effect of colour. I showed how the "painted dictionary" could evolve into related objects (books?).

And now we've been sent a little "homework" - an article to read before the next session, the introduction to New Museum Theory and Practice.

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