Collecting Museums

I will be using this blog to archive and share my research, thoughts and ideas that fuel my practice as an artist.  If you have any comments, thoughts or information you would like to share then please feel free to contact me.

For several years I have been surveying science museums in every city I visit, building a resource of experience, information and images.  I am particularly interested in historical displays; cabinets of curiosities, dated taxonomies and eclectic collections.  An element of this preoccupation is a critique of new museum display and a concern for the preservation of the history of the museums themselves.  Some science museums handle the integration of new displays and new conservation measures in a creative and sensitive way.  They are able to balance a responsibility for preserving the past with a concern for the future.  Other museums show little such care or respect.

This interest began with my photographic residency in the Great North Museum: Hancock.  Having access behind the scenes of the refurbishment was a unique experience at the time but this was not a 'sensitive' project.  Hardly anything of the original, beautiful Victorian interior has survived.  All the original cabinets were destroyed or sold, replaced by large, grey steel and heavy glass vitrines. The enormous wall of taxidermy that hits you as soon as you walk in is impressive but most of the presentation of the animals in the vitrines is stiff and over designed. 

But enough of this- let me start with a more positive example - the Palazzo Poggi in Bologna.  Please follow the link for all the information you will need.  I visited the museum in January 2012 in a snowstorm.  Although only restored in 2000 the cabinets have, been carefully constructed to look germane to the age of the objects within them.  It has a wonderful catalogue too - Walter Tega, Guide to the Museo di Palazzo Poggi: Science and Art, Editrice Compositori.   ISBN 978-88-7794-608-9

Other reading in relation to this topic:

Stephen T. Asma, 2001, Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads, Oxford University Press.
Lawrence Weschler, 1995, Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, Vintage Books.

La Venerina