Collectors & Collections
Collecting the contemporary
Well, I've taken the plunge, after years of resisting and cynically refusing to believe the hype regarding blogs. Read by millions? Scarcely believe. Change the world? In your dreams. Truth be known, I've just been appointed Curator of Contemporary Life at the National History Museum here at St Fagans, Cardiff, and my job application advocated that all curators should take advantage of new technologies. For example, I stated cockily, they should keep blogs so that the public could have "access" (spot the museum buzz-words) to aspects which will explain the collections.
So when this opportunity came along, I thought that I would show the way, although now that I'm actually writing this, I feel quite scared.
So, contemporary collecting - what exactly is that? Well, I've decided to split the job in two.
The first part will be to work with curators from other fields to fill the gaps in the collections since 1950. We are quite strong on artefacts and oral histories from rural, Welsh speaking, agricultural backgrounds before 1950, but less so on urban, non-Welsh, industrial evidence after 1950, although the building of the Rhyd-y-car cottages, Gwalia Stores and Oakdale Workmen's Institute has begun to rectify that.
We will have to be very selective while filling these gaps - the storerooms are bursting at the seams. So the idea is to pick and choose certain items e.g. a super 8 camera, and to weave histories and exhibitions around them.
The second part is more problematic. What to collect? We can't collect everything that is produced by this wasteful society of ours, so we have decided to deal with communities, projects, initiatives and themes. This will narrow down the criteria quite nicely, but will also let us focus on certain objects or stories which will encapsulate the age.
For example, every six months, a different community will curate objects to be displayed in our Community Dresser. The first group was Penyrenglyn Youth group, who displayed objects such as a Nintendo Gameboy, a signed football and a comfort blanket. The next group will be Johnstown History Group.
Another method might be Digital Story telling, which involves capturing pictures on your mobile phone and producing a little film with the result. I'm off to a workshop and conference on this in Aberystwyth next week. I'll let you know how it went.
My first big exhibition (hopefully), will be about Welsh Pop Music. I hope to include objects such as instruments, stage props and fanzines, show videos, play sound recordings, and hold rap and recording workshops.
Watch this space...
Collectors & Collections