Mary Greg collected everyday domestic objects during the late 1800s and early 1900s. She was particularly interested in pre-industrial handmade objects and wanted to preserve examples of traditional artisan skills. The majority of this strange and peculiarly engaging collection – which was given to Manchester Art Gallery in 1922 – lies in storage.
This site is the result of the patient, organic excavation of the collection by a group of passionate curators, academics and artists. The content of this site is academic research in progress, a collaboration between Manchester Metropolitan University and Manchester Art Gallery. In the spirit of collaborative enquiry, we welcome contribution from anyone with an interest in this area. However, any public or academic use of this material must be agreed in advance and credited to the research project Mary Mary Quite Contrary. Please refer to our copyright statement for full details about using and acknowledging content from this website.
I am a PhD researcher within the Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design at Manchester Metropolitan University, investigating the Mary Greg Collections of Handicrafts of Bygone Times and Dolls and Dollshouses. But before that I was a curator at Manchester Art Gallery. I started my career in the early 1990s as Documentation Assistant, becoming Curator of Decorative Art and then Interpretation Manager, roles which afforded me privileged access to the hidden world of stuff that all museums and galleries hold behind closed doors.
I am struck, on a daily basis, by the depth and significance of meaning that objects can hold for people, meaning that often extends far beyond the curatorial knowledge and expertise held by professionals. My particular interest lies in the relationship between historical knowledge and the potency of objects to inspire imagination, creativity and self-knowledge, and how as museums we can bring these different aspects of understanding together.
Sharon is a Senior Lecturer in Three Dimensional Design at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is a practicing ceramicist and exhibits both in the UK and abroad. Alongside her teaching and practice Sharon is committed to raising the profile of craft education and has presented a number of talks on the subject at conferences nationally. She has delivered a variety of workshops for pupils at Foundation, KS1, KS2 and KS3 level, as well as running CPD short courses for teachers.
Her current research projects include Mary, Mary Quite Contrary and Pairings, a collaborative project with MMU and the Universities of Sunderland, Cardiff and Falmouth. She is paired with weaver Ismini Samanidou and jeweller Jenny Walker.
About Mary, Mary Quite Contrary she says…
I was hooked the minute the first drawer was opened. Spoon upon spoon upon spoon, a seemingly random assortment of shapes and sizes of no particular style or era. No prized or polished silver here, but the tarnished, worn and broken. A spoon box containing the wrong spoon, handles showing family initials but with no sense of belonging, a tablespoon used so many times that one side of the bowl is almost worn flat. This one drawer held just a small group of the thousands of artefacts within the Mary Greg Collection of Handicrafts of Bygone Times. Toys and dolls houses forlorn and forgotten, a lead cross from the time of the plague, keys for every type of lock, Caroline’s dance card, scissors, pin cushions, a broken red candle!
What drove Mary to collect these everyday treasures? Why was she so determined that they be accepted into the art gallery collection? And what have the letters she wrote over a near thirty-year period to the then curator William Batho revealed?
Telephone: 0161 247 1003
Hazel is a Senior Lecturer in Interactive Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University. Hazel installed an exhibition called “String Too Small for use” at the Kunstbanken Gallery in Hamar, Norway, January 2008, and uses a blog and flickr as a research tool…. collating and storing her small metal object collection online.
Telephone: 0161 247 2260
Manchester City Galleries
Martin works at Manchester Art Gallery as web manager, developing the gallery’s website, emarketing and online social media channels. He’s particularly interested in researching how online collections can evolve in an increasingly social and collaborative digital environment.
Telephone: 0161 235 8870