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Curatorial anxiety – as promised

July 9, 2009 The Collection 4 Comments

Hmm. On the subject of Crompton’s cotton threads and their changing status. One minute they’re the first threads from the mule, a truly momentous find, and we’re speechless with discovery. Then the dates prove impossible and they’re still fab, still curious, but we’re slightly disappointed that they’re probably not what we thought they were. Then, hang on a minute, a curator from another museum provides a bit of information and we’re back on – they COULD be the real thing. I really want them to be, I’ll believe it to be true. A curator said so. Well, he didn’t actually, he just gave me a bit of info about Crompton’s grandson. The weight of curatorial responsibility. The source of curatorial anxiety. If I say it is so, then it is so. Museums tell the truth.

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  1. Liz Mitch says:

    Yes, I daydream too, though not an artist. I imagine those threads sitting in the dark for 83 years, since way before my birth, biding their time. And the curators of the day, in all their 1920s politeness and formality, raising their eyes gently heavenward at the latest missive from the indomitable Mrs Greg, then quietly filing them away, in the same building where I now sit at my computer blogging.

    I imagine the shadowy outlines of the ghosts of William Batho and Lawrence Haward moving through the galleries, regarding old favourites from the collection that are like friends to me too, so many years later. I find it very spooky looking through the letters and other archive material and seeing references to real things that are in the here and now, with us still. And in the same place, they’ve been here all this time.

    I went and had another look at the cotton threads today, waiting to be photographed in Alan’s studio. They are so tiny! And accompanied by a letter to Samuel Crompton from a Mr Houldsworth, which is completely unintelligible. I’m quite good at deciphering handwriting but can’t make anything of this. Love the way these little things move in and out of our grasp, quietly refusing to give up their secrets, be named, identified and laid to rest.

  2. Hazel says:

    Are curators more careful since the egyptian Princess Fake?
    As an artist I day dream and imagine stories….
    I didn’t even check the date, I want to believe that the threads are the first from the Mule..and to me, it almost doesn’t matter that they could be a fake.
    The fact that they could be real ,and that they elevate a length of thread into a powerful object is enough.
    But now, I want to know if they are real..because even if they are not they are still a wonderful story.

  3. Hazel says:

    Thank you to Martin…
    I like how we can use catergories..but I can’t figure out how to upload a post to it yet…will keep trying.

  4. quite contrary says:

    Whose truth do they tell?

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