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Fragments and snippets

October 18, 2012 Developments, Have a rummage, The Collection, The Letters, Uncategorized Comments Off on Fragments and snippets

From now on, I intend to spend every Tuesday at Platt Hall, exploring different aspects of the collection. This is what I looked at this week.

Patterned cloth bag

Patterned cloth bag with patchwork pieces

Patchwork piece with handwritten paper template


Patchwork piece with transcribed text from template


Patchwork piece with transcribed text from paper template

I am fascinated by these patchwork pieces, by the snippets of letters and notes that are tucked away under the fabric. Am currently thinking about the relationship between the Mary Greg Collection of objects and, what is really the Mary Greg Collection of letters that sits alongside. Is it too sweeping to say that in museums and galleries, the objects are what counts and the archive material that documents their acquisition is secondary, often ignored?

But Mary’s letters give the collection a whole new dimension, lifting it from being bits of stuff in the museum, to something that is only here because someone once thought about it, discussed it, shaped and imagined it and valued it sufficiently to want to share it. And recorded her thinking through the letters. Mary’s voice, her motivation, reasoning, opinion and emotion, come through so strongly, because of the extraordinary correspondence she maintained with curators. It’s a hugely evocative reminder that stuff is only here because individual people once put it here.

These humble little patchwork pieces are somehow both object and text, hinting at other aspects of life (I do hope Humphrey made a quick recovery).  Random bits of writing that preserve moments of life otherwise lost (oh dear, in danger of getting a bit purple). It also hints at a time before email when people wrote and received letters, presumably accruing vast amounts of paper, not all of which needed to be kept, and was therefore put to other useful purposes. Many more thoughts on this, but have to go to a lecture now, so will think on.

The mystery of the missing letters

1922.534 Alphabet counters

ABC counters

Our resident photographer, Alan Seabright, has just spent the morning taking lovely photographs of the ABC counters (1922.534) currently on display (or at least they will be once I have put them back) in the Gallery of Craft & Design.  These are going to be used by Jonathan Hitchen, who is the Programme Leader for Graphic Design at MMU in some sort of  Mary Greg typeface creation that we’re getting very excited about.  The process of taking photos revealed something mysterious upon which I would like to muse for a while…

Which letters are missing from the series?  6 of them, no less.

A, D, E, N, S, Y

As a crossword fiend, I noticed that this is an anagram for “And yes!” or, “Yes, and?” which made me chuckle.  I then typed the letters into a special anagram site online and came up with the following  – totally senseless – but there’s something a bit ‘Da Vinci’ code and eccentric about it all which makes me think of Mary.  What can it mean?

Ad Yens
And Yes
Sand Ye
Sad Yen
Ads Yen
Days En
Day Ens
An Dyes
Nays Ed
Any Eds
Nay Eds
As Deny
Say End
Say Den
Ay Send
Ay Ends
Ay Dens
Ya Send
Ya Ends
Ya Dens

The letters also nearly spell ‘Denys’ – who was both my supervisor at university and a few centuries before that, a mystical theologian who wrote all sorts of things which perhaps are or perhaps are not relevant to Mary.  But that’s another story…


Fascinating Hobbies

July 26, 2010 Have a rummage 3 Comments

Fascinating Hobbies, Razor Blade Packets

Fascinating Hobbies

This collecting lark is hard to shake off once you have the bug. We tried to clear out the coal hole and get rid of some of our collection the other day…it wasn’t easy and we just packed it all back in neatly. Then Michael bought a huge carrier bag of these old cigarrette cards from the boot sale on Sunday and this card was amongst them.

“Collectors try to get as many different makes as possible and as many different variations of prices per blade printed in the design.”

I don’t think I come into that catergory, I never get obscessed with getting all the set of anything, but I can see why people do. I do have a large selection of different razor blade packets though, as the designs are beautiful.


Ghosts in the attic: Platt Hall

Ghosts in the attic: Platt Hall
Shoes including two pairs from Mary's collection

Box of shoes at Platt Hall

Today I saw some of Mary’s collection of costume, textiles and shoes for the first time.  It felt so ghostly: up in the attic at Platt Hall surrounded with boxes and boxes of clothes which were once full of life, real people, playing children, sleeping babies.  But now they are laid to rest in boxes, no more life, just memories that we can only guess at.  Dead.  But it was one of the most evocative days I’ve spent rummaging about.  Was the bonnet one that Mary herself had worn?  Did she really wear the beautiful dresses, the ivy leaf embroidered wedding dress?  Perhaps not, but it really felt like she was in that collection.  A fabulous collection of shoes, both highly decorative (not Mary Greg 1922) but also the humble plain leather children’s shoes (very definitely Mary), with cracks and crevices where someone’s tiny feet moved as they walked, danced, played.
Wedding dress with embroidered ivy leaves

Wedding dress with embroidered ivy leaves

And so many ideas about how we might exhibit some of these things in this amazing space (especially following our visit to Enchanted Palace at Kensington Palace, and the Concise Dictionary of Dress at Blythe House).  A giant dolls’ house in itself…  Where will these thoughts take us?  We shared some interesting comments with Miles too about whether Mary’s collection only came into the gallery because of a desire to have the ‘grander, more important’ ceramics collection of her husband.  Miles always refers to Mary as ‘Mrs Greg’.  I like that.  I wonder if there is a difference in the generalised contrast between the ‘scientific’ collecting of men (e.g. the costumes of Mr Cunnington who apparently could have been a ceramics collector had ceramics been more affordable – instead he looked to something affordable and other – e.g. costume – that he could catalogue, collect specimens and almost finalise) and that of women – Mary who collected what she loved because it was beautifully crafted, domestic, just a lovely thing that she wanted to share with others, particularly children.

So many ideas.  So much that we still haven’t seen.

In the meantime, look here on Flickr for further pictures I took today…