Mary and the Guild of St George

Mary’s connection with the Guild of St George was revealed on our visit to Sheffield to see her nature diaries which are held in the Ruskin Collection.  Apparently Mary introduced herself to the Guild in the early 1930’s (the first letter from her to the Guild held in the Sheffield archive is dated 1935) keen […]

The Herkomer Drawing

Just as Melanie told me she had unearthed a Herkomer drawing of Mary in the archive I came across a reference to it in the letters.  On Sept 11th, 1941 Mary writes about more things she is sending to the Art Gallery including …”a portrait in pencil – or chalk – of myself by H. […]

Alphabet Counters

Whilst researching horn books I came across an article by W.S. Churchill, ‘Nuremburg Alphabetical Tokens’ in Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, (vol.20, 1902). Churchill talks about traders who worked at the mint in Nuremburg around the mid 16th century. They would make metal counters, usually out of copper or brass with each letter of the […]

Value

I’ve been thinking a lot about value. It’s a common thread of discussion every time we meet. The value of the collection to Mary and the lack of value (or perceived lack of value) the collection has within the Art Gallery currently. I wondered if this was always the case. The letters certainly reveal that […]

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Nice picture of a list

November 8, 2012 People and places, The Letters, Uncategorized Comments Off on Nice picture of a list

To go with all the words, one I found on Tuesday. A list of the people Mary wanted to be sent catalogues of her exhibition of Bygones at Heaton Hall in 1922. Note the addresses in Siam and New Zealand. I like to think of her writing this down, whilst at her club.

Handwritten list of people

the fossilised eye of a fish

In response to Hazel’s beautiful to do lists.

Lists are everywhere. I have found myself increasingly fascinated by the list, partly because of Mary’s rather peculiar inclusions on her lists (hence the title of this post) and because in order to keep myself on the straight and narrow in my brave new world of PhD-dom, I am constantly writing them. Now I see lists everywhere, it is a form that is universally used. There are different kinds of lists, each with its own narrative quality; the mundane and everyday – shopping list, packing list, ‘to do’ list; the exclusive/inclusive – A-list, guestlist, blacklist, hitlist; the structuring and creating of order – playlist, tracklist; the competitive – longlist, shortlist. And Hazel’s ‘to do’ lists just show that even the apparently ordinary can be precious. There is the roll call, from the school register to the list of names on a cenotaph. How can such a raw and bald form of words have such poignancy?

At the core of every museum in the world is a ‘superlist’ – the accessions register. Kept under lock and key down in the depths of the basement, it is the heart of the institution, holding within itself the museum’s past, present and future, not just in the items it describes, but in the descriptive language used for each new acquisition; in the changing conventions of date, name, title (who uses ‘Esq’ any more); in the handwriting, from the inked copperplate of the earliest pages to the more idiosyncratic black biro entries of more recent times. And it is never complete. More on this shortly.

People understand the concept of a list, it is deceptively transparent, even objective; the reduction of thought/information/knowledge to its barest bones. Guidelines for writing for the web often advocate the use of bullet points rather than paragraphs – easier to read and a more efficient way of transmitting information quickly. A comment from Tom; lists are a product of fear – fear of loss, fear of forgetting, fear of distraction and disorder, fear of incompletion. To list is to control the material you are listing, to set parameters around it and to put it in order. It is a very explicit statement of control, there’s nowhere to hide in a list. Another comment from Tom; this is why politicians don’t like them. It’s much easier to obfuscate and hide woolly language and empty promises in a conversational format of words. Back to the writing for the web guidelines.

And yet. If a list is made of explicitly constituent parts, there is a clear path to dismantling it. It’s like lego, just take it all apart and rebuild it into something else. And when you do that, your list says something rather different, which suggests it’s not such a transparent format after all. There is fun and subversion to be had from taking a list apart and rebuilding it differently – Tom Lehrer reworked the order of the Periodic Table to form his brilliant song The Elements, set to Gilbert and Sullivan. My son’s Year 5 primary school teacher used to mix up the alphabetical order of the class register from time to time, as he had noticed that the children often answered before their names had actually been called and he wanted to wake them up a bit. Disrupting a list is provocative. This relates to a thought I keep coming back to about value and meaning in the collection and my current pre-occupation with inscribed objects. What if I were to re-catalogue the collection according to all the names that have been written on it?  What kind of a collection would it be then? More like the cenotaph perhaps. The list could be read as the ingredients (ooh, there we go, that’s another one – the instructive list), setting up the reader to imagine the story in the spaces between the entries.

This came up in conversation with my Mum yesterday. She writes, but was rather sceptical of my new-found fascination. And yet, soon found herself telling me about the day she sat in a cafe and decided to write 500 words about the menu, without actually mentioning anything on the menu. She wrote the story of the list, hidden in between the sequenced elements, flipping the whole thing round so the story emerged as the list disappeared.

So, although the concept of the list suggests containment, control and completion, it actually has infinite possibility. I discovered the other day that there is a book by Umberto Eco, called The Infinity of Lists (haven’t got hold of it yet, but it’s on my Christmas list). Found myself thinking of the list more as a runaway train, accelerating and decelerating under its own momentum until it finally runs out of steam. The empty pages of the accessions register will go on forever, as long as the museum lives. There is something of this quality in Mary’s collection and the lists that go with it; a sense of uncontrolled proliferation. This I think has something to do with the sheer size of it – in marked contrast to the smallness of the individual things themselves; the simple heartbeat of repetition – page after page of ‘key, 19th century’, ‘key, 19th century’; and the unexpected juxtaposition of the supposedly ordinary and the bizarre – ‘the fossilised eye of a fish’.

Liz

List Spools 2012

November 3, 2012 Artist Responses 1 Comment

I also made another new set of list spools over the summer, the idea initially came from the roll of paper in a metal tube in the Mary Greg Collection, but I also was inspired by a roll of tape on a simple stamped tin holder which is now part of the A1 Scrap Metal collection. The lists have become archives of very special days in my life this summer, my wedding and my son going off to college. Lists had to be written for both events and thus two archive spools of “to do” lists. The numbers were printed using Letterpress at MMU. Hazel

Ready to Use List Spool 2012

"Diary" List Spools Summer 2012Ready to Use List Spool 2012

Quizzing Glasses 2012

October 30, 2012 Artist Responses 2 Comments

I should have put this on the blog before, I made these Quizzing Glasses over the summer for the Mouseion Exhibition organised by Alex Woodall at Leicester University, in the Museum Studies building. See link for more details.

http://www.mouseionexhibition.wordpress.com      ” Mouseion Artists’ reflections on museums.”

All these “quizzing glasses” have normal glass in them, cut using the new skill I aquired at Mid Cheshire College. They are a way of encouraging you to look at the world in a quizzical manner…

Inspired by the two beautiful quizzing glasses we found in Platt Hall, which are part of Mary Greg’s collection. Which are  on show in the object memories showcase at Manchester Art Gallery at the moment. Hazel

Quizzing Glasses 2012 by Hazel Jones

Believe me, I remain

Three inscribed wooden knitting needle holders

This Tuesday’s finds. A lovely day with Hazel and Katie (on work experience), rummaging in the OPUA room. See Hazel’s thimble selection below. My selections continue an aspect of last week’s thoughts; I am currently a bit fixated on writing and the preponderance of objects which bear some kind of written text on them. Chatting about this with Hazel, she mentioned her observation that there are markings of one kind or another on so many things – instructions, maker’s names, tally marks, reference numbers, they really are everywhere once you start noticing.

And the Mary Greg collection is particularly rich in things with people’s names on. No longer simply examples of type, but a unique point of reference to a life lived. This belonged to me. Believe me, I remain.

 

Inscribed wooden knitting needle holder, 'Margaret Baley 1845'

Liz

Thimbles…who’d have thought?

October 24, 2012 The Collection Comments Off on Thimbles…who’d have thought?

Box of various thimbles, mostly donated by Mary Greg.

After a long time away from the blog, but no time at all away from being inspired by objects from the Mary Greg collection, I am back on the blog. Liz kindly invited me to join her on her research day in the store rooms of Platt Hall yesterday. I had a lovely day re -aquainting myself with some of the wonderful objects in this collection. It was a very calm and reflective few hours that passed far too quickly. We started off opening a few random drawers with the help of Katie who was on a weeks work experience. The one drawer had this box of thimbles, which I had seen a few times before, but we started to explore the box one thimble at a time and discovered we had missed so much at previous viewings.

There were thimbles with simple adaptations, such as thread cutters and needle threaders attached, as well as “sewing kits” which used the thimble as the lid and one thimble which contained a tiny spool of thread, as well as the commerative thimbles and tiny childrens thimbles, and home made thimbles and tough utilitarian thimbles, ring thimbles, glass thimbles, one with a glass file in it that we were baffled by, …how did I miss all that before? It also made me realise how much more there must be to explore in that collection.

I also re-discovered a large set of skirt “grapplers” or grips for holding up ladies long dresses out of the mud, or out of the way whilst playing sports or dancing…these, Liz discovered, were donated by another lady called Mrs H. Carr, MORE on her later…I really wanted them to be donated by Mary, but I am intrigued to know more about Mrs H. Carr too.

Hazel

Thimble with built in thread cutter

Thimble with bobbin inside

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.

And counting…

October 11, 2012 Mary Greg, People and places Comments Off on And counting…

Heard yesterday from Bridget Yates, a researcher who has done a lot of work on inter-war village museums including Mary’s Westmill Museum. Am looking forward to reading her work. Her research suggests that there may be material given by Mary in the following museums and other institutions:

The V&A, British Museum, London Museum, Canterbury, Liverpool, Carisbrooke Castle, Brighton, Cambridge, Ipswich, Exeter, Brentford, Aylesbury, Manchester (obviously), Edinburgh, Dorchester, Norwich, Buxton, Winchester, Worcester, Letchworth, the West Highland Museum, Fort William and the Hertfordshire Institute of Agriculture.

Gosh. Some work to do.

 

It’s been rather quiet lately

Looking at the collection at Platt Hall Gallery of Costume

On this blog at least. But the Mary Greg project continues to send ripples out across the pond.

At MAG, the Learning Team have been working with the Mary Greg Collection ‘on tour’, thanks to a travelling case made by Karl and Kimberley Foster of Hedsor, and the work of educators Joanne Davies and Amanda McCrann. I hope Joanne’s going to put something up about this project soon.

The collection is also out there in Mouseion, an exhibition in the School of Museum Studies at Leicester University, curated by Alex Woodall and including work by Hazel Jones, both contributors to this blog. Alex was one of the team at MAG who worked on the original Mary Mary project and is now a PhD researcher at Leicester, investigating material approaches to art museum interpretation. The exhibition looks at artists responding to museum collections.

Back in May, Sharon Blakey showed collaborative work made with weaver Ismini Samanidou in response to the collection, in Pairings II at Stroud International Textiles. Last year, Sharon and I presented a paper about the project at the international conference Pairings: Conversations, Collaborations, Materials at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Research continues in partnership with MMU, through Hazel and Sharon’s ongoing investigations and my own. I have just embarked on a PhD which will focus exclusively on Mary’s collection, looking at material across different museums as well as Manchester and exploring different notions of value within the institution of the museum. Hugely exciting, very daunting, and two weeks in, not entirely sure where to start. But looking forward to sharing research over the coming months and contributing to the revitalisation of this space. More to come…

Liz

Looking at objects from the collection

Des Hughes at MAG May 2012

May 7, 2012 Artist Responses, The Collection Comments Off on Des Hughes at MAG May 2012

Quick sketch of selection of objects made and chosen by the artist Des Hughes.

I went to see a lovely exhibition in MAG of work selected from the collection by Des Hughes. There is no text in the gallery referring to the chosen objects,but I could easily pick out the ones which Mary Greg had contributed. It was refreshing to see them amongst other objects, both old and hand made, they looked at home and even more intrigueing and beautiful.

 

Key

Europe

Iron

Gift of Mrs Mary Greg  1922.68

 

Keys

England

Steel

Gift of Mrs Mary Greg  1922.728

 

Latch lifter

Europe

Iron

Gift of Mrs Mary Greg  1922.754

 

Key

Europe

Iron

Gift of Mrs Mary Greg  1922.763

 

Crusie Lamp

Scotland

Iron

Gift of Mrs Mary Greg  1922.799

 

 

 

Spoon 1800s

India

Bronze

Gift of Mrs Mary Greg  1922.841

 

Comb 5th or 6th century

England

Copper

Gift of Mrs Mary Greg  1922.1074

 

Whip before 1900

England

Iron and leather

Gift of Mrs Mary Greg  1922.1198

 

Thumbscrew c.1720

England

Iron

Gift of Mrs Mary Greg  1922.1234

 

Dice

Greece

Steatite

Gift of Mrs Mary Greg  1922.1283

Hazel

Want to get involved?

Mary's Hospital Ark

If you are a maker - in whatever discipline - and are interested in contributing to the project through your creative practice, then we'd love to hear from you. Please contact Liz Mitchell: Email: mtchelzbt@aol.com

Comments

  • Liz Mitchell: No, Laura has been through the archives and there is nothing...
  • Alex Woodall: Wow - this is so exciting - must go and see this exhibition ...
  • Margery L Brown: I am a direct descendant of Samuel Hope and would like to co...
  • Anthony J B Hope: Hello, re post by Joan Borrowscale regarding connection betw...
  • Alex Woodall: I like these very much! Can you use them to actually do the...