I recently started uploading to Flickr. Took me long enough I suppose. Moving the blog over to WordPress made me think it would be nice to see all the images I have taken to accompany posts, in one place. As soon as those images were done, I found others that I felt able to send out into the wide world. I have started thinking about it in a similar way to my blog. I want to upload images I see a story in. Images of interesting things. I don’t plan to put personal people pictures there for everyone to see.
It seems I like to photograph toys and small things. A lot. One of my blog posts of a while back was about a model in the Shipping Gallery at the Science Museum, London. When uploading that to Flickr, I post-it-noted my brain to remember to put the whole set up.
These were all taken in the Shipping and Agriculture galleries in the museum. The models in them are truly great. Terribly old-fashioned, in terms of museum displays. But the thought and craft gone into these models and panoramas draws me to them. Great clothes made small. Expressions and posture bespeaking real characters. Backdrops painted with proper perspective. Tiny pebbles on the beach. A frowning sailor. A dog straining to be off over the field.
When I photographed in these old, often empty galleries, most people drifted on through, looking for something a bit more interactive. But occasionally I’d get talking to crusty old chaps who were hanging out, studying form. In detail. Not as dodgy as it sounds.
A chap in a peak cap and sensible windbreaker had a farm in America. He thought the agricultural gallery models a fascinating contrast to the way he farmed. In shipping, a grandfather patiently pointed out rigging details – in case after case – to a wriggling child. Couples were often making use of the empty spaces. Ship-spotters, skirting around the edges and furtively examining the incredible detailing in the models. Shy members of young farmers clubs, imagining having a smart tractor model on the dresser at home.
And me. Crouching on my old knees to get a better picture.
There needs to be a museum of museums somewhere. Bits of the V&A used to be like that, but they’ve taken to tidying up rather too much (I was there in the late 80s, on the V&A/RCA course…).
But there is a whole world of tractor models out there. Down here in the west, the county shows each have at least one stall where small boys can buy an entire farm and its machinery in splendid details, playing in order to learn to take on the family business. It’s probably the only job left where that happens.
A museum of museum display would be nice. A museum of display would be nice, too. There was going to be a mannequin museum in America but it never seems to have appeared. I wonder if there is a museum of models somewhere..
I have just got back from a fantastic visit to Beamish which I would recommend to anyone who likes old stuff! The interesting thing is that Beamish have acquired a natural history collection and want to set up a Victorian museum on the street scene and to put the collection on display there. No doubt they will staff it with Victorian curators. I think it’s a brilliant idea and in effect would be a museum of museums so people could see what they used to be like as recently as the 70s with the old display cases and stuffed dead things without any of the interactives, computer gizmos and meeting visitor targets palava.
Ahhh. There are a few Victorian curators still out there who might be interested..
Shocked to see these static models. Surely they have the money to make them interactive now? The kids could have remote controls and pilot the vehicles about the display cases and REALLY learn stuff…
There is a great argument for interactive in museums. But what is fast disappearing is the actual stuff – the collections – that are the backbone of these institutions. The best new galleries, I think, combine the two.