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Object in Focus: Narsčgā at the Museum of Farnham

Emma Sutcliffe, Assistant Curator at the Museum of Farnham, tells us how an Object in Focus loan from the Horniman contributed to their latest exhibition - Resonance.

In 2016, the Collections Access Officer from the Horniman Museum and Gardens contacted us at the Museum of Farnham to ask if we were interested in borrowing an object through the Object in Focus loan programme.  There were lots of different objects to choose from, but my colleague Liz, the Museum Curator, thought that an Indian NarsÄŠgā (narsiṅga) or trumpet would be the best choice because it linked well to an exhibition we were planning all about sound and technology.  We agreed with the Horniman that the narsiṅga would be loaned from 3 October 2017 until 20 January 2018.  In the meantime, we began work on the exhibition, which we called 'Resonance'.

  • Narsinga, Narsiga (narsinga), of copper and brass made by Parveen Vig in Amritsar, Punjab, around 2006.  This S-shaped horn is played in various parts of North India, notably in places of worship such as Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras.
    Narsiga (narsinga), of copper and brass made by Parveen Vig in Amritsar, Punjab, around 2006. This S-shaped horn is played in various parts of North India, notably in places of worship such as Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras.

Resonance focuses on sound and technology and the exhibition includes objects that link to this theme, such as a 1950s television, gramophone players, and a child’s flute as well as photographs of various clubs and societies in Farnham. Most of these items come from the Museum collection, however, I also wanted to be able to show modern technology to conclude the story. In order to do this, I had to ask my very obliging husband to loan some more up to date items, including an iPod Nano, an iPhone, and CDs.

  • IMG_0206, The Museum of Farnham in Surrey is situated in a Grade I listed Georgian Townhouse. , Museum of Farnham
    The Museum of Farnham in Surrey is situated in a Grade I listed Georgian Townhouse. , Museum of Farnham

I also worked with the Farnham Sound Vault, a volunteer initiative, to set up a new online radio and podcast for Farnham. The volunteers helped us by recording sounds local to Farnham, such as the stream in Gostrey Meadow and a busker outside the local Waitrose. These sounds were used as part of a touchscreen that I put together for the exhibition. It also includes snippets from the Museum’s local history archive and sounds of the musical instruments in the exhibition, including a recording of the narsiṅga which was also loaned to us by the Horniman.

  • Museum of Farnham Exhibition, An exhibition room at the Museum of Farnham showing the narsinga on display , Museum of Farnham
    An exhibition room at the Museum of Farnham showing the narsinga on display , Museum of Farnham

As part of the Resonance programme there were various other events at the Museum of Farnham, including an evening talk given by Margaret Birley, Keeper of Musical Instruments at the Horniman. Margaret spoke about collecting instruments in India for the Horniman – including the narsiṅga. It was fascinating to hear about the regional differences in music in India from Margaret who had travelled across India collecting musical instruments.

It has been fantastic to take part in the Horniman’s Object in Focus loan programme and we feel really privileged to have loaned the narsiṅga, which is a beautiful object.

  • IMG_2772, An exhibition room at the Museum of Farnham showing part of the Resonance display, Museum of Farnham
    An exhibition room at the Museum of Farnham showing part of the Resonance display, Museum of Farnham

Object in Focus: Romanian Eggs at Bruton Museum

Jackie Brooks, Curator at the Bruton Museum, tells us how they hope an Object in Focus loan will welcome a new member of the community.

As part of the 'Object in Focus' loans scheme, Bruton Museum has borrowed a collection of Romanian decorated eggs. We are a small Somerset town museum dedicated to local history and although at first sight the eggs have no relationship to us they have begun to reach out and make connections.

Recently a big issue seller has appeared in town, and he happens to be a refugee from Romania. His parents left him on the streets of Bucharest when he was 14 leaving him to fend for himself. When Roxanna Gibescu came to give a talk about the egg decorating tradition we learnt that all the patterns on the eggs are symbolic. Abundance, family, and wealth are all represented in the symbols that adorn the eggs and we hope our Big Issue seller will find these things soon. 

Upstairs in our store was a wooden box with 5 trays of eggs collected in the Victorian era. The Horniman loan has prompted us to display them and they now sit alongside the loan in all their glorious variety.

  • Bruton Museum's collection of eggs, Jackie Brooks− © Bruton Museum
    , Jackie Brooks

The case with the eggs in is placed at the entrance to the museum and is always greeted with a 'wow'. We love having them here.

 

Object in Focus: Shogi at Southend Central Museum

Iona Farrell of the Southend Central Museum tells us how an Object in Focus loan helped inspire an exciting new exhibition. 

I’m Iona Farrell and I volunteer with Southend Central Museum and the Beecroft Art Gallery, which are based in Southend, a seaside town in Essex.

At Southend Central Museum we have been lucky enough to have an exquisite Japanese shogi board on loan from the Horniman. This is part of the Object in Focus series and will be on display until the 18th of October.

Shogi, for those who don’t know, and I must admit I was pretty clueless before the loan, is similar to chess. This is an exciting game of tactics and once pieces are captured a player can replay them as their own, which some say is like soldiers switching sides in battle.

This shogi set has carved pieces painted with Japanese characters that have been carefully positioned to mimic the start of a game - so visitors can use their imagination to guess how the game would play out.

The loan has taken pride of place in the museum, so visitors are captivated by this intriguing object as they enter. Southend Museum displays local and natural history collections alongside a rotating exhibitions programme, and it has been brilliant having such a special artefact amongst the displays.

This object in focus inspired us to look within the Museum's own collection to draw out the history of games and create an exciting new exhibition – Toys and Games.

  • Toys and Games exhibition at Southend Central Museum, Toys and Games exhibition at Southend Central Museum
    Toys and Games exhibition at Southend Central Museum

A fellow volunteer and I were lucky enough to curate this exhibition and we decided to transform the space into a fun place for both young and old to delight in the stories of toys. There are lots of recognisable classics, with train sets and board games alongside some more unusual treasures such as toy theatres and magic sets.

Visitors can trace the chronology of toys as they accompany us in early life from simple building blocks through to complex engineering sets as we age and develop. The museum has also hosted a special Fun and Games event for children where they discovered the history of toys and played Victorian parlour games.

Whilst researching for the exhibition we were surprised that many games have ancient origins. Senet, which is believed to be the first board game ever, was played in Ancient Egypt over six thousand years ago. Shogi, in its earliest form, dates back to the 10th century and the Horniman’s set is thought to date from the early 19th century.

  • Building Blocks at Southend Central Museum, Building Blocks at Southend Central Museum
    Building Blocks at Southend Central Museum

One of the oldest pieces in the exhibition is a 19th century set of wooden building blocks. Like the shogi set it is formed of carved pieces, but these are used for the rather more simple activity of building towers. In the 19th century, the idea of linking play with learning accelerated but it hadn’t been until the late 18th century that toys like this were even created specifically for children.

We hope people will continue to enjoy discovering all about this shogi set and have as much fun as I did learning all about the history of toys.

 

Object in Focus: Swedish Straw Goats at Haslemere Museum

Lindsay Moreton, Collections Manager at Haslemere Museum, tells us how the loan of five Swedish straw goats from the Horniman has helped their latest exhibition.

As part of our exhibition, ‘The Rustic Renaissance: Haslemere’s Arts and Crafts Heritage’ (on show until 2nd September 2017) Haslemere Museum has borrowed five Swedish straw goats through the Horniman Museum’s Object in Focus project. The exhibition tells the story of how a group of artists and artisans created an artistic enclave in Haslemere in the early 1900s. The exhibition features folk art objects from the European Peasant Art Collection, which were originally collected to inspire local craftspeople and to try to preserve declining traditional handicraft skills after the Industrial Revolution.

  • Swedish Straw Goats on display at Haslemere Museum, Swedish Straw Goats on display at Haslemere Museum
    Swedish Straw Goats on display at Haslemere Museum

We were thrilled that the straw goats or ‘julbock’ were available for loan to coincide with our exhibition as they are the perfect example of a traditional folk art from Sweden. Many objects in our ‘Peasant Art’ Collection originate from the country too. Our visitors have loved seeing these charming objects and a local Swedish resident who lives opposite the Museum has displayed her own straw goat in her window in honour of their arrival! 

The Object in Focus project is a great way for regional museums like us to borrow interesting artefacts from the Horniman and the whole process has been smoothly managed by Sarah and the team at the Museum. We will be sad to see the friendly goats go when we return them in September!

 

The Badger at Burgh House

Hello, I’m Becky Lodge the Curator at Burgh House, an historic house with a local history museum, based in Hampstead.

We borrowed the Object in Focus taxidermy badger from the Horniman last year and the staff all became very fond of her. We have no natural history specimens in our own collection, and the badger is super cute.

The badger featured in an exhibition of picture postcards of Hampstead called Hello from Hampstead! Discovering a History through Postcards.

Hampstead is a suburb of London that has been a popular visitor destination for centuries, especially for its vast and famous Heath. Not only is the Heath an incredible place to explore, it is host to a wonderful variety of plants and animals.

The badger helped us to show this, complementing our postcards beautifully.

Working with Sarah and the conservators from the Horniman on the loan was a really enjoyable experience. The whole process was so well managed, it was a delight for our small team. Thanks, Horniman Museum and Gardens!

Find out more about our Object in Focus loans project.

Discover more from Burgh House on their website or connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Richard Quick from the Horniman to Russell-Cotes

Collections Access Officer Sarah has been renewing the Horniman's connection to Bournemouth's Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum through our Object in Focus loans scheme.

In light of a recent loan to the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, I can’t help but look through our archive for pictures of our friend Richard Quick.

I work on an Arts Council England funded project called Object in Focus whereby we proactively encourage museums to borrow objects from our stores. One of these objects is a beautiful ceramic shogi (chess) set from Japan.

This object has been part of the Object in Focus project since 2012 and has so far toured to Maidstone Museum, Hastings Museum, Powell-Cotton Museum and Chiddingstone Castle, and lastly to Bournemouth at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum.

The Horniman Museum is comparable to the Russell-Cotes Museum not only due to our similar collections, but also because of Richard Quick. Quick was resident curator of the Horniman Museum and Gardens from 1891 to 1901. His move to the Horniman coincided with the museum being open to the public, and he oversaw a change in museum practice: the retention of letters and receipts relating to purchases, production of annual reports, and rearrangement and relabelling of numerous displays.

During Quick’s tenure, he also acted as an agent for John Frederick Horniman and between 1897-1899, listed his entire collection in two bound registers including a ‘Geo-Global Survey’ of the ethnographic collection that listed a total of 7,920 objects.  

After leaving the Horniman Museum he worked at Bristol Art Gallery and Museum until 1921, then moved to the Russell-Cotes where he worked until he retired in 1932. It is understood that Quick was handpicked by Sir Merton and Lady Annie Russell-Cotes due to his extensive Japanese knowledge.

Quick was married but his wife died not long after he started working at Russell-Cotes. His daughter, who was a nurse, also lived in the museum. When a visitor died of a heart attack in Gallery One, she tried to save him before the doctor arrived.

Quick gave many lectures both at the Horniman and Russell-Cotes Museums. He was a curator for 43 years and an original member of the Japan Society in London.  

Horniman Kakapo goes on loan

The Kakapo, a nocturnal and flightless parrot from New Zealand, has recently been voted the world’s favourite species on ARKive! This means a few people will be happy that we’ve just added one specimen to our Object in Focus loans scheme, making this species more accessible to other museums.

  • Object in Focus Kakapo, We've recently added a taxidermy specimen to our loans scheme
    We've recently added a taxidermy specimen to our loans scheme

The Kakapo is the world’s heaviest parrot, a good climber, long lived and very rare. They’re also important from an anthropological point of view, as its skins and feathers have been used by Maori to make dress-capes and cloaks.

Kakapos are very popular with us at the Horniman, and we have a number in our collections. During the current Bioblitz review, one of our Kakapo skins was identified as a star specimen, showing its importance within our collection.

  • Bioblitz reviewer Errol Fuller examines a Kakapo skin, This specimen of a now critically endangered bird is one of the 'star' specimens uncovered by the project, Photo by Russell Dornan
    This specimen of a now critically endangered bird is one of the 'star' specimens uncovered by the project, Photo by Russell Dornan

We now have a Kakapo available for loan as part of our Arts Council funded Objects in Focus project, which aims to increase access to our stored collections and strengthen partnerships with other museums.

  • Object in Focus Kakapo, We've recently added a taxidermy specimen to our loans scheme
    We've recently added a taxidermy specimen to our loans scheme

This Kakapo is currently on loan to the Gloucester City Museum and Art Gallery, which is also hosting an accompanying talk about this loan on 6 June.

If you are interested in borrowing the Kakapo or any of the other objects from Objects in Focus, please contact Sarah Mahood.

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