Coz really, that's a journal isn't it?
Who cares what I think and do?
My posts that get the best responses are the funny ones.
Or the heartfelt ones.
And if I did write about all those things, wouldn't I run the risk of boring the pants off the precious few people who do visit my blog? And alienate others with tales of my over-privileged-brat existence? I mean, honestly, why would anyone give a fat rat's rear end about my London life?
Well, this week I had an experience that I so desperately need to share, that my brain is
|Clock storage V&A|
So if you don't give a fat rat's rear end, I fully understand. But I'm going to gush anyway. Feel free to bail out when you feel your pants slipping off and your brain going numb...
If you know me at all, you understand that I became emotionally entangled with the National Vietnam Veterans Museum on The Rock. And I decided that while I was living in this history-soaked city, I would absorb/learn/cram into my leaky brain as much as possible that might benefit NVVM when I come home. So, I'm currently four weeks into twelve mind-expanding Wednesdays of a museum skills course at the magnificent Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington.
This week's topic was Research and Resources. Sounds dry and dull, I hear you say. Fear not! It was anything but...
It all began when the Head Librarian of the National Art Library brought a collection of Charles Dickens' hand-written manuscripts and type-set page proofs into our classroom.
I was allowed to handle them, to get up close and personal with how Dickens edited his own writing and to see what a headache he must have given the typesetters who had to make all the adjustments he demanded.
Right there in my hands.
Breathing was difficult.
Next came a visit to the Prints and Drawing Study Room. Apparently anyone can request to see anything stored there. The collection belongs to the people.
A selection of archive boxes had been set out for us to explore. We were encouraged to handle the contents and consider how well they reflect the information stored in the catalogue.
In some of those boxes were:
|E.H Shephard sketches for Now We Are Six|
|Medieval illuminated manuscripts|
|Horst photographs for Vogue in the 1930s|
But it was only lunchtime.
The V&A has on display only two percent of its collection. Most of it is stored at Blythe House in Olympia, a facility shared with the Science Museum and that also houses the Clothworkers' Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion.
The building is every bit as immense and imposing as you might imagine it to be.
In the Clothworkers' Centre, mannequins and variously shaped garment bags accommodate gowns and jackets and breeches and suits and dresses and shirts from the greatest of designers and eras —on bespoke hangers.
I walked amongst them.
Metal drawers protect items too heavy or fragile to hang.
|Norman Hartnell's Flowers of the Fields of France worn by HM Queen Elizabeth II in Paris, 1957.|
It's a Norman Hartnell icon, an early example of a formal gown decorated with plastic beads instead of glass, to make it lighter for the small-framed Queen to wear.
Amidst the native flowers and grasses of France, bees — the symbol of Napoleon —hover.
The hem is soiled where it has brushed the floor, and the wine stain on the bodice has yet to be removed by a specialist conservator.
|Tapestry from wall hanging c.1570|
About 15 cm x 7 cm in size, this is one of several pieces of tapestry featuring animals that had been removed from their safe dark bedroom and left on a table for us to scrutinise with a monocle-like magnifying device.
A PhD student investigating art created by women during their incarceration had requested a viewing of these pieces — stitched by Mary Queen of Scots when, having been forced by rampaging Protestants to abdicate, she was imprisoned in Carlisle Castle by Queen Elizabeth 1... 450 years ago.
Seemingly endless hallways of rolling storage vaults house furniture and artwork.
Roomsful of moisture-proof boxes protect manuscripts and theatre programs by the tens of thousand.
I wanted to hide in there and make it my home.
The NVVM collections volunteer in me was just a little amazed to discover that London's Science Museum favours open-shelf storage — no boxes.
The accreditation managers at Museums Victoria would fail them for that!
|Science Museum treasures in open storage|
That's what I felt.
Overwhelm and a deep sense of privilege — all swirled together with an ever-present awareness that Australia is a such a young country.
It's humbling for me to be amidst objects of such rich cultural significance and profound historical interest. I'm pretty sure I've never done anything to deserve such plenty.
But I am learning heaps about museums best-practice. I really am.
So if you've made it all the way to here, thank you for indulging me.
And I sincerely hope you still have your pants on.