Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Magic



photograph by Laura Peers


The view from my 'desk' in the Pitt Rivers Museum seminar room/carving studio this week: the magical combination of historic box, new box in progress of being carved, very sharp carving tools, extraordinary Haida artists Gwaai and Jaalen Edenshaw, oh, and a water-cooled Tormek sharpening thingy by the sink. Which now has a plexi screen between it and the historic box, just to keep museological standards up.

I say 'magical' because there are powerful taboos about bringing all of these elements together, even now when museums have gone a long distance toward making collections available to communities to learn from and reconnect with. The process of carving the new box with the historic box in the room brings together museum protocols and values (always having staff in the room with objects, having an alarm on the room at night, not exposing historic collections to damage from sharp tools or water, preserving objects forever) with indigenous community protocols and values, and with artists' needs to  touch the box to measure the dept of carving, to use gauges to record profiles of carved elements, to get samples of new paint as close as possible to the historic paint to match colours. We are all in this together; it's just that there is a powerful kind of energy in the room where all of this, and all of us, do come together. 

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