So I promised to say something about the UCL’s exhibition, didn’t I? Well I did go along on a chilly Saturday afternoon. Having promised the boy I would show him the remains of Jeremy Bentham I was a bit gutted that thanks to a geology show his cabinet had been closed off. Not to worry, we will go visit again sometime.
So there’s my prelude to ‘Disposal’, setting the scene. It had been covered in the Guardian, New Scientist etc so I had some expectations about what we would see. It was a very thoughtful kind of exhibition which (despite the alarmist headlines) calmly explained something about how collections are managed. I always enjoy comment boards, and this exhibition had a nice large one to leave your words on before you left. I wish I had some numbers for you here but I didn’t count up, there were plenty though. The boy took some photographs of the exhibition while I talked to Lily, a lovely friendly sort who is planning to write and publish a journal article about the exhibition in the next year. I hope I find the article when it comes out, I’ll mention it here somewhere.
The UK Museums Association has been researching the topic of disposal, having changed its code of ethics two years ago. They will publish in more depth at the end of the year, but a report into the survey they are undertaking and their seminar exercise (which included a tour of the UCL exhibition) are available online now.
So the exhibition was about disposal of objects, but itself was fleeting. Lily’s article and the reviews will preserve a glimpse of the exhibition, but I suppose (if you stretched the metaphor) you could say the exhibition itself has now been disposed of. Often exhibitions might look permanent (as Eric Sandweiss and I were discussing this week) but they are fleeting. Trying to reconstruct old exhibitions in your mind is impossible and the closest approximation can be unsatisfying. I am trying to envisage the ‘World City’ galleries at the Museum of London, which closed, I believe, in 2002. The website is archived here but the site itself is being rebuilt and rewritten, ‘World City’ almost traceless.