Wednesday 16 December 2009

Byron’s Boot, Chopin’s Piano … Mandela’s Wheelbarrow?

A week and a half ago (the day I almost missed posting at all), I was invited to give a talk about my exhibition work at the Mayibuye Archives, based at the University of the Western Cape. Talking about my work has never been a problem for me … and so it proved on this occasion. I was prepared to run through some slides and talk for about half an hour, but the session went on for over two hours. Let me hasten to add that it wasn’t just me talking – there were lots of questions from the people there and we had a very interesting discussion about museology, design, museum philosophy and museums in South Africa.

Afterwards, we walked around the archive, which has all sorts of interesting collections connected to the apartheid resistance movement and, in particular, to Robben Island. Here’s the Robben Island football team strip:

And the box for Archbishop Tutu’s papers (got to love the Arch Tutu scrawl!):

‘But what does this have to do with Byron or Chopin?’ you cry. Well, here’s my guilty little secret. I have a mania for touching things in museums. And because of my job, I am one of the lucky few who actually gets to touch things in museums. So these hands typing on my MacBook have also been privileged to touch, among other things, the special boot Byron had to support his twisted leg and the piano on which Chopin composed many of his early works.

I’ve added to this special and esoteric list with a close encounter at Mayibuye with a wheelbarrow which may (or may not) have been used by Mandela on Robben Island:

Perhaps I should start charging people to touch my hands, she said thoughtfully.


Tomorrow I am going to Robben Island, so will have photos of that expedition in a couple of days.

1 comment:

  1. Or we could chop off your hands and put them in a display case?