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Over to you


You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone

Joni Mitchell

If our ideas are not reflected in our actions, we do not really think them.

Thomas Merton

The job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open.

Gunter Grass


What is happening?

We are coming to the end of my time in the Tower.

The objects arrayed before you in this blog represent that which will be forgotten, lost or deliberately destroyed unless it is cared for. Please take a look around at the exhibits and contribute to the discussions.

I want to make a few things very clear. The most important point is that I am not asking for suggestions as to what I or anyone else should do. This is not a space for moralizing. Nor is it some abstract game. It is simply a space in which you are free to examine your feelings and, if you wish, act on them. Do you care enough to do something?

Just as being a hermit is very different from the idea of being a hermit, so doing something is very different from thinking that something should be done. To actually care is not an imaginary or intellectual exercise. It is an activity that can be felt with your actual body.
To re-member something is to make it part of yourself. To appreciate something is to make it increase in value.

But also, in real life, choices have to be made. You can’t have your cake and eat it. You can’t do everything. To hold on to something you have to let go of something else. To remember something is to forget something else. To appreciate something is to ignore another thing.

What can you do?

Everything is degenerating and decaying, transforming and recombining even if you do nothing.
Some things may be best forgotten. Some things may be necessarily discarded.
You are free to forget about them and do nothing.
You may also leave it to others to act.
But then please don’t complain if things turn out in a way you do not like.
If you want something done it is your responsibility to do it.
Or you may collaborate with others in some way to get it done.
This is democracy.

But there is no one to represent you. Please do not tell me or anyone else what to do.
If you want to acquire an object or think it should go somewhere in particular you will have to use your own time and energy to come and get it or arrange for its transportation.
There is little point in simple acquisitiveness, however, because that is unlikely to be supported by others. People will want to perceive some genuine need. Your reason for having something or putting it to good use must be clearly apparent not only to you but to everyone else. It will be necessary for others to support you in your proposal.
Or you may choose to support others in what they have freely volunteered.

You do not need to come up with some terribly clever idea. Simply noticing a particular thing about an object from your own perspective and expressing it in any way that can be shared – that is enough.

Who’s in charge?

Let me emphasize that there is no point at all in appealing to me. Only your own inaction can cause something to be destroyed. If a choice needs to be made it will be discussed and agreed between all of us. The responsibility is not mine but ours.

By ‘us’ I also include the staff of the museum. I see little value in a distinction between ‘them’ and ‘us’. The museum is staffed by public servants who are also human beings with ideas, opinions and powers. Every member of the public is also an expert in his or her unique viewpoint. All arguments should be made transparently.

The Museum is here as a public body precisely to hold in trust many of these objects. This public institution becomes an empty shell however, and may even become harmful, unless its purpose and strategy is publicly examined and renewed.
Its existence might also become an excuse for us, the public, to ignore our personal responsibilities. It’s very easy to think ‘someone else will take care of it’. In fact individuals have a duty to act.

None of us is an automaton. The museum too is made up of active individuals, many of whom have become experts because of a longstanding interest in a particular subject. This expert knowledge should live, not just through authoritative pronouncements but in active dialogue.
Museum curators have an obligation to explain why an object may be best held in their custody  – in order to be made most widely accessible, for instance, or because it only makes sense within a certain context. No object has only one single interpretation, so all of us must contribute to this discussion.

What happens next?

At the conclusion of this exercise the Museum’s Collections Development Panel will meet. At this face-to-face discussion all the arguments put forward in this blog will be finally considered. This blog therefore constitutes a collaborative, transparent document.

The final meeting will be a formal signing-off of any actions, destinations, and recommendations for the various objects. Any relevant considerations will already have been put forward on this blog so this panel will simply formalise any decisions.

The conversation is open. Please get involved, however small or large and in whatever form your contribution may be.
If there is no interest in it then of course things will just carry on as they are.
Museum will continue to expand their collections indefinitely as more and more things disappear from the rest of the world.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 31/07/2009 2:49 pm

    Im not certain I completely understand; is it true that each item photographed in the entirety of your blog is to be disposed of in some fashion?

    Unfortunately, for all of humankind’s desire to hoard desiccated, stuffed, plundered bits of nature’s wonders or evidence of the history of life on earth, museum space is, mostly, a finite thing that forces the institution to regularly measure the collection against the mission statement, and factor in space and finances and then determine what must go. Letting go of items that are in hopelessly poor condition, aren’t aligned with the museum’s collecting and exhibiting mission, or are redundant in the collection, allows more space and resources for the proper care of the items that do not fall into the aforementioned categories.

    Chucking these items in the bin, or “destroying” them shouldn’t ever be an option, however, especially nowadays as we pay more attention to keeping things out of landfills. Smaller museums or nature centers may benefit from a gift of items another museum no longer has need for. Other Herbaria may have gaps in their collections that may be filled by specimens that are redundant in the Manchester Museum’s collection. In the case of the bins and bins of fossil bivalves, I really dont see how the museum can ever use all of those; a handful of the choicest specimens may well be retained, and the rest of the lot separated into small lots and sent off to the local schools, along with an informative brochure that may be photocopied and used as part of biology or geology coursework. Any artist would love to have a chance at any of the artifacts shown (send me the box of random labels and dusty old coca leaves, please!!!). The Manchester Museum was open minded enough to have hosted you as part of the hermit program, so perhaps they would be open to hosting a program wherein artists send in proposals for the use of various deaccessioned materials; the proposals being publicly posted and voted upon, and then a year or so later, hosting an exhibit of the artworks that were made using the artifacts? I think that would be just bully!

    At any rate, deaccessioning objects is always a touchy subject within museums, and I applaud you for making a forum for the discussion of this particular instance…. nicely done, and very interesting as well!

  2. trine permalink
    31/07/2009 2:59 pm

    over to you…..last night.

    and in the interim space,all happens.

    whether nirvana?

    do as thou will.

  3. trine permalink
    01/08/2009 3:05 pm

    the last post oh how that will echo with familar memories, for some a powerful symbol in sound,of the tendency to waste way,sometimes in the oddest of circumstances….i came to the blog late,and in recall,i visted the museam,as a passer by,up in th lift and then just in time,closing time appraoching i posted,nigh on 4.00 o’clock..for whom the bell tolls……sacrifice……i went on a first,an archeoological dig. Never done that before,and in the dirt,sometimes fragments, shards of some former life, piece of history,and to me ignorant as i am of the ablity to make meaning through sense of what was found…it was rubbish, discard,and use less,but not them..they had built the internal associations through handling takling and expeosure,givng time to associate meaning fully.
    in that first post if i remember and in m sure i do,i referred to genus loci the spirit of place,and you the unkown warrior for fourty days and nights,have been that genus loci,the artist in residence,and eye unseen,for so many hours,some might even say a lost soul.
    the soul of an object tangibly speaks,even when lost it is contactable,and through each one of us embodied,and archeologists learn to appreciate the voice ,of found objects…..

    i once new a jeweller he talked of Findings,slithers and scards of precious metal,found and saved,and stored,as you have been stored in the tower.
    and the archeoelogists,they also referred to storage, what to keep what to throw away,is some thing which as you say, we’ll face when to quit,when to die,and the after life,and the drama we go to and go
    through,in throwing ourselves away,to chance.

    whether Nirvana do as thou will.

    it would be nice to find that stone.

  4. M.E. Montenegro permalink
    02/08/2009 10:00 pm

    “The job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open.”
    –Gunter Grass

    The job of a hermit is to Listen.

  5. Catherine permalink
    03/08/2009 3:25 pm

    I’m not sure I completely understand either, but…

    If you want to acquire an object or think it should go somewhere in particular you will have to use your own time and energy to come and get it or arrange for its transportation.

    I would happily come and pick up the fossilized seabed I commented on before, if nobody else has plans for it other than destruction. (I’d happily keep bringing it in for the handling tables, too.)

    You do not need to come up with some terribly clever idea.

    … that’s good, because I really haven’t got any terribly clever arguments or ideas. I’m just rather attached to it, I suppose, and I’ve liked being able to talk about it with museum visitors, and how old it is and where it’s from, and getting kids to hunt for the trilobites and sea sponges and all of that.

    • 03/08/2009 5:25 pm

      Dear Catherine,

      You’ve obviously understood perfectly.
      I’m glad you are so enthusiastic about that rock. It seems clear to me that you love it and you would infect other people with that love. Personally speaking I would definitely entrust you with that rock, just as you’ve obviously been entrusted with it many times before.
      But as I’ve said, it’s not my decision. It’s for everyone to decide the best place for it. So far you’ve got no competition so it looks like you might be seeing it again.

  6. Hunny H permalink
    07/08/2009 9:24 am

    Hello Hermit,
    I wish you a gentle re-entry into society. I waved to you high up in your tower as I passed by the University on Monday. I wondered how you were, if you had enjoyed your stay, and if people had remembered or forgotten that you were there. I had forgotten, and this is the first time I have looked at the website.
    If you, as part of the exhibition are also up for destruction if no one cares to claim you, I am willing to offer you a home. There is a small back yard full of flowers and bees, where you could continue to meditate and there are 100’s of small objects collected over the years which could be contemplated and used for inspiration. You are welcome to stay for 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. Best Wishes

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