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The Museum Makers: A Journey Backwards - from Old Boxes of Dark Family Secrets to a Gold Era of Museums
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The Museum Makers: A Journey Backwards - from Old Boxes of Dark Family Secrets to a Gold Era of Museums (Hardback)

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Museum expert Rachel Morris had been ignoring the boxes under her bed for decades. When she finally opened them, an entire bohemian family history was laid bare. The experience was revelatory - searching for her absent father in the archives of the Tate; understanding the loss and longings of the grandmother who raised her - and transported her back to the museums that had enriched her lonely childhood. By teasing out the stories of those early museum makers, and the unsung daughters and wives behind them, and seeing the same passions and mistakes reflected in her own family, Morris digs deep into the human instinct for collection and curation. Part memoir, part detective story, part untold history of museums - this is a fascinating and moving family story.

Art, Fashion & PhotographyAntiques & collectablesArt, Fashion & PhotographyArt monographs, history & theoryArts: general issues & referenceBiographyMemoirsReference & ResearchMuseums & museology Publisher: September Publishing Publication Date: 27/08/2020 ISBN-13: 9781912836147  Details: Type: Hardback Format: Books
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A director of the museum-making company Metaphor, Rachel Morris has been part of the creation, design and delivery of some of the most exciting displays, renovations and museums of the last few decades, from the new Cast Courts at the V&A to the Terracotta Warriors at the British Museum and Grand Egyptian museum in Cairo. Rachel is also the author of two previous novels.

More books by Rachel Morris

Customer Reviews

This is an unusual book with two streams which intertwine throughout the book; the memories of a family through one person’s discoveries, and the making and maintaining of museums. Rachel Morris’ family is dominated, like many, by stories and the women who tell them. Museums in whatever part of the world, however local, national or even symbolic in themselves, are shown as not only repositories of objects, but the focus of stories in themselves. The power of story is central to this book, as Rachel looks at the stories of her family that survived via her redoubtable Grandmother. It also looks at the way that stories are attached to buildings and their contents, from the smallest items to the largest. This book sets out the history of museums as repositories for personal or local collections by enthusiasts, from the might of the great London museums established by bequests, to the small local museums in towns and cities across Britain. It also looks at the problems faced by museums today, by the financial pressures on local authorities which means underfunding for many traditional institutions. It also mentions the dramatic issues faced by those who attempt to maintain or begin to collect objects in war zones. This thoughtful book looks at how we interpret the past, whether it is best done through objects, and the importance of preserving stories in an effective way. I was fascinated by this book, and very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it. The first element of this book is the personal story. Morris is a museum designer, and one day she is inspired to go beyond arranging displays and exhibitions to take out boxes of long stored items from under a bed. As she looks at the objects she remembers her childhood in difficult circumstances, her parents being absent and her grandmother having limited financial resources to care for her and her brothers. There are also the stories of family members with notorious reputations as relationships are spoiled, money lost and families put under strain. Morris looks at the stories around the articles she finds, the letters and the photographs, the tiny scraps of lives lived in different times and in different places. As a display she compiles those things which reflects people and stories as important and speaking to today. The other element of the book looks at how the obsessive collections of enthusiasts of so many different items led to collections which span the full range from the might of the British Museum, through a museum in which nothing can be moved, via the sometimes surprising things to be found in small museums. It looks briefly at the problems of cataloguing, the evolution of catalogues themselves, and the problems of categorization. There is discussion of arranging displays in the light of chronology, “Progress”, and the whole philosophical question of how objects should be shown to an audience. There is a look at at the sheer logistics of showcases, labelling and display generally before the more mundane questions of funding and keeping the buildings staffed and open. This book opens the view of the reader to so many questions which beset the museum organisations in the twenty first century, such as ownership and origin of objects, even the questions relating to repatriation of items obtained in dubious circumstances. She has opted to ask the big questions through the prism of her family history, which gives what could otherwise be an academic exercise a personal twist. It is a book that will be of interest to many in the heritage sector, as well as those who visit and love museums, and anyone who looks at objects and items in the light of the past and the comments they can make into the future from the present. I found it an enlightening book with much to recommend it, and enjoyed reading it.

- 28/08/2020
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