Thursday, 18 November 2010

Mary Greg - Platt Hall Visit

A project was set at University to create an event at Platt Hall - a local Costume Gallery in Platt Fields near Rusholme - that would be held in conjunction with Manchester Art Gallery and inspired by their Mary Greg collection. The Mary Greg Collection are objects that were donated to Manchester Art Gallery by Mary Greg in the early 1920s after Mrs Greg's husband died. The objects are largely everyday items and often in tatty conditions but reflect a lot of ordinary life in the late 19th century and early 20th. The event would be held in September 2012 and we were told to be as ambitious as we wanted and then it could later be reigned in later.
Befor our visit to Platt Hall to see the collection and the building I read the copies of Mary Greg's letters to the Manchester Art Gallery curator Mr Batho. the two created a great rapport over the time and you can tell from the letters that they bothed warmed to each other a lot. While reading the letters, I noticed that Mrs Greg wantd to donate part fo the collection to create a special Children's Collection as she thought that it was important to intice children back into galleries and museums. Therefore, I went to Platt Hall with the idea to mainly focus on the children's part of the collection and to hold the event with the same mission statement as Mary Greg first started her collection, while also having an event that would impress adults.
When going through Platt Hall I first noticed the great staircase at the entrance which I thought would have to be utilised in some way and at the moment had huge, beaded necklaces around it, which made me think of using oversized objects to draw attention and attract both adults and children. I also noticed to the left that there were two rooms - one medium sized and one large, that are largely free to use and could be used to hold part of the collection or art pieces that are a response to the collection.
We then went into the first back rooms where there were rolling cupboards with lots of period dresses. I really liked these as they reminded me of an artist I had already looked at called Isabella de Borchgrave. De Borchgrave makes paper period dresses that are created as exact replicas, with the papers painted and embroidered to look like fabric. De Borchgrave then poses mannequins wearing the dresses and photographs which I think create quite a creepy atmosphere, as if the people are frozen in time and this was a possible idea to do with the collection.

I found the contast between the front and back rooms another interesting concept. The front rooms were much more bright, clear and welcoming with the walls painted pastel blues and white with large windows to brighten the space. However, the back rooms are darker and gloomier with mainly wood furnishings in worse condition. The windows are also smaller so there is less natural light.
The part I liked the most was in the final room where we were left to look through the drawers of the collection ourselves. One drawer was full of silhouette paintings which initially gave me the idea of having a shadow puppet erformance. I thought this could tie in with my personal puppet project and would be a good way of entertaining adults and children while also giving the chance to explain the backstory to the Mary Greg collection.

There was also a drawer of delicate hair combs. I liked the fact that these objects would have had a use in their day while also being impressive pieces on their own. There was great detail in each comb and they were all individual and each in their own condition, a fact that I think makes them more charming as the combs in the worse condition were also probably the most loved.

It was the dolls, however, that took my interest the most. I found one doll that was named fishwife, which showed the attitudes towards women at the time. I also found a fortune telling doll in a box. I thought this was most interesting as it felt like my own discovery on the shelf and the actual doll was in great condition. The doll was in a striking red cloak and was placed on a circle that had different text written on it such as "There's witchery in those eyes" and "A sincere friend." I really liked these as I thought that they were quite cryptic and creepy while also being in doll form so seemingly aimed at children. This gave me an idea to bring th doll alive by the staircase by having a person dressed up as the fortune teller or having a human sized mannequin and then creating a game where people can find there fortune on the disc below.

Overall, I really enjoyed the trip to Platt Hall as it was an oppotunity that not many people get, to be up close and personal with such a large collection. The trip really inspired me to create ideas for the event and I am now raring to go with the rest of the project.

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