Monday 28 February 2011

Did you know? #4

Did you know MoDiP is open whenever the library is?  

The door is always open for you to view the exhibition.  If you would like to talk to a member of staff there is usually someone available Mon-Fri 9.30 – 16.00 or you can contact us by telephone or email.

Louise Dennis, (Assistant Curator)

Wednesday 23 February 2011

EKCO exchange

Today we were visited by Ken Crowe, Keeper of Human History at Southend Museums Service He came to see us to swap information on Ekco (E.K. Cole Ltd) plastics. Ekco's Plastics Divison was located at Southend-on-Sea and the Museums Service there has built up a significant collection of all manner of Ekco related material. This collection has been assessed as one of the best business archives in the country.  A selection from it will be displayed in the autumn in an exhibition entitled Designed for Living EKCO 1922-1970. Ken was able to tell us that a number of unmarked mouldings were made by Ekco so thank you Ken.

Some years ago MoDiP received a large gift from Martyn Rowlands, the first Chief Designer at the Ekco Plastics Division, and  we were, as a result, able to identify the items illustrated here, which are also in the collection at Southend, as having been designed by Rowlands.

Martyn Rowlands was made an Honorary Fellow of  the University in 2002 in recognition of this outstanding gift. Sadly he died two years later.

Susan Lambert (Head of MoDiP)

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Look-Here! End of project conference

On the 8th February 2011 the MoDiP team attended the Look-Here! end of project conference (link to vads blog).  The project looked at ways of digitising museum, library and archive collections to create better access to the artefacts housed. 
I have attended the 6-weekly meetings of the project which ran for 18 months.  These meetings have proved to be very interesting and useful for MoDiP.  They have given us the opportunity to network with other University collections and share our experiences and lessons-learnt whilst working on our own digitisation project in 2008-2009, and as such our case study and presentation at the conference reflected on our work on this JISC funded project.

During the lifetime of the project I have very much enjoyed sharing images of our collection with the project partners.  Mr Potato Head has been a popular ambassador for MoDiP.

More information about the project and the conference can be found on the vads website including the PowerPoints presented by the project partners.  The case studies presented will become available the Look-Here! web pages in due course.

Louise Dennis, (Assistant Curator)

Monday 21 February 2011

Did you know? #3

Did you know that you can book objects out for use in your AUB studio space? Book an appointment by email, telephone, or come and see us in person to discuss the options.
BA (Hons) Graphic Students using the MoDiP collection

Louise Dennis, (Assistant Curator)

Friday 18 February 2011

AUB 1960s day

Yesterday saw a University wide 1960s celebration in honour of the Mister Sixties exhibition on display in The Gallery.  Some students and members of staff dressed up appropriately for the occasion and a special menu was served in the Arts Bar.

As part of the activities MoDiP joined forces with The Library and put together a small exhibition of objects, books, journals and magazines.  These artefacts were either of the time or documenting the period.

The display included the Sottsass typewriter as described in Susan's blog post.

This small capsule of time has proved to be very popular with both internal and external visitors and brings out the colour of the vibrant and stylish decade.

Louise Dennis, (Assistant Curator)

Monday 14 February 2011

Sottsass's Valentine

Forty-two years ago today pop came to the world of typewriters. The Valentine typewriter was launched on 14 February 1969.  It was designed by the late Italian architect and designer, Ettore Sottsass, with the British designer, Perry Ellis, for the Italian firm, Olivetti.

Most often manufactured in red it was also came in white, blue and green. It was not aimed at the office worker but rather at the private individual and was sold thus through department stores and book and record shops. It was marketed in a set of posters designed by Milton Glaser which showed it with a wide range of different types of people in different countries. Sottsass is said to have designed it as 'a kind of 'biro' among portable typewriters' . Certainly it was light being made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, a type of rigid glossy plastic. Richard Burton is said to have been seen in 1970 at Heathrow airport with a Valentine typewriter on one arm and Elizabeth Taylor on the other.  However although it was the product that made Sottsass a household name and is now widely sought after as a design icon, it was not a commercial success. Sottsass became disillusioned with it and said it was 'too obvious like a girl wearing a very short skirt and too much make-up'. One and a half years after its launch production ceased.

An example of the Valentine typewriter is on display in MoDiP as part of a celebration of the sixties complementing the exhibition 'Mister Sixties' Philip Townsend's Portrait of a Decade.

Susan Lambert (Head of MoDiP)

For sources and more information see, 046 April 2007 and 068 Feb 2009.

Did you know? #2

Did you know you can follow us on twitter?

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Friday 11 February 2011

Mister Cellophane

References to plastics in the music business say a lot. The Beatles' Polythene Pam was a Liverpool scrubber and the kind of girl who makes the News of the World;  Frank Zappa was sure that 'love will never be a product of Plasticity'; and Poly Styrene was a disaffected punk who sung about 'the day the world turned day glow'. Such references demonstrate how plastics have  been associated in the popular imagination with the seamier side of life. Yet our ordinary everyday unseamy lives depend on them.

The other day I came across what seems to me a much more accurate description of their role in our lives. It was at the musical, Chicago.  Sung by the good-natured, Amos Hart, who nobody notices inspite of his wide girth, the refrain is:

Mister cellophane
Should have been my name!!!!
Mister cellophane
'Cause you look right through me
Walk right by me
And never know I'm there!

I don't know whether Mister Cellophane existed in Maurine Dallas Watkins' 1926 play on which the musical is based, or if he was an invention of the lyricist, Fred Ebb, for the musical which had its debut in 1975. Both dates make sense. Dupont had opened the first cellophane manufacturing plant in the USA just two years before the play had its debut and in the 1970s plastics became the group of materials with the most uses in the world. Can anyone enlighten me?

Susan Lambert, Head of MoDiP

Thursday 10 February 2011

Effective Collections

MoDiP has been awarded a grant from the Museums Association as part of their Effective Collections campaign.
The grant has paid for a coach to help us make links with other museums and find other ways to make an underused collection more widely accessible.  With permission from the Worshipful Company of Horners we are looking at finding ways of sharing the horn collection with other museums and visitors across the country.  This could be through exhibition loans or by digital or physical learning packages. 

Our coach, Alison Porter, will help us come up with some innovative and exciting ideas. I am sure the blog will revisit this project as our plans take shape.

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Monday 7 February 2011

How students and staff use the collection #3

Our current exhibition Nature’s Plastic: Artefacts from the collection of the Worshipful Company of Horners has proved to be a very popular subject from drawing practice.  We have had a number of students come in with their sketch books to draw items on display.  The most popular piece has been the ram’s head who has been nicknamed Rufus.

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Thursday 3 February 2011

How students and staff use the collection #2

MoDiP has been working with AUB Fine Art students this term in a project entitled Time and Space Articulation.  The project has a number of strands, one of which is to look at museums and private collections.
A number of students have been inspired by MoDiP’s collection and have come in and spoken to the staff about their ideas and taken a closer look at some of our objects.  Three particular projects have used the collection in very different ways:
·         The first student has chosen to look at the battle museums have when trying to prevent the natural degradation of objects (particularly those made of plastic) in the attempt to preserve objects for future generations.
·         Another is looking at extreme collecting and taking inspiration from a private collection of printed ephemera gifted to the museum.  The donor Professor Tim Coward is a design historian interested in all sorts of graphic based material and collected anything from till receipts to packaging and printed menus.
·         The third student is interested in recording people’s reactions to objects.  She has chosen objects from the collection which are beautiful, controversial, kitsch, intriguing, unusual etc.
Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Call for work

We’re planning an exhibition: You can do it with plastics which will look at how the properties of plastics that distinguish them from other materials have influenced design. The exhibition will open in May.

The brief is simple: that some kind of plastic is crucial to the work.  By plastic we mean any of that large group of materials including synthetic textiles, synthetic latex, reinforced glass fibre and acrylic paint as well as Perspex®, polyethylene, polystyrene and so on.

We will make a photographic record of all submissions and post them on our website. It is currently under construction but we hope it will be live by May.

Susan Lambert
(Head of MoDiP)