Katie Maggs, Curator of Medicine at the Science Museum, writes about the collaborative museums project, First Time Out.
A while ago the Science Museum took part in a project called First Time Out – where museums put on display a ‘treasure’ from their stored collections that had never before been seen in public. Well we’re giving it a go again – but this time the project is larger than ever. Ten museums, from all over England, have paired up to swap objects from their collections, with the Science Museum partnering with the Discovery Museum in Newcastle (a great day out – go visit!).
We’ve chosen a rather splendid set of ten ivory mathematical puzzles that was made in China and exported to Britain in the mid-late 1800s.
In July, all the museums are swapping objects with their partners. We’re very excited about the early light-bulb and light switch that will be heading down from the Discovery Museum.
It’s strange to think on the 4th July all ten objects will be hitting the road, crossing paths up and down the country, until they reach their temporary new home. And there’s some seriously amazing objects that have been uncovered. The bone model guillotine from Peterborough Museum, and the Natural History Museum’s tattooed dolphin skull are pretty remarkable.
I think it’s useful for museums to draw attention to material in store – both to explore the strangeness and explain the significance of holding material in storage for perpetuity, as well as to highlight the particular riches to be found behind the scenes. Objects of course convey multiple meanings. Museums as well aren’t homogenous, so perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the project are the different perspectives each partner brings to the same object.
First Time Out opens with home objects on display from 6th June. You can see the Discovery Museum’s objects on display in the Museum from 5th July – until the beginning of August.