Working with Collections - In Progress

Vintage model theatre containing drawings and musem gloves dressed as reindeer.
Vintage model theatre containing drawings and musem gloves dressed as reindeer.

White gloves used for handling objects at the Sainsbury Centre of Visual Arts were my starting point for a work in progress exhibition developed over a few short weeks.

I explored the Alaskan tools, covered in fabulous Scrimshaw carvings. After trying various materials I made drawings on recycled acetate to populate polystyrene packaging snow scenes in my Victorian toy theatre. 

I remembered some bizarre Snow Baby cake decorations in my mother's loft. They were made over a hundred years ago to celebrate a romantic view of Western involvements with the most northerly Artic peoples. 

The figurines led to my own discovery of the unsavoury role of Artic explorers and the effects on Artic peoples of the removal of items such as human remains and ferrous meteriorites which were sold to Museum Collections (in this case Natural History Musem in New York). There are more details of my journey below.


Bubble wrap mittens contrast the museum curator's gloves with those worn by the Artic peoples. Using plastic waste makes reference to the man made changes, disproportionately affecting the Artic.

Little is known of the provenance of the collection. Museum Glove decided to enter imaginatively into the research, inspired by the engraved or 'scrimshaw' images of native animals on the collection of tools. 

Searching in my mother's loft, I found these half-remembered Snow Baby figurines from the early 1900s. Apparently their manufacture was inspired by the birth of a daughter to the wife of an American explorer Robert Peary who claimed to have discovered the North Pole in the 1890s. Less than 13 degrees from the North Pole, his wife Josephine Diebitsch, gave birth to a baby Marie Agnighito Peary (known as Snow Baby) whose middle name commemorated the native woman who made her fur baby garments. The explorer's dealings with the native Inuit people make for disturbing stories, see the Wikipedia link. 

Josephine created a book called Snow Baby which you read online. The Snow whiteness of the baby's skin is sadly emphasised many times in her record of their story.

The scrimshaw engraved tools at the Sainsbury Centre and the British Museum have inspired inspired these scenes built in my vintage toy theatre. I am re-using discarded architect's drafting film, second hand acetate with water based crayons and polystyrene packaging provided (much to my annoyance as you can't recycle it) by John Lewis.

These pictures were the start of this project, they show the Alaskan collection plus one contemporary sculpture by John Davies. The tape measure and work glove are sculptures made by my friend Ruth Franklin, there is a link to her website below.

I love to collaborate, especially with Ruth Franklin,  or follow her on Instagram at @ruthfranklin_artist. Ruth has the most intriguing collection of objects.

The Alaskan scraper handle has been copied as a 3D printed object, thanks to the learning team for making it.