Collections and theme parks

The Wellcome Museum has a new exhibition, ‘Things‘. No relation, of course, although things was peripherally involved in the earlier Wellcome show, ‘The Phantom Museum‘, all about Henry Wellcome’s Collection of Medical Mysteries. The introduction to Hildi Hawkins and Danielle Olsen’s book of the same name can be read here. The BBC has a short film on the new show, Public Contributes to ‘Things exhibition’.


The new exhibition, which also has a flickr pool and a blog, is a ‘call to update Henry Wellcome’s curious collection.’ The selection criteria is pleasingly broad: ‘Bring this, bring that, bring the other, just nothing bigger than your head’. So is this call-to-arms a collision of two previously disparate worlds, one of which – the museum collection – is fossilised in the past, and the other – the private collection – is burgeoning like never before? Certainly, the emphasis on individual ‘things’, rather than collections of things means the Wellcome is unlikely to stumble across any exceptional new examples of private curation. This is a collection of ephemera, pure and simple, not a directed set of objects such as one would find at the Museum of Online Museums, for example.


As the blog notes, the chief significance of the collection is the way in which meanings change with the environment and object is placed in. ‘Many of the items are of practical use, but taken out of their everyday context and placed on display they take on a new interest in terms of their appearance.’ This is the first lesson of online museology, that the monitor and browser window act as a cabinet, a space of presentation and contemplation. The simple act of uploading, of arranging a gallery, of matching things related and unrelated, is by its very nature curatorial. Add in the ruler, and the drop off form/retrieval receipt (‘Bought in Berlin while on holiday – the only souvenir I could afford! I’m soon emigrating to Berlin, so the keyring has become a kind of symbol of my new life. (That’s why I need it back!)’) and everything is flattened, ceasing to become an object in its own right.


Adam Curtis’s typically far-reaching post (‘The Pope and the Axis of Terror‘, via haddock)) cites the life and work of proto-fascist Gabriele D’Annunzio, and includes a short film of D’Annunzio’s remarkable garden at Il Vittoriale in Gardone, by Lake Garda. This gloomy memorial is best known for the incongruous presence of the Puglia, an early twentieth century warship embedded in the hillside as a piece of landscape art and an undeniably evocative shrine to the machines of war. The site on google maps.


The image of the beached Puglia brings to mind the wreck of the SS Cotopaxi, suddenly deposited in the Gobi Desert in Close Encounters (although the ship seen in the film was actually a miniature). The conceit being, of course, that the Cotopaxi had vanished in the Bermuda Triangle (link to wikipedia page as the online signal to noise surrounding the BT is horrific, although there are some good images at Tales of the Sea). Pre-Dreadnought bits and pieces charts scraps and fragments of battleships scattered around the globe.


Ferrari World Abu Dhabi opens on 27 October 2010. Designboom has a set of images of the theme park under construction, but right now the satellite view of Yas Island doesn’t indicate very much going on (an opportunity missed, surely). This park is either the ultimate brand extension, or the most foolhardy; it’s hard to determine which. If anything, it marks the final break between Ferrari as an experiential brand and Ferrari as car-maker, with the latter a very niche concern of little or no interest to anyone except perhaps schoolboys and single bankers. If Ferrari were to stop making road cars tomorrow, would Ferrari World swiftly become an epic ruin? Or would our collective cultural memory of the ‘Ferrari car’ persist in order to give these places meaning?


Citroen 2CV meet-up from 1976 (via an ambitious project collapsing) / Halloween short story recommendations / Bartlett Year 1 Architecture runs an excellent blog, with nicely compiled posts on, amongst others, Karen O’Leary’s maps, Chris Gilmore’s cardboard objects, Rachel Whiteread’s casts.

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One Response to Collections and theme parks

  1. Rob says:

    Let’s not forget the hike in blistering heat I made to get some Ferrari World pics from the ground last year…

    A monstrous, terrifying beast of a building that provides firm proof that the perfect curve on a CAD drawing is one thing but building it in real life with mostly straight bits of stuff is quite another.

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