Thursday, 20 September 2018

A museum in a box activity

"A box for sea glass from wide, windy beach"

Make your own Cabinet of Curiosity


would you keep our mermaid in a cupboard?
In Victorian times a Cabinet of Curiosity might have had drawers and more drawers, shelves and secret compartments. It might be small but probably large. It might be a glass fronted cabinet full of dried butterflies or stuffed birds. It might be a beautiful case for your preserved mermaid. The Collectors and Curiosities: Buxton and beyond exhibition at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery (runs to 6th October, follow link for details) is full of small treasures and larger curiosities

At the Museum, and other places, I do a lot of Cabinets workshops. Most recently, as part of our BM125 celebrations we had a lively afternoon with 80 visitors making nearly 40 Cabinets between them. Follow the links below to find some of the Cabinets we made and the poems that grew out of our excitements. You do not need to wait for another event – try making your own cabinet, a portable museum for your own home, a treasure chest for summer finds…

Examples of our Cabinets are here
Our Cabinets poem can be heard here

Making a cabinet at home could be as simple as filling a cupboard with treasures (do check with someone vaguely responsible before tipping plates all over the floor). I like making my own so here is a guide to making your own Museum Box for small delights and strangenesses

You will need:
·      a cardboard box – with a hinged lid or a loose one
·      a cutting mat
·      a craft knife
·      ruler
·      felt pen
·      colourful magazine
·      scissors
·      glue: you could use a glue stick but white glue/PVA is stronger
·      paintbrush for PVA
·      a small sheet of acetate: clear plastic film: hunt around, maybe a file cover from a stationery shop, maybe a window from some other box
·      small boxes (see stage….)

1. Have a look at your box and draw a window in the lid: rectangular, oval, wobbly, as long as it is not bigger than your piece of acetate. Cut out the window: use a craft knife on a cutting mat and BE CAREFUL!

2. Decorate your box: we usually use magazine pictures but have done lovely Cabinets with old maps, wrapping paper..whatever takes our fancy. Neat cutting? Rough tearing? What do you prefer?

3. Inside the box as well? Just make sure you don’t glue the box shut by mistake?

4. All done? Add your small boxes…we often do this activity with large groups of people so use small carboard museum trays used for tiny specimens. Rummage around your house and see what you can find. Matchboxes? Packing box? A box jewellery came in? Tiny tins for spice or tea. Origami? Make your own: easy to do. A quick suggestion will follow in the next blog

5. Add the boxes to your Cabinet? Do you want to glue them down – make sure the main Cabinet can still close. Keep them loose?

6. Fit the plastic window to its space: glue or sticky tape the sheet into place on the inside of the lid

Add some treasures! Treasures might not all fit in your small boxes: there might be bags or bundles as well. You might make a miniature guidebook

Next BM125 public event: we’ll be at Apple Day at the Dove Valley Centre on Sunday 14th October. Detals will follow on this blog and on the Creeping Toad facebook page Here we will be celebrating the heritage of orchards and old fruit varieties – a reminder that museums hold memories as much as objects and those objects belonged to lives lived in our wider landscapes. Join us and make your own apple-puppet to tell your own orchard stories

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