I spent a fascinating day yesterday visiting the Somerset Heritage Centre to view the Royal Charters that they hold for Axbridge Museum. The staff where extremely helpful and didn't mind unpacking the charters for me (I was terrified I would damage something).
It may be wise to remain impartial when it comes to Kings and Queens as I think that favouritism would be unwise, but I think it is fair to say that Elizabeth I (1558 - 1603) knew how to produce a very impressive charter.
The Charter was a lot bigger that the others and was heavily decorated with drawing of fruit, trees, and animals. You can also make out the portrait of the Elizabeth that is positioned within the E of her name (shown above). I cannot tell you how much skill the artists displayed in the creation of this manuscript. I understand from the Heritage Centre Staff that pencil drawings were permitted prior to inking over the work, but there are no mistakes and the calligraphy is breathtaking.
I have also included a close up of the royal coat of arms featuring the the words 'Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense'. These words are still featured on the royal coat of arms and are the motto of the order of the garter - I have done some research and can tell you this is written in old french and means 'shamed be (the person) who thinks evil of it' although there seem to be several slight variations on the translation but they all mean the same.
If you want to see a modern version look on the front of your passport!
I am scratching my head a little over the corrosion that oak gall ink causes to paper. I have already mentioned the metaphor between the document being a container of memories and the subsequent damage being similar to forgetting. However, what I am really struggling with is - how I can damage paper in a few weeks to speed up corrosion that took hundreds of years - it might be a long day!
As you may have noticed by now I use quite a lot of technology to stream audio and video in my work which can be can be extremely frustrating and very time consuming.
However, I am at that age when I cannot help but get really excited when 'a plan comes together' (quotes from the A team seem a little bizarre but its been that sort of a day!).
So here is my technology breakthrough of the day - QR CODES. I will explain more of what I am up to later but here is the code, if you scan it I really hope something happens, if it doesn't maybe wait a couple of hours before you tell me because it might just ruin my day.
NB: I downloaded a Q R reader from the app store, I chose i-nigma because it was free and suits most platforms, but there are loads available and they download in seconds.
During this project I have been struck by the paradox of collecting facts/memories for hundreds of years then locking them away to preserve them. However, as the museum owns a large number of extremely old documents the only way to keep them safe is to keep them off site at the Somerset Archives Offices - it's a a quandary for any museum.
Memory and its preservation has long since been a source of fascination in my work. To me, there seems huge links between the preservation of historical documents and our own process of remembering and forgetting. . I have explored this further with the kind help of Winscombe Art Group who agreed to take part in a workshop about memory.
I led the group through a number of warming up exercises then I asked them to draw something from their childhood. I did warn the group that this can be quite a frustrating task as the hand does not want to cooperate fully with the minds eye but they were all extremely helpful and committed to the task 100%.
When I hold workshops like this I like to ask the artists to discuss their work with me, as I feel the process helps them to unlock their memories further and the group kindly agreed to let me record their memories to share with you. We also allowed perspective to be bent a little and colour to only be used if it was remembered, not guessed.
The film that follows is only the memories of one of the group members. However, I have chosen this recording as you can hear frustration several times in the speakers voice when she tries to place her memories on the page. Interestingly if the memories had been recorded at the time of their creation it would, of course, have been much easier to capture a likeness, as in the case of the Axbridge Manuscripts. So the images have diminished over time and, as the number of people who share them reduces, access to them also diminishes - brain or paper, its a container of amazing things!
One of the difficulties with the Museum is accessibility, both physically, as the Museum has very narrow stairs and uneven floors and practically, as the documents need to be stored away to preserve them. One of my main objectives for this project was to address these issues which is the main reason for creating this website so we can share the Museum and it's artefacts with a much wider audience.
I have now started working with John Page to make a series of recordings which will increase engagement to the collection, and are really easy to listen to. All the recordings can be found under the resources tab and I am hoping you will find them as enjoyable as I do.
Press on the orange button and give it a second to start.
Just a note: you will need an up to date browser to hear the recordings.
On Saturday Margaret Micklewright and I were in Axbridge Square to share some of the ways people have written throughout history.
I am extremely lucky that Axbridge hosts a very popular Farmer's Market on the first Saturday of each month. This means that I can meet with lots of different visitors and share Axbridge Museum with them while letting them have a go at some of the interesting things we have been doing.
We were joined by John Page and Elizabeth Friend(Axbridge Archeological Society) so I had to make sure I was getting the historical facts correct. However, along with all of the fabulous people who came and had a go we also met a couple of very interesting people who may be able to work with the Museum in the future to bring new exciting exhibitions.
Last Saturday was the first of the community engagement activities I have planned for this project. I was exceptionally lucky to be joined by local Somerset artist Margaret Micklewright who was on hand to share her vast experience of working with inks.
I met Margaret a couple of years ago and have been lucky enough to work with her a couple of times. Margaret is a painter who has extensive experience of working with ink and teaches privately, with local art groups and children as part of her practice which was really valuable to the project. Unfortunately, Margaret has a bit of a hated of having photos taken so I had to catch her unawares (apologies for the photo Margaret). However, as fellow cake lovers we enjoyed the market enormously and managed to sample quite a bit of the delicious treats on offer as well as having a very productive day meeting and working with many of the visitors.
Margaret currently has work on display at the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath and at the Artists Gallery, in Wedmore or you can see more on her website
20/8/17 workshop in the Museum
23 Sept - 8th October Somerset Arts Weeks - The Museum will host an exhibition of this project
Andrea Oke is a Somerset based artist who is fascinated by human behaviour and its links to memory. For more information please to to my website