Kendal Museum, Cumbria |
Preview 25 September 6.30-8.30pm

Lustre is a six month exhibition by Kate Morrell commissioned by Legion TV in collaboration with Kendal Museum. As the Museum embarks on a new phase digitising its collections, Lustre aims to examine questions about the implications and possibilities that arise when sharing digital collections.

Lustre consists of a digital video and printed guide displayed alongside the permanent museum collections and focuses on two specific areas – Geology and Archaeology. The works result from a period of residency in Kendal Museum, in which the artist had the opportunity to research inside the Museum stores and archives

The video, titled A Weird Aperture – and Weird Echoes of Water takes the museum’s digitisation project as its focus. Kendal Museum recently received funding to digitally preserve two important mineral collections, which took place at the museum in early 2015. A Weird Aperture documents the conservation, interpretation and digital reproduction of the specimens, within the hands of the museum staff.

The digitisation process also brings to light the histories of often overlooked individuals and groups connected with the collections. Kendal Museum acquired the Bill Shaw Mineral Collection after the closure of the Keswick Mining Museum. The collection of John Hamer – a potholer and mineral collector – was donated to the museum in 2004 after its discovery following Hamer’s death. Hamer was a recluse and spent much of his life collecting minerals from sites which are now inaccessible to collectors today. He kept meticulous handwritten notes and drawings of his activities.

In A Weird Aperture – and Weird Echoes of Water a male voice reads fragments from ‘The Caves and Potholes of High Craven: Nature’s Grottos by J. L. Hamer, July 1934’. The original text is one of six notebooks handwritten by John Hamer, donated to the museum along with the minerals. Hamer provides a vivid account of potholing and caving in Yorkshire and Cumbria – describing his solo, subterranean adventures. The text highlights regional dialects, as Hamer recounts tales of local folklore and customs.

Furthermore, the form and character of the local Cumbrian landscape is conveyed through the close study of rare mineral specimens. A selection of specimens from the Hamer and Shaw collections are seen to blur and shift – resurfacing from behind the digital screen. A Weird Aperture considers the objects in a state of flux within the frame and format of the digitisation project: reanimated with renewed value and importance.

In addition to observing the technical processes for creating these digital collections, A Weird Aperture considers digitisation as a system for revisiting and highlighting objects, histories and their collectors, from many different perspectives. The set-up of the digitisation studio acts as an apparatus for extracting buried histories and background contexts, which surface in the process.

In 2016 Kendal Museum will make the digital archive publicly accessible. Questions of copyright and image ownership arise, via Morrell’s appropriation of this digital content. Digital Imaging Scientist and local photographer Tony Riley provides a selection of still image content for the film, which Morrell examines and manipulates. What are the implications and potentials of sharing digital collections? What new interpretations could be extracted in the hands of each new user?

To accompany the video Morrell has created a printed booklet that highlights another area of the museum collections: archaeology. Museum Pictorial: Bronze mirror, incised, showcases and expands upon a selection of bronze mirrors which are on permanent display at Kendal Museum – displayed in separate display cases, are 3 ancient mirrors: 1 Egyptian, 1 Celtic and 1 Roman. Bronze mirror, incised, presents a selective overview of ancient mirror technology, placing the 3 Kendal mirrors in a broader context. Additional objects of note are selected by Kate Morrell, directed by the artists’ research at Kendal Museum and online digital collections, including The British Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The degraded surface of the ancient mirrors have absorbed and reflected the image of countless visitors to the museum. Prior to being displayed at Kendal Museum, the mirrors have been passed between many different hands: including museum curators, conservators and archaeologists, along with makers and users from past civilisations.

Punctuating the images, are short descriptions of incised, decorated mirrors. These texts illustrate artefacts from many different ages, making reference to the human figure, expressions and gestures. The descriptions evoke familiar images of human ancestry. The texts can also be interpreted as depictions of past users and makers: fleeting reflections captured by the artefacts.

Kate Morrell was born in Leeds and is currently based in London. She completed her MA at the Royal College of Art in 2010. Recent projects have been realised at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, OUTPOST, Norwich, Gallery II, University of Bradford, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow and The Armitt Museum & Library, Cumbria. In 2014 she was selected for the Jerwood Drawing Prize exhibition. Kate Morrell’s practice interlaces drawing, sculpture, digital video, book works and archival research.