Fires of Prometheus

My museum


During my studies for an MA in Historical Archaeology I realised, not very originally, that each of us is defined partially by the material culture we gather around us during our lives, what I came, in my subsequent PhD research, to call "object worlds".. I wrote about the way that people in the recent past displayed their status, tastes and other aspects of their personalities on their mantelpieces, shelves and dressers. Stripped of materiality, despite the anti-consumerist leanings of many over the last few centuries, we are reduced to anonimity, which of course is why taking away someone's possessions can be used as punishment, why robbery, even without violence, is seen as psychological wounding, and why those faiths that teach positive non-materialism stress a lack of self.

I began to look at my own collection of material culture, and realised that I was surrounded by things none of which are intrinsically valuable, but which I regard as an external manifestation of me.

Every life is a story made up of chapters, some of which might be unhappy but hopefully some (most?) of which will be filled with adventure, activity, fun, fulfillment, challenges overcome, joys, notable events, and much else. Perhaps to ourselves, our lives might seem mundane and prosaic when compared to those of the celebrities and elites, but my aim here is to suggest that everyone's lives are full of interest and value, and that these can result in the acquisition of things that tell interesting and valuable stories.

It might seem big-headed or self-important to create a museum of one's own life, yet surely those who imply that our individual material traces are less important than those of elites or those of other cultures or other times are the ones who are displaying arrogance, snobbery or whatever. If I believe in "digging where I stand" I have to include my own material culture because it reflects, archaeologically, not only the events of my life but also my tastes (doubtful though they might be), my interests, my personality and so on.

The lives of "ordinary" people are important. Archaeologists, historians and therefore the general public, have often undervalued the material cultures of the comman man and woman. Partly this is deliberate - a people in awe of elites and rulers is a subdued one. If every one of us realised our importance we would be far more demanding. That's why, I think, "History is Dangerous" in Lindqvist's words, not to us but to those who wish to rule or oppress us. It may also be why we are encouraged to focus not on yesterday but on a distant, misty past that is easier to dismiss or romanticise.

Anyway, this is my museum. As a welcome visitor you can make of it what you will. It will expand as I add more artefacts and as my life continues along its path(s)!

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Last updated: 1st April 2018
Gallery 1: The early years | GO |
A peripetitic childhood; England, Aden, Australia
Gallery 2: The 1960s | GO |
Secondary school, dicovering archaeology, university
Gallery 3: Archaeology | GO |
From Dover, along Hadrian's Wall to Wales
Gallery 4: Canada and a seven month road trip | GO |
A new life in British Columbia
Gallery 5: The recent past, and the recent present | GO |
Second childhood; MA and PhD
Gallery 6: Photography | GO |
A personal exploration of the image

A life in material culture

This is a continuing project, just begun in January 2018, that attempts to present a series of objects that reflect and represent my life (so far). It is arranged in chronological order, beginning 70 years ago in the year of my birth. I'm trying to share the importance of seemingly prosaic material culture in our understanding of the recent past, with the aim of applying what I learn to the histories of other lives.

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Plot 45

For six years, 2006-2012, I cultivated an allotment in Whitemoor, Nottingham. Each year, when I turned over the vegetable garden's soil, I picked up tiny fragments of pottery. I analysed what I found for my MA course.

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Ty Coch

Since 2008 I have been volunteering with the Waterway Recovery Group on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, north of Newport. The restoration of this disused stretch of canal disturbed the surrounding soils, and I picked up many sherds of nineteenth century pottery. In recent years this informal approach has evolved into an archaeological project.

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Lace machines

Nottingham Industrial Museum has a small collection of glass negatives, most of which record the manufacture of lace making machines. I volunteered to scan these, and this is what I found.

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I have always been fascinated by miniaturisation and miniatures. Eventually this resulted in an MA dissertation — The Historical Archaeology and Miniatures — and more recently a PhD thesis - Objects of Delight.

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Lost and Found

In 2014 I took part in a project to examine the concepts of lost and found in art, photography and archaeology. The end results were an exhibition and a publication.

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