Dodo Roadshow: The Whitworth

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To mark our selection as a Finalist in the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015 we’re embarking on a unique and ambitious tour of the country – the Dodo Roadshow.

Beginning at Land’s End on 8 June and concluding in John O’Groats one week later, the famous Oxford Dodo will visit more than 20 museums and galleries along the way. At each stop the Dodo will ‘interview’ one of the venue’s star objects.

The Whitworth: The Ancient of Days

So, tell me about yourself – who are you and where do you come from?

I’m The Ancient of Days, a watercolour at the Whitworth in Manchester. I was made by the great artist, poet and visionary William Blake in 1827.

What is it that makes you so special?

I was the last work of art that Blake made before he died. When he finished painting me he said, “There, that will do! I cannot mend it.” I also recently featured in a new work of art by the acclaimed artist, Cornelia Parker. With the help of the University of Manchester Nobel physicist Kostya Novoselov, she made a firework display called “Blakean Abstract” which was a pyrotechnical portrait of me.

Who looks after you in this place?

A lot of people. Curators show me to visitors in exhibitions and special viewings; conservators make me look my best; Visitor Assistants point me out to the public and keep me safe; and Learning staff show me to schoolchildren.

Do you remember life before the museum?

Yes, I was owned by the man who founded The Guardian newspaper, John Edward Taylor. He gave me to the gallery in 1892.

What does the future hold for you?

I travel internationally quite a lot as people all over the world want to see me, so more of that I expect, but I always enjoy coming home, back to the Whitworth.

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Dodo Roadshow: Yorkshire Sculpture Park

James Turrell, Deer Shelter Skyspace, 2006. An Art Fund Commission. Courtesy the artist. Photo Jonty Wilde To mark our selection as a Finalist in the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015 we’re embarking on a unique and ambitious tour of the country – the Dodo Roadshow.

Beginning at Land’s End on 8 June and concluding in John O’Groats one week later, the famous Oxford Dodo will visit more than 20 museums and galleries along the way. At each stop the Dodo will ‘interview’ one of the venue’s star objects.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park: Skyspace

So, tell me about yourself – who are you and where do you come from?

I am the Deer Shelter Skyspace in the grounds of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I was created by American artist James Turrell within the 18th century Grade II listed building, the Deer Shelter, in 2006. I am a large chamber within the existing Deer Shelter structure with an aperture in my roof open to the elements. This opening creates a frame for the sky to be viewed through. Loving the Yorkshire landscape, the artist first proposed this idea in 1993 but it was only following a commission by the Art Fund that I was made possible.

What is it that makes you so special?

Created specifically for Yorkshire Sculpture Park, I do not alter the landscape but I create a tranquil environment for visitors to contemplate and enjoy the changing light of the Yorkshire sky. Turrell is known for manipulating light and is interested in how viewers perceive the light in different ways. Here, light is used as a medium for bringing the sky closer to viewers and to fill the space around them. The quality of light and feeling within me change with the seasons and weather so every visit can be a different experience.

Who looks after you in this place?

The Curatorial team, front of house staff and a team of Sculpture Technicians take care of me. I am pretty low maintenance but sometimes a little help is needed as I am always open to the elements.

Do you remember life before the museum?

For me, there was no life before YSP. James Turrell has created other skyspaces across the world, each one unique and specific to their location. I was designed and made just the way I am and permanent here at YSP.

What does the future hold for you?

I will continue to be a place for contemplation in the changing landscape here and I hope visitors will continue to enjoy stopping by Skyspace.

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Dodo Roadshow: Stoke Museums

To mark our selection as a Finalist in the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015 we’re embarking on a unique and ambitious tour of the country – the Dodo Roadshow.

Beginning at Land’s End on 8 June and concluding in John O’Groats one week later, the famous Oxford Dodo will visit more than 20 museums and galleries along the way. At each stop the Dodo will ‘interview’ one of the venue’s star objects.

Potteries Museum & Art Gallery: Ozzy

  So, tell me about yourself – who are you and where do you come from?
Whooo am I? I’m Ozzy, the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery’s famous slipware owl. I was made in Staffordshire around in the late 17th century, about 350 years ago – just as you were becoming extinct. Unfortunately I can’t tell you who made me – it was so long ago that I’ve forgotten and sadly he didn’t leave his signature or maker’s mark on me so no one knows now. I might look like an owl but I’ll let you into a secret – I’m actually a jug. Look round the back and you’ll see my handle. My head lifts off – but very carefully if you please – and then it becomes the cup for you to drink out of. Mind you, it’s been a long time since anyone had a drink out of me!

What is it that makes you so special?
I’m one of only a very few owl jugs made of slip-decorated earthenware to survive from the 17th century. I’m made of local red clay and my surface has been decorated by swirling together three colours of clay to give the effect of feathers. I was then glazed and fired. It took a really experienced and skilled workman to make me and I was expensive when I was made – that’s why I’ve survived. I wasn’t used every day like common pieces of pottery. I was cherished and only used for special occasions. For most of my life I’ve been on display – as I am today.

Who looks after you in this place?
So many people look after me. The curators put me on display and wrote a nice little label to tell everyone about me. The security staff patrol the galleries and make sure I’m safe and the cleaning staff make sure any finger marks are cleaned off my case every day. And of course my public visit me. They come from all over the world – I’m a celebrity you know.

Do you remember life before the museum?
Well, it’s been a long life and some of it’s a bit vague now, but I’ll never forget how I came back to Stoke in 1990. I’d been living on a mantelpiece a long way from here for quite a while when my owner put me in a box a carried me off to the Antiques Roadshow. It was all dark until a charming gentleman called Henry Sandon lifted me out. He was so excited to see me that everyone crowded around and suddenly I was being filmed for TV! The next thing I knew was that I was in a London auction house. I was a bit worried as I didn’t know where I would end up, but this museum bought me (with help from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, The Art Fund and The Friends of the Potteries Museums) and I’ve been here ever since.

What does the future hold for you?
Life as a celebrity is very busy. Mr Sandon comes regularly to see me – he always says I’m his favourite find from the Antiques Roadshow. Lots of other TV companies have filmed me and I’ve been on the radio too. I’m the best-known piece of pottery in the Museum – and they’ve got over 40,000 pieces so it’s quite a responsibility. I have my own case at the start of the ceramics gallery and when the curators do tours they always start with me so I get to see lots and lots of visitors. People always want to hear about my life and about the pottery industry here and how I came back to Stoke. Some of them take me home as well – I’m a postcard in the shop.

I wish I could remember who made me – he’d be so pleased to think of how my career’s turned out…


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Dodo Roadshow: Derby Museum and Art Gallery

 

To mark our selection as a Finalist in the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015 we’re embarking on a unique and ambitious tour of the country – the Dodo Roadshow.

Beginning at Land’s End on 8 June and concluding in John O’Groats one week later, the famous Oxford Dodo will visit more than 20 museums and galleries along the way. At each stop the Dodo will ‘interview’ one of the venue’s star objects.

Derby Museum: ‘The Alchymist’

So, tell me about yourself – who are you and where do you come from?
I’m Joseph Wright of Derby’s famous painting of an ‘Alchymist’. I have a very long title “The Alchymist, in Search of the Philosopher’s Stone, Discovers Phosphorus, and prays for the successful Conclusion of his operation, as was the custom of the Ancient Chymical Astrologers” that very few people can remember. Painted in 1771, I came to the Derby Art Gallery after they launched a public campaign to buy me in 1883 and the people of Derby raised the money for me to take pride of place in the gallery where I still live.

What is it that makes you so special?
Paintings that show alchemists in a good light are rare – many pictures of alchemists poked fun, but Wright’s is more respectful. I show that sometimes it is possible to discover something by accident. As I search for the magic ingredient to turn base metal into gold I find phosphorus. Only the most forward thinking and controversial philosophers believed it was possible to discover things by accident when I was painted.

Who looks after you in this place?
My guardian is the Senior Curator of Art, Lucy Bamford. She makes sure that I am cared for and studied so that I am better understood in the future.

Do you remember life before the museum?
I was painted in 1771 but no one bought me. Joseph Wright took me to Italy to try to sell me there but I was still in his studio when he added to me in 1795 and remained there until he died. I was never really loved until I came here.

What does the future hold for you?
I have never been so happy as in 2011, when Derby Museums included me as part of the collection that Arts Council England recognised as being of national importance. Since then the collection has been redisplayed and Joseph Wright’s drawings like the sketch of me are available in a study room. I’m now planning to be part of a big touring exhibition with lots of other paintings by Wright and will hopefully travel all the way to America in a few years time.

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Dodo Roadshow: Compton Verney

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To mark our selection as a Finalist in the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015 we’re embarking on a unique and ambitious tour of the country – the Dodo Roadshow.

Beginning at Land’s End on 8 June and concluding in John O’Groats one week later, the famous Oxford Dodo will visit more than 20 museums and galleries along the way. At each stop the Dodo will ‘interview’ one of the venue’s star objects.

Compton Verney: Cedar of Lebanon

So, tell me about yourself – who are you and where do you come from?
I am a Cedar tree, known botanically as a Cedrus libani. My parents come from the Lebanon.

What is it that makes you so special?
I was planted here at Compton Verney when the famous gardener Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown redesigned the garden nearly 250 years ago.

Who looks after you in this place?
I’m looked after by a collection of experts, brought together by Head of Landscape and Gardens, Gary Webb.

Do you remember life before the museum?
I have enjoyed much care and attention over the decades, but some of my larger branches have been broken by storms. I still remember when the Verney family used to play beneath my spreading evergreen branches though; they are my fondest moments.

What does the future hold for you?
The future looks much brighter following my root aeration last summer, and of course the feed of seaweed; my leaves are looking greener already! I’m in good hands of course and even have a new rope barrier so my delicate roots aren’t squashed by the many visitors to Compton Verney.

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Dodo Roadshow: Black Country Living Museum

Steam hammer

To mark our selection as a Finalist in the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015 we’re embarking on a unique and ambitious tour of the country – the Dodo Roadshow.

Beginning at Land’s End on 8 June and concluding in John O’Groats one week later, the famous Oxford Dodo will visit more than 20 museums and galleries along the way. At each stop the Dodo will ‘interview’ one of the venue’s star objects.

Black Country Living Museum: Steam Hammer

So, tell me about yourself – who are you and where do you come from?
Like you Mr Dodo I’m one of the last of my kind. I’m the steam hammer from Cradley Heath Anchor Forge. I was the last one to operate in the Black Country. You wouldn’t think it, but for a machine working so far from the sea, I helped make chains and anchors for some fine ships, and for the Royal Navy because me and my makers had the best skills with wrought iron.

What is it that makes you so special?
I combine power with precision. I could delicately crack you an egg or shape a ton of hot metal with a blow of my mighty hammer. In my prime I could do the work of ten men and never get tired thanks to my steam powered piston. I can make your whole house shake.

Who looks after you in this place?
I’m looked after by John Beckerson and his team of curators who manage the museum collections. I think I am one of their favourites.

Do you remember life before the museum?
Of course! Industrial objects like me may not say much: but we have long memories. I can remember busy days working with my men in all weathers in the open-sided forge, hammering away until the wrought iron I needed stopped being made. Then I had no more work to do and I came here for retirement in 1979 after 140 years of anchor making.

What does the future hold for you?
Well I’m not in steam at the moment because I have a few issues with my boiler – so what I would really like to do is to get back into full working order so that museum visitors can enjoy my mighty power. I have been talking to my curators and my fundraising colleagues about that. In the meantime I like warm dry weather that doesn’t make me rust, when I can watch the boats on the canal dock and keep an eye on my next-door neighbour the steel rolling mill. The chain making behind me is nice, it reminds me of old times – it’s grand to see hot metal being worked.

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