Pandemic Pondering #240

@theoldmortuary has been involved with a new museum and art gallery in Plymouth for the last couple of years. Until recently as a hard hat tour guide of the building site. A job that involved wearing shared PPE, hard hat, steel toe capped boots, fluorescent waistcoat and rubberised gloves to enable me to show groups of people around the museum site as it was being built.  Tours stopped once the museum was ready for its internal fit out and the return of exhibits to the new space. Then Covid-19 struck and everything was delayed.

Yesterday the museum finally threw it’s doors open to the public albeit in a more controlled, socially distanced way than anyone had planned..

Staff and volunteers have had a few days of soft openings with restricted numbers of visitors to practice on.

Photographs were and always will be allowed but publishing them on social media, blogs etc was banned until the first full day of opening to the public. Rather than bombard you with many glimpses of the museum I will share pictures as I learn my way around the museum. I’ve done two shifts so far in the same space. St Lukes Contemporary Art Space.

The new fused glass window by Leonor Antunes is the first thing that dazzles visitors.

As the light outside changes the mood of the gallery alters significantly. Within St Luke’s there is an installation by the same artist, it is fascinating and relevant to Plymouth it deserves its own blog at a later time.

The link below is a positive piece of publicity that explains, far better than I can, the whole Box experience.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/sep/22/new-plymouth-museum-and-art-gallery-opens-with-mayflower-and-mammoths

And here a link to a less positive article.

://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/sep/22/the-box-plymouth-gallery-treasures?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

I will spend many hours in The Box during the current Pandemic focussing on just one exhibit at a time will be an intriguing discipline.

Pandemic Pondering #224

The Mewstone, Wembury.

A vision of the Mewstone means that @theoldmortuary it is dog grooming day. Now we are addicted to sea swimming it no longer means coastal path walks and coffee. It means 2 hours of swimming without dogs waiting not so patiently for us on the beach. Serendipity is a funny thing, when I was doing training at The Box, mentioned in Pandemic Pondering #220 I met a woman who had lived close to us in London, we discovered this when she commented on my tote bag.

East Dulwich Tote Bag

In London we lived 2 miles apart, in Devon/ Cornwall 13 miles divides us.
We met for the first time last Thursday and today by complete co incidence we sat next to each other on the beach at Wembury. Tomorrow despite neither of us wishing to work at The Box on a Tuesday we find ourselves both rota’d to do our first days work, in the new museum and art gallery, as you read this blog. It seems we were destined to meet somehow. Luckily neither of us were hiding behind the ubiquitous British windbreak. Less about protecting from the wind and more about defining territory I often think.

Serendipity is a wonderful thing.

Pandemic Pondering #220

Thinking outside the Box.

Today was filled with training at The Box. Internal photos are top secret until the new gallery/museum/cultural centre opens properly to the public. Where once there was a building site there is now a nearly ready gallery, museum and archive.

Now the building is all fitted out the room plans and layout make much more sense than they did in the days of hard hat tours, and wearing comfy shoes was so much more pleasant today than steel toe capped wellies of my previous visits.

What is The Box?

It is a museum, gallery, and archive in the centre of Plymouth, and is the biggest cultural initiative in the U.K to be opened in this memorable year of 2020. Covid-19 restrictions have caused the opening to be delayed and guest numbers will be restricted for the foreseeable future.

The original City Museum and Art Gallery has been extended and now it hi incorporates the old City Library. Both of these historic Plymouth buildings have a shining ‘ Box’ behind and above them. The eponymous box houses the Archives and gracefully imposes itself on the city skyline above the new main entrance. Outside the main entrance there is a new car-free, paved Plaza that will be the location of outdoor events in the future but also links the new Contemporary Art space that was formerly St Luke’s Church.

While we are only able to think outside of the box, I wonder what my fellow ‘word nerds’ think about this foundation stone?

Proper job or not proper job? *

* ‘Proper job’ in this part of the country is a term of praise, sometimes extended to ” Proper job, ‘ansome’

It’s not every day one of these drops into your hands.

I could have had a glove stretcher, a warming plate, a penny lick. What I actually got was the cheeky Coca de Mer.

Yesterday I was at an event hosted by The Box, the soon to be open contemporary cultural space in Plymouth.
https://www.theboxplymouth.com/

I was handed a mystery object to talk about.

The Coco De Mer , a giant seed pod from the Seychelles was not unknown to me, there is one growing a tree at the Eden Project and there is a shop of the same name just North of Covent Garden
https://www.edenproject.com/
https://www.coco-de-mer.com/

The seed is known for its erotic appearance, something that has hastened the trees demise in its native Seychelles.

It’s name means Coconut of the Sea, a name given erroneously because floating seeds were found in the seas of the Indian Ocean and were believed to come from underwater palm trees. In fact they had dropped into the sea and sunk because of their immense weight , only floating to the surface when the decay process made gasses and gave them bouyancy.

The Box specimen is blackened and has a glossy finish with a hole drilled into it. It was very tactile, not particularly heavy. It has obvious visual female charms but the surprise was how calming it was resting on my lap. The curves just nicely fill your hands and the smooth surface of the Plymouth specimen encourages fingers to make journeys around its form.

The tree is endangered because it’s seeds are the way they are and surrounded by erotic folklore. They are protected by law in the Seychelles, but can be sold in a more controlled way to tourists and institutions. Historically gathered examples are sold for massive prices.

©ebay

Since meeting the Plymouth Coco de Mer, yesterday, I’ve read a bit more about it on another blog site, a good read if you are interested.
https://seychild.wordpress.com/2016/11/08/coco-de-mer-symbol-of-seychelles-mystery-of-the-garden-of-eden-explained/amp/

Libraries

Plymouth blue sky today, no filters.

Plymouth library, museum and art gallery all closed some time ago.

The site is being redeveloped to become The Box, a museum, gallery and cultural space . I’ve really missed being able to use the old facilities and have volunteered at the building site doing Hard Hat Tours as a way of being involved.
https://plymhearts.org/thebox/

Until today I hadn’t used the library in its new location. Primarily because I loved the old building and the new one, to be honest, is not charismatic. Plymouth deserves something glorious like Birmingham. In our dreams…

Libraries are not just about buildings and books.

theoldmortuary needed to find out the location of a deceased relations childhood address. We had tried all sorts of searches on-line line with no success. The library was our next choice and we arrived today with only scant information. The staff at the library were brilliant trying all sorts of searches. Eventually a pre war register of Plymouth inhabitants gave us the breakthrough we needed. Another member of staff delved into Cencus archives to double check the findings. After that we took a drive and found a cottage hidden from view up an alley and some steps. We would never have located it without the diligence of the library staff.
https://www.plymouth.gov.uk/libraries

Libraries are about friendly, knowledgable staff. Plymouth Central Library was very good to us.

Thankyou

Plymouth, quietly, having a moment.

A Plymouth Mackerel- Juliet CornellPlymouth was quietly having a bit of a moment in the National Media this week. Firstly the Eddystone Lighthouse was a google doodle. Strangely to mark its 321st anniversary of the first time it was lit.https://www.google.com/doodles/321st-anniversary-of-the-first-lighting-of-eddystone-lighthouseThen The Guardian ran an article about the city centre being designated as a conservation area.https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/nov/16/plymouth-city-centre-designated-conservation-area?CMP=share_btn_linkThis could be a coincidence or a sign that the City PR team are ramping up the pressure now Mayflower 400 is just edging into view. Commemorating a 400 year shared history with what is now the USA and the sailing of the Mayflower , Mayflower 400 is a multi location celebration. Plymouth was the port the Mayflower successfully set sail from to reach America.https://www.mayflower400uk.org/2020 also sees the opening of The Box, a long awaited reincarnation of the Museum and Art gallery. Reimagined and re-engineered to bring contemporary, world class exhibition space to the West Country.A Hard-Hat tour of The Boxhttps://plymhearts.org/thebox/An earlier article in the Guardian puts into perspective the struggle the city is overcoming to grab some headlines. The actual amount of war time damage was so shrouded in secrecy that it is rarely mentioned in the way London or Coventry are. Without proper mention of the damage it is difficult to then applaud the regeneration.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/11/post-industrial-plymouth-business-social-enterprise?CMP=share_btn_linkIt’s good to see Plymouth getting some well deserved positive press.Time Out , the London listings magazine is even getting in on the Plymouth Love, featuring Illuminate as a ” Great Escape”