The Rossendale Museum adoption programme

The hidden collection at the Rossendale Museum is carefully tucked away in the attic, a treasure chest of exhibits that the general public rarely have the chance to enjoy. We were invited by Creativity Works to collaborate with the staff at the museum and develop two complementary projects that responded to this collection.

‘The Rossendale Museum adoption programme’ offered visitors to the shop of general interest the chance to adopt an exhibit from the hidden collection at the museum. Visitors were not told what this item would be, receiving only the code reference and an image of the exhibit in its packed, boxed or covered state. They were then invited to a 10-minute private viewing at the museum, during which the museum curator introduced them to their new partner-exhibit, a personal treasure that is only seen by the privileged few.

Viewings took place in the evening outside usual opening hours. Following a short introduction, participants entered the attic, where they were guided to their treasure. Each adoptee received a certificate, and will soon be recognised on an official plaque at the museum.

This treasure would then be unpacked and presented to the adoptee, who is told as much as possible regarding the history and story behind this particular artefact. Each presentation will last approximately 10 minutes.

In many ways a museum is already a collection of adopted goods. The adoption programme was a symbolic gesture that gave part of this collection, and a wealth of knowledge, back to the people of Rossendale. Given how these items, and the motivation behind their inclusion in such a museum, can help us understand a societies values, philosophies and way of life at different points throughout history, perhaps we are also suggesting that some of these treasures can be seen as part of one’s family; that they help us understand who we are, and where we come from.

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Susanne Kudielka and Kaspar Wimberley work internationally as interventionists and performance researchers specialising in site-specific and site-responsive art, alternative strategies for audience interaction and new forms of artistic collaboration.

The artistic process usually begins with a given site, and a process of observation and dialogue that analyses, and eventually responds, to the architectural, socio-political, geographical, mythological, connotative and historical narratives that can be found there.

Projects are quietly subversive, playfully readjusting the narrative and appreciation of a particular activity or a given site. The working process often involves those that live in an area, and aims to be accessible and relevant.

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