The Whitaker is Rossendale’s Museum and Art Gallery. It was gifted by Richard Whitaker, along with its surrounding park, to the people of Rossendale in 1902. In 2019 it was awarded a Heritage Lottery Grant and is currently undergoing a major overhaul.
I’m working on a commission to transform the 19th century Drawing Room into a Cabinet of Curiosities Room, using rarely seen items from the museum’s collection. Cabinets of Curiosities, or wunderkammer, became popular in the Victorian period as a way to show off their collections. It was a time when museums were thriving, as collectors gathered items from all over the British Empire, and beyond, and wanted to show their collections of antiques, weapons, taxidermic specimens, and all sorts of items from other cultures to the public. As a result Cabinets of Curiosity were as much about show business as serious collecting.
Nevertheless, these rooms can be fascinating things in their own right. In this room the idea is to bring together items from The Whitaker’s collection with artist made objects that explore the fascinating overlap and mash-up of collectors, the slave-trade, textiles, taxidermy and Empire. It’s currently planned to open to the public at the end of July 2021.
In this project I’ve been supported by animator Kain Leo, light and sound technician Phil Milston, composer Chris Davies, alternative taxidermist Nicola Hebson, textile plants created by Kay Kennedy, and the staff of The Whitaker.