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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

My museum fear: Life-size dummies in store

Here at the Ministry we are trying to change the way that people think about museums and museum people. That includes dispelling stereotypes like we are all old white men or that objects come to life in the store rooms and chase us around. Well, not wanting to set back the dialogue but my #museumfear definitely has to be life-sized mannequins in stores.

Pilot mannequin is coming
to get YOU!
I know it sounds ridiculous. What do I think is going tohappen? I’ll tell you. I think they are going to come to life and kill me.Imagine this scenario which often faces those working in museum stores:

You go down into the basement stores alone. You unlock the heavy metal doors which swing shut securely behind you. In a miniature panic you try and turn the lights on before you are enclosed in darkness. The lights flicker on slowly to reveal an enormous store full of racking and free standing objects. The only sound you can hear is the distant murmur of water pipes. And then out of the corner of your eye, casting a shadow in between the shelves is the profile of an unidentified person. You know it can’t be another member of staff, we are far and few between in the stores. The answers are either: thief, murderer, or mannequin in the store. So about 2/3 of the time you are going to need to runaway.

Somehow even when I realise that I am not about to be attacked and it’s just a dummy from an old display, I still eye them very suspiciously. Sitting there quietly while I work. What are they thinking about?Did their eyes just move? You can imagine on the way out I practically run from the light-switch to the door.
Dummies in the London Transport Museum stores
plot their revenge

This is not to unfairly discriminate against wax models or mannequins. In displays I absolutely love them. Figures dressed up in old timey outfits re-enacting scenes from history, I love it! A very under-rated museum display technique I’d say. An oldie but a goodie. This is possibly because the mannequins are usually behind glass i.e. they are trapped and cannot come afterme.

This woman doesn't seem too scared with glass
separating here and this pile of scary taxidermy

I am not ashamed of my #museumfear. I think it is a validone many museum people probably share but don’t like to talk about. I also am not a huge fan of taxidermy in storage, but that’s a story for another time…

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