Earlier this week on my way in to work I was faced with a big red bus. Nothing unusual there London is full of them. However this one was parked in the main quad of UCL right in front of the iconic (to past students at least) dome. So what is a big red bus doing in the middle of UCL? Goodness only knows I thought, but I took a picture of it none the less ( ive only been in London a couple of weeks, I’m still in tourist mode or just plain snap happy but stupidly don’t have the download usb cable). It wasn’t until later that I realised that it wasn’t just a bus. It was a bus with interesting billboards on it. Where you would normally see ‘zac effron’ or whatever the latest film poster is, there were museum objects and the destination of the bus was entitled ‘object retrieval’. I was still baffled, so I googled it and came up with this… http://www.objectretrieval.com/
So object retrieval is an interactive exhibition open to the public, a team of researchers from UCL will be exploring a ‘mysterious object’ from any and all routes (routes…bus.. get it?) – be it art, archaeology, biology or chemistry – so utilizing all avenues to gain information about an object from the UCL museum collections to try and gain a coherent interpretation of its past identity, biography, use.
First and foremost, it’s a really interesting attempt to look at single objects history using different means. So its likely to achieve a more rounded interpretation. Its also a good hook, a rather large London bus has been turned into a lab! Cool. But, and it’s a big but. I work at UCL and I had to google it, as I had no idea what it was about. Is that a good thing? Surely some marketing or something (and I mean more then a plain text PR blurb on the UCL website) should of gone out to gather interest? The website states its ‘It is open and free for everyone.’ But is it really? Its in the middle of UCL. who apart from students and staff at the university are going to be able to access it? How is it open to everyone, if its already in an inherently closed space? Would it not have been more inclusive if the big red bus was in a more open, welcoming and to be perfectly honest, in a place where normal people hang out? Like a tourist spot Trafalgar square for example, or even more down to earth a supermarket carpark? Ok so fair enough its using academics from the uni and it’s a uni artifact that’s being investigated, but surely letting people actually know about it would be a better way of it being ‘open and free’ ? hmm. I mean its great that UCL museums are actively trying to engage with the public, and maybe its just a blatent attempt to get more students to go and visit the UCL collections (when I was a student here I shamefully admit that I didn’t go to the museums on campus) I wonder how its actually going to pan out. I mean the website looks cool and is encouraging participation, but will anyone actually do it? It remains to be seen.
but if you do want to come and check it out go ahead its on from today the 15 – 21 October 2009
UCL, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT
2 thoughts on “object retrieval: are you really the route master??”
Hi I am the curator of this and I’m glad you are enjoying the project. A very quick response however just to say that it’s a shame you’ve missed the the whole press campaign including a full preview in this week’s Timeout. Not to mention the 65000 emails we’ve sent out. Anyway, do join in, as it’s your participation that will really make this project.
Hi Simon, thanks for the comment and good luck with the project! i recieved the email after i posted this, so my comment about lack of marketing has less omph. It does look like a really good project,a brilliant and engaging idea. my point was more that it’s location is highly suited for the ucl community, which is great and i hope staff and students come in droves to participate. But does that mean it is likely to ailenate other potential audiences?