Collection Creatives

by Wes White, Library Development Officer

Collection Creatives is a new group meeting once a month at Canada Water Library, in the spirit of the Mystery Object Group.  At each meeting we hear the stories of a group of objects from the Cuming Collection from the Curator, Judy Aitken; with time given to respond creatively to the artifacts in writing, artwork, or however group members are inspired.

Tiger Skull

In our first meeting in September 2018, we focused on the skull of a tiger from the Royal Surrey Zoological Gardens  – as well as an image of a tiger at that zoo, being visited by Queen Victoria.

tiger 01tiger 02tiger 03tiger 04tiger 02 jean batestiger 03 maria sestini

tiger 04 alison clayburn

Egyptian amulets

In October, a selection of ancient Egyptian amulets was brought to the group, and we heard the stories of some of the beliefs associated with them, including the fact that some of them were believed to be the key to a safe passage to the afterlife, while others representing dangerous animals like snakes and hippos were also supposed to confer protection from those animals.

Scrimshaw

For the Illuminate Rotherhithe festival in November, we had a special evening session in which we learned about scrimshaw in the collection and the link to whaling hundreds of years ago in the local docks. Scrimshaw is whalebone which was often carved by sailors in quiet times between sightings of their prey. Herman Melville describes scrimshaw in Moby Dick as “Lively sketches of Whales and Whaling scenes, graven by the fishermen themselves on Sperm Whale teeth or ladies’ busks wrought out of the Right Whale bone and other Scrimshander articles.”

scrimshaw 04 wes violascrimshaw 01 janet dunning

Collection Creatives meets next at Canada Water Library on Tuesday 22 January  2019, where we’ll be learning about some of the objects in the collection related to smoking and drinking! The group, which is free to join, welcomes anyone in the local area seeking creative inspiration, from beginners to professionals. And as you see, if you take part, your work could feature on the Southwark Heritage blog!

‘Silent Raid’: The story of the lost houses of Burgess Park

by Sally Hogarth, Artist

Sally Hogarth Artwork cropped ‘Silent Raid’ is a series of house sculptures commissioned to commemorate the people and places impacted by a WWI Zeppelin bomb that landed on Calmington Road, which once stood where Burgess Park is located today.

Reminiscent of the terrace houses that were destroyed in the raid and of varying shades found in traditional red bricks, each house represents one of the lives lost in the incident, with each house; large, medium or small representing each man, woman and child.

Like the bands of colour used in mapping bomb damage, the shade of each house darkens with increased proximity to the bomb site. Every house is etched with a quote from documents and reports on the incident, both past and present. The art deco font used is inspired by the lettering on the original commemorative plaque. A new plaque can be found in Chumleigh Gardens in the centre of the park.

Calmington Road 1977 p9968

The process involved meeting with The Friends of Burgess Park and investigating their thorough research archive, including recorded photographs, social commentaries and interviews with survivors and families involved in the incident. Meeting with local historians at the Southwark Local History Library and Archives, I learned about the extent of the bomb damage that the area suffered along with news reports and archives of the unfortunate event.

World War I Zeppelin Raid 1917 edit p17257

Damage to houses in Albany Road, 1917

After spending time in the park itself, I came to appreciate that the area where the park stands today had once been covered by buildings and houses which were destroyed by war. The absence of their existence and public awareness of this in the present day created a powerful feeling I wanted to convey in the work.

Another important issue I sought to address is the home face of war. The nature of this project is unusual in that it commemorates a war incident that happened on home soil rather than far away battlefields. In an age of a mounting refugee crisis, highlighting the living memory of the ground beneath our own feet facing bombs and destruction becomes a significant message.

A lot of the anecdotes and memories of the event had domestic contexts, from toys found amongst the debris, to fish and chips and piano playing. The contrast between these everyday, familiar and comforting images and the violence that disrupted them feels like a poignant crux of the incident.

This has been reflected in the project with the houses having an almost dolls-house feel. The scale of the houses, particularly the smallest, means that they have a certain vulnerability about them whilst the impressions on their surface that suggest windows and doors have a more sinister feel. The research included news reports that recall ‘windows hurled headlong’ and striking images of door frames standing empty without their doors.

Researching into Zeppelins and their bombs led me to find strangely colourful diagrams of the rings of their destruction. Also the records of WWI and WWII building damage in the Lambeth Archives used a gradient of colour to plot the severity of damage. This, paired with the difficulty of plotting the exact spot where the bomb landed, led me to the concept of creating a trail and colour code to the houses. The houses are scattered in a debris-like manner across the park darkening in colour with proximity to where Calmington Road once stood.

bomb map

Extract from the London County Council’s WWII bomb damage map series showing gradations in colour.

In all, I sought to ignite visitors’ interest to uncover the story of Calmington Road and the streets that once stood beneath their feet. I also aimed to create an experience for regular park visitors to discover a new house or inscription with each visit, creating a story that unfolds and is passed on between locals. The houses become a prop or a prompt for a story, to start a conversation that gets passed between park visitors and as such the story of this incident will be passed on to future generations.