I really enjoyed our trip to the MLA so that I could get to grips with some of the issues surrounding archives. It was not as dry as I expected. The element of it that really interested me was when our teacher started telling us what to watch out for when letting people use archives. There were things I expected; people leaning on documents while eating sandwiches but what surprised me was that some people insert their own documents into archives. They do this to falsify history. Putting images of art works into catalogues to create a false provenance. I found this amusing because this is exactly what we are about to do in the Garman Ryan collection with our forgetful Lady Garman treasure hunt.
There is no way of telling if Kathleen Garman, Lady Epstein, was forgetful but she was certainly concerned that she could lose her address book. Inspired by the phrase ‘please return to Lady Epstein’ in her address book, Neil and I have littered Walsall with the contents of a fictional Lady Epstein Handbag.
If you find one of these objects please return it to Lady Garman, care of The New Art Gallery Walsall, and in return we will give you a personal tour of the Garman Ryan Collection and you will receive a free gift from the museum. In addition your returned object will form part of the new Garman Ryan Bob and Roberta index in the collection to be shown with all the other returned items in 2010. Happy Hunting.
We also made a film skilfully shot and edited by Neil of me as Lady Epstein dropping items out of my handbag. This was obviously a playful and irreverent homage to Kathleen Garman. However when I wore the costume which we had hastily devised I felt an awesome responsibility inhabiting the role. How did she walk? What kind of presence did she have? As we rifle through the papers relating to Kathleen it becomes clear she was a complex and not immediately likeable person. The last chapter in Cressida Connolly’s carefully researched book concerning the deaths of her children Ester and Theo makes her seem austere and distant. What do you think Neil will we find anything in the Archive to rehabilitate her in the light of more modern approaches to parenting?