The Museum Of
The Museum Of was a series of five alternative temporary museums based in The Bargehouse, a derelict warehouse building on London’s South Bank. The project aimed to explore and question the cultural space of the museum and put the visitor at the heart of the experience through participation and interaction.
The Museum Of was also a forum for debate intended to shape and inform the future of the building as a museum of the River Thames. It commissioned new work from hundreds of artists and performers, and created unique possibilities for collaboration and experiment.
Between 1998 and 2001 The Museum Of transformed a derelict building into a thriving arts space attracting critical acclaim and a huge international audience. The Museum Of was covered extensively in the press with coverage from the Financial Times and the Today Programme to Blue Peter and the New York Times.
Giles Waterfield, The Art Newspaper
“The Museum Of is extraordinary for its humorous non-judgemental questioning of the nature of museums and… is one of the most remarkable things the South Bank has to offer.”
What Museum Do You Wish Existed?
Before The Museum Of opened we asked people: What Museum Do You Wish Existed? We projected the responses onto the entrance of the building in the lead up to the launch.
Nine muses take their seats on the side of the Bargehouse
The Museum Of was opened in September 1998 by Tony Benn. In an aerial performance by Scarabeus the nine muses took their seats 30ft up on the side of the building heralding the launch of this new museum. Featured in The Guardian
– Exhibition One –
The Museum Of Collectors
Who collects? What do people collect? And why? Traditional museums house collections, The Museum Of Collectors celebrated 42 local collectors and their collections. Displayed in innovative ways the collections were shown together with a portrait and interview with each collector, giving an insight into the psychology of collecting.
A Collection of Kinder Egg Toys
A collection of cheesy record covers
Gareth Miles, sweet collector
Collections included electrical insulators, trolls, snails, noisy toys, tangerine wrappers, Dolly Parton memorabilia, robots and sweets. Visitors were also invited to contribute to a new collection by leaving behind an object or thought on our Collectors’ Wall.
Collections of drinks cans, buttons, model houses, toast racks and rejection letters
The Collector's Wall
– Exhibition Two –
The Museum Of Me
If you had to make a museum of yourself, what would you put in it and what would you leave out? How do you see yourself and how do you want to be seen by others? Museums often represent national identity. The Museum Of Me invited visitors to explore and display their personal identity.
The Museum Of Me combined art that explores ‘self’ with an invitation to record and display aspects of you as you travelled through the exhibition, from facts about yourself to your dreams, your secrets and your body. Visitors filled their own ‘Me’ can and handed them in to the Museum Of Me archive at the end of the exhibition. The 30,000 individual exhibits are now sealed in cans and stored in London’s Metropolitan Archives as time capsules.
The Museum Of Me archive
We asked people to leave behind their dreams and their secrets, to contribute to a personal diary, to make a wish, record themselves addressing the world for a minute and to document when they were born, their height and what their clothes say about them.
– Exhibition Three –
The Museum Of Emotions
Love, Hate, Fear, Joy, Boredom, Panic, Jealousy. We all feel, but where and how do we express our emotions? Traditional museums house valuable objects. Are emotions valuable? Can we objectify them? Are feelings important cultural artefacts and is there a place for feeling within the walls of a museum? The Museum Of Emotions invited ten artists to create interactive installations, each exploring a particular emotion.
Exhibits included a fear room (at the dentist’s), a phobia cabinet, a love room, a crying room for bottling your tears, a frustration side show and a lust room – all giving visitors a chance to feel and express themselves within the walls of a museum. It opened on Valentine’s Day with a participatory performance by 60 volunteers of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet on the the balconies and public spaces of the Oxo Tower.
30 Romeos woo 30 Juliets
Send the ball into clown's mouth: Room of Frustration
Room of Love
Room of Joy
Leave your tears in The Crying Room
– Exhibition Four –
The Museum Of the Unknown
Traditional museums present accepted or ‘known’ versions of history or culture. What don’t we know? How can we prove or disprove the doubts that intrigue us, represent our past or predict the future? And do we want to? The Museum Of the Unknown was an exploration and celebration of the things we don’t know, from ghost photography, crop circles and the paranormal to prediction of financial markets and large photographic portraits of the skulls of different faith leaders. We borrowed unknown artefacts from the collections of other London museums and visitors were invited to become archivists and suggest their use, date and provenance.
Visitors were also invited to photograph unknown parts of themselves in the skinstrip booth and to add to a wall of keys by answering the question What Great Unknown Would You Like to Know? As part of The Museum Of the Unknown Dr Richard Wiseman ran the world’s biggest ESP experiment.
The Unknown Archive, Skinstrip, Blue Plaques (marking unknown events) and Skull Portraits of Religious Leaders
– Exhibition Five –
The Museum Of the River Thames
The River Thames is the largest public space in London. It is a place of work, a source of inspiration, a means of transport, a place for reflection and an unpredictable waterway with a rich history that divides and defines the city. Beyond the capital the river carries many stories from its source to the sea. The Museum Of the River Thames commissioned artists to explore the whole river, ran participatory workshops to build a fantastical boat, organised walks along London’s hidden rivers, and gave visitors an opportunity to play water music, view films, row a boat down the river, and suggest alternative uses for the huge space that the river occupies.
Row down the River and River Chimes
High tide/ low tide
Performances and Events
We ran a programme of events and performances and a monthly pop-up bar – Gladys McPhee’s Drinking Emporium throughout the duration of The Museum Of. Performers included: Primitive Science, Shunt, Forced Entertainment, Scarabeus, The World Famous, The Place, Wimbledon School of Art, Crazy Horse Theatre Company and many more.
Icarus Falling, Primitive Science
Commissioned by Coin Street Community Builders, Communication and 3D Design by thomas.matthews, Design by Cathy Wren, Research by Lucy Norris, Associate Director Pippa Bailey. Artists: Completely Naked, Rob Irving, Orit Azaz, The World Famous, Tim Hunkin, Sarah Angliss, Susan Grange-Bennet, Marcus Tate, Tim Mitchell, Platform, Alex de Cadenet, Hugh Hamshaw-Thomas, Rod Dickinson, Lee Berwick, Alice Purcell, Roddy Maude-Roxby, Dr Richard Wiseman, Noam Toran , FAT, Conceived and Directed by Clare Patey.