Housed in the Chadwick building, the Object Disposal project mounted its own museum collection of objects that might be considered for disposal. From plastic dinosaurs to Agatha Christie’s picnic basket, cowboy boots to soil samples, the collection displayed objects that were either too large or expensive to store; replicated objects within UCL’s wider collections; or what to the untrained eye might be considered ‘trash.’
On entering the building, visitors were asked to identify themselves as staff, student, or other. This was recorded against a number, which in turn was written onto two stickers – one red, one orange. Visitors were then asked to consider five objects (slides of planets, a rhinoceros skull, a picnic basket, soil samples and medical equipment). They stuck their orange sticker next to the object they considered the most appropriate for disposal. Before leaving the display, they reconsidered and used the red sticker to indicate if they had changed their mind.
This was a fantastic way of demonstrating to the visitor the difficulties involved in the elimination process. Why was one object more worthy than another? How should one try to understand these objects comparatively when they were so different contextually? I particularly enjoyed reading visitors comments in a display dedicated to public opinion. This ranged from ‘Get rid of the dinosaurs!’ to ‘Get rid of everything!’ (a comment which provoked both laughter and fear on my part). One hopes they could keep everything, or at least give it to a deserving and appreciative home.
The project’s organiser, curator Jayne Dunn, expressed the hope that this interactive display would help the UCL collections to update and regenerate their manifestos on object disposal. Asking the public to become involved in the decision making process ensured that questions about what we deem to be representative of ‘us’ both culturally and socially were fixed firmly on the agenda.
The statistics collected from the sticker exercise should be collated and published on the UCl website in due course. I wonder if the curators will keep the sticker sheets and comments as objects in their own right, as records of an event that has potentially shaped UCL museums’ disposal policy. In any event, I’d love to see which object got ‘voted out.’ My money’s on the medical equipment. Not the planet slides, surely?
- Rebecca Harrison