‘Thirty Instruments Loaned by Ladies’ by Jeni McConnell


When the Harris Museum & Art Gallery first opened in 1893 it was reported that one of the most interesting and popular displays was in rooms set aside for a show of microscopic and other apparatus, of which, thirty instruments were loaned by gentleman. As part of the Harris Flights project, McConnell redressed the balance by presenting to the public, through performance and display, thirty personal objects loaned by ladies.

Normally, a new museum display appears almost silently, away from the public gaze, objects arrive through back doors, carried out of internal stores and down hidden corridors to be presented to us the viewer as we arrive in front of the display case; the presented objects quietly inside.

The grand staircase of the Harris Flights called for an equally grand gesture, a public performance to announce each object individually as if a guest at a formal dinner, carried slowly upwards on a red cushion as their personal stories are told. Each object is passed at the top of the stairs to a gloved museum attendant, who, in turn places the object into a display case.

The publication which accompanied the performance was also featured in the Royal Photographic Society Summer 2014 issue.

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