By now we are well into our fourth week of the crate opening process! So far it’s been amazing to see such a wide array of objects all in one place and to learn about their history from the pre-existing records that we have.
However, we do occasionally come across some objects that have little back history (or as we call it provenance). Some would say that this is sad and frustrating and doesn’t allow for the object to be used or displayed to its full potential. However, for me this is an aspect of our work that I find most interesting, as it requires the use of the information that can be gained from the object itself as well as some imagination/detection work.
An example of an object which has very little provenance other than its date and material it was made from but is extremely well made and beautiful. This 19th century screen is made from leather and wood and depicts a vineyard scene embossed with gold leaf.
We also have a 1920’s walnut veneered wardrobe made by ‘Compactom’ of London. ‘It’s just a wardrobe, what could be interesting about that?’ I hear you cry’…Well, once its doors have been opened you can see numerous labelled compartments. While we don’t know who owned this, the clues provided by the object itself suggest that it was possibly a wealthy, man who could afford an organised space to house many different types of clothes and accessories such as ‘plus fours’, ‘sportswear’ and ‘opera wear’ as well as ‘gloves’, ‘hats’, ‘ties’ and ‘pyjamas’. While we may never fully know the story behind the wardrobe or its owner we do gain a brief insight into their past and lifestyle including the extravagant and the everyday.
Did you know? The poet Geoffrey Chaucer used the word ‘wardrobe’ to refer to the toilet! The term ‘wardrobe’ has only been used in the sense we know it today since the 17th century! (Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica)