By Benji Thomas

With the new year came the same old lockdown challenges for galleries and museums. To get people engaged with their collection from afar, Hastings Museum and Art Gallery has opened the virtual exhibition, Looking at Things, which delves into the relationship we have with the objects around us. Originally intended to be a physical exhibition, Looking At Things was made digital when the news of the third lockdown broke. Built with the online virtual exhibition software Artsteps, it provides the closest possible experience to a real exhibition you can get, complete with a curated collection and audio tour.

The museum describes this exhibition as an exploration into “how we look, and what is ignited when we gaze upon something that resonates with us”. Led by the Active Arts students at Hastings and Bexhill Mencap in collaboration with experimental theatre company, Explore the Arch, the inspiration came from the diverse collection of objects at Teddy Tinker’s emporium in London Road.

Each section of the exhibition has its own narration by the artist, which gives it a uniquely personal touch, and mysterious walls decorated with eyes isolate each part of the exhibition so it can be enjoyed with no distraction.

The most popular of all the objects was a Toni Raymond ceramic owl string dispenser, inspiring the artists at Mencap to make drawings and papier mache models. Walking round this virtual exhibition is an intimate and beautiful insight into how objects can leave indelible marks on us, inspiring further creation, sparking fond memories and transcending their banality to become real treasures in their own right.

“We can have just as strong connection with historical artifacts as with our own treasured possessions”.

In the ‘Staff Room’, staff at the museum have chosen their favourite objects from the museum’s own collection, and through the audio narration each member introduces themselves and explains why they’ve chosen their particular object. Preserved natural specimens, ceramics and textiles line the Staff Room and reveal which treasures have caught the eye of those that work among the collection.

• The narration alongside a Cretaceous fossil of a fish, found at Rock-a-Nore, suggests that it shows “just how clever mother nature is”, preserving minute details in rock that’s 140 million years old.

• Miniature clothes and toys used by Inuit children are displayed on the adjacent wall, the charm of the natural materials and the window into a little-known culture clearly striking a chord with the staff who selected it.

At the end of the virtual tour the viewer is encouraged to take on the spirit of the exhibition and share a photograph of an object that makes them feel special.

To take part, either take a selfie with your favourite object and share it online with the hashtag #LockdownLookingAtThings, or email it to [email protected]. You can find more information and an online gallery of all those who have taken part so far on c’s website.

You can step into the exhibition itself by visiting www.hmag.org.uk


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