The early planning of the residency included an invitation for three community groups to visit the musem, where we set up the rather sterile lecture theatre space to resemble a tea-party setting. Groups included - IPOP - The Inclusive Play Opportunities Project based in Barnet offering support and advice to families of disabled children and young people, The Womens Institute and Contact the Elderly. The groups were invited to vist the museum and bring an object of their choice to talk about.

These collective conversations, became the channel to bring new histories into the museum space. On first inspection, some of the objects of discussion, appeared to present little of interest or have little historic value. But as the stories behind the objects unfolded, the personal histories, themes and investments in these objects became clear. Here in the teaparty setting a performative space was opened up in which individual and group narratives were given a voice.

  "The potential inwardness of objects is one of their most powerful characteristics, ambiguos or elusive though it may be. Objects hang before the eyes of the imagination, continuously representing ourselves to ourselves, and telling the stories of our lives in ways which would be impossile otherwise". (1)

These tea parties gave a space of welcome and familarity to groups who may not traditonally enter such a space. The use of objects provided moments for observation, response, memory and enabled active involvement and "meaning", adding to the factual descriptions of the placement of objects in a museum setting.

collecting collections and collectors

(1) S.M Pearce, Museums objects and Collections; A Cultural Study (Leicster and London 1992)

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