A Sense of Place

There are loads of pop-up things happening all over. Not just London, but London’s a bit different I think, because there are so many spaces here. (Actually, that’s one of the things I’m loving about the city. Just such rich variety of uses and people and things to see. London’s good for the eyes.)

A central theme of the idea of The Small Museum is that it be self-sustaining, and ideally profitable. Part of this small body being able to generate its own energy and income will come from hospitality: events, lectures, courses, and importantly, delicious cocktails ūüôā I’ve been enjoying thinking about what sorts of events I’d like to curate and host.

So… a place. It’s important that it be able to hold a museum, to be able to host events, have super fast internet, and workspace. One of the things I learned from Brewster Kahle when I worked for him at the Internet Archive was that owning property was a great security for a non-profit. Even though I just said that The Small Museum could be OK with earning money, I see that there would be stability in owning a place. But, this is London, and I’m not Brewster! So, to even consider purchasing a property, the idea would need support.

What’s interesting now though, is where might be a good spot. Even from San Francisco using the web, I could tell that Hackney Wick is an interesting, artistic neighbourhood. The more I learn about it, the more that’s obvious. The Hackney Wick Cultural Interest Group, founded in 2009, is a standout. I’ll be heading to their next fortnightly meeting to say hi. But, there are loads of people looking around that part of the city, and lots of development plans, that the community is starting to baulk at. I’ve also met with someone on the Hackney Council Regeneration Delivery Team, who had lots of helpful advice. (Thanks, Will!)

An Existing Community
There’s no doubt Hackney Wick has some history to it, and some of the local community there is generations old. Why would they give a shit about yet another new thing that doesn’t help them? The sorts of things the community is wanting are a chemist, more doctors, an ATM that doesn’t charge a fee.

Hackney Wick is also right next to the 2012 Olympic Park which was recently, and importantly, been named as “Olympicopolis,” by Boris Johnson. Slated to create 3,000 jobs with ¬£141MM from the City Treasury, it’s also going to create yet more waves. It’s some kind of tragedy that Olympics can be so disruptive and even wasteful maybe. But, that said, I must admit to loving the idea of running a small museum and cultural meeting space in the build up to the launch of this new massive cultural endeavour in 2020.

So, I’m looking around there.

Museum as Social Resource
I’ve been chatting with my advisor, Eliza and she’s been asking me¬†to think through great questions. I’m basically quoting her verbatim:

  1. Whom will you serve? Can¬†they actually say¬†they’re “for everyone” but really they only serve¬†part of the population. Will the¬†institution be trying to subvert this¬†norm? How?
  2. Be thinking about¬†demonstrating the social value of this venture more explicitly. Like how¬†can a new small museum, network of museums, and software for museums make¬†an impact on the basic social problems we are dealing with? i.e. if a¬†Republican asked you Why should I fund this and not a food bank?, what¬†would you say? I’m thinking about:
    1. the role a museum can play in a community — bringing people together,¬†acknowledging social problems, bringing social issues to the surface, into¬†discussion, providing a forum for public discussion, etc.
    2. the role museums play in constructing our collective narrative of¬†personal and communal identity–THAT, for me, is where the real excitement¬†is in working with museums as an artist. They are a very powerful engine of¬†social status, power, acknowledgement.

Maybe this museum could have a power tool lending library. And a fee-free ATM. And good, affordable drinks and food that the locals can enjoy. Needless to say, I don’t have the answers to these questions yet, but, I want to spend more time around there and try to say hi and get to know the people already on the ground doing great stuff. I’m very conscious of wanting to make a place that’s communal and stimulating.

Anyway. Still thinking a lot about place. And not especially wanting to do something temporary, although the pop-up dynamic might be worth playing in while we work on place-finding and funding.


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