For the project we need to find a museum object of our choosing from any museums as long as it a)has a function and b)has a human connection attached to it…
About a month ago I went to the British Museum and there are all sorts of fascinating objects in there from different places in the world and different periods in time. It’s such an expansive museum, that I didn’t managed to see a lot of it, but I did browse online at the collections and artefacts they have on display. Some of the interesting things I found included a coin defaced by the suffragettes, a ring with the lords prayer written on it from the Stuart period, a Roman garden bench from Pompeii and a Roman display table, also from Pompeii. All these objects were man made, had a function, represented something of the culture and time they were from and had the potential to create an experience out of…
The object that fascinated me the most was the coin defaced by the suffragettes. The coin was minted in Britain in 1903 and has a very interesting history behind it. The suffragettes defaced many pennies in protest, to create a political statement as a campaigning strategy. This act of civil disobedience would have been treasonous at the time, but the suffragettes felt that to change the law they needed to break it. It was actually a very clever, low budget method of protest and propaganda at the time, as coins were a widely circulated, everyday object and used by all classes and types of people, including powerful men and politicians. Also being only worth 1p, the pennies were not worth enough to be recalled by the banks. It would have also created different emotions amongst people, including empathy for the cause, comfort for those women in support of women’s suffrage and shock and rage from others who opposed women’s rights to vote and purely saw it as a criminal act. It is also interesting how the defaced side of the coin is the head, with King Edward VII’s face, but the tail, showing Britannia, who first appeared on British coins in the Roman times, a strong powerful woman has not been touched. The coin featured as part of the British Museum’s ‘The world in 100 Objects’, under the theme ‘Mass Production, Mass Persuasion’, clearly seen as an important part of our history, not just as a country, but as humanity.
There are quite a few aspects and concepts with this object that I can use to connect people to the object and create an experience. These are my initial ideas:
- The coin is an ordinary, everyday object made extraordinary: it’s interesting how a small object can say and represent so much. It’s a powerful thing.
- Coins were widely circulated at this time and still are today. The internet today, like the coin is used by all types of people, of different wealths and backgrounds and is the easiest way to widely circulate things.
- Despite breaking the law, some argue that in some situations this is ok to do, for an important cause, like the Suffragette movement. Was it a moral or amoral thing to do?
- The coin does not just represent the Suffragette movement and their struggles, but it represents all the revolutions, protests and wars at the time… all fighting for what they believed was right and the hardships faced by many during the 19th & 20th Centuries.
- It reminds us that there are still many places where people are fighting for their civil human rights now. It’s not just representing the past, but also the present.
- It connects us to OUR past. As a British woman it is a reminder of the struggle many women faced for ‘me’, so that 100years later I could vote (something we may take for granted).
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/b00v73z9 (radio programme)