Like when chemicals combine and a reaction occurs, the same happens in this space - it is an environment highly conducive to its aim: Discovery.
A third of the large room is cordoned off as a curators’ workspace, where papers and labelling might be dealt with (sometimes it is possible to come in and talk to those involved), and the rest is an area of interaction and engagement with the public, where Brighton Museum’s Discovery Days take place.
But, as in any chemical reaction, catalysts help it to happen faster and more easily.
In the Lab, this role is played by the museum staff who are on hand to answer visitors’ questions about the museum and artefacts on display.
These staff make the Discovery Day as successful as it is, imparting insider knowledge and explanations to anyone who is intrigued.
This Discovery Day is about Subversive Objects.
In the Lab’s family space, a solid, wooden table is strewn with different shades of paper, crayons and the outlines of incomplete animals, to be filled in as fancifully as colouring-in-ers can stretch their imaginations; a semi-circle of cushioned sofas face a plasma screen showing a film; examples of taxidermy and other curiosities line the Lab’s walls on shelves; and, all around the room, is a parade of tables presenting the subversive artefacts.
The staff elucidate their hoard.
An attractive blue and white Delftware puzzle jug, with multiple spouts, was specifically designed for men’s drinking games in the 18th century: the drinker had to inbibe alcohol from the jug, whilst simultaneously covering the other openings with his hands to prevent widespread spillage.
A large 19th century earthenware chamber pot hides a dark frog grafted into its inner wall, a nasty surprise for those emptying its foul contents, and tongue-in-cheek verse swirls in pretty script on its outside.
Lily Allen’s off-the-shoulder prom dress for the 2008 Glamour Awards, designed by Giles Deacon, appears cute at first, until a closer look reveals that the bambi motif depicts catastrophic injury and the design was inspired by the Sex Pistols’ song “Who Killed Bambi?”.
Although the Lab includes a family zone, some of the artefacts at this particular exhibition, when explored closely, had more of an adult theme.
The next Winter Creatures themed Discovery Day in the Museum Lab is on Saturday December 10, 10am-4pm. There are two drop-in sessions on each day: 10am-1pm and