Following its reopening to the public on 08 July, Warrington Museum & Art Gallery presents a brand new exhibition by international award-winning artist, Susan Stockwell, exploring the hidden stories behind its eclectic and wide-ranging collections.
Titled ‘Hidden Histories, Untold Stories’, the new exhibition - which runs from 24 October to 31 January 2021 - highlights the museum’s role as a cultural collector and storyteller, and bring to life some of the untold stories behind its 200,000 objects.
The exhibition also explores themes around social change, consumerism and how museums across the world are reframing their collections to better reflect the communities, cultures and people they represent.
‘Hidden Histories, Untold Stories’ forms part of the Arts Council England-funded Meeting Point program, led by contemporary arts agency Arts&Heritage (www.artsandheritage.org.uk).
Artist, Susan Stockwell, said: “As one of the oldest museums in the country and a hidden gem, Warrington Museum & Art Gallery also has one of the most varied collections, covering everything from ethnology, archaeology, natural history and Warrington’s own social and industrial history.
“I was inspired to learn more about the stories behind its objects; who originally made them, and what were they used for? I wanted to explore how the museum’s objects help us understand our history, and how the act of collecting and displaying things links to our modern obsession with consumerism and ownership.
“We’re also in a period of social change and questioning, and I wanted see how the museum’s collections could help us engage with current debates.”
Susan’s new exhibition at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery reflects her personal interests in politics, colonialism, social movements and the importance of telling people’s individual and untold stories.
‘Hidden Histories, Untold Stories’ features a series of shopping trollies from different eras in Britain’s history that link the museum’s collections to consumerism; seeing the collection of objects as a form of shopping and the museum’s items as souvenirs of the time.
One will feature illuminated globes, highlighting the climate change crisis. Another will be full of cotton bobbins, marking the industrial revolution and the rise of the textile industry in the North West. It will also point to today’s fast fashion industry, which has been driven by globalisation. A third will symbolise collecting and how we gather items as consumers. A final trolley will be filled with sugar, referencing the UK’s trading history and the importance of products - such as sugar - in the creation of the past wealth.
Inspired by Warrington Museum & Art Gallery’s ethnology gallery, Susan will use childhood toys to tell the story of European settlers in North America, and the displacement of the country’s indigenous people. Other work in the museum’s ethnology gallery will include a series of small boats made from old paper currency, tickets and maps; exploring the idea of connections in travel, trade, as well as personal and social histories.
In developing the exhibition, Susan was also inspired by Warrington’s own history, and in particular the role of women. Another piece of work will see a dress sculpture placed inside the museum’s Cabinet of Curiosities gallery to reference the absence of women’s stories throughout history, and social movements like the suffragettes and #MeToo movements.
Roger Jeffery, Producer at Culture Warrington, said: “I'm very excited to welcome an artist of Susan’s international standing to exhibit at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery. This is a very timely and important exhibition and I’m very much looking forward to the fresh perspective Susan will bring to our collections.”
‘Hidden Histories, Untold Stories’ is presented as part of Meeting Point, a national programme led by contemporary arts agency Arts&Heritage (www.artsandheritage.org.uk) that partners leading UK and international artists with museums and heritage sites to produce new artworks inspired by the museums and their collections.
Steph Allen, Executive Director at Arts&Heritage said: “Susan is well known for making beautifully crafted objects with an aesthetic, but behind each one is a more complex story.
“She’s not shied away from exploring how the collections at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery help us understand our history, and how they connect audiences with contemporary issues such as climate change, ecology and migration.”
‘Hidden Histories, Untold Stories’ opens at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery from 23 October and runs until 31 January 2021. For more information visit wmag.culturewarrington.org.
The exhibition forms part of Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival, which runs from 11 September to Sunday 20 December 2020. For more information, visit wcaf.culturewarrington.org.