Saturday 15 September 2012

The Story Museum

So today my friend Anna and I headed off to check out two exhibitions at the as yet officially unopened Story Museum in Oxford (its due to open properly in 2015, I really cannot wait). The first was Rochesters EXTRAORDINARY story loom, a large steampunk creation with a backstory which must have made the  writers of EastEnders jealous...
(Although the backstory also confirmed something I had thought for a while that Oxford is a centre for Literary genius as it is centre to a vortex of story energy (Philip Pullman etc al you have been rumbled!)) Anyway  I digress...
The story goes that a the main protagonists, a young man (Barnabas) invented this machine for the object of his affections (Felicity, who was at this point obsessed by literature and falling for the charms of a writer, Charles Dodgson). It worked by feeding off the imaginations of children, leaving them as husks.
The chap in question sent many metal roses and wrote many a wooing letter to the maiden in question but nul points, so he unveiled his creation.
 Perhaps unsurprisingly she was horrified and went off with the writer anyway. He was heartbroken for a bit but cashed in on his misfortune by selling the patent to the machine and becoming wildly rich (yes I also noticed the excellent use of slinky's at the top of the machine).
But these were massed produced stories and soon the tide began to turn. People stopped buying them and instead turned back to stories written by people and thus the revolution was complete and most of the story machines were smashed, this claims the museum is the last one in existence.... Anna was brave enough to have a go (although alas we couldn't find any children to put in...). 
ready to roll, oh and we are off
wha ha ha, at the end of the exhibition we got to vote did we think the machine was pure humbug or a machine marvel. We obviously said machine marvel (it was very pretty and must have taken AGES to build).
Next up was the sister exhibition tea with Alice. First off the lights were amazing 
 Upside down teacups you see, isn't that lovely? 
The exhibition was lots of Alice illustrations (and a few photos that Anna very much fell in love with). All were very different but all really captured the spirit of the story quite beautifully. Here are some of our favourites
Absolem - Drugs are baaaaddddddd
 Time for tea (you can't see it very clearly on this pic but that is the white rabbit in the middle)
This may well have been my favourite favourite but it was a close call.
This is exactly how I imagine the queen to be!
Excellent hatter
This was the other serious contender for favourite for me, I love how vivid the hatter is even though you can't see his face. After the main gallery there was a reading room and this rather marvelous room
The trees on the wall had tea time in all different places marked. This was my favourite tree as it had Oxford on it
Anna rather fancied one of the hats with ears
while I stayed true to form
Once a mad hatter always a mad hatter... In the end Anna also gave into the charms of the flowery number
Suits you madam. So there you have it, to extraordinary exhibits.
The hightlight for me was the attention to detail of both exhibits, the way the staff had pulled out strands of the story behind the beautifully constructed loom made it believable. Equally in the Alice exhibit the sympathic surroundings (cups of tea on the wall and the illustrations being displayed in table tops, plus the actual mad tea party (with excellent hats)) helped distinguish this exhibition and stopped it from becoming 'just another lot of Alice stuff' (something Oxford is want to do very well).
The detail was everywhere and we spotted this little gem on the way out
    Brilliant! After all that, ahem, hard work we headed off to a cafe for refreshment...
...carrot cake, it had to be done!
Sadly this weekend was the last for these two exhibits but there are plans for other exhibits and activities such as printmaking to follow. Keep a wary eye on the website and get yourself down there as soon as you can. The Story museum is a wonderful place to visit whatever your age and deserves its place amongst the true gems of Oxford 

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