Patrick Cook, the founder and owner of the Bakelite Museum, started collecting plastic when he was an art student in London. Among other things, he used his collection to hold a series of Bakelite picnics, where the crowd ate food off Bakelite plates, drank tea from Bakelite cups, and listened to music played on Bakelite instruments. In 1983, Cook opened a Bakelite Museum, and in 1994 he moved the collection to its current location in the village of Williton in Somerset, opening to the public the following year. The museum is about to move again, and before it does so, we wanted to film the museum in its current incarnation.
The Mapping Museums project was motivated, in part, by the lack of documentation of small independent museums. Our research indicates that just over 2,500 independent museums have been open in the UK at some point since 1960 (This figure is higher if we include museums managed by the National Trust and other national organisations). These new independent museums focus on diverse subjects – lead mining, Methodism, local history, and Bakelite, and in doing so they make an important contribution to the cultural life of their local areas, and collectively, that of the nation. However, these small independent museums often run on a limited income, which means that they do not have the resources to document their holdings, publish catalogues of their exhibitions, or to keep an archive. Thus, if a museum moves premises, or closes, they may leave little trace behind.
The Mapping Museums project aims at documenting all the museums that have been open in the UK between 1960 and 2020. So far, the research has focused on identifying museums and on providing an overview of how the independent museum sector has emerged and developed. As our work continues, however, we will be looking at individual museums in more detail. This short film, which was made in collaboration with the Derek Jarman Lab, forms part of that enquiry.
Copyright: Fiona Candlin 2018