So, I mentioned in my last post that I had been successful in my application to be an artist in residence. It’s at Erewash Museum in Ilkeston, but I didn’t know what I was going to be looking at.
I met with the manager Helen last week. After discussing a few options, it was decided that the focus of my residency will be a recent acquisition for the museum. This is a pair of rare memorial plaques, or ‘death pennies’ as they are often known. As a result of the Unexamined Lives project, the plaques were gifted to the museum from Canada, where they’d ended up many years ago.
This week, I am going to meet with Keith Oseman. Keith has apparently done lots of research on these, and the family members they memorialised, to find out more. I am already intrigued by what information is already out there and what I have already found out. Before reading about the acquisition recently, I didn’t know such things existed. I also never knew there was a Moravian settlement in Ockbrook, a place I travel through often. Click here for a recent article in Ilkeston Life that tells you a little about how the ‘death pennies’ found their way home.
My brain is in overdrive at the moment, thinking about all the possible directions that this research and the project could go. Should I go down the route of looking further at the death pennies in general? How and why the originated, what people did with them? Or I might delve deeper in to the family background and the Moravian settlement – Ockbrook is part of Erewash after all. Where do I even start?
I can end up down the ‘rabbit hole’ when I start my research, which often starts out as text and photo rather than drawing studies (with the style of my work, drawing is not always the most appropriate beginning). What work do I do at the museum on days in residence? I try not to think too much about final outcomes at this stage, although sometimes I can’t help already thinking about possible ideas.
But for now, I am going to try and rein in the ideas until I have at least spoken to Keith to find out what he knows.