In one year from today London Transport Museum will open a major exhibition for 2012 that will draw on our outstanding historic map collection, exploring the theme of Journeys. Along with historic maps we’ll be displaying some fantastic newly commissioned artworks by artists such as Stephen Walter, Simon Patterson, Susan Stockwell, Jeremy Wood and Agnes Poitevin-Navarre, with more to artists to be confirmed.
Want to be involved? A number of these projects will be shaped using public content, meaning that you’ll be able to contribute directly to the artworks. Stephen Walter, for example, is currently asking for your comments for his Subterranean Map of London.
There are some seriously exciting projects underway and we’ll be posting regularly on their development. Stay tuned…
TfL is made up of some fascinating departments, with the Lost Property Office being up there as one of the most interesting. To get a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes, and to learn more about what happens when an item is left on London’s Transport, I spent the day making a documentary for the Museum’s collection with film-maker Geoff Marshall. We explored the stores, watched as staff took customer calls and spoke to them about their experience of working in such an unusual environment.
In 2009, the LPO received a whopping 184,969 items of lost property, ranging from single gloves, laptops, umbrellas and school bags, through to toys, glasses and thousands of mobile phones. When we went down this week the store room was packed with items, all clearly labelled and neatly arranged in numbered zones. The staff work very efficiently – we watched as a call came in from the customer point upstairs, requesting an object be sent up for return. It took the staff less than a minute to locate the object and send it up in the goods lift, making for happy customers.
The LPO store also houses some more bizarre objects which have never been re-claimed, including false teeth, a grandfather clock, a stuffed fox and some prosthetic limbs. There were also single shoes, crutches and walking sticks, which make you wonder how the owners didn’t notice they had left such objects behind!
Staff gave us a run-through of what happens to an item, from it being left on a bus or Tube to its hopeful return to the owner. Items are normally handed in by members of the public to TfL staff, or are found by staff when checking the vehicles during their shifts. These items are logged with the details of where and when it was found, and are then collected by TfL post vans and delivered to the LPO. Here they are checked and logged onto the computer system, and labelled to LPO’s high standards, before being sent down to the store room for safe keeping. Items are kept for 3 months, in which time it’s hoped the owner will have made contact with the office and come to claim it back. If not, the items in good condition are donated to charity or sold to help fund the running of the office. Charities across the world have benefited over the years, with donated items ranging from clothing for the Salvation Army to sports equipment for charities in Africa.
Geoff and I had a great day and will showcase the finished film soon – watch this space! And if you’ve lost an item and want to reclaim it, check out the LPO’s website for more information http://www.tfl.gov.uk/contact/871.aspx
Our ‘Overground Uncovered’ exhibition, which only recently ended, was packed with community content created by groups and individuals from up and down the East London Line extension. One of the boroughs which we worked with was Southwark, where a wonderful group of elders from the Rotherhithe area made a collaborative ceramic artwork for display in the exhibition. The group, Rainbow Arts, meet once a week to take part in art based activities, and are always keen to learn new techniques and build partnerships with other organisations. Art in the Park, a Southwark based arts charity, provided the expertise and materials for the project.
Each of the participants painted a ceramic tile, which depicted an aspect of the local area that they enjoy or are proud of. The final piece was therefore a celebration of all things great about the Rotherhithe area, advertising it to those who came to the exhibition and to those who use the new Overground line.
The artwork was on display for a year at London Transport Museum, and when the exhibition came down at the end of March I decided to return the artwork to the group so that it could be displayed in their local area. Rainbow Arts are now in consultation with the local council to see if it can be installed either at the new library, due to open later in 2011, or at another public site near their centre. So if you’re ever near Rotherhithe, keep an eye out for this lovely piece of community art.
Recently I spent a fun afternoon ‘zip, boing, splating’ with the youth group at the London Chinese Community Centre in Soho. It’s the first of our sessions exploring Museum collections with people for the Stories of the World project. We are working with the group to explore their stories in relation to an object in the Museum and hopefully shaking up the displays a bit – in the best possible way of course. People were getting into the acting activities and we made four amazing freeze frame pictures featuring Museum objects. I was particularly impressed by one of the participants’ Eros impression! Now they’ve got to pick just one to work on further. With 10 young people, all with their own opinions, to narrow it down to just one object could be a tough challenge. So far it seems neck and neck between a 1931 Dinkel poster featuring the Trocadero and the Gibson ticket machine. Watch this space!