exhibition

CALL-OUT: Be part of our new nationwide project - MOOP:JOURNALS

We want people across the UK to add to our museum collection – in the form of a travelling journal – then post it onwards. Here’s why we’re doing it – and how you can take part!

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Our museum is going on the move! In fact, MOOP could be arriving soon through your very own letterbox…

From September 2019, we’ll be sending blank, ring-bound notebooks around the UK for our next project, MOOP: JOURNALS And we’re inviting the British public to take part by contributing to the journals, describing an object that represents their everyday experience – you can request for one of the travelling journals to be posted to you!

How will MOOP: JOURNALS work?

“We’re posting several blank MOOP journals around the UK, so that people can add an entry, wrap the book back up and post it on to the next person,” says Lucy Malone, co-director of MOOP. “We want each person to describe an everyday object of significance to them, and the story behind it. They should include a written description or story and they can then be creative and add a photo, draw the object, or use another medium to convey its appearance.

“Each book will become a travelling mini-museum that expresses the power of objects to convey layers of meaning, and to emotionally resonate through their relatability. People can be totally anonymous if they want. All we ask is that they post it on to the next person, so it can continue its journey.” If participants can’t afford to pay to post the journal onwards, the museum can reimburse them.


Why are we doing this?

We want to challenge the idea that museums should be passive spaces that simply display traditionally treasured objects, or only tell the life stories of the rich and famous. Malone says: “Museums today are, to some extent, working towards improving their accessibility. But we want to challenge the very definition of a museum and its methods of recording, so that more people start to see themselves represented in collections. And we thought: ‘how can we bring a museum collection directly to people? And what constitutes a collection in the first place?’

She adds: “At MOOP, we are interested in the stories behind everyday objects, the narrative of normal people’s lives that wouldn’t normally make it into a traditional museum. While we acknowledge that there’s a necessity for large institutions to showcase relics that need specific care, we’re part of a new wave of museums that believe their role is to question what deserves to be collected, to be representative, and change the perspectives of those who visit. We believe everybody’s story deserves to be told.”

How can you take part?

• Email us on museumofordinarypeople@gmail.com, and we’ll get in touch with the next steps.

We want as many people as possible around the UK to take part in our museum on the move. What object would represent you in a museum about your life?


Nothing in the Papers: Writing Women Back Into the Archive

How do you respond to an archive when it lacks the exact information you’re looking for?

Students of Central Saint Martins MA CCC programme – including Rosa Abbott, and MOOP co-founder Lucy Malone – addressed this when they organised an exhibition in response to the archive of the Royal Female School of Art. Words by Rosa Abbott

Nothing in the Papers  – the finished exhibition at Central Saint Martins Window Galleries from 11-25 April 2019

Nothing in the Papers – the finished exhibition at Central Saint Martins Window Galleries from 11-25 April 2019


Nothing in the Papers is an exhibition responding to the archive of the Royal Female School of Art (RFSA), a female-only art school operating in London from 1842–1908 that now exists as a grant-giving organisation.

Eight students on CSM’s MA CCC programme (including MOOP co-founder Lucy Malone) contributed to the project. We chose to work with this archive out of a shared desire to uncover the kinds of narratives and stories traditionally ignored by museums – to find out about the women who studied at or taught at this progressive 19th-century art school, and the types of art they produced.

And yet, when we consulted the archive documents, we found none of these stories: we were presented instead with folders of financial papers, secretarial minutes and letters – almost all written by men.

A little further digging outside of the archive – reading journal articles, for instance, or exploring newspaper clippings at the British Library – shed a little more light on the women of the RFSA. We learned that life drawing was banned for female students in 19th-century London, but that one daring RFSA headmistress, Fanny McIan, attempted to circumvent the ban in the 1840s by teaching female students life drawing in her own home. (She was caught and forced to step down from her post shortly after.) This snippet of feminist educational history inspired us to pay homage to women like Fanny McIan who were absent from the school’s archival documents, and to write women artists back into art history. We decided to invoke the past by turning to the present. 

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To do this, our group sent out an open call to current female-identifying students of University of the Arts London, playing upon the historically-contentious topic of life drawing by asking students to submit studies of either the nude or draped figure.

From the responses, we curated a group exhibition of contemporary art by eight artists: Abigail Hammond, Afra Almajed, Catherine Smollett, Eden Sweeney, Indiana Lawrence, Meera Madhu, Sandra Poulson, and Simina Popescu. Encompassing sculpture, photography, drawing, collage, textiles and digital media, the artworks we chose explore a myriad of pertinent issues, including self-perception, modesty, menopause, hair, body image, societal expectation, and sex work. They depict a range of intersectional identities and attitudes, crossing race, ethnicity, religion and age.

Invoking female artists and educators neglected by art history, Nothing in the Papers aims to honour the women who came before us, and continue the legacy of the RFSA. We position this exhibition as an active piece of research – topical, practice-based and generative, centred around the vital action of taking back space for women. 

Nothing in the Papers is an exhibition in Central Saint Martins Window Galleries from 11–25 April 2019.

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Making the Museum of Ordinary People (MOOP) - reading between the lines of letters from the bank

“I learn to re-connect on an emotional level with my father’s letters”

MOOP participant, Philip Franklin used everyday documents to explore the unspoken parts of his family history. Here’s how he created his powerful piece for MOOP last year

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“Your father had no hobbies,” my Uncle Harold, his twin, said to me once, “unless as you say, drinking and smoking constitute hobbies, or playing Frank Sinatra records at earsplitting levels.” He was speaking of a time when chaos had descended on our family, when hurt and pain were the stuff of our everyday lives. 

Both my parents had been dead for more than twenty years, but the chaos had overtaken me again, and I realised that a damaging compulsion was leading me to the same downfall as he, a repeating pattern of memory, thought and action.

I was writing a memoir, inspired by Stephen Poliakoff and Alan Garner, based on a collection of letters sent by Barclays Bank – his employers – to my father over the course of his career. But the work was stalled – it was as though I was looking at our family history through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars. Then came MOOP.

Suddenly I am hearing that archives are “the secretions of an organisation” and learning of a mysterious world of inert plastic, linen tape and brass paperclips. But there is much more to come. I learn to re-connect on an emotional level with my father’s letters. Lucy asks – What isn’t in your collection? What is missing? And that unlocks an altogether different psychic space.

I investigate the words in the letters, daisychain them like Tom Phillips’ text re-creation “A Humament‘ (One day) (in his native heart) (Mr Franklin) (does more harm than good.)’

I experiment with sound. Bells, weird knocks, backward speech and birdsong. It is a process infused with anxiety. I listen for my mother’s voice on old cassette tapes. I am certain there is one of her calling upstairs when I was in my brother’s bedroom. I find it – she doesn’t call though. She comes upstairs and speaks to me – we have had a row and the air spits with tension.

One week our homework is – take some photographs that reflect any narrative in your collection or anything you have uncovered in your writing. I go on a photographic walk “in my father’s footsteps” around Brighton, Hove and Portslade, with my dying Vivitar camera/camcorder, the viewfinder broken so that the composition of my photos is a matter of luck. My father appears in some of the images, disguised as my own shadow or reflection. 

The former bank building where Phil’s father used to work

The former bank building where Phil’s father used to work

I develop the story as a performance piece. I am reluctant, nervous, but Jolie encourages me, pushes me. After the rehearsal I’m on a high. It rains, and I’ve left my glasses in the Marlborough. Jolie has left them behind the bar for me to collect – I feel like a star of the Fringe!!!

Hot days, and outside the Spire, everyone but me drinking beer; we are sanding boxes for plinths. Lucy, Barbara, Rose and Anonymous help me create my exhibit. My fingers are sticky with spray mount.

Then it’s the last day of MOOP’s pop-up museum. The responses have been unbelievable. I take a last look at my exhibit, which is due to come down tomorrow. My parents are present here, revealed behind layers of time I have stripped away.  

Philip Franklin will be developing “My Father’s Footsteps” for MOOP: STORIES – the Museum of Ordinary People’s return to the Brighton Fringe in May 2019 – on Tuesday May 21st at Phoenix Brighton, 7.30pm-10pm, along with other exhibits themed around “Legacy”.

Reserve tickets to MOOP: STORIES here

Call-out for contributions for a future MOOP exhibition

We want to hear your stories about everyday household items for an exciting project

Image: Vanveen JF

Image: Vanveen JF

This is an appeal from the Museum of Ordinary People (MOOP) for you to take part in a special project taking place in Brighton later this year.

We are calling out for people to tell us a story behind a household/everyday item.

Look around you. At the seemingly mundane items you’re surrounded by. Is there an object that means something more?

A potato peeler? A toothbrush? An ancient mobile phone you no longer use? An old newspaper you’ve kept?

What does it mean to you? What memory or feeling do you associate with it? What’s the story? Who or what does it remind you of?

Image: Dani Rendina

Image: Dani Rendina

We all give objects layers of meaning – they are the props of our everyday lives. They become damaged, loved to death, carefully preserved, used religiously, or are barely touched. These objects become artefacts of our personal history. This is the magic in the mundane.

Image: Fancycrave

Image: Fancycrave

All you need to do is write to us at museumofordinarypeople@gmail.com, telling us what the humble everyday object is, and describing the story or memory associated with it as honestly and in as much detail as you can.

We want to understand the emotional resonance behind the object. Why is this a story you’d like to tell

Please also say if you would prefer to remain anonymous.

Thank you!