The opening of the Clothworkers’ Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion at Blythe House provided us with a golden opportunity to redisplay one of the Archive of Art and Design’s most popular – and surreal – collections: Eduardo Paolozzi’s Krazy Kat Arkive of Twentieth Century Popular Culture.
The room in which the objects were accommodated previously has been converted into a stylish reception area – complete with floor to ceiling glass display cases – where our visitors can enjoy the full psychedelic effect of Paolozzi’s gallimaufry of toys, models and action figures.
The Krazy Kat Arkive comprises some 20,000 items, the majority of which are in printed format (collages, comics, high street ephemera, scrapbooks, tearsheets etc.) and housed within the main storage facilities of the Archive of Art and Design.
The over-arching theme of the collection is ‘The Image of the Hero in Industrial Society’, which can be seen clearly in our display of 3D objects where models of military heroes co-mingle with Mickey Mouse figures, robots, astronauts and characters such as Frankenstein to create some weird and wonderful juxtapositions. Having a grinning disembodied head staring into Archive of Art and Design office on a shelf above a dismembered hand is slightly disconcerting!
When it was decided that the Paolozzi store was going to be converted into a reception, it became apparent that there was not enough space available to move the 3D objects to another facility. Storage for the Krazy Kat Arkive, therefore, had to be purpose built into the reception. While this had the advantage of opening up the collection to visitors passing through the building, it also posed some challenges during the planning process.
One of these challenges was planning the arrangement of the objects within the cases. Light levels (or Lux to use the museum jargon!) were a very important consideration as prolonged exposure to high levels of light can be harmful to paper-based objects. While the old store room was kept dark when not in use, it is unrealistic to expect our visitors (and receptionist) to stumble around blindly in the gloom! We needed to strike a balance between creating a welcoming reception space and a suitable store for the Paolozzi objects. The window in reception was shaded with a large blind and low level lighting was installed. The light levels were then measured throughout the reception and objects placed in the cases according to their sensitivity.
You’d be surprised just how labour intensive it is to unpack the objects and arrange them artistically on the appropriate shelves – but there was a sense of a job well done when the installation was complete in time for the opening of the Clothworkers’ Centre, and we will have the satisfaction of seeing everyone enjoying the fruits of our labours in the years to come.
The Krazy Kat Arkive of Twentieth Century Popular Culture is available for study in the Blythe House Archive & Library Study Room. For further information and to make an appointment, please contact us online.