This project is a collaboration between Artist Catherine Watling and the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, Cambridge. It is principally about collections, collectors and the act of collecting. It explores, through the development of new artwork, the secrets that hide within a bank of objects, based on the collections focus of the Darwin the Geologist exhibition (opening July 2009) and the wider internationally-renowned rock and fossil collections at the Sedgwick Museum.

From an early age we are driven to collect objects such as teddy bears, action figures and shells on the beach. For some this fascination with gathering and organising extends into adulthood. What motivates a person to collect, label, organise, store and display objects? What do we collect and why? How are scientific collections different from those of ‘ordinary’ people?

A series of workshops with elderly people at the Cherry Trees Age Concern Centre in Cambridge allowed the Artist and the Collections Assistant in Palaeontology at the Museum, Matt Riley, to undertake reminiscence and story telling work and incorporate the use of the Museum’s handling collection. Over the course of three days, elders were encouraged to participate and contribute to the ‘Collect’ installation by bringing in and sharing their own personal collections. The subsequent work is housed in traditional display cases in the Oak Wing of the Sedgwick Museum.

The elders’ collections are pictured on a selection of mounted pebbles and shells, subtly integrated into the object’s surface. Traditional methods were use to mount the ‘samples’ in order to reflect the style of the surrounding traditional displays in the museum. About the work the artist said “ I wanted the installation to seamlessly blend in with the rest of the museum in order to surprise visitors and pique their curiosity. Every object in the Museum was selected for some reason by a human being and each has its own story. I want this installation to highlight this”

“Collect” will be on display in the Oak wing of the Sedgwick Museum from 14th March 2009 for one year. Please see for opening hours.
Funding for “Collect” was provided by the Designation Challenge Fund of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

“Collect” will be on display in the Oak wing of the Sedgwick museum from 14th March 2009 for one year. Please see for opening hours

© Catherine Watling 2009