A few weeks ago (when we were getting drenched on the river) I had an email from Nick at Work asking if I’d like to attend a curator led tour of a new sponsor’s exhibition at the Smith Centre. Naturally I had to decline seeing as I was opening and closing locks at the time. Nick rescheduled it and I went today.
The exhibition is called Mapping Ingenuity and places unusual and unexpected objects in a London context. For instance, there’s the obvious things like shipbuilding on the river but there’s also strange Victorian medical items built in tiny workshops behind High Holborn.
The reason Nick thought I’d enjoy it was because there’s three ship models, two of them from Thames Ironworks. His reasoning was indeed correct, especially given the fact that while I’d researched all three of them, I’d never actually seen them. Of course this isn’t particularly unusual in (and of) itself but they’re always nice to see…eventually.
Of course it did mean getting up early and catching my usual Friday morning train into London and then Tube it across to South Ken but I managed to sleep for most of the trip.
While on the Tube, completely engrossed in the Victorian craze for ‘Slumming’, I was dragged back to the present when fellow volunteer Howard suddenly appeared asking “Good book?” We then chatted about the Victorian craze for ‘Slumming’ as we journeyed west.
After an essential Starbucks we headed for the Smith Centre where we met Caroline (another volunteer) and a few more people who were there for the viewing. The curators then talked us through the objects.
There were some fascinating facts (some of which I added to when it came to the Thames Ironworks) and extraordinary objects…like the Great Eastern Railway train carriage made from the wood of the Princess Alice paddle steamer (which sank after a collision with a collier in 1878 and is still the worst maritime disaster on the Thames with the loss of over 650 lives) or like the strange medical apparatus used by surgeon Joseph Lister who led us all down the path to antiseptic.
It all proved delightfully obscure and enlightening. The curators knew their subjects and were suitably enthusiastic (though their ‘chat’ could do with a bit of honing). I gave Oliver (one of the curators) a few bits of shipbuilding information after the tour which I told him he could use if he liked. The fact that Thames Ironworks supplied the iron for the new Westminster Bridge, for instance. He was delighted with this tidbit as it is in a painting they had in the exhibition.
After lunch, I headed back to Waterloo and caught the next train home.
It was another unbearably hot day but the girls still wanted a run up the park so we headed up after I’d given them some late lunch. The rest of the day we spent recovering.
Meanwhile, at Waterloo Station, a giant marshmallow had burst through the floor…