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The Museum and a Bureau

March 2, 2017

The Museum as we know was supposed to be used as a learning resource, as a way to gain knowledge when there was no where else sharing it . But I think nowadays it has shifted focus to more of a database. Making sure that every technique, era or area has been catalogued, so that they can then boast about their archives and what great things they have in their collection. Because of this change, I think the V&A now makes its own version of design. It’s version is based on material and craft, about making sure that all types of design have been collated and collected; showing the world that what is on their shelves, in their corridors, is design and everything else is just a fabrication of the term. I think they say design is there for the world to consume and see, rather than interact and use.

The bureau that I have chosen was made in Lima, Peru is placed next to a cabinet made in England and a writing table from France. They are all in the section titled veneering, marquetry and inlay. In the same section is a smattering of cabinets , tables and a few chairs.

Surprisingly, what is written on the website and what is shown in the furniture room are quite different. It makes me think about how they find information, and how a tiny slip up could change the way generations see a particular object or use it in other works. For instance, a painting said to have been done by a famous artist actually turns out to be done by no one of significant interest and yet because it was written down in the museum it is taken as the word of law. This particularly strikes me because how do they know for sure, for things that have come from abroad, the exact place and time that it was made. For this bureau they do not give an artist/makers name. How can a piece of work not be credited if it is in a museum? Isn’t that, in some cases, the highest level that a piece of work can go to, to be procured by a museum to show off design to the world? But they make sure to say who bequethed this item to them, as a sort of proxy, as if this was the person who had used skill and technique to craft it. The joints in the bureau are mitred using unspecified hardwoods and to give the bureau its shiny appearance mother-of-pearl was used to veneer the wood with a pattern. It interests me that such a stunning piece of furniture with so much obvious skill used is placed in such an awkward position (fig. 2), tucked away in the corner and almost covered with the surrounding objects. When I saw it, it made me kind of angry that such an astounding piece can be treated so unfairly and, in my opinion anyway, that it should definitely have been the centre of that section.


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