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The Unknown Collection

March 2, 2017

Object: Ary Trays in the Gamble room (dining room)

Ary have been manufacturing birch wood in Sweden for over 60 years. Innovation and handcrafted techniques are fused together in this company, making the trays valuable as an individual hand crafted object but also as a fashionable and “in trend” object. The trays are made from the finest raw material, single sheets of Scandinavian birch wood from sustainable forests. Containing no joins they are durable (5 years of tear & wear) and long lasting and are an object of the highest quality which reflects the time period of the “Victorian perfection”. It is surprising to see that the V&A gives this much attention and thought to objects that can seem less important to people visiting the museum since they are not part of the museum’s exhibits. However, without those “less important” products the experience in the dining room would feel incomplete. Drinking out of luxury cup of tea that was produced in the UK is indeed part of the experience and matches the exemplary interior design (by William Morris) of the room.

The trays are given out to everyone who buys food products in the Gamble dining room. This fits to the V&A’s image of trying to teach the people what “good taste” looks like not only through objects behind glass or on display but through objects that the people can actually use themselves during their time at the V&A. A tray has diverse historical cultural aspect. In the US it became fashionable because it represented a “fun-to-eat” and “easy-to-prepare” meal that could be savored in front of the TV. Throughout its history trays also became an alternative to the “family dinner tables”, and supported individualism (everyone having a sort of “own” table). In addition they were and still are common for outside dining (which is also the case in the V&A).

Not only are the V&A using the trays themselves as functional objects, but they also sell them to the same people who may use them in the dining room. Indeed the trays are sold in the V&A’s shop advertised with their brand. The V&A did not bother to make surface designs of their own for the trays; wall paper patterns of known designers such as John Henry Dearle (that are also on display in the V&A) were reused and digitally (not like 60 years ago, lithographically) printed onto the trays .

To a great disappointment some of the products in the dining room’s collection were “unknown”. In fact, the first two initial chosen objects were not the trays but first the three gigantic, round, light fittings hanging down from the ceiling and then a tea pot. However, no one knew where those objects came from, who designed them, or where they were produced; not the people at the reception, neither the people working in the dining room or anyone else present in the museum knew where they came from. It is paradoxical to see such lightings displayed in a particular majestic way without making clear where they originated from. An enquiry was sent to find out the provenance of those lightings, yet no answer was received to this day. Apparently, not every product deserves the same amount of attention, even in a museum.

by Lauriane Martine Jambu
Sources:
"Ary Trays." Funky Little People – Quality Scandinavian Organic Kids Clothes, Gifts and Moomin Products. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.
"Avenida Home." Avenida Home | Positive Luxury. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.
"Ary Sweden." Ary Sweden. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.
"T.V. Tray Table and Stand." National Museum of American History. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.
Home Shopping Spy. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.
"Trays." Planet Sam. N.p., 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.

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