Museum of the Single Thing

IMG_5699The Museum of the Single Thing

“I have, on occasion, lost myself in that small museum amongst the old compasses. There is a lot to be said for such small museums. They are often looked down upon from the perspective of the spectacular piles of imperial loot that constitute the collections of ‘great’ museums. But to my mind these small ones are often more interesting. Perhaps there is a case for even smaller ones. Imagine a beautifully designed building and imagine within it a single thing. I call this new kind of museum ‘the museum of the single thing’. Imagine one of these beautifully designed building at, for example, Ardroil in Lewis, and imagine within it a single thing: a chess piece that unites in its decoration Norse and Celtic design. Imagine such a building at Papil in Shetland, and within it a single thing: the Papil Stone carved by the Picts in a way that inspired Gaelic artists. Because each museum would be a small building, and because each would be well designed, there would be no major visual impact on the landscape unless that was part of the museum’s purpose. Each could be designed by an outstanding architect; for what good architect would not be interested in designing such a building? Such buildings would act as cultural magnets for locals and visitors alike. Each – wherever it was – would contain work able to retrieve or enhance something of immediate cultural importance to that place. Each would, through the quality of the work exhibited and its architecture, make a local, national and international statement. Seòras Chaluim Sheòras’s scroll could be a focus for just such a museum. Another, ‘single thing’ from the Bernera museum that has the power to give identity to such a building is a carved stone ball made about 5000 years ago. The geometrical precision of this object – about the size of a tennis ball but with hexahedral symmetry – is remarkable, seeming to echo the precision with which the stone circles were constructed.”