Obscure souvenirs find home at Museum London

Western visual art students put unique knick-knacks from around world on display

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Chinese Robe

Courtesy of Mrs. McHardy-Smith

MORE BITE THAN A "KIMONO" DRAGON. This Chinese robe is one of the many artifacts on display at the "Baraka" exhibit that opens this Friday at 7p.m. at Museum London.

At long last Museum London has found a use for souvenirs that typically clutter closets and collect dust: putting them on display.

“Baraka: Souvenirs of Voyage, Discovery and Home”, a Museum London exhibition organized by students from introduction to museum studies (visual arts history 385E) at Western, does just that.

“Every two years, students from [introduction to museum studies] decide upon a theme and put together an historical display from the museum’s permanent collections,” Carol Kehoe, partnerships manager at Museum London, explains. “This year, they decided to explore how souvenirs reflect how we experience life at home and in our travels.”

“Baraka” is a partnership between the department of visual arts at Western and Museum London. The name of the display has an interesting connection to souvenirs: the word baraka comes from the Hebrew and Arabic words for blessing and the French for luck. It is used in the title of the exhibition as if to wish someone well before a trip.

The display, assembled entirely by students, features a number of unique and bizarre souvenirs from London and around the world, including an umbrella stand fashioned from an elephant’s foot and what are described as Chinese shoes made for bound feet.

Kehoe offers further insight into the exhibition: “Baraka” demonstrates how souvenirs act as an extension of memory. People who travel often feel the need to keep the memories tangible ... they choose something from the experience to bring home with them.”

The display opens this Friday at 7 p.m. at the Lawson Family Gallery in Museum London and features keynote speaker Jamelie Hassan, a local artist and recipient of a Governor General’s Award. After the keynote address, the audience will have the opportunity to meet and interact with the students responsible for “Baraka”.

“It truly is the students’ exhibition,” Kehoe says.

The opening of “Baraka” coincides with the opening of the three other spring displays featured by Museum London, which will be revealed to the public at 8 p.m. in the museum’s various galleries.

Also on display as part of “Baraka” are “uncommon contemporary objects” like a ceramic squirrel in a neon-blue jumpsuit. It may not qualify as a souvenir, but it sure is cool.

“Baraka” runs until July 6, and, even if you won’t be kicking around London for the summer, it is worth checking out before exams begin.

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