Photo via Museum of Water website
Any excuse for a visit to Somerset House!
Spotted in their regular eMail, something called the Museum of Water. Sounded interesting but to be honest I had little idea what it might contain. It was to be held in the underground spaces at Somerset House; also known as the Lightwells & Deadhouse, which I had not visited before. I also noted that when the month long event started, the Lightwells were flooded with water from the Thames. Which would have been something special to see.
I thought I knew my way round Somerset House & how to access the lightwells. Apparently not as I wandered about for several minutes before locating the exhibit, the entrance hidden deep into the light wells & the exhibit itself right under the middle of the vast courtyard.
The Lightwells have various alcoves & cupboards contained in the walls of the Deadhouse. In one of them :-
Photo via Katherine Corcoran
It turned out that the exhibition is more of an “installation” created & curated by Amy Sharrocks celebrating our various uses of water, now & in the past.
First sight of the installation, in the atmospheric Deadhouse, which snakes East-West under the courtyard.
On each side there are small alcoves which one could easily imagine as cells in some kind of Medieval prison. Most, if not all contained some additional parts of the exhibit The figure at the far end is silhouetted against a freezer containing some preserved snowballs, which I gather have, sadly become lost, as the freezer was inadvertently turned off.
The old “galvanised” tubs were there for a reason. The courtyard fountains were in full use & the odd drip from the ceiling was real. At the far end the Deadhouse turns right, then left, running along a middle section, before turning in the opposing directions & exiting under the Western side of the courtyard.
It was the middle section which was the heart of the exhibit as it contained a large proportion of the several hundred donations of various types of water, each with its own back story all carefully displayed, & annotated with charming little handwritten labels.
There were several display shelves/cases such as that shown above. Much prettier in real life than it appears in the photograph, & the other ones perhaps more so, but did not lend to great pictures. A young lady was in attendance to answer any questions & describe the various exhibits. I think this was Amy Sharrocks herself & from what I heard whilst “lurking at the back of the room”, she spoke enthusiastically & entertainingly, & dealt easily with some spirited heckling from a toddler in a push chair.
The final section, was probably the one I liked best.
Here, there was a display of bottles in a period setting & various other artefacts. There was also a visitors book (lots of positive comments) & on the left in the picture a visitor can be seen at a desk writing their “excuses” for not bringing a donation & what they would have brought had they done so! These A4 sheets were then displayed in an adjacent alcove for others to peruse. Personally, I neither properly realised donations were wanted, nor thought about it beforehand. This I regret as I later came up with a couple of acceptable ideas. It was also a shame that I had less than an hour to properly study the installation, as by the time I had to leave I’d gained the feel of it all & begun to like it quite a bit. There was not time to obtain “samples” & donate them before the exhibit closed at Somerset House & I believe it is next showing in Denmark & then returns to the UK in Darlington. I hope it does return to London in the future, maybe even back at Somerset House where the underground space so suited it. Also I would like to make a contribution.
Overall, surprisingly enjoyable & great kudos to Amy Sharrocks for putting it all together.