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Imagine you’re in a museum. You might spot a gargantuan four-poster bed that was a 16th century pub tourist attraction or a threadbare sackcloth robe worn in church by a 17th century adulteress.
Yet despite their rarity, we often fail to engage with these extraordinary objects. We simply nod and move on.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Through its 26 Treasures project, writers’ collective 26 is exploring how to create emotional connections between objects and individuals.
In 2010, London’s Victoria & Albert museum chose 26 objects from its British Galleries and randomly assigned them to 26 writers. Each person wrote exactly 62 words – 26 in reflection – in response to the object.
The results were beautiful, surprising, lyrical, sometimes comical. Andrew Motion wrote about a bust of Homer, a 17th century Chinese porcelain figure reminded a writer of a pub landlord in Inverness, while the wedding suit of James 11 inspired 62 words about “a suit as full of scratches as a rose-garden”.
In 2011 we took the idea to the National Library of Wales, the Ulster Museum and the National Museum of Scotland, where writers were let loose on objects as disparate as a mediaeval illuminated book, a beggar’s badge and a 16th century Scottish guillotine.
Now we need your help. We want to produce an anthology containing the results – including writing by Lucy Caldwell, Gillian Clarke, Alexander McCall Smith, Paul Muldoon, Bernard McLaverty and Maura Dooley.
It’s a fascinating insight into 21st century writers' perspectives on British cultural history. So please help us publish this beautiful collection of visual and verbal curiosities.
The Gough Looking-Glass
The notes suggest it’s all about this frame;
Plague, Restoration, London frosts or flame,
gesso, paint, glaze, specks of gilt and varnish,
silver leaf that turns each day to tarnish.
I think within is where the spirit dwells.
Whose face dipped in this pool to glimpse herself?
What shadow slipped through that straight gate as cloud?
Memento mori, hour glass, Turin shroud.
Writer Maura Dooley,
This book has 1 review with an average rating of 5 stars.
This book has a treasured place on my bookshelf, it's there right to hand, I love nothing better than to pick it up and dip into it, randomly opening the book and discovering a historical treasure and beside it a poem inspired by the item, from James 2nds Wedding Suit to a Shoemakers Last and everyhting... (read more)
This book is now published. You can still pledge, but you won't get listed as a supporter in the back.
e-book edition, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book
1st edition hardback copy of the book signed by at least four of the authors, access to the shed & the e-book.
Tour with an author to see featured treasures in one of three museums (Edinburgh, Belfast or London - your choice, includes coffee with the author)
1st edition hardback copy of the book with your name in the back, access to the shed & the e-book.
Half-day creative writing workshop
1st edition hardback copy of the book signed by at least four of the authors, with your name in the back, access to the shed & the e-book.