Creepy is in the eye of the beholder…

Lots of people got in touch with the Museum on instagram and via email to suggest we that we immediately hasten to post something on twitter to take part in the brilliant idea from York Museum – its weekly #CURATORBATTLE showdown, which we hope remains a weekly fixation even after lockdown ends!

This week’s theme is ‘creepy’ – or specifically, #creepiestobject. Which got us thinking and talking and arguing about the museum’s character and context, but also our ‘creepy quotient’ or ‘creepy score’ -considered to be off the scale for some. This in fact was a common motivation for the many well meant suggestions that we take part, and on the basis that in terms of extremes, we probably do house the worlds largest collection – both in terms of quality and quantity of objects – which some of our audience indeed might describe as ‘creepy’. Just as we are sometimes described as a Dark Tourism site -we don’t think we are- our overall tendency is to resist such monikers, although we respect the response of all, and everything is in the eye of the beholder…

Let’s remember that for many of the makers and users of our objects, ‘their’ object was a means to and a representation of their faith in practice, a charm, or a tool, or a spell, or a devotional item, such as a rosary, with very personal meanings for them, which are not likely to include the descriptor; creepy.

Each of us here experiences seeing for the first time objects we then become custodians for over time. With any and all of them, in spite of how challenging they may be on an individual level, we develop a relationship with them which is, we hope, a true reflection of their power as an artefact, and informed by a respect for the purposes (light or dark) of their original user. It is true, occasionally an object may well seem to possess the power to inspire fear, or resonate with a contained power which lies beyond or within the aesthetic. In these cases, what is inspired in the eye of the beholder is often very particular to them, and may not necessarily be the same for you. 

But entering into the spirit of things, we decided to choose an object – and not to show off too much!

Firstly, we challenged the online collection with the word ‘creepy’ and were delighted by its single choice: a Hallowe’en themed Toilet Seat Cover, which was part of our exhibition a few years ago – Glitter and Grave Dust – on the subject of Halloween Past and Present. We are happy to say, we think this item is rather extraordinary, and we were certainly not expecting this result! 

A very instructive pamphlet on the objects in this exhibition remains on sale in our shop.

We then asked our curator in chief for his primary choice which provoked a further meditation on objects stored behind the scenes and which are rarely displayed, such is their potential for turning the viewer -briefly- to stone… but we decline to describe them in detail here. Some things are best left unsaid, but there are some special things backstage…

After a further period of reflection he has nominated instead object number 519, from our curses section – Red Slingback with Waxen Sparrow. We leave you to enjoy the description, and captions, provided by the Museum’s founder, Cecil Williamson.