Thursday, 6 November 2014

Visit to The Mining Institute and Lit and Phil Society

As part of our Professional Practice or Exhibition module, this morning we went to visit The Mining Institute and The Literary & Philosophical Society (Lit & Phil). Both of these could be potential venues for our group exhibition which will take place at the beginning of next year.

"The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers is often abbreviated to “the Mining Institute”.

The Mining Institute owns one of the finest buildings in Newcastle, Neville Hall, a Victorian building built at the time when high-Gothic architecture was coming into fashion. The outside of the building is known to hundreds of thousands of people, it is next to the Central Station, but few people realise what is inside. Neville Hall houses the memorial to the Institute's first President, Nicholas Wood, an outstanding Victorian Library resplendent filled with superb stonework, redolent with exquisite carved stone, wood and paintings with a beautifully decorated ceiling, a vast glass roof and filled with furniture designed for the library in 1872. Below the Library is the Edwardian Lecture Theatre, modeled on the Royal Institution in London and constructed in deep red Cuban Mahogany."

The librarian was ever so helpful and was enthusiastic about working with Art students from the University. She mentioned that the building had been used in the past for exhibitions and once a circus had a trapeze in the library.

We then went to The Literary & Philosophical Society (Lit & Phil); the largest independent library outside London, housing over 150,000 books. A wide selection of current fiction and non-fiction can be found alongside historical collections covering every field of interest.

The music library is without equal in the North of England, including 8,000 CDs and 10,000 LPs.

The Grade II* listed building was opened in 1825 and the magnificent reading rooms remain largely unchanged. The collection is coupled with an extensive set of periodicals.

When thinking about making work in such loaded spaces, I have a feeling of dread as I feel as though there are already so many existing things of interest in the building, that I feel as though my work would be overlooked, and question whether it would have a meaningful presence. 

One way of tackling this would be to create an event in which something happens, emphasising the qualities of the space, or drawing upon what happens in the space.

For example, Irene told me that the Lit and Phil society used to hold events called 'The Philosophical Table' at which members of the Lit and Phil would discuss ideas. The only topics which were banned were religion and politics. Unfortunately these discussions no longer happen, and one idea that I have is to reinstate them. I would want to add my own take on the 'Philosophers Table', in order to differentiate it from what used to happen.

I was taken by the fairly large group of readers who were sat eating their sandwiches whilst reading books and chatting as a group. There was a little kitchenette in the library at which one could purchase tea, coffee and biscuits, creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere. I imagine that there is a regular group of individuals who spend hours in the library, and it could be interesting to hear about their lives and experience of the library.

Perhaps I could hold a 'Philosophers Table' event at which members are invited to talk about one book in the library that particularly interests them. Rather like a show and tell event, this could be a great way of getting to know both the individuals and the content of the library.

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