How do we define an "object"?

Updated: Feb 11

The Research team met for the first time this week at the Maritime Museum. They are all studying history at Greenwich University. So they asked good questions, like "what qualifies as an object ? ". For example an early post featured the historic "Blackheath Tea Hut" established around 1920 but recently demolished by a passing car when the driver lost control. Some physical objects may be "lost" but survive in a photo, film or digital record - and to be honest , as yet we have no definitive answer about size and shape of objects that will be featured in this "collection".

From the Maritime Museum's large collection we can access paintings and drawings that offer a variety of perspectives on Greenwich. From the iconic view from Observatory Hill over "Greenwich Hospital" (now University) to pictures exploring the ships and working life of the River.

The editor is hopeful that small functional or decorative objects will be at the heart of this project. A certain eighteenth century watch (or "chronometer") carries an extraordinary history of time-keeping over three centuries before the digital age when time is held on mobile and laptop. Coins, buttons, toys and and hundreds of mysterious fragments found on the foreshore are rescued by licensed mudlarks and once cleaned and examined can connect us in countless ways to the people who settled, lived or passed through Greenwich over the past millennium.

In the public domain there are just a few surviving structures from the nineteenth or twentieth centuries , when Greenwich workers produced machines and material in local factories and wharves, that went around the world. We will be selecting from that huge pool of local "products" to feature just some iconic examples; from Thames barges, fire-engines and prototype "bi-cycles" to Clipper ships to Co-op sausages, all made in Greenwich.

Still visible, though often ignored by both tourist and resident alike are the numerous forms of memorial located across Greenwich: Of the statues, sculptures, murals and plaques. "Nelsons Ship in a Bottle" (2010) is hard to ignore. It has become a local landmark and is one of the top images posted on Instagram by Maritime Museum visitors . But how does this accurate model of Nelson's ship, the Victory, meet the basic criteria "Does this say Greenwich?".- with its' sails made of African waxed cloth signalling a coded message about global trade, empire and colonialism, Our national hero has long held a treasured place in the history books and in Trafalgar Square, but Greenwich has evolved since the Battle of Trafalgar. Looking further back this was a fishing village and small port that grew over 500 years, the site of a Royal Palace, then Seamen's Hospital, Naval College and University. For me the "Ship" makes a subtle and creative connection between this place and global exploration, imperial ambition, trade and the blood-stained legacy of transatlantic slave trade Today we explore the past through many perspectives and voices, and the authorised versions of history are often contested and revised. Just as artist Yinka Shonibare fitted "Nelsons Ship in a Bottle", we will have a creative journey to find "50 Objects" that can fit "A History of Greenwich".

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