Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
Thank you to Glen Gardner for supplying today’s blog inspiration with his suggestion of perusing the “Musee le Secq des Tournelles” website. Literally translated the museum's title refers to the collection of metalwork given to the museum by Henri Secq Tournelles. The museum maintains a large collection of steel and ironwork pieces ranging from architectural elements and fashion to measuring instruments and lock and keys. Digitally strolling through the massive collection is awe inspiring and reminded me that my history with the two metals goes back further than I originally thought. Two very distinct memories came to mind. Antique toys at Great-Aunt Naomi’s and hefty iron locks at Great-Grandma’s.
A visit to Aunt Naomi’s house always meant two things: tea party with the fancy plastic tea set and digging through the attic. After a proper tea party, I would climb the dusty attic stairs to spend hours rooting through box after crumbling cardboard box to uncover antique cosmetic compacts, metal lip gloss containers, and wind-up toys. With steel inner workings and tin bodies, the wind-up toys had both an allure and a fear-factor, especially the well-loved wind-up baby toy with missing parts. After being sufficiently entertained (or frightened) by each wind-up toy with its clockwork springs, I would pull out my true treasure—the metal cosmetic containers. Each compact would be adequately opened and closed repeatedly to ensure that the lack of contents remained the same from the last visit. I was partial to one metal compact that was more ornate than the rest. Locket-like in appearance, the outside of the lip gloss compact was enameled with a brightly colored flower pattern with a brass interior. Hinging open, the clasp was a simple one, acting much like a tensioned paper clip. Although the contents never changed, I would find any reason to pop it open and close it shut tight again and again.
I have always been fascinated by mechanisms and what makes them operate. My earliest memories of this necessity to unveil the inner workings of miniature parts are at my great-grandmother and great-aunts’ homes. The houses had those large door knob/lock combinations installed on each heavy wooden door. I remember running through my great-grandmother and great-aunts’ homes to collect and hoard all the skeleton keys I could get my hands on. I spent the entire visit locking and unlocking the doors and jiggling the door knobs. Despite knowing which key fit which lock, I would methodically try each key for the sake of manipulating the metal components for a few seconds more. Modern doors, unless custom made, no longer hold the same fascination. There was a special relationship shared with each well-worn skeleton key and each lock patinated with age. What is it about steel and iron, especially antiqued steel and iron, that holds so much interest for the viewer? What draws us to it? There is an innate reaction in each of us to the patina of age, the knowledge that this object has lived and seen so much. The coloring, weight, and materiality unique to metal inspires a certain reverence as it connects societies throughout history, providing us with a brief glimpse into the very lives of those who interacted with the object on a daily basis.
Check it out:
Musee le Secq des Tournelles: http://www.rouen-musees.com/Musee-le-Secq-des-Tournelles.
Love the follow up Erin! I will have a look at the museum site tonight.
I have another book with similar ironwork. As soon as I find it I'll post the title /author. It has some good historical text to acompany the pictures. I'm sure it's out of print.
Thank you Glen! It's funny how the "really good books" go out of print. I have a few of those myself which I adore and was lucky to find!