At the Wellcome Collection in London the other week I was stopped in my tracks by three Japanese wood panels depicting botanical specimens. The panels are made from the wood and framed in the bark of the trees represented: Chusan palm, Japanese persimmon and Asian pear. They were on loan from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
The display is part of a collaboration between five London museums (Horniman Museum; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Natural History Museum; Science Museum and the Wellcome Collection). Each museum has chosen an object or group of objects which has never been displayed before. Each object is displayed in each institution for six weeks and its ‘story’ is written by an expert from each of the institutions. The stories are printed in a little booklet you can take away. The point of the exercise, I think, is to show the different stories that are told by different people in different institutions about the same object. An approach which is close to the heart of New Light on Old Bones.
In fact each story is told from an interdisciplinary perspective which suggests that it is far too simple to suggest that scientists think in one way and artists in another.
What would be fun is to print the stories without their originating institution and see if we can decide their origin simply from analysing the content. I suspect we wouldn’t be able to. Now there’s a challenge for someone.