Museums are Magic

Museums are magic for writers because they are full of stories. Every object, picture and photograph has a story; the story the curator of the exhibition has chosen to tell and the one which presents itself to me as an individual.

In her seminal work, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron prescribes trips out to re-nourish the creativity. These should be done alone, should be to something ‘cultural’, should be with a notebook in hand, ready for scribbles about the experience. I try to incorporate these into my writing life in order to keep my creative reservoir topped up (to misquote the author Alan Gardner). I am also interested in how engaging with artistic forms other than the written word can inspire my writing.

Last week I went to see an exhibition called ‘Endurance’ at my local art gallery Through objects held in the museum’s store, it explored Shackleton’s voyage to Antarctica. I asked myself, who had held the wooden handle of that carpentry tool? It’s patina is so smooth I could almost see fingerprints of its owner captured in it. There’s the photos of the men who had made the journey south, their gaze reaching across the years to mine. Each one with a personal tale, with their own motivations, their own vulnerabilities, their own strengths.

Museums are magic for writers because they are full of words:

Weddell Sea.
Ocean Camp.
Patience Camp.
Not a life was lost.

But when that photo was taken of those haggard men, who knew not a life would be lost?

There’s nowhere better for a writer to head than a small museum staffed by volunteers.These are generally an eclectic and informative delight, a treasure chest of stories, staffed by people with a passion. We are lucky to have the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre, I love maps, maps are stories in themselves. I was fascinated by SMHC’s collection of oceanographic charts. Though faintly disappointed by the lack of ‘therebe dragons’.

Museums are magic for writers. When did you last visit your local museum and what stories did you find?


4 thoughts on “Museums are Magic

  1. paulanthonyspencer

    Absolutely agree, Kate. Haven’t visited for a while, but I have a fondness for Filey museum on Queen street. I remember writing a story specifically inspired by a model ship fashioned in bone (a fishing coble).



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