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Museum London marks 80th anniversary with virtual exhibit pairing people with artifacts | CBC News

Eighty years ago, Museum London opened its doors in the city. 

On Monday, despite a temporary closure as a result of the provincewide stay-at-home order, the museum found a unique way to get Londoners involved in its latest project to mark its 80th anniversary.

The 80ML exhibit, a virtual gallery that will run through the end of the year, paired 80 Londoners with 80 pieces of work —40 artworks and 40 artifacts— from the museum’s permanent collection.

“What makes 80ML a little bit different from a traditional exhibition was that we started with the people,” said Andrew Kear, senior curator and head of exhibitions with Museum London. “Rather than picking the objects or writing them as curators, we reached out to people first.”

Eighty people were assigned an object by the museum and asked to write about it, with the hope of stirring some community engagement on both ends of the spectrum.

“The idea was that we asked them and then we would propose [an object] that we thought really aligned with them, with their past, with their history, with what they do here,” Kear said.

The museum did not only want to ensure a wide variety of objects were covered, Kear said, but, more importantly, that a diverse group of people participated in the project.

Eighty Londoners were paired with 80 objects and asked to reflect on how it relates to them. (ML80 Museum London)

Among the participants were religious leader Aarij Anwer, interim Imam at the London Mosque, the region’s medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie and Grade 5 student Lyla Wheeler who launched a petition last year to change the name of her street because of its association to slavery.

Wheeler, who is the youngest contributor, was given the oldest object. An embroidery dating back to the 1800s by Elizabeth Palot.

“Elizabeth put a lot of time and care into her needlework. The sampler shows the importance of her faith and religion,” Wheeler wrote. “I like to sew. If I were alive in 1811, I would like to make something like that. I would feel proud if people 200 years in the future were looking at my creations.”

Summer 2007 Sitting on Lawn, Museum London, near Rhino, 2007, by artist Bernice Vincent. (80ML Museum London)

John Nicholson, founding principal at Nicholson Sheffield Architects Inc. and member of the London Community Foundation Board, also participated

“While unexpected, I think I saw a bit of thread about why they picked this piece for me,” Nicholson said.

The artwork selected for Nicholson was “Summer 2007 Sitting on Lawn, Museum London, near Rhino, 2007,” by artist Bernice Vincent.

“Bernice was an integral part of the London Regionalism movement. To me, her work relates first to her immediate surroundings, then to her city and region, often showing change over time,” he said.

Nicholson was the architect when the Museum was re-clad, he said, and suggested adding the grey panels in the lower right.

He said the virtual exhibit has made him more keen to take the time to read and reflect on each object.

CBC London host Chris dela Torre also took part in the community project and was paired with a tabletop radio circa 1938 from the museum’s collection.

“By today’s standards, it’s cool, sleek, and vintage. But in its day, there probably wasn’t anything sexy about this object. It was utilitarian. Accessible. Affordable. It was simply someone’s link to the world — the news, stories and music of the day,” dela Torre wrote.

A tabletop radio circa 1938 from the museum’s permanent collection. (80ML Museum London )

“To me, this old radio is a reminder of why I’m lucky to work in this field. It’s a public service. Hopefully, in some small way, I’m telling someone what they need to hear.”

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