In 1861, at 1.30pm, Chichester Cathedral’s spire collapsed in on itself, leaving a mass of rubble in its wake. This rubble was then reclaimed and transported to nearby West Ashling, where it was used to construct a chapel.
Over 150 years later, this tradition of reclamation and salvage is maintained in the building – achieved through its current status as a museum and space for engagement.
The Clock Trust is an extremely unique space. Clocks and related technology are stored in vast quantities – piled, hung and stacked as far as the eye can see, to the extent that it is hard to focus on one thing alone. But, as the facilitator of workshops explained to me, these objects are not stored in glass display cases for a good reason: they exist in the space to encourage physical interaction.
On a regular basis workshops are held in the museum, where children are invited to take apart what is on display and then reconstruct it. This process of ‘dismantle and rebuild’ is intended to provide insight into our world and how it works – and seems extremely successful.
The museum’s maximal approach to display is strikingly removed from current museum exhibition trends, which is perhaps why actually being in the space does not feel anything like visiting other museum spaces. Although most museum and gallery spaces have incredible interactive features and run excellent participation projects, the idea of actually touching (let alone pulling apart) what is on display, remains unthinkable. It is fascinating to think that these beautiful objects can be handled, moved and absorbed by visitors.
Walking around the space, it occurred to me how the ‘life cycle’ of a clock is a fascinating one. As a member of staff explained to me, reclamation and physical disassemble/reassemble is vital to this cycle, in that the objects need to be maintained and ‘kept alive’, so to speak. Making children aware of this active process, and involving them in it, is a captivating idea. And the fact that this process is experienced in a maximal space which is itself made from reclaimed parts, makes this all the more enchanting.
(Aside from the actual post, I feel it is important to thank the amazing staff who I met at The Clock Trust during my visit. The chapel is quite far off the beaten track and I wasn’t even sure if I’d arrived at the right place when I entered the museum! But their openness, warmth and generosity soon made me feel comfortable. The passion that they shared for unique creative opportunities, also struck me. And the coffee and waffles, prepared by the talented resident artist Lou Lou, were delicious too! Her colourful tapestries can be seen in the slideshow above.)