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Whilst we prepared for the St Albans Museum + Gallery, UH Galleries and St Albans Museums jointly commissioned an Artist in Residence project with funding from Arts Council England.

We worked with artist Lyndall Phelps on a three stage project.

  1. Stage one was the exhibition Abundance which Lyndall created in the old Museum of St Albans as we moved the collections out.
  2. For the second stage of her work, Lyndall went back to the origins of the museum for inspiration for A Curious Conversation.
  3. Stage three is Accumulate - one of the opening exhibitions in St Albans Museum + Gallery.

A Curious Conversation was a pop-up museum which toured locations across St Albans in 2017 including the University of Hertfordshire Gallery; St Albans Hospital; St Pauls, Fleetville; Maltings Shopping Centre; St Albans Cathedral and St Julians, Cottonmill.

A Curious Conversation had its origins in the 1880s, before there was a museum in St Albans at all, when a Conversazione (a nineteenth century pop-up exhibition) was held in the public library. It brought together a range of historical objects, curiosities and works of art from private collections. The exhibition was such a success that it lead to the foundation of what was to become the Museum of St Albans.

"Great kindness and liberality were shown on the part of residents in St. Albans and neighbourhood in lending their choicest pictures, relics, books, specimens of architecture, &c.; and as considerable energy was thrown into the whole matter, unqualified success has attended the efforts of the society."

extract from the Herts Advertiser report on the Conversazione

A list of the works displayed, and their donors, appeared in the Herts Advertiser; this inspired Lyndall to create her own Conversazione for the twenty first century. She has curated a range of objects from St Albans Museums’ collection, including archaeology, art, natural history and social history, alongside new artwork inspired by her research.

Some of the objects on display here today are similar to the ones that appeared in 1880. One object was even part of the original display 137 years ago. 

If you want to read more about Lyndall's work and the thinking behind the exhibition you can discover more on the UHArts blog, Artists in Conversation: Lyndall Phelps: Museology.

As part of our Artist in Residence project Lyndall has also been supporting two artists who are still in the early stages of their careers.

In 2016, Katy Gillam-Hill presented Rescued Retained Revered inspired by our Salaman Tool collection. She worked with a variety of groups during the summer of 2016 culminating in an exhibition in the Clock Tower. You can read about her work here: Katy Gillam-Hull: Useful and Useless Objects.

Abi Spendlove took some of the broken objects in our collection for inspiration.

Photograph by Inna Allen