In the autumn of 2017, I spent one month working as an artist/researcher-in-residence with the collections team at York Minster. I was based in the Old Palace – the Minster’s library. This gave me the chance to delve into the collections to discover what was hidden in this treasure house of books and objects. Quickly I realised that everyone’s treasure was different, that what people found precious was individual.
We made this short film to show you what this project was about:
I became fascinated by how many things in the collections had been remade, reused and recycled: sections of stained glass inserted into newer windows; flyers for seventeenth-century plays lovingly preserved as a book; carved stonework used as ballast in the foundations.
To find out more about my adventures in the archive, read my four part blog on the process of making: http://wrocah.ac.uk/york-minster-a-living-library/
We wanted to create a performance experience that would encourage people to engage creatively with the Minster’s large and eclectic collections.
On the 27th January 2018, I made a treasure hunt at York Residents’ Festival. I told visitors the story of my adventures in the archives, of my discoveries and I gave each audience member a map. They were encouraged to take the map, to find their own treasure and to share it with us. They were invited to draw on the map, to describe what they had seen and to quote from the books that they took down from the shelves. Each visitor became an explorer seeking out their own precious items, places and texts.
Artist Josephine Scales designed and illustrated the map for us.
In the afternoon, I ran a performance workshop inside the Minster. By moving differently in the space people were encouraged to look at it with fresh eyes. Participants used the space to guide their voices and movements, before making a physical theatre machine in response to the Five Sisters’ window – a massive work of stained glass that has undergone many transformations.
All photographs taken by Joseph Samuel Priestley. Copyright © 2018 The University of Sheffield / York Minster
All films were made by Joe Binks. Copyright © 2018 The University of Sheffield / York Minster
This film documents the storytelling part of the performance:
This project was funded by the White Rose College of Arts and Humanities.