Sunday, 20 September 2015

Making your own museum: guerrilla memorialization, counter-heritage, counter-tourism and situationist interventionism

 We had a lovely walk today, revisiting the Laurie Lee poetry posts – see

But this post is about unofficial memorialization; so first of all, the book that inspired me, and then some borrowed and some original ideas for making your own museum, to try out in the streets, fields and lanes in which you live, work, or travel.
Make up your own ideas too – and share, of course.

A Pocketbook
50 Odd Things To Do In A Heritage Site
(and other places)
Triarchy Press

Gentle, surreal and subversive ideas ‘assembled by Crab Man’.
Here we have a truncated few of the 50 odd, but it’s best to buy the book isn’t it?
(More expensive, but also recommended:
Counter-Tourism The Handbook;
Walking, Writing & Performance;
 Creating Memorials Building Identities The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic -
 by all means borrow mine if you are pushed for cash.)

A Pocketbook
50 Odd Things To Do In A Heritage Site

‘Conduct conversations with portraits’,
(You’ll have to buy the book),

‘Collect Heritij clichés, for example:
‘with a nod to the past and an eye to the future’;
‘ Medieval jousts – as seen on TV’;
‘travel in our “time machines"’ –
‘Share them at’,

‘Domesticate iconic buildings’ – for example,
‘Do a bit of dusting in Buckingham Palace as you pass through’,

Rewrite ‘nostalgic’ heritage sites without the class oppression,

Anywhere can be a heritage site,
You can use the tactics anywhere,
You can create your own heritage sites.

What an absolutely brilliant book!
Only £5.99

Some Counter-Tourist Tactics for Stroud

A suburban home means as much a stately home
(Put posters in windows: “EVERY HOME A HERITAGE SITE"),
Invite people around and give them a guided tour –
You could even issue tickets and rope off PRIVATE AREAS.

Leave counter-heritage notes in envelopes addressed to
and insert them in the gaps between official plaques
and the surfaces to which the plaques are attached,
For example:
the Black Boy clock in Nelson Street
 needs a different contextualization,
one which foregrounds slavery rather than a clock.

Leave notes in hedgerows, estimating their age
(As a rule of toe, one species of tree per hundred years
 in a 30 metre walk along the chosen hedge),
And include some lines from John Clare about enclosure,
For example:
Unbounded freedom ruled the wandering scene
Nor fence of ownership crept in between
To hide the prospect of the following eye
Its only bondage was the circling sky’.

When you visit local long barrows,
Stand by the information boards full of their enervating statistics,
And think of all the people who questioned why such constructions were necessary, but were forced to dig and delve and hew.
Make their feelings politely known.

Visit buildings associated with slave owners who received compensation for the abolition of slavery in 1834,
And leave notes.
For example, the Rev. Joseph Duncan Ostrehan, who owned slaves in Barbados and lived at Sheepscombe Parsonage,
A memorial in the church eulogizes him:
In faithfully preaching Christ he gave prominence to the Blessed Truth that His sheep should never perish, neither should any man pluck them out of His hand.’

Place a ribbon across the top of the High Street,
Where the street surface is subsiding
as the numerous subterranean springs endlessly flow,
Have a placard:
Cut the ribbon, remove the placard,
and re-open the spectacle of normality.

Look for where ‘the past is poking through’,
For example, the fern covered drain in the Slad Road,
Just where the drive leads up past the bakers to Star Anis,
Look down the drain into the dark world of the Slad Brook,
Trace its culverted path to the new flats on the other side
of the main road junction at the bottom of Gloucester Street,
This is Badbrook, where cloth masters were ducked
in the 1825 Stroudwater Riots,
You could leave a red paper plaque to point this out,
With the heading ‘Hidden History Number 1’,
And carry on with this act of numbered
guerrilla memorialization elsewhere in the town
and Stroudwater villages.

When guerrilla memorializing,
you are making the invisible visible,
You are rescuing the anonymous poor from
‘the enormous condescension of posterity’
Invent people, invent names and invent stories,
You could leave these fabrications in cafes and pubs,
Just like Otto and Elise Hampel,
with their anti-Hitler postcards in wartime Berlin.

Such activity opposes the fetishization of documents.

You could produce a board game for Stroud called Coffeopoly,
And place all the cafes of the town in strategic spots,
With Counter-Heritage Chance cards to be drawn,
And Counter Tourism Community Chest cards;
Such a game will reverse the history of coffee houses –
There will be no discussion of insurance, slavery, bubbles,
Trade, Empire and war,
Instead: wage rises, unions, the abolition of slavery, equality,
The end of enclosure and private property,
And the construction of a Radical History Trail,
With alternative Heritage Boards and a We Spy Quiz.

Talk to Mr. Holloway’s statue and ask him
why he was so opposed to the co-operative movement
if he was such a friend of the working class.
You might have to use a megaphone so as to ensure
he hears you above the traffic’s din.
It gets busy by the railway bridge.

Magic reinterpretations of the past in the landscape, 
with small-scale representations,
For example, take a model train and semaphore signal
down to the old Nailsworth branch line,
Place in a suitably atmospheric wooded spot,
Take pictures and write a poem and place on social media
to encourage others to do the same sort of thing
across the five valleys, villages and towns,
And so build up a collective social media
and traditional album of the past;
Hold show and tell afternoons with tea and scones,
With short talks from exhibitors about their re-creations,
Especially with reference to how passers-by reacted;
Create a shop in your kitchen with pencils, rubbers
and fridge magnets for sale.

Take photographs of incongruities in the landscape,
Surreal or jarring juxtapositions,
Visual and/or historical oxymorons,
Such as the unconscious celebration of slavery in Bristol,
With a pub called the Golden Guinea in Guinea Street,
With signboards next door consciously celebrating
Heritage and the Future;
You could create your own versions of these solecisms –
Make the invisible visible,
Illustrating the hidden assumptions of the spectacle of the street.

When you are looking for the past poking through,
Look for floral palimpsests,
Wood anemones on Rodborough Common, for example,
Connoting woodland, long lost amongst the current swards.

Look for urban palimpsests too,
But transform industrial archaeology into social history,
By leaving invented first person recollections
or fabulous but credible statistics,
These can be your counter heritage calling cards.

Choose an unobtrusive, seemingly mediocre spot,
a place with apparently nothing to recommend it,
Reveal the extraordinary within the ordinary,
A William Blake vision of the universe within a drop of water
or a grain of sand,
Record and/or photograph and/or write down your thoughts
About this exact spot on the first day of each month
throughout the year,
And share your Miniaturist’s Almanack with friends and family
On each successive New Year’s Eve.

Take pre-decimal old money into your favoured public house,
Try to buy beer at old prices but with good humour,
And with clichéd sallies,
Treat the pub as a historical theme park –
Choose a year beforehand,
And conduct all conversation as if it is that year,
For example: ‘The Day when War broke out’.

When leaving counter-heritage calling cards,
Or leaving nocturnal red paper plaques,
Or conducting conversations with the black boy in Nelson Street,
Ensure that your peregrination involves a deconstruction
Of the iconography of pub signs,
You could sketch alternative ones and proffer to publicans.

You should also ensure that your ramble includes
a deconstruction of street names:
 you might want to point at a name such as King Street,
And maintain a street discussion
about whether it might be renamed as
Citizen Street
draw passers-by into your colloquy,
As you make your pilgrimage around the names of streets.
You might want to take a wax crayon and plain paper
and make rubbings for a show and tell
In your own domestic museum.

Such an urban activity lends itself well to the countryside,
You could informally name footpaths and holloways,
And delicately mark this new nomenclature
upon your own OS maps;
You could also create a new space-time matrix
by cutting up photocopies of old OS maps,
And sticking them carefully onto a modern map,
So as to create a new utopian world.

Visit the Oxfam Shop and the bookies in Gloucester Street,
This used to be the Golden Hart  - a pub with a bowling green -,
Where Henry Vincent, the charismatic Chartist speaker,
Raised the roof and the masses in 1839,
So stroll into the bookies and mime some bowling of ninepins,
Then collect some betting slips and fill in the Six Points
As the names of your horses in six different races:
Universal Suffrage; Payment of MPs; Equal Electoral Districts; Secret Ballot; Annual Parliaments; Abolition of the Property Qualification for MP.
You might do this just the once.

If the television is on, and a period costume drama comes on,
Turn it off,
And visit the Farmers’ Market instead,
Count how many times you hear or see the words
‘artisan’ and ‘artisanal’
Used in an entrepreneurial false consciousness
bourgeois sort of way.

Take a walk across fields threatened with development
on a frosty morning,
Take photographs of your footprints
(For your own or a collective alternative museum),
Listen to the drone of the traffic,
Then imagine the sound of clogs, shoes, hooves and bare feet,
Re-create the conversations of past centuries,
By finding wormholes that will transport you through time,
For example, the alleyway in Stroud’s High Street
linked to Walker’s Bakery.

Visit Ordnance Survey Trig. Points and leave white poppies,
And practice commemorative guerrilla gardening,
With wild flowers seeds,
Rather than ceramic poppies,
In neglected, ‘appropriate places’,
Then stand in front of some CCTV cameras,
Clad in historical costume,
And recreate some famous events from the past,
With a series of historical tableaux.

Create your own lexis and vocabulary,
As in Robert Macfarlane,
For example: ‘Severnset’,
A word to describe the sun setting over the Severn,
When viewed from Rodborough Common,
Or ‘frost-furrow’ and ‘rime-ridge’,
To describe the re-appearance of a medieval landscape,
On a William Langland Piers Plowman winter’s day.

Conduct conversations with imaginary ghosts whilst out walking,
Or create an Edward Thomas imagined alter ego – ‘The Other’,
And unlike Thomas, who spurned the use a map when out walking,
Photograph a keepsake when you cross those
grid-reference lines on the map: Eastings and Northings,
Create a miniature museum of these keepsake pictures.

Rename constellations in the heavens
With names from radical history,
Then address the gutters too.

Photocopy banknotes and substitute radical faces for the monarch’s,
Just as Thomas Spence used to create a radical coinage
in the reign of King George the Third,
You could make wax crayon rubbings of coins,
But replace the circumferential Church and State fidelities,
With radical slogans and assertions.
Your house might begin to so overflow with your memorabilia,
That you might feel obliged to designate a room in your home
As ‘The Museum of Counter-Heritage, Counter-Tourism,
Guerrilla Memorialisation and Situationist Intervention’.

Your final radical act will be to call on people,
By ringing the doorbell, or knocking on the door,
Or you will communicate with them
In the street by word of mouth,
Instead of via social media,
And you will invite them round to view your completed museum,
And they will reciprocate,
And you will form a new community,
With feet in past, present and future tenses:
 A Society of Radical Remembrancers,
Whose oath of allegiance might run thus:
We do collectively and individually swear that we shall
Help make the nvisibilised visible,
And we shall leave mementoes to the invisibilised,
And create a series of Lieux de Memoire,
Sites of Memory,
That might be as transient and ephemeral as words writ on water,
Or as long lasting as Time might permit.

1 comment:

  1. Also a much ignored and invisibilised thing is 'man hole covers' . They are cast iron with interesting designs made by workers in forges such as cinderford. Beneath them are the services which support our urban lives but which mostly draw unsustainably upon the planet: water supply, sewage, electricity, gas etc. This disguises our connection to natural systems and creates the fantasy that we can be 'de-coupled from nature' . I propose doing rubbings of the manhole covers and then ' following back to source' the pipes beneath so we collectively understand them. And then making new manhole covers that celebrate the invisible 'ecosystem services' which we all rely on: the recycling systems of soil life, the provision of fresh water through water cycle, the provision of food energy from leaves. And so on !

    Yours. Fred ,Miller.