Souvenirs are a pebble, a leaf, a divine piece of kitsch, a mass produced novelty item linked only to a place by the inclusion of the place name, an inappropriate or comical representation of a place, or a handcrafted artwork sensitively commemorating the experience of a specific place. These are all definitions of souvenirs. From prehistoric times to ancient civilizations, from pilgrim journeys to international holidays, the temptation to acquire and collect souvenirs as objects of memory has remained strong and evolved into a massive industry. These ‘must have’ objects of memories of ‘thereand then become prize displays in glass fronted cabinets, are relegated to the back of the cupboard, off loaded at car boot sales.
SOUVENIR, Aldeburgh was a new artwork which has been over forty years in the making, since Eileen Haring Woods bought the first item in her personal collection – a nodding head brown dog at Mont St Michel; with absolutely no connection to this historic site, sitting oddly amongst other souvenirs with no connection to the place.
Collaborating with author and artist Deborah Jaffe, the site specific installation in the Aldeburgh Beach Look in Suffolk, UK provided the visitor with five interrelated experiences which considered memory as object.
The main display in the Lookout was a curated collection of weird and wonderful objects from around the world from the collections of Eileen Haring Woods and Deborah Jaffé with additional contributions from friends. An avid collector and writer on the social history and manufacture of souvenirs, Deborah has amassed hundreds of seaside souvenirs and intriguing objects from her travels. Deborah Jaffé’s interpretation of seaside souvenirs as ceramic works were also on show.
In the ‘middle room’ up the wooden stairs, artist Bill Jackson’s World of Wonders offered visitors a very special souvenir experience via his 3D Viewmasters and collection of slides from the 1960’s.
A new map for Aldeburgh, Lookout-Look up was in the top of the Tower, up the spiral stair. Our sense of place is linked to the geographical reference points of maps, and this new map of Aldeburgh provided a totally new reference, positioning you, the visitor at the exact point on the planet where you stand, at the centre of the Lookout tower. It was worth the journey.
The film, Memory as Object (below) by Eileen juxtaposes images and film of souvenirs as a digital curated collection.
The Aldeburgh Museum in Moot Hall presented their own collection of Aldeburgh souvenirs and we invite you all to stroll along the seafront to enjoy one of Aldeburgh’s famous landmarks.
Many thanks to Caroline Wiseman, owner and curator of the Aldeburgh Beach Lookout and to Catherine Howard-Dobson, curator of the Aldeburgh Museum for their generous support.