MUSEUM AS MUSEUM
Quex Park is the site of the Powell-Cotton Museum. It is an estate situated about half a mile from the town of Birchington in north-east Kent. The museum was established by Major Powell-Cotton, originally to display to the public his collection of hunted wildlife, which had been obtained on his expeditions to Africa and the Indian sub-continent. At the time of British colonialism, the dioramas were an unusual form of display for such collections. They were an attempt to show the public how the animals of Africa and India would appear in their natural habitat, an unusual concept as such animals were more often than not displayed to show-off their size, thus emphasising the bravado of the man, or woman, that had shot them.
Today, however, displays of stuffed animals tend to be viewed rather more with disgust than enquiring interest. As technologies such as television have come into being, ideas about the presentation of natural history have changed. It is with this in mind that we decided to view Quex Park as a 'museum of a museum'. Today it has a value in informing us not only about the wildlife and people of Africa but also about the culture of those who established the museum and those who would have visited in the past.
What we hope to display in this presentation is an account of the various aspects of the museum, such as its physical situation and its contents, with direct reference to Major Powell-Cotton via the photographs and films that he took in Africa. We show a video of Mr Powell-Cotton, the last remaining son of the Major, as well as obtaining footage of workers in the fields surrounding the museum and commentary by Malcolm, long serving assistant curator, about the photographs taken by Major Powell-Cotton in Africa.
The study has been conducted by Simon Banks and Jake Kelley who are both students of Visual Anthropology at the University of Kent at Canterbury (England). The researchers are experimenting with the relatively new multi-media technology, with particular respect to the way in which it can present information in a less linear fashion than that of traditional film ethnographies. As a non-linear method of communicating information, the researchers have attempted to avoid any content bias by not presenting a straight "story- line".
The shots in this video are to give an idea of the grounds and house. Immediately surrounding the grounds are fields of cabbages, typical of the farming found on the Isle of Thanet where Quex House is situated.The town of Birchington lies half a mile down the road.