Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Museum of Water.

 Museum of water

As I was up in London for a meeting, I took the chance to visit the Museum of Water in the South wing of Somerset House downstairs in the Lightwells and Deadhouse.

As you can guess from the name this is the basement of the oldest part of the building – all flying buttresses, graves and cellars. It’s also what was once the bank of the Thames before the embankment was built.

Very eerie, a bit damp and very appropriate.

The artist Amy Sharrocks has put together some evocative symbols of water and what it means to us and then opened the artwork (it’s not really a museum) to people like me to donate a container of some water which has some special significance. As soon as I heard about it I wanted to be part of it.

Here is my donation;


On the 26th April, because my specialist (Dr Feelgood of Charing Cross Hospital) had won me some time none of us expected that I would have and because I was able to get some cover (I’m a carer) I was able to get away for just 24 hours. It was the chance of a lifetime.

I caught a midnight coach on Friday and arrived at The Place de la Concorde at 11-00 am French time.

When my day was over I headed up to Montmartre to catch sight of the Eiffel Tower for one last time, as the searchlight arced over the city.

I need water; I have a thrombosis and I had pills to take on the long night journey back. Luckily on the Rue Azais there was a drinking fountain and I filled my bottle there. At home I had half a bottle left and kept it, not really knowing what to do with it. It was both the most important thing – my last taste of Paris and also completely valueless.

So, when I heard of the Museum, I filled a syringe tube with Paris water, put a used syringe in for good luck and sealed it up. That’s my donation and here is the artist accepting it;


She’s interviewing me to get the story of my water and here she is deciding where in the museum it will go (it’s in travel).

Here’s my certificate, I’m number 431;

Some of the exhibits are very straightforward;

“Waste water from my gas fired condensing boiler (condensate)”

Some are full of joy;

“Summer rain in a jar”

Some are hard to read;

282 – “Evaporation of grief, Annette Fry. Gathered 18/11/2009 the day of the death of my partner”.

Some are amazing;


On the left, is cylinder of ice in a freezer;

“This is an icecore from 93 metres deep on the Dyer Plateaux in Antarctica. The icecore is three years of snowfall from 1814 to 1817 collected by me in January 1989.  Dr Robert and Libby Mulvaney.

The curator (you can see her hand) told me that due to a volcanic eruption, the earth darkened and the summer of 1816 was known as ‘The year of no summer’. Cold and wet, this was the summer when Mary Shelley was unable to go out, had nothing to do and wrote Frankenstein, the first best seller written by a women.

If there was an accident and the core melted, we would briefly be able to breath the frozen air of 1816 as it defrosted.

Next to the core is a jar with four snowballs made by Amy’s child 18 months ago and lovingly preserved since then.

Every exhibit has a poignant story to tell. Every one is a life in a bottle.

Here’s my donation on display.

You can read all the exhibits here on the website;

Someday, my exhibit will be on the site.

The exhibition is on till the end of June – it’s a joy and a sadness to see it. Everywhere are references to water; a row of rainmac’s, a pile of radiators, a cupboard of open umbrellas tumbling out.

Throughout is the spirit of Amy Sharrocks, bubbling with enthusiasm for people’s stories and for water from the spring of life.

And the water is so incredibly significant, so important and yet so ephemeral, so short lived. Just like our little lives.

Have a look, take it seriously, take the piss.

Take a sample why don’t you?

Click on a photo for a slideshow.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)


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