This week in Bristol and Me, we speak to Amber Druce, Social History Curator of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Clowns: The Eggs-hibition includes 162 ceramic eggs, all painted with clown faces. Clowns International began life as the Circus Clowns Club in 1946, is the oldest clowning organisation in the world, and paints the unique identity of its members on eggs, preserving the unwritten rule that no two clowns should look alike; it’s a bit like copyright, but not legally binding. We’re also displaying clown costumes (both original and for dressing up), archive photos and films, and there’s a children’s trail. We even have a clown-in-residence – Holly Stoppit – running family play sessions, silly tours and laughter yoga.
There have been a lot of scary clowns in the media since the 1980s, but the exhibition takes people back to a time when they were more loved; a good clown aims to make other people happy. They’re inquisitive and sometimes a bit naughty, but they know when to behave, too. We also highlight modern clowns, including clown doctors and clowns that work with refugees.
Being a social history curator is a really varied role and I absolutely love it. I work on exhibitions and events, collect objects relating to Bristol, answer enquiries about local history and our collections, promote our museums on social media, and document our objects online. I like exhibitions to include creative elements, with input from artists and poets or songwriters.
I also love exhibitions that mix things up: not just fine art or social history, but natural history, geology, archaeology and world cultures. A good example would be 2015’s Death: The Human Experience. Myself and co-curator, Lisa Graves, wanted to show people objects they might not have seen before and help get them talking about death and funerary rituals more positively.
We knew there were amazing objects from all around the world in our museums and archives and wanted to present them with contemporary stories that would resonate. We worked with a great in-house team, plus advisors from places like Bath Uni’s Centre of Death & Society, to create something really beautiful and powerful.
Clowns: The Eggs-hibition runs at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery until January 6: www.bristolmuseums.org