Artist Andrea Oke at Axbridge and District Museum
The very walls of King John’s Hunting Lodge are loaded with history and many people visit just to experience its ancient rooms let alone the varied array of relics in Axbridge and District Museum’s collections. I have seen artefacts from the Romans, walked the undulating floorboards of a Plantagenet house and seen the fossilised remains of creatures from a remote past. But, imagine that you are given unique and unlimited access to this building and all it contains. Upon doing so you realise the huge significance that this place has, not only as a container of local history but also as a means of bringing together a diverse collection of volunteers who, between them hold a staggeringly vast amount of memories and information. Now ask yourself, how on earth are you going to focus on just one aspect of this place above all the rest?
The reality is that, for me, the choice was remarkably easy. I have always had a fascination with the link between history and memory or rather the preservation of memory and it’s passing from one person to another or, conversely, how memories can die. During my first visit to Axbridge Museum, I stood on the third floor surrounded by the historical accounts of the poor that lined the walls and to my delight, John Page, Chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, told me of the manuscripts and documents within the archives. Stories going back to Dunstan, born in the 10th Century, Royal Charters dating back to Mary Queen and King Philip II of Spain – vast accumulations of memories waiting to be read, digested and passed to new minds.
I am very local to Axbridge and utilise drawing and printmaking, in its many forms, within my work. However, more than a need to explore the boundaries of these disciplines I find it necessary to combine the old with the new, intertwining digital media, such as sound and moving image within my methodology, resurrecting and preserving, archiving and collecting. I am also fascinated by the production of artist materials and the challenges that reviving dying crafts in a modern age bring.
So I find myself at the beginning of a hugely exciting project, a project that will see me as both teacher and student. I will do my best to research and learn traditional crafts and mix this with my own knowledge, which will lead to new imaginings from these historic documents. I hope to share this fascinating museum and the things it contains with you and we will preserve the things that should not be forgotten.