Cuming: A Natural Selection


Artist Janetka Platun uses 3D printing technology, community collaboration and museum practice to respond to Southwark’s Cuming Museum, devastated by fire in 2013.


This exhibition has now finished.

Peckham Platform, SE15

7 August – 30 August 2015

The project offered an opportunity for the Cuming Museum’s team and audiences to reflect on the fire, the museum’s collection and on personal responses to loss. The project takes inspiration from one of the lost objects, an 18th Century figurine of Saint Anne, the patron saint of lost objects and those who search for them.

Only one image of the ivory model exists, photographed from the front; there is no record of what she looked like from the back. 

Working with local groups, Platun asked participants to write a short description of an object they had lost at some time in their lives, without naming the item. These texts were read out to others in the group, who were invited to draw what they thought the object was. 

Using 3D modelling, a relief of Saint Anne was recreated and Platun hand carved an imaginary back representing each lost object the group creatively responded to. Thirty of these personalised Saint Anne figures were 3D printed in resin and shown with the participants’ texts as “captions”.

The history of the Cuming Museum

The museum cared for the worldwide collection of the Cuming family, who lived in south east London from the late 1700s until 1902. They collected many different things, including fossils, archeological finds, coins, medals, art and natural history specimens. In 1902 around 20,000 objects were bequeathed to the local parish and a museum opened in the Newington Library building on Walworth Road in 1906. In 2006 the celebration of its centenary opened new galleries in the adjacent building, Walworth Town Hall. As of 2020, its collections are due to be rehoused in a new Southwark Heritage Centre.

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