Tag Archives: Collections

British Library Cyanotype Workshop: MA Fine Art Digital, Camberwell College of Arts

During the recent MA Visual Arts: Fine Art Digital low-residency, Smriti Mehra and I, Matt Lee, led a cyanotype printing workshop with students in collaboration with the British Library. The workshop began with an introduction to the process and looking at examples of cyanotypes from the British Library collection, including reproductions of blueprint maps from the Indian Office records and Anna Atkins’s self-published book of Photographs of British algae.


The morning was spent exploring the British Library archive and creating collages from an assortment of printed negatives from the British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership project collection. This rich and varied material included historical photographs, illustrations, maps, iconography, typography, patterns and textures. To cite a few examples, a striking portrait of a Meccan woman in bridal attire from 1887-1888, a strangely surreal illustration of a Waqwaq tree from a 17th century Persian manuscript and landscape photographs of a Central Persian trade route from 1901. Using this diverse archive as a starting point, the students worked intuitively and conceptually in response to the images, creating juxtapositions, patterns, narratives and incorporating the technique into their creative practices. The workshop was an opportunity to play with the material to explore meaning and form. The collages were then placed on top of the photosensitive paper and exposed under UV light in a darkroom. The prints were developed, washed and rinsed to reveal vivid Prussian blue monochromatic images, which were left to dry and darken over the next twenty-four hours.


The workshop was followed by a visit to the British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership project in St Pancras. Here a team of photographers, conservators, translators and cataloguers work together to make collection items related to the history of the Gulf and Arabic science available online via the QDL portal. In the conservation studio, we were introduced to paper conservation, binding techniques and shown examples of collection items undergoing conservation treatment. In the imaging studio, students were shown the plethora of specialist equipment used by imaging technicians to photograph a range of items, including Arabic manuscripts, books, loose-leaf items, maps, photographs and vinyl records. Students then shared their cyanotype prints with British Library staff, who in turn shared some of the creative projects they have worked on during Hack Days, where the imaging team respond to this historical material across different contexts. A zine by Hannah Nagle examined data and gender inequality through the collection, an animation by Renata Kaminska drew attention to damage in one manuscript caused by insects and Darran Murray’s interactive photogrammetry project of an astrolabe quadrant. The workshop and this interaction opened up a dialogue with the students of how historic material may be accessed by different creative practitioners, in different ways, making it relevant and being a valuable resource to build ideas from.


The tour ended with a viewing of a rare book of original cyanotypes by Julia Herschel – ‘A handbook of Greek Lace Making’ published in 1870. A selection of cyanotype prints from the workshop were then photographed in one of the British Library’s imaging studios. The intention is to create a zine for possible inclusion in the British Library’s permanent collection.

For artists wishing to explore the British Library collections, their Flickr account offers open access to public domain images and encourages people to explore and re-use. Images can also be downloaded from the Qatar Digital Library, which contains collection items that relate to the Gulf Region. The British Library Labs also support creative projects that use collections in innovative and inspiring ways.

Course Leader, MA Fine Art Digital: Jonathan Kearney.

Students: Alexis Rago, Betty Leung, Friederike Hoberg, Kelda Storm, Leah Yang, Matt Fratson, Taiyo Huang, Will Wright.

Meaning in a Matchbox – Article for Archivos Magazine


I have written an article for Archivoz: International Archives Magazine about Indian matchboxes. The article discusses the visual and social significance of these objects as well as my personal journey through collecting, archiving and digitising over 750 labels.

Read my article here.

Archivoz is an informative digital journal in blog format relating to archives and records management.

The New Indian Express – Interview

A short interview in The New Indian Express today about my Matchbox Collection…



Collections at Fictilis

100 of my Indian matchboxes are currently featured in ‘Collections’, a show at Fictilis Gallery, Seattle. This “collection of collections” runs until 30th March.

Information about the exhibition and the artists involved can be read here. Photographs from the opening can also be seen here.


Collections at Fictilis Gallery, Seattle

‘Collections’ at Fictilis Gallery, Seattle. Featuring 100 of my Indian matchboxes.




Collections that require some kind of creative categorization or idiosyncratic taxonomy. Collections that draw attention to the processes and politics of collecting.

Opening March 1st 2012 (reception 6-9pm) at FICTILIS. [Facebook event link.]

A collection of collections. Featuring work by:

Center for Genomic Gastronomy
Gina Coffman
Michael Demers

Adam Farcus

Timothy Furstnau
Alan S. Hokins
Tim Hutchings

Mary Anne Kluth
Matt Lee
Noah Pedrini
Ben Pranger
Mary Rothlisberger
Hugh Russell
Dominic Sansone
Sarah Sinclair
Abby Spangel Perry
Ryan Thompson

The world’s largest collection of “mailpiece security screens” (or envelope patterns).  A collection of “meteorwrongs” (rocks mistakenly identified as meteorites) from the Arizona State University’s famous collection.  A set of ceramic models based on a geologist’s verbal descriptions of favorite rocks. A small, traveling natural history museum that holds a lovingly assembled and ever changing exhibit of natural objects.A collection of sticky notes found all over the world. Selections from the Play Generated Map and Document Archive of paper documents created during play. A collection of 120 shoe heels found on the streets of Chicago between the years 1989-1992, with map marking each location. Photographic documentation of lost tennis balls. Twenty 1970s photographs whose provenance is unknown. A collection of matchboxes from the India. An archive of collections of dried slugs, pet coffins, clay and shell sculptures, sweater lint art, and more from a 1980s childhood. 30 variations of Cobra Commander action figures arranged according to color. Crushed Crush bottles and cans photographed exactly as they are found.  A collection of used 35mm film canisters, flattened and photographed in a uniform method. One month’s worth of preserved food for an adult human. Two years worth of nail clippings. Four years of beard clippings. Seven years of drain catch from a New York City loft. A collection of tiny, unholdable pieces of bar soap melded together. A lifetime of daily to-do lists.

And more….

Exhibition runs through March 30th.