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Just over a week ago I visited The Museum of Water at Somerset House in London – a temporary exhibition that features a long-term collection of water samples gathered by artist Amy Sharrocks and her team. You can find more about the museum by visiting its website, and I’ve also written a review of it here.
Above: Part of the Museum collection (source)
The basic premise of the museum surrounds re-discovering the importance and significance of water, achieved by encouraging members of the public to donate their own samples.
Above: Some of the submissions (source)
Water is a central theme in Stories From Scarborough; not just in terms of the town’s proximity to the sea, but also the role of water in its former attractions.
The murky Mere water the Hispaniola sailed through.
The blue waters of Atlantis.
Landscapes and their materials are imbued with memories, and water is a poignant example of this.
Above: The Manor Gardens Boating Lake – full of memories? (source)
I thought it would be great to see Scarborough represented in the Museum of Water – during my visit I made a pledge to donate some, and last week, after visiting the town for an interview, I perched on rocks on the south side – just past the Spa and near to the former open air swimming pool site – and let the sea gently wash over my hands as I filled a tiny bottle.
Above: The approximate location of the sample – minus the high tide I encountered (source)
The tide was coming in, and the waves started to pound against the rocks, splashing my boots and showering me with spray. My bottle – once containing mouthwash – refused to discard the smell of its former contents. No matter how many times I thrust it into the salty water, it still emerged with a minty aroma at the neck.
Above: Scarborough water – in a mouthwash bottle (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)
Eventually I conceded that whilst the smell might contain a hint of mouthwash, the water I’d collected still represented Scarborough. I was inspired to collect some sand and seaweed too, although had to discard the latter eventually due to the pungent smell.
Above: The reverse of my water sample – with an explanation for the minty smell! (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)
Both sand and water later became a part of this performance in Salford, enabling me to effectively bring Scarborough to a city 100 miles away – both symbolically and in terms of materials. Now it is time to donate the remaining water to the museum, and along with it, a small piece of Stories From Scarborough..
Romantic as all this sounds, you might still be wondering how, exactly, any of this truly relates to the former attractions investigated here. Well. Firstly, seawater, like sand, is part of the language of the seaside – it references Scarborough more generally as a setting for the attractions.
Secondly, this water offers a starting point – for new ways in which to consider the attractions. Whilst I cannot collect water from Atlantis, Water Splash World, Waterscene or the North Bay Bathing Pool, I can collect it from elsewhere – the Manor Gardens Lake; the Mere, puddles on various former sites. All could potentially hold memories of the attractions.
The landscape arguably retains memories of its histories – these might be physical (erosion, dereliction, remains of structures etc) or, according to some, even spiritual or emotional – sensations or feelings. Either way, the materials of a landscape are evocative, and water is no different. If anything it is the most pervasive vessel of all – every drop has ostensibly been drunk, swam in, washed in by a great number of people. It has travelled to the clouds and back; journeyed far out to sea, across the world and throughout history.
Above: Scarborough’s water has endured many journeys (source)
The water I am donating to the Museum could have come from, or travelled, anywhere. I just happened to pick it up at Scarborough. Some might argue it is not mine to donate. Others might question its relevance or significance. Ultimately the latter is down to us. We choose how and why particular water is important; what it means. It is at the same time both universal and personal, and as such, by acknowledging the stories we tell about it, the Museum of Water celebrates the enormity and diversity of its value.
Please note that there are plenty of historical posts about former attractions coming soon, and I’ve had some brilliant memories emailed to me. However, as I am moving to Scarborough this week there may be delays in posting, especially if I have problems getting internet access when I arrive. Thank you for your patience!