This exhibition is all about chairs, the people who own them, and the stories that they tell.
It is the second of two community digital exhibitions made possible by Arts Council England during the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic. The first exhibition (Windows on Wycombe in Lockdown) was put together during the spring and early summer of 2020 and documents the experiences local people during lockdown. Me and My Chair is not about lockdown, but it is an exhibition that would not have happened at Wycombe Museum in ‘normal times’.
Museums are concerned with physical objects. Objects are a tangible link to the past and to the people in the past who owned, made or designed them. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us all to engage with each other, with life, and with the past in different ways. Although a digital exhibition can never replace the real objects, we have found that there are some advantages. The digital exhibitions can be accessed by anyone, wherever they are in the world, and without leaving the house. In a museum, an exhibition of chairs takes up significant space. This often limits what we can do as Wycombe Museum is housed in a Grade II listed building with small rooms. For Me and my Chair, there are no physical limits and we are able to bring together far more chairs virtually than would be possible for us in the real world.
Over the summer of 2020, we asked people in the local area to send us a photograph of themselves with their chair, and to explain why the chair is special to them. We did not request locally made chairs, but the many of the photographs we received of locally made chairs are a testament to the pride in our local furniture industry. The photographs are from across Wycombe District, including Lacey Green, Marlow and High Wycombe and they show a range of people from babies to those of retirement age (and even a couple of cats!). We did not ask for photographs of any particular type or age of chair. However, the overwhelming majority of photographs are old chairs. On reflection, perhaps this is unsurprising – most new objects do not yet have a story to tell.
The photographs and stories we received fell naturally into seven sections.