University of Cambridge Museums

Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums

A Handy performance

Visitors who made it up to the second floor of MAA in February half-term were greeted by an intriguing sign located outside a cosy-looking den. Inside was artist Laura Mugridge, who hosted up to five people at a time in a special performance of her new piece ‘Handy’, created specially for the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Laura was inspired by the artefacts in the Museum, all made by people and displaying a huge range of creative skills. The Hide and Seek: Looking for Children in the Past exhibition reminded Laura that sometimes the skills of children are better than those of adults. The microgold on display from Bush Barrow demonstrate this: 140,000 pieces of gold, each finer than a human hair, were attached to a Bronze Age dagger handle, probably by children as young as ten.

Visitors crawled into the ten, to the backing of a specially chosen soundtrack (including Grandma’s Hands, Hands Up and Born to Hand Jive). People were then invited to take part in a series of activities all based around hands. Laura encouraged visitors to teach her new skills. Over the three days, among other things, she learned a secret handshake, how to sign ‘turtle’ and ‘horse’ in British Sign Language, complex shadow puppetry and some taekwondo moves. Visitors competed against each other in a nail-biting game of Perfection, trying to get tiny plastic pieces into the game board before they popped out at the end of the time limit. At the end of the performance, people were encouraged to guess how many hands were on display in the Museum. The fantastic gallery attendants counted up, and the final total was 570. At least 350 people saw the performance over the three days.

Laura says: “I had a lovely and inspiring time in my little den in the corner of my favourite museum! Everyone I met was so happy to teach me skills, play Perfection and to engage with the number of hands in the museum. I was inspired by the playful nature of everyone who crawled under the canvas, and how much it felt like a little cavern of adventure. I’d love to come back again and have more adventure!”

Keep an eye out in MAA for more in tents performances.

Sarah-Jane Harknett, Outreach Organiser, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

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