A Visit to the British Museum of Food

The notion of curation has expanded beyond the museum and art world, encompassing other cultural economic realms such as fashion and food. In my own research on exploring diasporic Iranian identities in commercial food spaces in London and Vancouver through the ways in which diasporic Iranian identities are marketed, curated and designed, and how these identities materialise through the foods themselves, I use the notion of ‘curation’ as a way of expressing a different relationship between commercial actors and the materialities of their retail spaces. Hunt (2015) explores this in further detail where shop keepers act as curators of the material culture of their stores. Furthermore, writing on how local foods are curated in the marketplace in Uppsala, Sweden, Joosse and Hracs (2015, p.207), “argue that curators are thus crucial in helping consumers to find products but create new ways of food sourcing”. However, more recently the worlds of food and museums have combined (it should be noted that food museums, focusing on a niche subject as the Cup Noodle Museum in Japan have been open for several years), with the opening of the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) in New York and the British Museum of Food in London.  Here the museums act as curators providing a pedagogic role in showing the wider roles and embedding of “culture, history, science, production and commerce of food and drink” (MOFAD, 2015). In this blog entry I will focus on my recent visit to the British Museum of Food.

The British Museum of Food:

The British Museum of Food opened in October 2015 and owned by Bompas and Parr, who are known for their culinary installations and experiments. The museum is located within the renowned Borough Market, further emphasising the prestige of the market and its role in London’s urban landscape. The museum features a range of interactive exhibitions embodying the motto “From Field to Table, Mouth…and Beyond” (Bompas and Parr, 2015). The exhibitions aim to showcase a journey of food through various ways in which consumers act with it. I will now take you, the reader through the five exhibitions hosted at the museum.

The Exhibits:

Be the Bolus:

This exhibit is film based where visitors are exposed to how food is digested. Here the visitor is exposed to the “science aspect” of food, which is equally as important in the consumption chain.

Choco-Phonica:

This is one of the more interactive exhibits where visitors are invited to partake in an experiment determining the correlation between taste and soundscapes. Four pods are set up each with different sounds, such as sounds of the rainforest. Here the visitor is asked to sample a piece of chocolate as they listen to the sounds to see if there is any difference between the four samples in terms of bitterness vs sweetness and creamy vs dry.

Atelier of Flavour:

In this exhibit the realms of art and food merge, in the sense that food is portrayed as art in the literal sense that is showcased as one would find, such as framed photographs in an art gallery. Here food was treated as an object of humour kitsch, for example a traditional English breakfast is presented as knitted piece of art.

20151024_125253

Knitted full English breakfast

The British Menu Archive:

Menus can be treated as cultural texts as not only do they provide obvious information such as prices, meal structure and the foods available, but also form narratives around the histories and cultures of. Menus provide a rich insight into social relations between communities, in addition to the modification that occurs to dishes as they travel through time and space.  The collection includes a range of menus dating from 1907 to 2014.

20151024_124739
A display of menu

The Butterfly Effect:

On the top floor there is a room which has a tropical aesthetic, filled with luscious green plants and lots of butterflies. At first I was unsure about the connection between butterflies and food; here the connection is pollination. There is a buzz (pun intended!) on the importance of bees and their impact on pollination, but less so on butterflies. This exhibit aims to focus the attention on butterflies and their importance in the global food system, especially in the propagation of bananas.

20151024_123534
Feeding time!

Final thoughts:

Overall the British Museum of Food does what it sets out to do, by taking the visitor through a food journey “From Field to Table, Mouth…and Beyond”. The size of the space does limit what is on display, nonetheless the ways in which the materials are curated allows the museum to simultaneously becomes a pedagogic and entertainment space.

References:

Bompas and Parr (2015). British Museum of Food. Retrieved from http://bompasandparr.com/projects/view/british-museum-of-food

Joosse, S., & Hracs, B. J. (2015). Curating the quest for ‘good food’: The practices, spatial dynamics and influence of food-related curation in Sweden.Geoforum64, 205-216.

MOFAD (2015). Vision. Retrieved from http://www.mofad.org/

 

Priya Vadi (PhD Candidate)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: