ABOUT THE LIBRARY
'This [the WML] is a place where the heart remembers; where tender connections are made with forgotten feelings; and where the emotive power of the lost rituals of death is explored and interpreted by Jane's sensitivity and unerring eye for the compelling.'
In 2003 the collection took on a more formal aspect when it became the consultation basis for the BBC Radio 4 documentary On One Lost Hair - a meditation on a wisp of hair from the head of Horatio Nelson, bought on eBay, co-devised with producers Gregory Whitehead and Neil McCarthy. Encouraged by critical acclaim for the programme, and a NESTA Dream Time Fellowship to develop the Library, Wildgoose has gone on to establish a multi-faceted approach to collecting that brings new perspectives to a broad range of associated values: ranging from the historical, aesthetic, sociological, anthropological, scientific and educational, to the emotional and instinctive.
The WML's distinctive acquisitions policy - which places emphasis upon the capacity of an object to resonate with the viewer's imagination through its appeal to the senses - may be traced to the Keeper's own first motivations to collect dating back to Wildgoose's childhood on the South Coast of England, where she became a dedicated beachcomber. Growing up among a predominantly elderly population living out their days in modernist, light-filled bungalows containing the accumulated relics of lives spanning two World Wars, the curiosity and wonder Wildgoose experienced picking through flotsam and jetsam brought in by the tides was informed, from an early age, by awareness of the deep emotional ties that may become established between people and objects. The daughter of an enthusiastic parish organist, she also spent a fair proportion of her childhood visiting country churches and graveyards.
Today, the unique role Wildgoose has created as Keeper of the WML balances her professional background in design/making for theatre/film, and her scholarly attention to research developed during her doctoral research in the School of Art & Design History at Kingston University London, as a Wellcome Sciart Awardee, NESTA Fellow, and BBC radio broadcaster, with careful excavation of personal experience. The work of The Wildgoose Memorial Library brings together an idiosyncratic approach to collecting with a thorough understanding of the sensuous appeal to the imagination of materials and handicrafts; the communication, through site-specific scene-setting, and improvisation, of a wide knowledge of literature and rigorous historical research, with a heartfelt empathy for the narratives and associations that may become attached to remains of all kinds.
The Wildgoose Memorial Library makes regular appearances "on location" as Wildgoose presents her collection to the public in a variety of settings, which have included the 1930s wood-panelled splendour of Hornsey Town Hall in North London (2008); the white space of the Institute for Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art, Portland, ME, USA (2009) [On One Lost Hair at MECA]; the candlelit, vaulted cellars of Copped Hall, a superb derelict 18th-century mansion in Epping Forest, on a foggy midwinter's night (2010); the marble and mosaic lined Maddick Mausoleum in West Norwood Cemetery (one of London's "Magnificent Seven" Victorian cemeteries) as part of Curious (2013), and in the culminating exhibition of her doctoral project: in which she presented her findings as an "archive" of the WML at the Crypt Gallery St. Pancras (2014) - later exhibited at the Lumen Gallery in the crypt of the beautiful St. John on Bethnal Green designed by Sir John Soane (2018). Working in association with the Willis Fleming Historical Trust, The Wildgoose Memorial Library has also presented The Field Tent at North Stoneham as an ephemeral open-air museum on the site of the long ago demolished North Stoneham House in Hampshire (2008).
Back at home in the WML, Wildgoose hosts consultations by appointment with interested members of the public; she also uses the unique setting she has created as a forum and reference resource for collaborative work and for debate, as well as the backdrop for digital photographs informed by her research into Victorian studio portraiture, and 17th-century Vanitas paintings. She is currently investigating the potential for a permanent and more public-facing home for The Wildgoose Memorial Library - part artist's studio, part reliquary, part research centre - which she envisages being built from recycled materials, overlooking the sea.
Copyright Jane Wildgoose and The Wildgoose Memorial Library