Behind the Scenes Museum Photography at Bedford Gallery / by Shaun Armstrong

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Recently, as part of the national Britain loves Wikipedia event, I had the rare opportunity of being allowed into the fascinating store-rooms of the Cecil Higgins and Bedford  Museum and to see their new "Clocking In" exhibition being assembled in the adjacent, new Bedford Gallery space, all with the view of taking behind the scenes photos! I think the idea was to take formal museum pics but that's not my preferred style so here's my take on what I saw....

I first popped into the new Bedford Gallery in 2009 when they had an exhibition of Abram Games posters (a number of which I saw on display at my time at Bletchley Park) mixed up with memorabilia from the Festival of Britain, which helped explain the logo I'd seen on the village sign outside my home for many years! The whole building and mix of projects is a mish-mash of spaces that, with ongoing rounds of funding are being regenerated as part of the Cultural Quarter (a long job I suspect) but the Gallery is airy and modern as I saw with friends at a Creative Bedfordshire networking event in January displaying the work of Edward Bawden.

Anyhoo, in following their news via Twitter they shared details of the Wikipedia competition and so off I went. They had two sessions allocated but it was only me and one other guy (who was much more in tune with the basis of the competition I think - I just wanted to be nosy, explore and get creative!) so, always under the guidance and approval of the curators, we were led through doors and up stairs into various rooms packed with all sorts of objet in cabinets that were as much artefacts as the contents - all variety of small and ancient items tagged and arranged in order amongst various bits of wrapping and packing materials. Not quite the Area 51 storage warehouse in Indiana Jones but plenty of dark and long unexplored corners and spaces, including a section of cabinets full of birds and other unfortunate creatures who had gone the way of the stuffer! Ended up in what I think was the ancient, old world collections and here time was spent and ran out so no stuffed weasel pics! :(

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After this we were whisked away to the Gallery to see the new Clocking In exhibition being put together and I did my best not to get in the way...wanted interesting angles and studies rather than the usual records and well, you can see all the images on my Flickr site.

"Clocking In" tells the story of working lives in and around Bedfordshire and opens on 27 February 2010 running until 23 May 2010.