Throughout the running of the current exhibition at Portsmouth City Museum people get to choose their favourite items from the Portsmouth City Collection that are on show in A Hard Choice (you can see and read our preview of the exhibition HERE). Every month different items chosen by many visitors are given rosettes showing the current favourites. Strong Island, working with the Portsmouth Museums and Visitor Services (with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund), are asking lots of different people from around Portsmouth what their personal favourite items are in the exhibition and why.
Next up in this series of articles we met up with Barry Abrook, ex-professional skateboarder and designer, at Portsmouth City Museum. Barry checked out the A Hard Choice exhibition, then let us know what were his own Best in Show.
Hey Barry, can you start by telling us what your first best in show object is and what you liked about it please?
My first choice (from the A Hard Choice Exhibition) is the mole. I love animals and nature and I like this because it is hard to see a mole, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a real mole and this is really the only opportunity a lot of people get to see these animals, basically in a zoo or taxidermy. I’m interested in taxidermy…I used to be really against it, but if you are a graphic artist, illustrator or painter it is a good way to actually observe animals to draw and paint them. I think everything about the mole is really cool. It is designed to live underground. They are nice animals, I like it, it is intriguing. All the taxidermy in the exhibition is good, the bat, magpies, it was tough to choose.
And could you tell us what the second exhibit you’ve chosen is and what you liked about it?
My second choice is the fabric by Lucienne Day. I love fabric and printing and I used to screen print quite a lot and I still do on fabric. I also like this item in the exhibition because of the era it is from, the late 60s. You’ve got bold poppy designs, block colours…I like patterns and I like symmetry…and this has got quite a lot going for it! It reminds me of childhood…this is the sort of fabric that would be made in to curtains or bed spread that could have been in my house. It has that 60s/70s feel so nostalgic for me too. The Days were pretty amazing at what they did.
And what is the third and final exhibit and why do you like it?
Third choice are the saucy postcards! These are from around the 1950s, that sort of end-of-the-pier era, good seaside ephemera. I like these for quite a few reasons, I live in Southsea, by the sea, I wasn’t born here but I love living by the sea. As a child I was taken to the seaside for holidays and these were the sort of things you might see. They are cheeky, they leave you to your own thoughts…how you interpret the captions…which was the humour at the time. They have a nice feel. They are well designed too, as a designer it is difficult to design something that small and detailed and these were drawn and hand painted, they’re an art form in itself, a style all of their own too. I also love postcards, I collect them and I use them in my own work and I love the messages you get on the back of old postcards, they can be emotional things. People used to send them but not as much anymore with emails, Facebook, etc. But postcards were sent during a holiday, from a good time so postcards generally remind you of good times, they’re a positive thing.
if you could think of something, of your own or something in Portsmouth, that you could donate to the museum and the city collection, what would it be?
I was thinking that maybe if I won the lottery, Euro-big style, I would love to be able to fully restore the South Parade Pier into something that the people of Portsmouth, and especially Southsea, could use and be proud of again. Whether it be Victorian or later period restoration, the important thing would be to ensure it continued to offer the ‘complete seaside escape’ for anyone who needed it. Part of the city collection. A funfair ride, candy floss, good food, music, comedy and a Shant!
Don’t forget you can visit A Hard Choice exhibition and the rest of Portsmouth City Museum and other museums in the city for free this summer and beyond. You can find out more about the museums and what activities are taking place at: