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I have always been obsessed with the act of collecting whether its for my own personal artwork or simply just a hobby. I feel that the act of collection and showcasing them in a entire new entity gives users and audience a glimpse of what the other ‘world’ could be.

“Intact” is a contemporary recreation of the contents of a 34 shelf case in a now empty museum, made using only a wobbly, hand-drawn diagram as a guide.

During a four-month residency at Alfred University, New York Lenka Clayton became interested in the story of the Allen Steinheim Museum; an eclectic cabinet of curiosities founded on campus in the 1870’s, the first museum in Western New York and the second biggest college museum in the US. It once housed a collection of hundreds of thousands of objects including birds, fossils, plants, pottery, oil paintings, statuary, shoes, stuffed animals, basketry, costumes, historical implements, relics, rocks and other curiosities. Slowly over the last century the collection dwindled and then vanished due to political changes, damage to the building and mismanagement. Almost every last artefact was sold, looted, hidden for safe keeping, lost or damaged beyond repair.

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In the University Archives she found an anonymous, undated document in wonky hand-writing and two pens it lists categories of artefacts on each shelf of a single museum case. The sketch has a sense of desperation about it, as though the author was single-handedly trying to keep the collection intact. It was clearly made when parts of the collection were still there but many were starting to disappear, hence categories such as “Empty” or “Items in bad shape”.

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Now that the case and its artefacts are gone and the document the only remaining evidence categories such as Chinese, Japanese, Jewish, Wood Fragments, Colonial and General are absurdly broad and give only the slightest hint of what may had once been on the shelf. Using this document as a strict set of instructions, Clayton recreated the possible contents of the six shelving blocks of the case using objects found, bought, made or borrowed from around the village.

How much I wished I could be there to experience this installation in person. An artificial world built upon a single historical document, providing a world bigger than anyone could imagine.


Lenka Clayton (b. 1977) is a British conceptual artist whose work considers, exaggerates and alters the accepted rules of everyday life, extending the familiar into the realms of the poetic and absurd.

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