I had the privilege of visiting one of the 50 best unusual museums in London. This was an excellent first and an inspiration to scour the city for the other 49.
|Found at the back of the ladies' cubicle door: an extract from 'The Grand Magazine', London, November 1760|
On the way, turn left first at the DLR exit for Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich to view the Cutty Sark, a British clipper ship built in 1869. One of the three historic sea vessels on the Core Collection of the National Historic Ships Register, it was gutted by fire in 2007 while under conservation and has been reopened to the public in 2012.
Turn back right to our destination in Greenwich.
|The Fan Museum is located at 12 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, London SE10 8ER, in the Greenwich World Heritage Site. After nearly a decade of living in London, I took the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) for the first time and it was such a pleasant ride. Unlike most Underground, it's airconditioned and winds around the Southeast side of London where you have scenic views of the quays, boats, the River Thames, and the contrasting old and modern cityscape.|
Constructed in 1721, the Georgian building that is now home to The Fan Museum has been refurbished and lovingly restored to its 18th century opulence.
|Look closely and you'll notice the Oriental motif of the door entrance ornament, which is a tribute to the Chinese origin of fan-making|
The Fan Museum houses more than 4,000 fans which are not displayed all at once for spatial and curation reasons. Some are from the personal collection of the founder, Helene Alexander, and some are gifts from friends of the museum. The oldest in the collection dates back from the 11th century. There's a permanent display (shown below) that showcases the art of fan-making, materials used, and history.
|Mother of pearl carved brise fan. Made in the Far East for the European market. c. 1830|
|Mixed Brussels lace fan leaf, c. 1890s|
|Wooden monture and paper leaf that illustrates fan-making. Spanish, c. 1840s, donated by Mr Iveson Wheatley|
|In the middle is a Chinese ceremonial fan made of lacquered carved cinnabar, from the Qian Long period which was from around 1735. It was from the collection of the Mitsui family in Japan.|
|Telescopic fans came at the end of the 18th century in England. These ones are from the 19th century showing how a fan can be retracted in progressive stages|
Thematic exhibits run on rotation throughout the year. From June to end of September 2014, the theme revolves around fans and how they've been used in advertising.
|Orientalism was in vogue between 1911 and 1914 when prints were inspired by the Near, Middle, and Far East. Russian ballet delighted Parisian society, while harem pants, lampshade tunics, and Kimono-style mantles permeated fashion journals.|
|A blonde woman with pencil-thin eyebrows and magenta lips, by an unidentified artist, could have been designed to appeal to cosmetic companies, c. 1925-30.|
|The airline fans from the late 1950s to early 1970s, made by Japanese manufacturer Daimaru. These ones promoted airlines affiliated to BOAC, which is now called British Airways.|
|The BOAC (British Airways) promotional fan|
|Deco Distilled and Graphic Styles|
|Unidentified artist for Charmereine. You can see the Eiffel Tower framed by fireworks in the form of promotional inscriptions. The other side is printed with images of models wearing Charmereine corseted undergarments. French, 1930s|
|René Gruau for 'Les Bas', Christian Dior. Shaped like a bird's wing with the stylish illustration of a dress and exposed leg. Signed by René Gruau. French, c. 1950s|
The museum guide to visitors mentions that even the ladies' lavatories are filled with fan tributes.
|Details make up the charm of The Fan Museum's ladies' lavatories. See the cat above? And the fan-shaped mirror?|
|A porcelain jar in the corner..|
|A porcelain vase...|
|A brass bow hook...|
|Brass loo roll holder...|
|Chinoiserie wallpaper where fans are featured such as in the image on the lower left|
|Matchy-matchy porcelain fan-shaped soap dish with a fan-shaped soap|
|The Orangery and tea room dedicated to the mother of one of the founders, named Victoria|
|photo courtesy of Arnold Maneze|
|The Japanese style garden, done as a tribute to its sponsor, Canon UK, has a formal parterre in the shape of a fan|
|Me and my friend with Jane Barraclough's mural behind us|
|Duvelleroy, the leading couture fan maker of 19th century Paris that still operates up to these days, came up with a 'dictionary' of a fan's unspoken language, perhaps as a publicity tool for the House's creations. I didn't realise I've been asking everyone to follow me with how I carry my fan on the tube.|
|A selection of the museum shop's souvenirs and gifts that range from fans of course, to mirrors, perfume flacon, scarves, stationeries, pens, postcards, cushion, bags, wine glass, among others. Not pictured is the jewellery and accessory section.|
|Coffee table books about fans, magnets (don't forget them), bookmarks, wall hook and wall clock (as seen on the left), soap, wrapping paper, and toiletry bags. By the till is a wall lamp in the shape of a fan.|
|After much ado about my souvenir shopping list, I settled for these two beautiful pieces ('I can come back for the rest', I convinced and assured myself): a replica Brussels lace fan and laser cut wooden fan earrings. I found out that Lady Muck of Whitstable does other reasonably priced quirky pieces which appeal to my inner 21-year-old fashionista self who's gone to join the rat race, she's been buried in my piles of bills and grown-up issues.|
My fan purchase is for functional reasons when I visit tropical and Mediterranean countries and when the heat on the London Undergound is unbearable in summer. But with the few I own now, one of which is a friend's gift that has Bavarian castles printed on it (my friend who's in the photo with me looked for one in Barbados but only found turtle place mats and fans that looked like broom reed), and the exquisite designs and prints at The Fan Museum shop that I intend to go back for, I may have found a new collectible fixation once reserved for shoes, but never for fridge magnets.
The exhibits will be refreshed based on the theme in the beginning of October 2014. For more info, please click The Fan Museum. I might even see you there!