diamond geezer

 Friday, April 08, 2011

Only a week after Church Farmhouse Museum closed its doors, another North London museum closes down today. That's the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, or MoDA for short, which is hidden away on the Cat Hill campus of Middlesex University. That's near Cockfosters tube, which explains why visitor numbers are low, and why you've probably never been. Less than 10 hours remain to rectify that situation.

MoDAI've written about MoDA before, so I won't repeat myself and run through all its charms again. But I thought I'd go back, one last time, as part of my ongoing mission to visit London's museums just before the life support cord is pulled. It wasn't empty, which was good for midweek lunchtime, but I still enjoyed the opportunity to get nostalgic about fireplaces, kitchen design and wallpaper in relative peace. Even though the main gallery's not huge, its contents always manage to drag me back to my childhood. The tiles and drapes and soft furnishings remind me of my grandparents' suburban homes, never quite up with the latest trend, but still unmistakeably of their time. To anybody younger the collection must seem oddly archaic, the designs ridiculously over-fussy, and with today's widescreens and magnolia strangely lacking.

Upstairs there's already been a clearout, with the last big exhibition (of tapestry) moved out in favour of some Year 9 portraits from a local school. It's worthy but not especially worth trekking to see. That's a shame, because this upper gallery housed what's probably the best one-room exhibition I've seen since I moved to London - The Shell Guides: Surrealism, Modernism, Tourism. Display cases chock full of Betjeman prose, fifties iconography and geographical quirks - somebody here sure knew how to put a winning retrospective together.

The shop outside was running down supplies, with an eclectic collection of design-related books at half price and Art Deco fridge magnets at a bargain 10p each. Same 10p price for a red MoDA rubber, because 'everything must go' because there won't be a museum next week. The visitors book was full of last minute praise, as well it should be, from folk who'd greatly appreciated everything they were about to lose. And "we love MoDA" was the scribbled message from several local schoolchildren who'd come on educational trips to learn about their creative heritage. No more trips to the university for them.

This closure's supposedly not about cuts, because the museum's not directly funded by government or the local council. Instead it's Middlesex University who are closing down not just the museum but their entire Cat Hill campus. They'll still have five other campuses, including one in Dubai and one in Mauritius, whose non-Middlesex locations hint strongly at the financial priorities UK universities now face. Come September, all of Cat Hill's students will be relocated to a new art, design and media centre on the Hendon campus (just across the road from Church Farmhouse museum, no less). And the Cat Hill campus is, of course, to be sold off for housing, so I guess that'll be the new art, design and media centre paid for.

And the museum's moving to Colindale, where it won't really be a museum any more. MoDA's collections will be available to students and researchers, which is only right and proper, but members of the public will have to make an appointment to dig through the archives. There'll be no permanent gallery space, nothing you can drop in and view, and no more access for school groups either. The collections will only be available online, on tour and on request. Packing starts next week, so the current Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture has to shut down as of 5pm this afternoon. By this time next year, expect the Flats of Mediocre Design & Architecture to be rising in its place.


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