(or How I Set Out to Build A Camera And Ended Up Making A Museum)
by Andrew John Milne – Museum Founder, Artistic Director and Caretaker
In 2009 I completed my first giant wooden camera. It was a machine that stood five and a half feet tall, six feet wide and two feet deep, about the size of a stand-up piano. It rolled on wheels, allowing me to create large photographic-drawings within pushing distance of my studio which was located in the Exchange District of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Every time I took the camera out, I noticed that something happened, something that I had not anticipated. I had made it as a tool to create photographic work, but it also became a catalyst for discovery, excitement, and interaction. People shared ideas and connections and became alive and energized in a way that was contagious.
“The Museum of New Ideas”: it showed up on its own, ahead of everything. I didn’t know what it was, what it meant or what it was going to be. It was a phrase that simply appeared in my head seemingly disconnected from anything else. Immediately, I wanted to make it real, but didn’t know where to begin.
In 2010, Jennifer Bisch, curator at the Dalnavert Museum in Winnipeg, did something which is now a regular occurrence at the Dalnavert. She curated an exhibition placing contemporary works by local Winnipeg artists amongst the artifacts and rooms of that historic Victorian home. The show was a runaway success and I was struck with the way that the artworks were not diminished but deeply activated by their surroundings. The collision of Art and History raised questions, encouraged interaction and demanded consideration.
I had decided, early on, that I wanted to make the big camera travel farther than I could push it from my studio. Instead of crossing downtown Winnipeg, I wanted to be able to cross the country.
So I purchased a small step van and set about the process of converting it to become a mobile darkroom. Increasingly the functionality of the interior of the vehicle became multipurpose. It was a camera case, a darkroom, and then it struck me … why couldn’t it also be a museum?
I realized that with some modifications to the rear door and the addition of a staircase, I could create a rolling exhibition space that would create opportunities for artists and the broader community to exchange ideas about personal histories and the technologies used to record and reproduce them.
On June 28th 2013 a mobile Art and Technology Museum will roll up its door for the first time, exhibiting contemporary artworks and historical artifacts: “The Museum of New Ideas”