This post is in part an extract from the Romance issue of Selvedge magazine.
The Fan Museum is a reminder, for both visitors and staff, of a former, gentler age when courtesy and care were extended widely. Perhaps the genteel nature of the collection makes it so or maybe it is due to the founders, Hélène and A.V. (‘Dicky’) Alexander? These two individuals – a husband and wife whose passion created this small independent museum – both came from families with a long tradition of hospitality, and this ethos is reflected in the museum’s special atmosphere.
Hélène Alexander, MBE, is a leading authority on the history of fans. Over the past forty years she has amassed a priceless collection of fans and related objects. It is this collection that forms the basis of the museum’s holdings of over 4,000 fans and other items including fan leaves, rare books and f a n related artefacts. Every fan holds something of interest, even the cheapest souvenir – they record historic events, advertise everything from travel to restaurants, relate to personalities of distinction and tell us much about the craftsmen who fashioned them and the times in which they lived. They have, for far too long, been regarded as frivolous objects but fans can be works of art in their own right: a fan leaf by Paul Gauguin dated 1887 is on permanent display.
The museum's current exhibition, ‘Made in China’ is a collaborative exhibition between The Fan Museum and Hong Kong-based collector and philanthropist, Edwin Mok. The show traces the evolution of Chinese export fan design from its emergence toward the end of the 17th century to its decline in the late 19th century and ultimately illustrates the complex and still resonating relationship between Eastern production for a Western market.
Read more about the social role fans have played historically in the upcoming Migration issue of Selvedge.MADE IN CHINA Chinese Export Fans from the Edrina Collection & The Fan Museum 5 September - 31 December 2015 www.thefanmuseum.org.uk -Tea at the museum's Orangery is highly recommended.