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How would you describe the objects pictured below?

They are (in order) a dance paddle from Easter Island, the cranium and mandible of a giant lemur, a Japanese xylarium, a selection of toys and a medicine chest taken by explorer Algot Lange to the Amazon in 1911. All the previously unseen objects have been plucked from the archives of London museums where they were gathering dust.

A dance paddle from Easter Island

A giant lemur skull

A Japanese xylarium

A selection of toys

Medicine Chest
A medicine chest

The five objects will be touring five London museums as part of a collaborative exhibition which will see curators at each intstitute offer their own interpretation of the exhibits.

The objects will tour the Horniman Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Wellcome Collection as part of the First Time Out Show.

At each museum, the exhibits will be given a new set of captions, written by experts in a different field. The exhibition organisers say the show aims to ‘highlight the different modes of interpretation and display that underpin museum practices’.

So while at Kew Gardens the interpretation of the Easter Island dance paddle will focus on the type of wood it is made from (the toromiro tree apparently), at the Natural History Museum the caption details the paddle’s place in the island’s cultural history.

Jo Quinton Tulloch, head of exhibitions and programmes at the Science Museum, says, ‘This project will provide a fascinating insight into what happens when objects are taken out of their usual context and reinterpreted in a fresh and exciting way.’

First Time Out kicks off at the Wellcome Collection today, where it will be for six weeks, before travelling to six-week stints at the Horniman, the Natural History Museum, The Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and finally the Science Museum.

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