The subject of the slide is almost meaningless in the wider context of the future of the collection but perhaps provides a fitting metaphor. It shows ‘Totem’ by Franta Belsky – a sculpture that had a home in The Arndale Centre from 1977 up until 1988 – when it was dismantled and presumably destroyed.
It had fallen out of fashion in just over a decade and was destroyed with little or no consideration for future appreciation.
Slides too, it seems, have fallen out of fashion and are at risk at being destroyed, regardless of their significance or worth. Does the medium upon which information is conveyed dictate its worthiness? The essence of the Visual Resources Centre doesn’t revolve around the slides themselves but the images upon those slides. But the two are inextricably linked. The slide collection is a physical thing and digitising and destroying the slides destroys its essence. Of course essence is difficult to convey to a finance department.
Destroying the physical also destroys the act of exploring. The serendipitous nature of rooting through a filing cabinet cannot be replicated digitally. A search of tagged digital images will return only a very narrow result. Physically searching through files yields surprises and unexpected wonders.
I had no idea this image of Totem was in the collection but looking for something unconnected I came across it. The images of The Arndale triggered floods of memories of a mis spent youth in the shopping centre, getting up to mischief and wasting our days. Those days are gone and The Arndale has changed beyond recognition but the Visual Resources Centre provides a portal. Not just a portal that transports the nostalgic, sentimental part of me back to my youth but a portal to vital historical investigation. In the Manchester Modernist Society we have found the Visual Resources Centre essential in researching Manchester’s both architectural and cultural heritage. It would break our hearts to see it disappear and just become a memory – just like Totem before it.
manchester modernist society & the modernist magazine