WHAT do the items on your mantelpiece say about you?

That was the question troubling the inquisitive brains behind Mass Observation – a pioneering social research organisation which aimed to document everyday life in 1930s Bolton.

Their 1937 survey, The Mantelpiece Reports, focused on individuals’ mantelpieces, and the meaning behind the objects placed on them hoping that it would reveal some important insights into what exactly made the everyday Brit tick during a time of political turmoil across the world.

Now more than 80 years later, Bolton Museum’s new exhibition is responding to that survey with acclaimed ceramic artist Richard Slee’s Mantelpiece Observations in which he will look to recreate the kind of household items the researchers found in the sitting rooms of Bolton.

Bolton Council’s Executive Cabinet Member with responsibility for libraries and museums, Cllr Hilary Fairclough, said: “This exhibition is a real coup for Bolton. Richard Slee is one of Britain’s most important ceramic artists.

“The mantelpiece installations Richard has created for the exhibition perfectly capture the bizarre juxtapositions of ordinary and exotic objects in the original 1937 reports.

“It is testament to Bolton Museum’s increasingly high profile that Richard has chosen to show his new works here for the first time and that Arts Council England has elected to support the project with a significant funding award.

Slee added: “These mantelpiece objects and arrangements are an altar to the interior, a landing strip for the everyday, a haven of domestic symbolism.”

Mantlepiece Observations is open until January 2021and entry is free.