Donate your dust

30 November 2010

 Watercolour painting of the Great Dust Heap
[object Object]

The Great Dust-Heap. Watercolour painting by E. H. Dixon, 1837. Wellcome Images

Here at Wellcome Collection our appetite for collecting has become insatiable. Last month we wanted your Things… now we’re after your dust. It’s for a special project connected to our forthcoming Dirt exhibition.  The project is called ‘Laid to Rest’, and the artist commissioned to produce it, Serena Korda, would like to tell you more…

I have a slightly odd request for you (but seeing as I’m talking to the incurably curious I’m sure you won’t find this too strange!). I am currently asking people to contribute to my project ‘Laid to Rest‘ by giving me a sample of their dust.  ‘Why?’ I can tell you want to ask.  Well it’s all been inspired by the commercialisation of waste in Victorian London, in particular the dust heap that once existed on Gray’s Inn Rd that was a mile high by a mile wide.  This now surreal monument to the invisible was once a great source of income for many Victorians. Dickens immortalised the heap in ‘Our Mutual Friend‘ with his character Mr. Boffin the ‘Golden Dustman’, and allegedly when London wanted to get rid of the heap it was sold off to Russia (to be used as part of the foundations of St Petersberg) for the incredible sum of £20,000.

The heap was also used in the development of many industries and in particular London brick–making: ash, cinders and rubbish from the heap were mixed with the clay of nearby brick fields to produce the humble brick.

In ‘Laid to Rest’, the dust that you donate will be transformed into a brick and  will become part of a time capsule of 500 commemorative bricks. Your dust sample will be mixed with clay to form a brick which will be imprinted with your initials and a number, cataloguing your dust’s transformation from the barely visible to the palpable.

Your brick will be exhibited as part of’ ‘Dirt’ at Wellcome Collection from 24th March- 31st August. 2011. Over the course of the exhibition you will be invited to a series of events that will ritualise the bricks, elevating them to the status of folk mythology.  Once the exhibition is over the stack of bricks will travel in procession on a horse drawn carriage through the streets of London and be buried in a hole.

Only the first 300 samples will be guaranteed a place in the time capsule, so be one of the first to complete and send in your dust collection envelope.

To be part of this modern-day folk object, all you have to do is pick up a dust collection envelope from the information desk here at Wellcome Collection, fill it up with dust and send it back to

Laid to Rest
♯142, 372 Old Street
Rosden House

Envelopes are also available from UP Projects, please contact or call 0207 377 9677. Or you can fill in our form, telling us more about your dust and why you’d like us to collect it.

To find out more and follow the progress of the project, visit my blog. Looking forward to receiving your dust!

Find out more about Serena Korda’s work at