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Phil Nelson's Miniature Turntable
What is your item? A handmade miniature record player. It's got a little record with grooves cut into it, a tiny needle that fits into the grooves and a handle that you can turn to spin the record just like an old fashioned 78 turntable. It was made by my grandfather in the 1960s and is a little worse for wear.
My grandfather was a headmaster and lived in this big Cotswold mansion called Sedgecombe which we would visit when I was a child. I can remember the smell of his study as he was a pipe smoker. He was very creative and as well as making things he also kept diaries and was an illustrator. Sadly, he hung himself when I was only 8 or 9, so I didn’t get to know him very well.
Apart from music I’m not particularly creative so I find it fascinating that anyone could make something like this. It’s not necessarily perfect or beautiful but I think it’s ingenious, especially because he made it using things that were to hand such as a piece of lino for the record. It’s unique, something no one else will ever have and links me to my past.
Why is the item important to you? It is something that works on so many levels for me: it connects me to the past and my grandfather which has a certain amount of nostalgia associated with it, and it is a reference to the music industry which I now have a career in. It also contributes to my understanding of progression.
This imperfect but ingenious turntable helps me realise that I’m part of an ongoing journey of people, music and life. And being able to physically touch it keeps my memories alive, which I think is really important.
If this item got destroyed, how would you feel? I would feel sad because I think we keep certain things in our lives to remind us who we are and what matters to us. It’s as if the things you surround yourself with, tell your story.
In the days when people bought records, for example, you could look at the spines of their collection and they would tell a story about that person. Then, as we moved into the digital era you could do this with CDs and maybe even by browsing someone’s mp3 library. But now that we are in the world of streaming, I’m not sure if we can collect this information about someone or even ourselves. And now with the invention of virtual assistants like Alexa, you can walk into a room and say ‘Alexa play me….” but can you remember your entire collection to choose from? – physical items such as records are like memory aids.
I’m not saying this virtual reality is necessarily a bad thing, it’s just likely to change us.
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