Joseph Conrad, Museum of Canterbury

Joseph Conrad (writer of such things as Heart of Darkness and inspirer of such films as Apocalypse Now and Apocalypse Now REDUX) used to live near Canterbury and is buried in the city cemetary. As such he a is a local Figure of Interest and the museum I volunteer at is having an exhibition about the man.

Joseph & Jessie Conrads gravestone, Canterbury - photo by chrisjohnbeckett

Joseph & Jessie Conrad's gravestone, Canterbury - photo by chrisjohnbeckett

As a result of various correspondence and donations the museum actually owns a large amount of Conrad’s effects including whole albums of personal photographs and it was looking through these that I spent a large portion of yesterday. I was picking out a selection which would give an idea of the man himself so I decided to concentrate on the ones which I thought made him more approachable and less formal.

Obviously there were many traditional photo-portraits where he was sitting in his study looking very proper (and vaguely like Sigmund Freud) but there were piles and piles of pictures of regular family life which I fell in love with. There was his son John sitting in a child’s toy car while Conrad pushed him along. Another showed his other son Borys cuddling their three kittens. Elsewhere they were all on a picnic.

It was a day which left me feeling incredibly positive – I really didn’t have a lot of time for Heart of Darkness – in fact I think I got halfway through it for a modern art module and then consigned it to a box of books heading for the loft – but I experienced a real rush of affection for the man himself while I was working and felt rather priveleged to have such a detailed peek into this private and long gone sphere.