UCL News


Exhibition: The toy car that caused such trouble

15 October 2009

Press release Link:

Ford Sunliner Convertible V8 Toy Car ucl.ac.uk/media/library/objectretrieval" target="_self">Object Retrieval

A 1960s toy car that led to the hospitalisation of a child is unveiled today at UCL, as part of a new exhibition called Object Retrieval.

The car - a Ford Sunliner Convertible V8 originally covered in lead paint - was found in the UCL Pathology Collection, with records linking it to the suspected lead poisoning of a four-year-old boy in the early 1960s who was admitted to Great Ormond Street Hospital. Very little information is available on the car and none on its owner or the fate of the child, but the organisers are hoping that its history will be uncovered this week.

The toy car is on display in an adapted Routemaster bus parked in UCL's main quadrangle, as part of a week-long interactive exhibition to collectively explore the history of the object. 'Object Retrieval: You are the Routemaster' is the brainchild of internationally renowned artist Joshua Sofaer and UCL Curator Simon Gould.

Members of the public are invited to join a team of researchers studying this object from any and all routes - be it art, archaeology, biology or chemistry - involving amateurs and academics alike. Over the week, your knowledge and those of other professional and lay visitors will help create a vast biographical network of information around the car.

Simon Gould says: "Unfortunately, we don't know what happened to the child linked to this toy, though we hope he survived and went on to thrive. We're hoping people will come forward with information to help trace the history of this car and the family it belonged to. Other parents may have similar stories to share, of their children swallowing or inhaling objects, or may themselves have suffered such mishaps as children."

Joshua Sofaer, artist, says: "Londoners and other visitors will play a critical role in this event - we need your help to build an enormous biographical network of information around the toy car. We'll be asking for your anecdotes, facts, memories, videos and other titbits of accumulated knowledge, while UCL's scientists, artists, sociologists, engineers and other experts will carry out a range of investigations on the object."

A series of events open to the public, free of charge and taking place on the top deck of the bus includes:

  • 'What's your poison?' (Thursday 15 October, 6-8pm) - sip a cocktail while watching UCL 'street' chemist Andrea Sella and Mark Miodownik, founder of the extraordinary Materials Library, perform some unusual experiments.
  • 'Karaoke with the Curator' (Friday 16 October, 8-10pm) - London's hottest karaoke act 'Hot Breath Karaoke' meets artist Joshua Sofaer in conversation with UCL Pathology Curator Paul Bates.
  • 'Scrap Book Challenge' (Saturday 17 October, 2-5pm) - this children's workshop will offer kids the chance to model their own transport of the future from a pile of scrap.
  • 'Midnight Feast' (Wednesday 21 October, 11pm) - help Object Retrieval cross the finishing line while stuffing your face with midnight treats.

More information on the exhibition and individual events can be found at www.objectretrieval.com.  The exhibition is open to the public, free of charge, in UCL's Main Quad, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT. The exhibition will run Thursday 15 October to Wednesday 21 October 2009.

Media contact: Jenny Gimpel