Kipling’s Kim and the Curator’s cubicle. Good and bad boxes.

Referring to my previous post about Kipling’s description of the encounter between Kim, the lama and the curator at Lahore Museum which begins his great novel, I have been imagining the curator’s office, an unassuming, friendly place.

The office was but a little wooden cubicle partitioned off from the sculpture-lined gallery.

The partition is just above head height, and the door is often open. Though the Curator closes the door to Kim, the little friend to all the world’s curiosity is ungovernable.

Kim laid himself down, his ear against a crack in the heat-split cedar door, and, following his instinct, stretched out to listen and watch.

The cubicle’s treasure is communication.

The lama, haltingly at first, spoke to the Curator of his own lamassery, the Such-zen, opposite the Painted Rocks, four months’ march away. The Curator brought out a huge book of photos and showed him that very place, perched on its crag, overlooking the gigantic valley of many-hued strata.

When they move back into the gallery, the Lama and the Curator, with Kim at their heels, explore the wonder of the collection through looking, conversation, snuff-taking, pipe-smoking, references to books.

The cubicle and the gallery are benign boxes.

The Sainsbury Centre may be another wonder house, and it certainly is a box.


It lacks the fluent public/private interplay of the Curator’s cubicle. Everyone in our Living With Me project is escorted from compartment to compartment by staff with keys and in almost 2 years we have never met the Curator. We just imagine him:

porridge_mackay imgres-1 search

One of our LWM participants finds personal freedom in the safety of that odd Foster shed:

The Living with Me project has given me the opportunity to look outside the tiny box in which I lived emotionally, even physically.

Her tiny box is like Lauren Laverne’s.

What I remember most about emotional abuse is that it’s like being put in a box…. Maybe you think it’s a treasure box at first: you’re in there because you’re special. Soon the box starts to shrink. Every time you touch the edges there is an “argument”. So you try to make yourself fit. You curl up, become smaller, quieter, remove the excessive, offensive parts of your personality – you begin to notice lots of these. You eliminate people and interests, change your behaviour. But still the box gets smaller….You don’t realise that the box is shrinking, or who is making it smaller. You don’t yet understand that you will never, ever be tiny enough to fit…

Perhaps SCVA’s box, Living With Me’s container, is big enough for its restrictions to be bearable, an intermediary place between confinement and freedom, where most of us try and live.

I once spend 20 days auditing the condition of bone fragments – one in every ten – in archaeological boxes in a locked store in a fortress on a cliff top.


It was a laugh, but then I was being paid, and I knew the way out. I wouldn’t want to live there.

There’s a Restoration Trust project lurking here somewhere……

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s