I never really had an "Egyptology" stage as a kid, despite always being interested in history and archaeology, but I certainly understand why it has an enduring mass appeal.
A few weeks ago I went to the Tutankamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh exhibition at Saachi Gallery, because my travelling companion wanted a gander, and I figured that it would be interesting to see some very unique items, and also to see how the exhibition itself measured to the hype.
Oh there is hype. This is absolutely a "blockbuster" exhibition, proudly trumpeting in it's sales copy the record-breaking volume of visitors in other countries, and stressing the likelihood of tickets selling out.
I decided that rather than try to compile my thoughts into a review afterward (which would mean, realistically, I'd never get round to it), I'd drop a few live tweets to capture my thoughts and feelings as I went round.
Here are the compiled tweets in one spot for you!
The Exhibition continues in London to Sunday 3rd May 2020.
If you're looking for a small local history museum, perfectly set up to bring in the locals, and inform the casual visitor, by golly Banbury Museum seems to be on form.
I took a short walk along the Oxford canal from Banbury train station, and just as I was starting to mentally grumble at the modern shopping centre unceremoniously dumped beside the canal, I found the museum café entrance. At this point I gave my grumble a quick realign, as there seems to have been a lot of thought put into making the museum an easily reached and enticing prospect for passers by, including the museum gift shop actually being inside the shopping centre. The building being packed with excited families, ambling couples, brunch munching OAPs and tea sipping dog walkers, the intentions seem to work.
I'm not a raging Star Wars fan, perhaps a bit more so than the usual bod on the street, so the May The Toys Be With You
exhibition at Leicester museum pricked my attention, and was also a great way to catch up with two Star Wars fans and small child at the same time.
Rather than trying (and inevitably failing) to write a polished review, this is going to be the first of my “Explaining it in a pub” reviews. Essentially, the near stream of consciousness I'd give if you asked me “How was that place you went to? Worth it?”
We were excited as we entered the Exhibition space, the first few cabinets had some familiar and some unusual toys, and quickly made a direct connection to a local manufacturer, which helped the exhibition feel genuinely relevant rather than just a crowd pleaser. We could see there were lots of cabinets, well set out with space for excited kids, plus large decals on the otherwise white walls.
I've been very rubbish about posting museum reviews, usually because I write up half my notes, then leave the document languishing for ages, and finally come back to it and either:
A. Forget what the rest of the notes mean.
B. The exhibition it's about has finished.
C. Both of the above. Which might make for an interesting-ish, but not actually useful blog post.
So I'm going to be giving you some reviews I’m thinking of as “Explaining it in a pub”. Sort of stream of consciousness, or bullet point pros, cons, what grabbed my attention, a bit of gut reaction, with not too much in depth museum jargon or analysis.
Essentially, how I'd chat to a reasonably interested mate if they asked me in a pub “How was that place you went to the other weekend? Worth it?”
The fist of these will be coming up soon about the Star Wars toy exhibition at Leicester museum, hopefully, before the exhibition finishes…
So, you’re currently looking at a museum related blog (*waves*).
The publishing peeps at Museums Etc recognised that there are an awful lot of museum related blogs out there where “museum professionals share the experiences and perceptions they believe are the most valuable, the most urgent." . They decided to shed some light on these many blogs, and The Museum Blog Book has been born, publishing articles from over 75 blogs in one impressive 676 page book.
Which brings us to me shouting “AAAAGGGH I’VE BEEN PUBLISHED!!” in tones between delight and panic.
Recently I visited a lot of venues over three days. At Westminster Abbey, Apsley House, HMS Belfast and the Churchill War Rooms we were given hand held audio guides which worked with varying degrees of success. We noticed that wherever they were being 'successfully' (extensively) used, they turned most visitors into zombies. My travelling companion made the observation in the cartoon above.
I know that audio guides are a good way to control visitor flow and visit times, ensuring people get an overview while also pushing them through sites at a suitable speed. They can provide a reliable service not always possible unless you employ a large pool of highly trained staff, such as language options, BSL on video screens, child friendly tours. They can be a flexible tool, such as at Apsley House, offering visitors a choice of tours depending on their specific interests. They allow historical venues to be free from obtrusive signs. From the visitor's point of view, their experience can also be enhanced by a good audio guide, with music, interviews from behind the scenes staff, and video clips.
However, using so many audio guides in a short time highlighted two - to me - unpleasant side effects. The first is how much people were attuned only to the audio guide, to the detriment of all else. The second was the isolation of the user.
Through barred and dirty doors, across mausoleum quiet lobbies, and down, down winding stairs to a monument of human ambition fallen foul of progress.
I was recently fortunate enough* to go on one of London Transport Museum's rare tours of the abandoned Aldwych Underground station, originally known as Strand. Why an abandoned tube station? Well, it's a beautiful little time capsule to another age of design, site of many well known film and tv scenes, and a we got a very good little tour giving insights into how the Underground was originally run.
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