There have been many many reviews written about the Royal Academy’s Charles I: King and Collector exhibition, pretty much all of which boil down to “you're not going to see the likes of this again, some waffle about a new perspective on King Charles, it's good, bloody well go and see it”
And I concur.
I've already shared some of the comics I drew after my visit, but now here's the view from a punter, who knows about art mainly thanks to the content on BBC iplayer, and a brief stint of asking people to not touch things in a gallery.
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.
Click on pictures for larger views, and on "Read More" for more images and info.
I'll admit, London Transport Museum was not at the top of my 'must see' museums or sites in London, but I now stand very corrected. As we had to go to there to collect tickets for a guided tour, and had the offer of half price entry, we gave it a go.
I was expecting a possibly interesting look at some old buses, and some info on the development of the underground. What I got was seriously enjoyable couple of hours discovering how London's growing population has needed increasingly complex transport, how transport has helped spread London's suburbs and who the people are using and providing these services.
It's a transport musuem with people at the heart of it - and this makes for an accessible and story based experience I'd recommend to quite a variety of visitors. (Great bonus: free kid's entry goes up to age 17!)
Note - All images in this review can be clicked on for a larger view.
So I've heard some quiet outrage about the 9/11 Memorial and Museum having a gift shop, and my reaction is a positive one, which leaves me feeling in a strange place.
You can see some of their store items here www.911memorial.org/catalog These are what I've based my reflections on, so there may be items in the physical store at odds with these, please do let me know if you;re aware of anything else.
I went to a Titanic exhibition at the MOSI a good few years back, and was horribly jarred stepping from the room listing all the names of the dead, through to the gift shop. The issue there was in the main part going from a somber, well presented, touching area, directly into a brightly lit, brightly coloured, overly commercially aware space. There was also issue though with some rather odd choices of merchandise, such as the iceberg ice tray. Nice.
Ask A Slave: While you enjoy her wit and acid, she'll quietly educate you and leave you wanting to find out more.
If you've worked as, known, or met people who play costumed characters helping to interpret historical sites for visitors, then you'll have encountered some laugh out loud tales of the thoughtless or heartless questions asked.
So imagine the questions which were asked of Azie Mira Dungey, when she played various black characters from history, in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area. Yup, because she was a black actress, Azie, in her own words "must have played every black woman of note that ever lived... I liked to call myself the time-traveling black girl. "
You don't have to imagine what Azie was asked, as she's turned her experiences into a comedy series, currently two episodes in. In character as Lizzie Mae the slave, she fronts it as if on a talk show, where she gives funny and thought provoking answers to some occasionally dumb, and sometimes outright painful questions. And she's darned funny, giving a unique voice to a much misunderstood group from the past, as well as challenging some of our assumptions about the era's attitudes and America's founding fathers.
Find out more, and go to her site to watch the rest of the show!
“Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treausre of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.”
The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
With a couple of hours in Manchester awaiting the arrival of a hen party lost somewhere on the way from London, I didn't make it out to the Manchester Museum to proffer Neb-Senu's statue a burger, but I did spend some time in the amazing John Rylands Library.
I only had my ipad so the pictures aren't too hot, but if you want to think of the Unseen University coupled with Hogwarts and multiplied by the Jedi library, you're not far wrong. Go and check out my snaps of the shelves, stonework and lusciousness. I would wholly expect to find among its shelves books never written, or yet to be written.
Post title quote is by John Lubbock, and taken from Turning the Page, newsletter of Friends of the Adamstown (PA) Area Library. It was found here.
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