If your venue has ever installed a cabinet large enough to fit a human being in, you will probably be familiar with the urge to "try it on for size". It's the museum and art gallery staff equivalent to a cat having to sit in a cardboard box. You're not sure why, but that cabinet calls to something in your genes, and you want to know what your exhibited artifacts feel like when they're on that side of the glass.
Since managers don't always appreciate this vital part of the installation process, and may even take umbrage at something they signed off thousands of pounds on being used to raise staff morale, the sixth sense of middle-management is key in knowing when it's safe to show off the new cabinet.
Smarter venue management know that this stage of a large cabinet can sometimes be a great opportunity for your social media and website.
The rather spiffy T.H. Grey of the American Hysterical Society blog unexpectedly contacted me late 2015 to suggest I submit some of my work for consideration to The Museum Blog Book - a publication from Museums Etc.
I looked into it, and discovered that Museums Etc. were planning a book compiled of articles originally published in online blogs, rather than asking for wholly original papers. The idea is to capture some of the "interesting, innovative and passionate writing - and dialogue - about museums and galleries" which appear solely online, make it more widely available, and opening people up to discovering these blogs and online resources .
I was flattered that T.H. Grey thought my rantings worthy, so decided it was worth a go. Having looked at my posts from the previous 12 months I chose three (both limitations imposed by the submissions guidelines), sent them off, and thought little more of it.
Once I know more, I will let you all know, and once I get a copy, I'll review it - as I'll be able to link to the book from here, and will receive a proportion of of each resulting sale from the link!
There were a lot of very excited and horny pigeons right in the middle of the eating area, right outside the main entrance to the Museum of Childhood.
If life gives you lemons, ask your mates to have a whip round, buy a bottle of gin, and make it an opportunity.
So seems to be the thinking at Jorvik Viking Centre, who are turning their recent flooding into a chance to " make the JORVIK experience bigger and better", with an ambitious fundraising campaign alongside their insurance payout.
Unique treasures have already been lost: from weaving mills in Lancashire to the military record of the Light Infantry in Durham; from the steam-powered tools of Leicestershire, to a renowned collection of photographs in Bradford. And now funding cuts are forcing more institutions, all heavily invested with municipal pride, to either close for good or shut off some galleries, and to sell off prized collections or consign them to town hall cellars.
“I remember reflecting on how people were surprised to discover the important collections held by local authority museums around the country, and maybe wondered why we have them,” said Bill, who helped to curate the new Egyptian show, Beyond Beauty, at London’s Two Temple Place. “These museums are different from the national and university museums. Although we hold world-class collections, with objects from around the globe, our exhibitions are first and foremost aimed at local people and we approach the display and interpretation with their needs very much at heart.”
All in all, 44 local authority or trust-run local museums, galleries and heritage sites are thought to have closed their doors since 2010. The only hope, according to Maria Balshaw, director of the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, is to urge the wealthy to make more philanthropic donations, as their counterparts in the US do, and their Victorian predecessors did.
I've no solutions or suggestions to offer at present, just a sort of glassy eyed despair and some memories.
As a kid from a rather not wealthy background, my local library and museums were invaluable in my upbringing. In a time before the internet and a million TV channels, they were an accessible window onto cultures and concepts I could never have encountered elsewhere.
I was the strange kid who LOVED going to the local museum or local art gallery to see what was on show, and was fortunate in having family who valued these places and took the time to help me value them as well.
We have been very lucky, and all the awful weather over the past few months has had no adverse impact on our venue. However, a couple of years ago there was local flooding, which led to guided tours being cancelled. Some folks were very willing and ready to take the tours still, uncomprehending of reasons such as "even though you've brought your own torch and wellies, the staff don't want to wade through knee deep water contaminated with human waste."
Many historic venues are currently in dire times, already up against funding cuts, now closed and making no money, and facing large expenses for clean up, and then restoration. For example, Yorvik Viking Centre found themselves with 50cm of water, had a disaster plan that they were able to quickly and effectively put in place to protect the historic artifacts, but are facing some very long term closures which will require expensive work. Leeds Industrial Museum enacted their disaster plan, having put measures in place after previous floods. Sadly the water rose higher than possibly expected, three times more than the previous recorded height. Other venues have been doubly hit, with the venue damaged, and staff made homeless at the same time - rendering them unable to give as much assistance as is needed.
You can help flooded venues by volunteering time to help clear silt and other damage, or by offering to brew up while those with the expertise do the work. You can support venues and communities by still visiting - check ahead and you may find that there are areas and venues still open or recently re-opened - don't assume everything is devastated. Many venues are now setting up online donation boxes, but even if they aren't able to do this, you could always contact your favourite stricken venue and then pop a cheque in the post.
Webcomic and occasional blog about the heritage sector.
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