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Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

Chinese ceramics

In Museums on April 29, 2009 at 8:15 am

As a writer, it’s great when the hard work pays off and you can read your work in print, or online. But having worked in museums over the last few years, I’ve also been able to see work to which I have contributed up on the wall in an exhibition. It’s always sad when it gets taken down at the end of the run, but then there’s always the next project coming along to get me excited.

Last week, the British Museum opened a new permanent gallery of Chinese Ceramics, housing the Sir Percival David Foundation collection of Chinese ceramics. I’ve now left the official employ of the BM, but went back to visit the new gallery recently. It looks absolutely fabulous – over 1700 objects are on display in the same room. That’s a lot, but the sensitive display allows visitors to examine every piece in the collection either visually in the display cases, or virtually on a touch-screen which we built in-house. It was a great project to work on and I’m proud of my contribution towards the team effort as an interpreter. The touch screens, which are linked to the museum’s collection database, are pretty forward thinking. Other venues will be watching to see how well they work.

And best of all, it’s a permanent gallery, so the text won’t get ripped down in six months. Do go and see for yourself, or ask for a guided tour.

There’s no link to an article about it. I just wanted to show off.

Keeping it in the family

In what i'm reading on April 28, 2009 at 10:36 am

One evening last Christmas my parents and I were sat around talking and we got on the subject of the web. They told me they were interested in setting up a website to promote their bed and breakfast – they run it from their home in Derbyshire, in the heart of the Peak District.

I told them about blogging and my experiences of writing for places like Dulwich OnView. We arrived at the conclusion that perhaps they didn’t need a website, just a blog. So I spent a few hours setting them up with one and sent them off into the world of blogging. And now look at them.
Here’s their blog. I follow it, primarily, for updates from the chickens.

Maybe the credit debacle has meant you’re cutting back on a big holiday this year. If you’re looking for a cheap alternative, a relaxing weekend away at Highfield comes highly recommended by me, their sometime, non-paying guest.

Hampton Court and Kensington Palace

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on April 21, 2009 at 8:01 am

Had a grand day out last week at Hampton Court Palace, nosing around their new Henry VIII display. 2009 is the 500th anniversary of Hennry’s accession to the throne and as such they are theming the year’s programming around him. The palace is set up as if it were his wedding day (wife no. 6, Catherine Parr). Visitors are invited to the wedding party and costumed actors are parading around the place the whole day. Great fun.

Whilst there, I also interviewed someone from Historic Royal Palaces about the planned redevelopment of the visitor experience and interpretation at Kensington Palace, due to open in 2012. The first tranche of work is focussed on Queen Victoria, who spent her early years at Kensington before she became queen.

There’s a piece on Museum [Insider] with some exclusive details about what they’re planning.

Who do you trust – Obama or Jesus?

In happiness on April 20, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Something on Radio 4’s Thought For the Day last week struck a chord with me. Rev. Angela Tilby sought to bring President Obama down a peg or two for trying to make biblical links in his oratory when talking about revialisting the world economy. He says that we must ‘build our house upon rock’.

But Angela quite rightly points out that just a few lines later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is telling us not to even bother building up worldly goods – indeed he offers a warning against the belief that material possessions can bring us happiness.

So be careful, Barack the orator, when using biblical quotes.

Buy a coffee for a stranger

In happiness, what i'm reading on April 20, 2009 at 9:31 am

Apparently, the simple act of picking up someone else’s tab in a coffee shop is enough to engender a feeling of well-being for you and your lucky new friend. It’s a craze sweeping coffee shops in America.

DigitalSpy tells us more …

New museum for seaside resort

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on April 16, 2009 at 11:20 am

It looks like Southend-on-Sea is to close its museum and art gallery and roll them into one shiny, new arts venue right by the seafront. The plans look pretty exciting and they’re certainly enthusiastic about it in the town.

Here’s a new piece about it on Museum [Insider].

Mental Health Action Week 2009

In happiness, what i'm reading on April 14, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Happiness is abuzz in the news this week with the revalation that we are all really rather stressed, anxious and fearful. The Mental Health Foundation has called for a national campaign to raise awareness of how emotions affect our health and behaviour, and what we can do about it.

It all sounds like a bit of hot air to me, but Ed Haliwell puts it rather well in The Guardian today.

Apparently we need to develop social and economic cohesion and moving towards values and behaviours that lead to happiness.

Sounds simple, eh?

The MHF have an hilarious campaign, not aimed at making us any happier, just making us realise how awful life is. They say:
As part of Mental Health Action Week, you can order your free information pack, which gives you information on fear and anxiety, as well as a poster to help you raise awareness of the week.

Wow, I feel happier already.

Robert Frost on happiness

In happiness, what i'm reading on April 13, 2009 at 3:15 pm

I recently came across this poem by American poet Robert Frost (1874-1963).

As with plenty of creative souls, he had a particulary tragic personal life. His father died when Frost was 11, leaving the family penniless. His mother died when he was 26, resulting in the institutionalisation in a mental hospital of his sister some year later. A family rife with depression, he was also forced to commit his daughter to a mental hospital in 1947. Three of his six children died while he was still alive and one committed suicide.

How he then managed to win so four Pulitzer prizes for his work and publish so widely is a wonder. He penned this charming poem in 1942:

Happiness makes up in height what it lacks in length

O stormy, stormy world,
The days you were not swirled
Around with mist and cloud,
Or wrapped as in a shroud,
And the sun’s brilliant ball
Was not in part or all
Obscured from mortal view—
Were days so very few
I can but wonder whence
I get the lasting sense
Of so much warmth and light.
If my mistrust is right
It may be altogether
From one day’s perfect weather,
When starting clear at dawn
The day swept clearly on
To finish clear at eve.
I verily believe
My fair impression may
Be all from that one day
No shadow crossed but ours
As through its blazing flowers
We went from house to wood
geovisit(); For change of solitude. 

Roman Halter on happiness

In happiness, new content on April 10, 2009 at 12:24 pm

I received a touching hand-written note this week from Roman Halter, a friend of mine and survivor of Auschwitz who I’ve interviewed already as part of my happiness research project. His interview is available to read on this site, but he decided to write an addendum. He writes:

A life free from being terrorized, free from that fear, is happiness.

Freedom under the law in a true democracy where the citizen is protected from the criminal and the criminal is isolated from society is, for the citizen, happiness.

Happiness on many levels.

One man, before being taken to the gas chamber at Auschwitz [said] Psalm 31, verse 6 [and was] calmly led to a happy end with a spirit that was devoid of fear. [The verse reads: ‘You hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord’.]

We were told (the group of 500 metal workers from Lodz ghetto selected for slave labour) in Auschwitz-Birkenau that we looked so weak and were so starved that we, all of us, were only fit for the gas chambers and we should know that we came to Auschwitz-Birkenau through [the] gate which is only one way and that is ‘IN’. The out part is through the chimney. So, when eventually we were put into cattle trucks and PASSED OUT of Auschwitz-Birkenau the joy, the happiness of most was something I will not forget.

Roman has also added a simple line drawing of the recognisable gateway to the camp at Auschwitz with an arrow pointing to the entrance.

New ceramics galleries at V&A

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on April 9, 2009 at 2:23 pm

The ceramics galleries at the V&A have been closed for a while for a major redevelopment. The new galleries are going to be completed in two phases, with the first suite set to open in September 09. They promise to be stunning.

I’ve written a piece about them which went live on
Museum [Insider] today.