Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

Wow, that was a fast six months

In happiness, Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on September 30, 2009 at 1:01 pm

So, it’s six months today since I left full-time employment and went it alone as a freelance writer. What have I achieved and what will the next six months have in store?

I’ve realised that I know a lot of things now I didn’t know in April. And they aren’t things I necessarily expected to learn as I went along. That’s what’s been so much fun about this lifestyle I’ve chosen for myself – things change, work (paid and unpaid) comes along and networking is still as important as ever. And the nature of writing for the web is continually evolving as well – new technologies and tools come along. I didn’t even know what twitter was six months ago!

The great thing about publishing quite a lot of online material is that I’ve been able to see the results of my work pretty much instantly, and I’ve also been able to solicit feedback from others about what I’ve been writing. Other projects are yet to be published, but will come into the public domain in the next few months.

A quick summary of my first six months as a real writer:

I co-authored the content for the British Museum’s new multimedia guide (like an audio guide but with pictures, video and interactive games). I also wrote an audio-described tour of the Parthenon galleries at the BM for visually impaired visitors. Both of these will go live in December 2009.

For the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, I’m writing a new audio tour for the entire museum. That’s a work-in-progress at the moment, but I need to move fast on it as it opens to the public in late November 2009.

A lot of web articles have appeared all over the place.  I wrote 23 features articles for Museum [Insider], the online magazine for suppliers to the heritage sector in the UK. There were also 14 new articles for Dulwich OnView, an online magazine about life in and around south London. And using this website as a promotions tool, I’ve created exactly 100 posts – the latest one just this morning.

There were a few random pieces of work as well. I’ve written content for a local film-maker’s website; edited text for the Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery website; scribed some pieces for an international travel blog; chaired a strategic direction workshop for Kingswood House and even edited an academic conference paper on the nature of discipleship amongst the evangelical Christian movement in the UK!

I continued work on my ongoing research project into the nature of happiness and what it means to us today. It’s had to take a bit of a back seat for the moment while I focus on paid work, but the idea is to start firing a book proposal off to publishers in the near future. My research notes find their way on to this website every so often.

Up next, I’m going to be doing some consultancy for a large heritage venue in London – secret as yet, but news coming soon. I’ll be soliciting responses from their visitors about ideas for potential future exhibitions.  The regular pieces for M[I] and DOV will continue as well as some happiness research and there’s some more audio writing in the pipeline. And I’m going to teach a workshop on online wrting for a local school.

What will the next six months yield? Will I have a book deal? Will more people read me?

Who knows, but I’m certainly having a ball right now.


Jurassic motivations

In Museums, what i'm reading on September 30, 2009 at 10:21 am

We had a great meeting of the King’s College London museums reading group yesterday. It’s a forum where academics working in social aspects of museums studies – and educational theory – get together with professionals from the museum sector and discuss the latest papers relating to our work and research. We take a different topic each time – this latest gathering was devoted to four studies of motivations amongst museum visitors.

We read:
The effect of visitors’ agenda on museum learning (Falk, Moussouri, Coulson, 1998) – still one of the most quoted papers on motivational theory. Breaks down the idea that education and entertainment are not indeed opposite ends of the visiting spectrum, but are actually continua which run in parallel.

Motivational factors and the visitor experience: a comparison of three sites (Packer, Ballantyne, 2002) – an Australian study which moves on to the next step and calls for ‘a common theoretical foundation for interpretation in museum other informal learning settings’.

Personality and motivation in visitor satisfaction (Yalowitzm 2002) – a PhD summary comparing cognitive and sensory needs and experiences in three Coloardo visitor attractions.

Accessing and incorporating visitors’ entrance narratives enchances guided museum tours (Tsybluskaya, Dodick, Camhi, 2009) – a great piece of research looking at getting museums visitors talking about a subject before they encounter it, in order that a guided tour might dwell on their expectations.

We talked around these and other pieces of research and ended up looking at examples of museum practice which take us out of our comfort zone – which challenge not only our motivations, but also our expectations of a visit. I’m so pleased we got to discuss the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, a long time favourite of mine where the very notion of  a museum is broken down. I’ve flicked through the guide book again this morning and I still don’t really understand what it’s all about. It’s just brilliant.

Zest for life

In Dulwich OnView, new content on September 25, 2009 at 11:53 am

I’ve just written another piece about my neighbour Sue King, a glass artist.

She and another neighbour from my street, Mel McCleary – a textile artist – are putting on a joint exhibition at the Jeannie Avent Gallery in East Dulwich, starting next week. The show is called ZEST and is reflective of their love of bold colours and striking designs. There are some images and more details about their artistic background in the article on Dulwich OnView, which went live this morning.

Work on new Museum of Somerset reveals intriguing hidden story

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on September 24, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Building works are well underway at Taunton Castle, where the Museum of Somerset will find it’s new home in early 2011.

They’re using a local builder called Henry W Pollard and Sons. While working on the project, renovating the Great Hall, buolding workers discovered a piece of graffiti from the last time the building was tended to in 1934. It turns out, Pollard was the contractor then as well, so the firm is now looking back into its archives to see if they can identify who it was. What will they find on the site in another hundred years, I wonder.

There’s a piece about the development project at the Museum of Somerset and deails of the architects, designers and contracts coming up there on Museum [Insider].

New content for Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery

In Dulwich OnView, Museums, new content on September 18, 2009 at 4:08 pm

I’ve been working the Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery for about seven years, helping them to slowly broaden the appeal of the Gallery and to widen the demographic of the membership. We’ve been running different types of events and trying to create an image of the Gallery that is less stuffy and traditional than most people might initially think. Numbers are up and the kind of people visiting the Gallery is slowly starting to change. I’m not saying we’ve reinvented the wheel there, but we’ve been taking baby steps.

One of the ways of getting the message out has been the community online magazine Dulwich OnView, for who I write regular articles about life in and around south London.

I also recently helped them to rewrite some of the content for the Friends’ online presence on the Gallery site. It’s all online on the Dulwich Picture Gallery website.

Southampton to build new museum of TITANIC proportions

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on September 13, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Southampton City Council are to build a new museum on the site of their present magistrates court and police station which will tell the story of the city’s maritime and naval history. But rather than dwelling on the comings and goings of ships and boats over the centuries, the story will be dominated by the ill-fated ship, Titanic. Many of the souls lost at sea on the ship were staff and crew members from Southampton, a fact sometimes overlooked when interpreting the story. A similar exhibition, with private money, is also being planned in Belfast, where the ship was built.

There’s a piece about the planned museum and news of who’s working on the project on Museum [Insider].

Huge new library in Birmingham

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on September 10, 2009 at 8:39 am

I published an article about Birmingham’s new library, set to open in 2013. It’s going to be huge – utterly enormous.

Set on Centenary Square in the middle of the city – the site of much regeneration work of late – the new nine-storey library will share a building with the Birmingham Repetory Theatre. There’ll be an amphitheare out the front and the top of the building is a ‘brown roof’ which means it’s covered in plenty of living things to attract other living things to live there.

If it gets the go-ahead from Birmingham City Council (it should do – they are the client after all) it will become the second most expensive heritage building project in the country, next to Tate Modern’s extension. If it all goes ahead, I’d even consider a trip to Birmingham to have a nosy!

Explosive film

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on September 3, 2009 at 10:27 am

The British Film Institute is building a new film storage facility to house the National Film Collection. It’s a high-tech building keeping the nitrate-based film at low temperatures and humidity.

If you’ve seen the movie Inglorious Basterds (saw it yesterday and very much enjoyed it, despite Quentin Tarantino’s messing with history) then you’ll know that the film is highly combustable – some of the characters conspire to blow up a cinema full of Nazis by setting fire to a pile of nitrate film.

There’s a piece about the companies involved in the archive building project on Museum [Insider].