Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

Curious Specimens at the V&A

In Museums on February 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I’ve just booked to go to a two-day conference at the V&A called Curious Specimens. It looks fantastic but I’m a bit nervous about going on my own, so I hope someone will decide to come with me and hold my hand. Here’s the low down:

It’s linked to their Strawberry Hill exhibition, which I’m desperate to go along and see when it opens on 6 March.

They say: “Focusing on the extraordinary acquisitions of Walpole and the English bluestocking, Mary Delaney, papers will discuss collections, collectors and their circles; objects remarkable for their curious modes of production; crafts of collecting such as Delaney’s ‘paper foliage’ collages and Walpole’s extra-illustrations; what Walpole called ‘the genealogy of objects of virtu’, including the lives of the copy and the fake in Enlightenment collections; intersections and tensions between antiquarian, aesthetic and scientific cultures of collecting and between the collection and the museum. Speakers include Adriano Aymonino, Stephen Bann, Craig Hanson, Janice Neri, Lucy Peltz, Alicia Weisberg Roberts, Stacey Sloboda and Michael Snodin.”

My word, V&A speak is pretty much inpenetrable isn’t it? I think they mean it’s about why 18th-century collecting was so bonkers. Sounds like a laugh to me – cabinets of curiosity and all that.

Thursday 15 April (17.00-18.30) at the Royal College of Surgeons
Friday 16 April (10.30-18.00) at the V&A

It’s only £36 full price, and that includes a wine reception and lunch! What a bargain.


Rachel Weisz and happiness

In happiness, what i'm reading on February 20, 2010 at 4:18 pm

You might think that health is important part of happiness, but actress Rachel Weisz has declared quite the reverse, stating that “happiness is the secret to health”. She also said that a happy home life is the key to looking good.

In an interview recently she told a reporter: “I’m pretty healthy but I don’t have any fad diets or anything. I eat meat and drink alcohol, but everything in moderation,” she said. “I think happiness is the secret to health.”

Last week Weisz won Best Actress at the What’s On Stage theatre awards for her role in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse. That’s probably going to make her pretty happy as well!

So do you need to be happy to be healthy? I suppose general well-being does reduce stress in one’s life and being less up tight or axious is going to be good for our bodies. But is it essential, I wonder?

Do you need to be healthy to be happy then? Well yes, I think so, because an unhealthy body does lead to an unhealthy mind.

Perhaps we’ll just say for now that the two are definitely linked. I’ll ponder how linked they are though as I continue my research into the subject as part of my research project into the nature of happiness in modern society.

I found the story about Rachel Weisz and the quotes on Digital Spy.

Back to the British Library

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I’m really excited to be working with the British Library again.

Back in November I ran some focus groups for the library with members of the public, looking at their future temporary exhibition programme. We got four groups of people together – from different walks of life – and asked them to feedback on a range of potential future exhibition ideas and to rate them in order. That was all written up and presented back to the library, who are now refining their plans in light of it. So thanks to everyone who took part.

I’m now in the process of putting together some more focus groups for them, on a slightly different topic. They’re on Monday 1st and Tuesday 2nd March at the British Library building near St Pancras. If you’re interested in taking part (and earning £30 for an hour of your time), either leave me a comment on this page or drop me an email and I’ll let you know the details.

Happiness and Hadrian

In happiness, Museums, Uncategorized on February 15, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Have you ever seen an advert and wonder if it was written specifically with you in mind? Two adverts on the London underground have caught my eye this week.

The first is an advert for Alexander McCall Smith’s new book Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, the latest in his No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. (I quite liked the first of these books, but I must say that I prefer the 44 Scotland Street series.) Anyway, it struck me as another example of people using happiness as a marketing tool. Advertisers do it again and again – it’s a clever idea to associate your brand with making people happy. Another recent example of this is the current BMW campaign Expressions of Joy.

The other advert to catch my eye is for Hot Chip’s new album One Life Stand. The album art features a giant head of the Roman emperor Hadrian, found at  Sargalassos in south-west Turkey. It was discovered in 2007 while we were working on the content development for an exhibition about Hadrian at the British Museum. We managed to secure a loan of the head to the BM for the display, less than a year from when it came out of the ground. It was pretty big news and I remember seeing this image over and over at the time, so it was a real bolt for me to see it again on a tube poster.

It’s funny what triggers the mind, eh?

What to do on Valentine’s Day? Visit an art gallery.

In Dulwich OnView, Museums, new content on February 12, 2010 at 1:09 pm

You can’t have failed to notice that it’s Valentine’s Day this weekend. To be honest, I really can’t see the point in all the bother we put ourselves through each year. I don’t want to spend a fortune on a mediocre, over-priced meal just for the sake of it. And you have to sit in a restaurant full of other couples who are also concerned about how socially awkward the whole thing is. I like to celebrate when there’s a need to celebrate. And as a rule I tell my beloved how beloved they are as and when I want to, not when St Valentine dictates.

That said, you may still want to make a gesture to your better half at this time of year. My personal recommendation would be to take your partner along to a local museum or gallery and look at something lovely together. If you’re feeling flush, then why not splash out on afternoon tea in the cafe as well and help to generate some revenue for the arts.

To this end I took a look at what I might go and visit in my local art spot, Dulwich Picture Gallery. There’s an article all about what I found there on Dulwich OnView today.

What’s new with the BM’s multimedia guide?

In Uncategorized on February 8, 2010 at 3:51 pm

I spent a few months last summer writing content for the British Museum‘s new multimedia guide, which was launched in December 2009. I’m really pleased with how it turned out and so, it seems, is the BM.

What’s different about this guide is that it’s been produced in-house, by the BM itself – usually, museums outsource the creative writing, production, hardware, data uploading and even staffing to an outside company. But the BM has done this all – with some outside help here and there. And full credit to them to getting it done on time.

It means that not only have they saved a small fortune in outsourcing costs, since the guide was launched they have been able to tweak elements of the design and alter content as and when they please.

There’s two bits of news about the guide for now. Firstly, there’s a usability study going on at the moment, to see how user-friendly the guides are. Interestingly, the usability review is being conducted by the same person who worked on the review for Dulwich OnView – it’s a small world, eh?

And secondly, the BM’s multimedia guide is going to be a case study at a Museums Association conference, taking place on 14 July 2010 at the Royal College of Surgeons. All in hand: working with hand held devices will look at the latest developments in hand held technology and provide case studies for museums thinking of altering how they deliver hand held content to their visitors.

Matthew Cock, the BM’s Head of Web is hoping to share some of the results from the current evaluation at the conference. He recently said, “our new multimedia guides are going to make a big difference to the visitor experience at the British Museum and make the collection even more accessible.”

Here’s hoping that’s the case. We’ll see what they come up with.

Design controversy at Kensington Palace

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on February 3, 2010 at 8:42 am

There’s a huge redevelopment project taking place at Kensington Palace – I wrote about it last year for Museum [Insider]. After getting a green light from project planners, the work is now underway. But the project received a minor setback when one part of the plans was rejected by the local authority. There’s a new piece on MI now with an update about the ongoing controversy and Prince Charles’s involvement in the project.

I’ve also been invited to the press view of the new exhibition at Kensington Palace in March. It’s called Enchanted Palace and it looks like it’s going to be just brilliant. Full report to follow….