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Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

Breath of fresh air for George Canning

In Dulwich OnView, new content, Uncategorized on April 30, 2010 at 8:30 am

There’s a bar near where I live named after George Canning – one time prime minister and famous botched dueller – which has been neglected for a long time – passed from landlord to landlord over the years until it was run into the ground. But it’s just come under new ownership and things are looking up.

It’s now under the care of a young couple who have been brought in to turn its fortunes around. After a lick of paint and some fresh ideas, the place is looking great once again. They explained their ideas for the place to me the other day over a drink, and an article about them and their pub has gone live on Dulwich OnView this morning.

They’re a great couple – a real breath of fresh air – and they’ve got some great ideas, so good luck to them!

Preston Hall gets spending

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on April 26, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Preston Hall Museum in Stockton-on-Tees has been awarded £7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a major redevelopment project. And they’ve been quick off the mark, spending plenty of their cash on new and exciting things. The museum’s site is home to a street of Victorian shops, which have been preserved as a living history centre and these are already being redisplayed.  There’ll be loads more happening on site this summer – the final reopening of the museum will be in 2012.

If you want to know more, there’s a piece on Museum [Insider] today.

And on the theme of M[I], there’s exciting news afoot. Can’t say much about it now, but I’m working on a new project with them that’s going to be brilliant. More to follow soon …

My first i-phone app

In Museums on April 23, 2010 at 8:24 am

You can now download a full audio tour of the Ashmolean museum in Oxford – scribed by me – from iTunes.

The tour is delivered on handsets in the museum building, which you have to give back at the end of your visit, of course. But now you can buy the content in advance, listen to it in front of the objects and keep it afterwards. That way you can always listen to one of my scripts wherever you are – if you must!

It’s been provided by the producers of the audio tour, ATS Heritage, who I’ve also worked with on a tour for Lambeth Palace Library.

The app is yours for £2.99 from the iTunes store.

Multimedia script live at British Museum

In Museums on April 22, 2010 at 9:54 am

The British Museum’s new exhibition on renaissance art opens today. Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings is housed in the round reading room at the centre of the museum and features 100 drawings from the great artists of the time – Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael etc. (Alas no Donatello.)

In addition to the interpretation in the exhibition there’s also a multimedia guide to the show – basically an audio-guide with a screen so they can show you images at the same time – written by yours truly. It takes visitors around some of the star objects in the show.

Most of the drawings in this exhibition aren’t large. But these handheld guides allow visitors to get right up close to the pictures, and to make detailed comparisons on screen between what they see in front of them and other pictures in the show, indeed in other museums.

One of the golden rules of writing audio is: don’t write about what the visitor can’t see. But in this case we can write about what they can’t see as we can put it right infront of them on a screen. And on that note, there’s also an audio-described version of the script recorded for visually impaired visitors, using the main script, but with extra levels of visual description.

If you want to hear some of the guide, the lovely people at the British Museum have provided the Director’s introduction and five of the stops to listen to for free online here. And you get to hear the dulcit tones of Lindsay Duncan reading the script.

The exhibition is open until 25 July.

Interview with Vishvapani

In happiness, new content on April 21, 2010 at 10:20 am

About a month ago I heard the Buddhist writer and teacher Vishvapani speaking on Thought for the Day (Radio 4) about happiness. I blogged about it at the time here.

I was struck by what he’d said so I sent him an email and told him about my research project looking at the subject of happiness and what it means to us today. And fortunately for me he kindly accepted my invitation to be interviewed for the book project.

I’ve posted his interview in the happiness pages of this website. In it he talks about the Buddhist attitude toward happiness, whether the Buddha was a happy person or not, and his own happiness. Read the full transcript of the interview here.

Shakespeare in the supermarket

In Dulwich OnView, new content on April 20, 2010 at 11:55 am

Last week I met with a group of actors who are about to launch a new show set in a supermarket. It’s not only set there, the performances take place in the supermarket. It’s a piece inspired by Shakespeare’s sonnet 23:

O, learn to read what silent love hath writ:
To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fi ne wit.

Teatro Vivo are a theatre company making site-specific performance pieces. They’ve been putting on shows in branches of Sainsbury’s in south London for a few years and are now returning with a new show.

It sounds rather peculiar – it is – but from sitting in on rehearsals I’ve seen how it works and I’m up for going along and investigating.

The first show of Supermarket Shakespeare is this evening and there’s an article on Dulwich OnView today about where you can find them over the next few weeks.

I think I might pop along to Forest Hill on 1st or 2nd May. Anyone care to join me?

François Lelord on happiness

In happiness, what i'm reading on April 20, 2010 at 11:34 am

French psychaitrist François Lelord’s book Hector and the Search for Happiness has sold over 2.5 million copies. I remember reading about it when it first came out and was struck by what he’d achieved. His novel is different to my happiness research project in that it’s a story, but the aim is quite similar – to try and unpick what happiness means to us today.

Lelord’s starting point of a modern context is similar to mine. Hector — a psychiatrist like Lelord — sets off around the world to discover the ingredients for happiness because he can’t bear to see his patients so sad. The first person he meets is a banker: wealth, it seems, is one of the great stumbling blocks to happiness. It’s almost like the story of the Buddha, who wanders from person to person, taking advice and contributing to his own thought processes as he goes.

But perhaps the conclusions of this book are rather different to mine. In an interview in The Times today he says:

“I felt rather embarrassed at first as a Frenchman writing about happiness because I always think we are so grumpy at work. Waiters and taxi drivers can be rude. But we often top happiness polls. Happiness is a good glass of wine, the perfect cheese and conversation.

“The British don’t benefit from these things in the same way. In France we think of drink as making us happy because we don’t get drunk, it is a social activity; food is to be savoured rather than an obesity problem, and friendships and family are valued.”

Sex is another problem for the British. “In France we are open about the fact that sex can make you happy — it’s part of French folklore. In Britain you are more obsessed with shopping but that is a passive happiness. Your children love computer games that give them a high but they don’t provide the same contentment as climbing a tree. On the other hand, weather in Britain can make you very happy — you appreciate a sunny day.”

Read the full article on The Times website.

Museopunk is shutting down

In Museums, what i'm reading on April 19, 2010 at 11:19 am

I just had an email from the enigmatic blogger newcurator, who I follow from time to time. Whoever he is, he’s got a good eye for a story and a witty turn of phrase and I always enjoy reading his provocative posts. I’ve also been enjoying following his forum, Museopunk, where people from the museum sector share ideas about museum futures.

It turns out that Ning.com (the service that runs Museopunk) will be closing its free service. Boo!

But, Pete says: “I’m not done with forums. I hope to get a new one set up soon.
I suggest going here and signing up to the newsletter. Big plans afoot so that’s the best place to find out.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed here. I hope the discussions can continue on the new format.”
I wonder what his big plans are?! If you’re into museums and fun ideas being shared on the Internet, then sign up to his list and see what happens!

Dulwich OnView wins international award

In Dulwich OnView on April 18, 2010 at 11:06 am

Wow, our little group blog (now an online magazine) has won Best Small Site at the Museums and the Web conference in Colorado. We’re glowing with pride.

Museums and the Web is the biggest museums conference of its kind in the world, attracting 600 professionals from 25 countries.There were 15 international judges who looked at the nominated sites in detail and chose us as the winner! It’s great news for everyone involved and we’re gearing up to celebrate once our delegate is back from the States – she’s presently stuck there because of the volcano ash fandango.

There’s a piece about it on Dulwich OnView, of course.

Wales might get a National History Museum

In Museum [Insider], new content on April 14, 2010 at 11:25 am

There’s been plenty of debate about whether the UK should have a museum of national history. Loads of other countries have a national history museum and some people think it’s we had one too. The thing is we have a national art collection and we have the British Museum (which isn’t really about Britain) and we have museums of specific chunks of British history. So perhaps we don’t really need one? The jury’s still out on this one.

But it looks like Wales might get one. St Fagans is the most popular museum in Wales with over 600,000 visitors a year. An outdoor museum of Welsh built and cultural heritage, it’s almost a village dedicated to Welsh-ness. Under the umbrella of National Museums Wales (who run the big museums in Cardiff and Swansea, among other places) they have submitted a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £20million to overhaul the place and to turn it into the National Museum of Wales.

They’ll hear back on their funding application in due course, but if you’d like to follow the story I wrote an article about the project for Museum [Insider].