Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

Turn Back Time

In Museums on October 30, 2010 at 11:47 am

Calling all social history geeks – there’s a new programme starting on BBC ONE on Tuesday called Turn Back Time all about the history of the British high street. You might have seen the trailers for the show which feature Gregg Wallace hopping into a time machine and travelling back in time with a group of shopkeepers?

If not, it’s quite funny and worth a watch on the BBC website.

I’ve been involved with the BBC on the project – not making the programme, but curating an interactive exhibition which is going to be travelling the country to high street locations over the next 7 weeks. More details about the full tour to follow, but in the meantime do tune in to the show:

Turn back time: the high street
Tuesday 2 November
21.00 on BBC ONE


Hands on History

In Museums on October 28, 2010 at 10:08 am

Over the last three months I’ve been working on a travelling exhibition project for the BBC linked to their forthcoming TV series Turn Back Time: the High Street. The exhibition, which opens tomorrow, will travel to 11 locations across the UK over the next seven weeks, stopping in at unused shops on high streets across the country.

The programme sees a group of shopkeepers taken back in time to different periods from the 1870s to the 1970s, with the aim of trying to run their shop in that era. So the butcher has to adapt to life in a Victorian butchery, then Edwardian etc, right up to today. Each week the shopkeepers get told their new historical period and are presented with challenges along the way, such as rationing.

The BBC’s learning team have a project called Hands On History, which is about getting people to engage with history in new and interesting ways. As part of the campaign for this programme they commissioned the event production company Innovision, and me, to come up with an interactive, educational history experience that can travel to the pop-up-shops across the country while the show is in transmission.

We’ve created a flexible, modular piece of kit which can be moved each week into spaces of varying sizes. The first part of the ‘experience’ is a recreated 1930s grocer’s shop, complete with counter, till, scales and lots of lovely 30s products. We’ve commissioned interactive live interpretation company Past Pleasures to provide actors in role as a 1930s shopkeeper and customer.

Visitors then get to go into the back room of the shop where they will encounter a range of interactive elements, such as a timeline of the high street, with smelly games and things to touch; a place to record the memories of the high street; a chance to dress up and local resources about the history of the area.

The first shops open tomorrow in Truro and Poole. Do go along if you’re in the south west and take a look at the exhibition. And look out for the tv show starting next week.

Cuts to cultural spending

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on October 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Another day of announcements about cuts to public sector spending in the UK, another article about the impact on the heritage sector.

Yesterday George Osborne announced where the cuts will come and broadly where the cuts will take hold in the museum industry. Speaking in the House of Commons, Osborne said:

“Britain’s arts, heritage and sport all have enormous value in their own right, but our rich and varied cultural life is also one of our country’s greatest economic assets. The resource budget for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will come down to £1.1 billion by 2014-15.

Administrative costs are being reduced by 41% and 19 quangos will be abolished or reformed. All that is being done so that we can limit four-year reductions to 15% in core programmes such as our national museums, the front-line funding provided to our arts and Sport England’s whole sport plans.

We will complete the new world-class building extensions for the Tate Gallery and the British Museum.

The Secretary of State will provide details of further projects shortly. I can also announce today that, in order for our nation’s culture and heritage to remain available to all, we will continue to fund free entry to museums and galleries. There is also ongoing provision of the £9.3 billion of public funding for a safe and successful Olympic and Paralympic games in London in 2012.”
Initial analysis in live now on on Museum [Insider]. We’ll be writing up a full analysis of the impact of the coalition Government’s actions and spending review in the coming weeks, together with more detailed information about the exact implications of the spending reductions.


In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on October 15, 2010 at 8:17 am

We all know what a quango is now, right? (Quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation).What have they got to do with heritage?

Yesterday the coalition government announced its review of the 679 quangoes and 222 other stautory bodies as part of its huge cost-cutting exercise and in advance of the major overhaul of central Government spending, due out next week.

I took a look through the full list of organisations, bodies and committees to find out, firstly, how much of their work is related to the museums and heritage sector, and also to see how deep the cuts have been in this area. While there have had to be some cutbacks, it turns out that the reduction in Government spending in this area is perhaps not as bad as we anticipated.

Rumours had been circulating that the HLF and English Heritage would have to merge; that the Arts Council was going to be disbanded and that some of the smaller bodies and committees would be completely disbanded.

There have been casualties, but mostly they are in the field of advisory committees (libraries, national historic ships, government art collection, railway heritage). Visit England has also been told to modify its operation and customer focus.

The other big news is the disbanding of the MLA, which we’ve known about for a few months now. The exact effects of this decommissioning are yet to be fully digested by the sector, but the Culture Minister has said that Renaissance will be protected, which is great news for many of the nation’s smaller museums, especially those in the regions.

The great news is that most of the rest of the sector is safe (for the moment). The national museums, British Library, MoD museums, National Archives, Historic Royal Palaces, National Heritage Memorial Fund and Big Lottery Fund are all also safe, although the last of these is being transferred from DCMS to the Cabinet Office. Even Natural England survived, but only by the skin of its teeth.

There’s a fuller analysis of yesterday’s decisions on Museum [Insider] today and there will be more coming as a result of the spending review next week.

Less than a year to go on Royal Museum, Edinburgh

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on October 12, 2010 at 7:16 pm

It’s all go in Edinburgh if you’re a supplier to the heritage sector.

I wrote an article 18 months ago about the redevelopment work taking place at the Royal Museum in Edinburgh. As we were preparing for the launch of the first Museum [Insider] ebook recently, we decided to revisit some of the stories in the publication, to bring them right up to date. Some pieces only needed a few details adding in – new project plans, revised budgets, etc – but the Royal Museum project has moved on so much, we decided to completely re-write it – the resulting article is live on Museum [Insider] today.

Work is progressing well at the site – in fact there’s now less than a year to go until the £46.4 million project opens to the public and the building is looking magnificent. There’s been a complete transformation of the museum with new galleries, open spaces and visitor facilities, including a brand new arrivals hall.

The project attracted further attention recently when Scottish philanthropist Dr Walter Scott donated £1million to the project. The new galleries open in summer 2011.

We’re looking forward to a trip to Scotland to see the redevelopment at the Royal Museum and also the revamped Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which opens in November 2011. With many museums currently aiming to be open in time for the Olympics in 2012, Edinburgh is clearly well ahead of the game.