Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Lambeth Palace Library iPhone app

In Museums, new content on February 22, 2011 at 10:01 am

I’ve got another app out in the iTunes app store.

The audio guide I wrote for a temporary exhibition last year at Lambeth Palace, Treasures of Lambeth Palace Library, was such a success that it’s been turned into a resource for people to find out more about the collections there – on their phones.You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s mostly church material in the exhibition. Well, there’s a lot of that yes – it’s an ecclesiastical collection after all – but there are also some rather surprising pieces of royal memerobilia in there too.

There’s a bit of background about the Palace library and then a selection of a couple of dozen objects from the collection, including:

– a welcome from Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury (from when I got to interview him last year!)
Elizabeth I’s prayer book and her signature on Mary Queen of Scots’ death warrant
– a document with Henry VIII’s handwriting
– an original Gutenberg Bible (one of the first to come to the UK)
– the gloves Charles I was wearing on the day of his execution
– plus some amazing illuminated manuscripts and ancient texts from the collection

Each entry has a picture of the work in question and my audio commentary. Although you’ll be pleased to hear it’s not me on the recording – they get a professional in for that!

The app has been produced by ATS Heritage, as part of their Talking Guides series.

£2.39 from the iTunes app store, if you fancy a bit of ecclesiastical learning on the move.


Postal museum on the move

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on February 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Imagine what it must be like to move a museum.

The British Postal Museum and Archive – which is almost two museums on two sites – is about to relocate from, well, just about everywhere in the south east. Their collection is currently spread over a number of sites in London and Essex and it’s all about to be brought together into a nwely reconditioned building in Swindon.

The Wiltshire town is fast becoming the new cultural heritage capital of the country, with the National Trust’s headquarters and STEAM already on the site, by the Great Western Railway.

The project is well underway in planning, with an HLF phase 2 application due in autumn 2011. All the details, as per norm, on Museum [Insider].

What is Preston Guild?

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on February 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Have you ever heard of the Preston Guild? I hadn’t, until I started researching an article about a new gallery being installed at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, Lancashire.

The Guild Gallery will open in September 2012, at the same time as their once-in-a-generation celebration called the Guild. It takes place in the city every 20 years and dates back to 1179.

The former town’s Charter, granted by Henry II, gave burgesses – citizens with special rights – the ability to control trade within the town. The holding of the Guild was a major occasion and the cause of much celebration across the city. People descended on Preston (Priest Town) to attend the festival, trade their wares, participate in processions, balls and associated events and generally enjoy themselves.

Noawadays the Preston Guild plays an important role in the development of the city as a thriving and important place. It is the only Guild still celebrated in the UK and as such is unique.

Of course, since the advent of Free Trade, the original purpose has changed. However, the renewal of those rights, although now symbolic, is an essential element of the Guild and with burgesses hereditary and honorary arriving from around the world to reaffirm their historic status in the first week of September, it has become a major celebration of social and economic progress and a vehicle for visioning the future.

It all sounds rather jolly, doesn’t it? And they get a fabulous new museum gallery to mark the event.

There we are. You know what a guild is now.


British Museum evaluation reports online

In Museums, what i'm reading on February 4, 2011 at 9:13 am

If you’re interested in visitor research in museums, read on. The British Museum has recently published a selection of exhibition evaluation reports on its website. These documents are the results of investigations, mostly by the Manchester-based consultancy Morris Hargreaves McIntyre, into the exhibition programme at the Museum over the last few years.

The Museum generally commissions research about its exhibitions with members of the public in three stages:

Front end evaluation is undertaken when an exhibition is still a germ of an idea, to help the Museum understand if the subject appeals to its key audiences and what people’s existing knowledge of the theme is like.

Formative evaluation takes places once the exhibition is in development and helps to inform or test out the interpretive devices that have been suggested so far. It’s a progress-check with the public that the exhibition is on track.

Summative evaluation is then commissioned when the exhibition is open. This process tests how well the exhibition performed in terms of the objectives set for it, and also informs future exhibition projects.

Evaluation reports from a selection of exhibitions dating from 2006 to 2008 are now online on the BM website. I worked on the interpretive process for a few of these, including Ikebana: living flowers of Japan, Divine Cat: speaking with the gods in Ancient Egypt and Conservation in Focus.

Since leaving the BM a few years ago I now carry out this kind of evaluation, on a smaller scale, for a variety of clients. I work at all three stages of the process, testing ideas before they are put into commission; soliciting responses to exhbitions in development and evaluating exhibitions that have already opened. It’s a fun process, recruiting and conducting focus groups and testing out ideas in face-to-face interviews. If you want to know more about this process, just drop me a line.