Archive for the ‘new content’ Category

New home for the postal museum

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on April 19, 2012 at 11:52 am

For a long time I’ve had a soft spot for the British Postal Museum and Archive, not because of any philatelic interest – I gave up stamp collecting many years ago – but rather because they’ve had a rough ride in the last few years. After having their collection dispersed around the country in a wide range of collection stores they were promised, a few years back, a new home in Swindon, right next door to the National Trust HQ, Heelis.

But that plan got scuppered and they were left to return to their various archives and libraries with leaky rooves and ageing facilities.

Well, it turns out that they now have another plan for a new home – and this one looks like it will work.

Better still, it’s not in Swindon but in the centre of London – not that there’s anything wrong with Swindon, of course. An old Post Office building near the Mount Pleasant sorting office is to be reconditioned, allowing them to bring their collections together into one place and stage exhibitions and displays.

I reckon the museum-going public are going to love it. There’s more than just stamps in the collection; it’s the entire history of the postal services in the UK over the last 400 years – pillar boxes, vehicles, design work, uniforms, toys etc.

There’s an article about the plans for the new museum, which is set to open in 2016, on Museum [Insider] now.


Lots happening in 2012

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on January 25, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Economic forecasts might not look great, but there are some things in the heritage sector to be positive about when it comes to thinking about the short-term future.

The UK museum building sector is still doing pretty well, despite the economic downturn – this is mostly due to the funds for new museums which are to be completed in 2012 having been agreed, commited and often paid up, well before the recession started.

I have a new article on Museum [Insider] today about the various projects that are set to open to the public this year. The massive Titanic Signature Building in Belfast will open in March and after that there’ll be opening parties in Preston, Chichester, Porthmeor, Birmingham and London amongst others. (I really do hope you’ve remembered to put me on the guest list – my new year’s resolution for 2012 is not to eat standing up, but I make an exception for canapes.)

And there are more celebrations set to come when more and more new museums open in the coming years. We’re presently putting the research together for a third e-book about the future of the museum and heritage sector in the UK and Ireland and it’s astonishing how many projects we’ve managed to include in it. If you’re working on a project set to open between now and 2019 and would like to get a write up in the book, then just email me:





The Novium

In Museums, new content on November 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I’m currently working on a project for a brand new museum, set to open in 2012. It’s called The Novium* – a new building in the heart of Chichester to replace the existing Chichester District Museum.

There’s an article all about what they’re up to, with quotes from me, on the BBC website. (I happened to be down there last week and got chatting to the journalist who was preparing the piece.)

My work on the project has been around the interpretation for the new museum. I worked with staff in Chichester back in February, helping them to think about the tone and style of the text for the displays. Now I’m back helping them with the final push, looking over the text as it is being drafted and doing some little bits of research and writing to help out.

Apart from the early planning phases, I find this part of a project one of the most exciting. The objects are selected, the text is coming together and the designs are coming through from the studio. Everyone is being creative and using their expertise to create a first-class museum product that I’m sure visitors will find really interesting and engaging when the doors open next year.

Watch this space for more updates on the project.

* the name NOVIUM comes from the Roman name for Chichester, NOVIOMAGNUS REGINORUM.

The future of libraries

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on November 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm

The current trend for reducing council spending on arts and heritage has spread beyond museums and into the to the world of libraries. Unlike museums, local authorities in the UK have a statutory obligation to the public to provide a library service – just as they do housing, education and refuse collection.

But that’s not stopped some councils in England thinking about alternative ways of delivering library services to the public. I’ve written an article about two councils in London  (Wandsworth and Croydon) who are in the process of contracting out their entire library service to an external provider.

It can’t be much fun trying to balance the books of a local authority at the moment and it’s interesting to see how some councils are coming up with creative ways of funding their core services. But are there also concerns about how this will go down with the public?

Read the article on Museum [Insider] to find out.

Researching the past, on TV

In Museums, new content on October 12, 2011 at 10:32 am

I’ve taken my first, tentative steps into television.

Following on from a couple of projects I’ve worked on recently with BBC Learning – curating two small, travelling exhibitions about British history – they asked me to write and present a short clip for their website about how to go about researching history.

I’m not an historical expert – I don’t pretend to be an authority on any one subject. But I have done plenty of research over the years and I know and understand how to use museums, archives, libraries and the Internet as historical sources. In fact, there are so many free resources out there just begging to be used, that I leapt at the chance to tell people about them in this video.

It’s live on the BBC Hands on History website now, or just click on the picture below to see me in action.

I really enjoyed the filming process from writing a script to being on set. And doing many many takes of the same piece of dialogue when I messed up/a dog ran by/ plane went over etc.

Do let me know what you think of the clip. I only did it as a bit of fun, but I think it turned out rather well.

Maybe I’ll have another go soon.

Get hands on with archive film

In new content on September 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I’ve had some content published on the BBC History website.

I was asked to write some online resources for the BBC Learning team who work on the Hands on History project, rolling out family-friendly projects relating to BBC historical programmes.

One of the programmes cuurently airing is Melvyn Bragg’s Reel History of Britain. In addition to curating a little exhibition about British social history and archive film (cuurently on tour around the UK) I also wrote some resources for families.

There are four resources now available to download (in English and Welsh!) from the Hands on History site or from the Reel History of Britain site. Or just click on the links below:

a guide to ‘archive film’

instructions on how to create a family film show

notes on how to record people’s memories

instructions on how to make your own vintage cinema screen


Reel History of Britain

In Museums, new content on September 6, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Melvyn Bragg has a new TV series called Reel History of Britain. It’s a social history documentary, charting the course of the twentieth century through archive film, plus interviews and recollections of key events that have taken place in the last one-hundred years, since the advent of moving film. In each episode Melvyn goes to a different place in the UK and shows people film in a 1950s Ministry of Technology mobile cinema, then gauges their reactions and captures them on film.  It’s airing now on weekdays at 18.30 on BBC TWO. You can watch previous episodes on the BBC iPlayer.

I was asked by the lovely people at BBC Learning to curate a little exhibition that will go on tour while the programme is airing and it’s about to launch this weekend. It’s a part of Hands On History, a programme of live events and online resources linked to television shows that are airing. I’ve previously worked with them on the Turn Back Time show last year and they’ve also run campaigns related to the Normans, Victorians and the Second World War.

The current live events include a chance to sit in a 1950s mobile cinema, an interactive area and a timeline of British social history, curated by me, with some tv screens showing archive film.

The Reel History Live Experience takes place in …

Glasgow – Fri 9 and Sat 10 September
Grimsby – Fri 16 and Sat 17 September
Peterborough – Fri 23 and Sat 24 September
Leicester – Fri 30 September and Sat 1 October

Do let me know if you go along!

Resuming normal service

In Dulwich OnView, new content on August 10, 2011 at 8:21 am

There cannot be anyone in London who hasn’t been affected in some way by the recent riots on the streets. The last few days have been exceptional in the history of London – not for generations have so many people joined in such a massive outpouring of frustration and idiocy.

The media has been dominated by bad news this last week. The pictures and footage we’ve seen on our screens have been quite traumatic and have affected us all. But I was in Peckham yesterday and saw something which really lifted me up. Using one of the boards covering a looted shop window some locals invited people to stop by and write a note about why we love peckham.

The range of people stopping by and the comments they wrote were truly heartwarming and I was grateful that the people from Peckham Shed Theatre Company took time out to organise it.

In fact I was so inspired by their actions that I went home and wrote an article for Dulwich OnView. It’s online here: Why We Love Peckham.

It appears now that the wind has been taken out of the looters’ sails and we all hope that this will be the start of the end of the violence across the capital.

It’s been a while since I updated this blog. You’d be forgiven for thinking that I’ve been off enjoying a summer holiday, but actually I’ve just had my head in the sand, working through the summer. But as I love working hard, that’s actually great news. Anyway, things are quietening down a little now, so I too hope to be resuming a normal service as well.


Preserving Pottery in Stoke

In Museum [Insider], new content on June 28, 2011 at 10:22 am

There’s an interesting new project taking place at Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent.

Facing financial difficulties in a tough economic climate as a working factory making specialist goods, the pottery has ended up entering into a deal with the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, a major charity which cares for the built heritage of the nation. In a bold economic move they have secured funding which has enabled them (or their subsidary at least) to purchase the site of the Pottery.

Over the next few years they will refurbish the parts of the site that are in need of attention, meanwhile leasing part of the factory back to the pottery. Some of the vacant buildings will become a new visitor centre, while others will house commercial operations.

This all means that the factory gets to stay open; the workers get to keep their jobs; new jobs get created; the buildings are preserved and the whole area gets an economic boost. Oh, and we get a new museum/visitor centre as well!

Clever, eh? Win win for everyone. So in, fact it’s more than preserving pottery – it’s promoting growth. There’s an article all about it on Museum [Insider] now, of course.

There are a few interesting project funding models like this around in the heritage sector at the moment. I’m sure there’ll be an article out about that before too long. Watch this space …..

Windows. No, not Microsoft …

In Dulwich OnView, new content on June 21, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Hmmm, windows are rather interesting things aren’t they?

Thin pieces of glass – a very fragile substance. They allow us to peer out and they allow us to see in. Stained and decorated they can become works of art. And straight-edged frames allow us to create ever-changing pictures on the walls of our homes.

What of the metaphor of a window?
They have been used in various shapes on TV (by Playschool), as a brand name for Microsoft and as the settings for a variety of works of art.

I’ve started a new series of articles for Dulwich OnView based around the Rembrandt painting in Dulwich Picture Gallery Girl at a Window. I found myself wondering who she was and what she was looking out at. Indeed the enigmatic nature of this painting is part of its appeal why it has been so popular at DPG over the years.

So, my take on this is called Boy at a Window. In each article over the next few months I will be looking out of a different window and musing on why the building in which it is situated is interesting or significant to me. The first two pieces are online already on DOV:

Boy at a Window: Dulwich Picture Gallery
Boy at a Window 2: Brockwell Hall

There’ll be more to follow. If you think of a window in Dulwich you’d like me to look through, then give me a shout.