The British Museum – Our Museum – Your Museum – The Museum of the Future

The World in One BuildingBack in 2009 I went to a debate at the London School of Economics, where I was working at the time, to listen to Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate and Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum discuss the Museum of the 21st Century. I never expected to be so drawn in by the debate and excited by the opportunities of a future museum, my eyes were also opened to the challenges as well as the possibilities. It was way before I began volunteering in museums, but I guess the spark was lit that day, my interest became so much more than one of casual visitor.

Now four years down the line, I have come to another debate, on the future of the British Museum. I come to it as a volunteer in three different museums, large and small, I experience museums in a whole new way, I am also a friend of the British Museum and a regular visitor. This, the first of three debates is all about exploring how the building and its public spaces need to evolve. A panel of cultural professionals, artists and museum directors will kick the debate off by sharing with us their thoughts and ideas. I am excited and intrigued by the whole role of public debate, but my slight concerns it may run down alleyways of trivialities and personal grievances are allayed when the chair of the panel Liz Forgan, in good humour, admits the toilets are bad and best left to one side as a topic for discussion. Continue reading

The Art and Science of Exploration, 1768-80. The Queen’s House, Greenwich

Exploring Greenwich on the hunt for art

I can’t remember when I last visited the Queen’s House at Greenwich, but I remember the beautifully enticing spiral stairs and the dazzling marble floor in the Great Hall. It is funny how some details stick in your mind, whilst others just seem to disappear. I have no idea why I came on my last visit, if it was in summer or winter, on my own or with my family, but I do know it is great to be back. Today is all about the Art and Science of Exploration 1768-80, a new exhibition on the artists who joined Captain Cook on his three voyages of discovery. The architectural splendour of the Queen’s House will have to play second fiddle today to the landscapes of William Hodges and the botanical illustrations of Sydney Parkinson.

The Queen's House feeling untouched by time in the sunshine

The Queen’s House feeling untouched by time in the sunshine

I can't resist adding the Great Hall, a quick snap on my route of exploration

I can’t resist adding the Great Hall, a quick snap on my route of exploration

There is so much context to the paintings in this exhibition, I spend a great deal of time listening to the curators, as they talk it is almost like they are painting their own pictures, building up the layers of story and interpretation to give you the complete picture. Without their expertise it is like looking at simple line drawings, their research and the time they have spent working with these pictures enables their words to really bring them to life. Here are paintings where you need to understand their stories and what they represent to really appreciate their importance and impact. Continue reading

Mammoth Mummy MashUp Review

It's a Mammoth invasion…...

It’s a Mammoth invasion……

I have been sitting on this blog for weeks, well it has been the summer holidays, lots to do, kids to entertain, beaches to sit on. Then I suddenly realised one of these exhibitions closes on the 7th Sept 2014, only one week of the holidays left to get your kids down to the Natural History Museum to meet Lubya, the baby woolly mammoth frozen in time. So certainly time for this blog to hatch out and give birth to a Mammoth Mummy Mashup! I enjoyed my Mashup blog so much last time that I had to do it again, two exhibitions in one day, comparing the two for a special blog review. This time I am taking in preserved mammoths at the Natural History Museum and preserved mummies at the British Museum a perfect combination, lots to compare and contrast. Continue reading

Autism in museums – What does it mean for staff?

A welcome return to the Science Museum

A welcome return to the Science Museum

I am back at the Science Museum again, on my own, without the kids. They get very jealous when I come on my own, I have to make a conciliatory visit to the shop every time. Our 8 Sea Monkeys called Dave, bought on my last trip, have unfortunately not survived, but to be honest I am reluctant to buy more, their impromptu funeral is still fresh in my mind. Slightly distracted by the thought of Sea Monkeys, I pull myself back to reality, I am getting used to visiting these days, many years with no visits at all and now I am in and out with surprising frequency.

I have not come to visit for an event or exhibition, I have come to meet the staff who run the ‘Early Birds’ autism friendly programme. I have written about the programme in other posts which you can read on my blog, so I won’t go into much detail here about what happens on their early morning openings. Today I am focussing on the fantastic news that the events are going to be funded for another 3 years by the Lord Leonard and Lady Estelle Wolfson Foundation. It is wonderful to hear this, these events are so important, providing a way for many families with autistic children to visit the museum for the first time, so I am really pleased to find out more about their plans going forward. Continue reading

The Great Animal Orchestra – The Horniman Museum July 2014

The Great Animal Orchestra - Horniman Museum

The Great Animal Orchestra – Horniman Museum

I am writing a blog listening to the birds in the trees and the wind blowing the leaves. In the distance I can hear an ice cream van and a police siren, there is chatter from a couple of doors down and the chink and clatter of plates, the faint sound of a train. A suburban symphony, when you stop and listen you can pick out the sounds, the early evening hubbub, the sun is setting on a beautiful July evening.

We don’t often stop to listen, to isolate the different sounds, so often I have headphones crammed in my ears blocking out distractions and interruptions. But yesterday evening I spent time listening to the animals of Sumatra, Zimbabwe, Costa Rica and Borneo – I was enjoying ‘The Great Animal Orchestra’, a new sound installation at the Horniman Museum by Bernie Krause.

Continue reading

Roll up, Roll up, for the Museum of London Archive Lottery

Day of Archaeology

Friday 11th July 2014 Day of Archaeology

This Friday, 11th July, is the Day of Archaeology, a day to find out what archaeologists really do……. I know what you are thinking, you already know what archaeologists do, they dig stuff up. You are right of course, they do dig stuff up, but they also do lots of other stuff too. Just consider Indiana Jones for one minute, he dug stuff up, but he also regularly got his whip out, raced boats through the canals of Venice and ate chilled monkey brains – his average day was rather interesting.

The Day of Archaeology project encourages people working, studying or volunteering in the archaeology world to share their ‘day’ through text, images or video. The resulting website that brings these stories together aims to raise awareness of the relevance and importance of archaeology to the modern world. The Museum of London archaeological archive – LAARC (London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre) celebrate the day by putting on an interactive lottery. Continue reading

Royal Academy of Arts – Family SEN Session – July 2014

I am about to discover the new

I am about to discover the new

I am rushing and I can’t be late, volunteering at Bromley Museum in the morning, a rush to the station, lunch on the train. It is hot and muggy, I have a blister on my heel, I mustn’t be late. I am off to observe a family special educational needs (SEN) session at the Royal Academy of Arts, it is Saturday, busy, bustling, tourists, Londoners, art lovers, the streets are crowded.

I dodge past pedestrianised bullets and into the courtyard at the Royal Academy, my pace quickens, my blistered heel forgotten. I am just about on time to experience a fairly new initiative from this home for art and artists. The fourth in a series of workshops for children with special needs and their families, led by an artist and free to attend. The only snag is the need to pre-book, when I found out about the session it was already fully booked so I feel very privileged today to come along and see what these sessions are all about. I am intrigued to see how they work, who comes on them, how many families there are, all manner of questions are tumbling around in my head. Continue reading