A future for regional museums? The Courtauld Institute of Art, March 2015

There is a certain irony about going to a debate on the future of regional museums in the heart of London. The Courtauld Institute of Art have put on an impressive array of speakers to take a timely look at the crises in regional museums. The debate is organised to coincide with ‘Cotton to Gold’, an exhibition at Two Temple Place, that showcases the best of art and artefacts from Lancashire museums and fits with their remit to highlight regional collections in the capital.

It is early evening and I have to knock on the door at Somerset House to gain admittance, it feels as if I am about to enter the inner sanctum in search of answers. An exclusive world of museum decision makers is laid before me, I feel like a novice acolyte attempting to discover the mysterious workings of the museum world.
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Interview with a Walrus

2015-03-11 18.53.07The music pulses, the feathers gleam, shells catch the light, dead animals stare at me from their preserved perches. Of course I have to be at the Horniman Museum, my favourite place to be intimately acquainted with the furry, feathered and decidedly deceased. I have come for the launch of their new Natural History Gallery display, a grant from DCMS Wolfson has worked wonders to invigorate this much-loved space.

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The new permanent displays feature the treasures of taxidermist Edward Hart – ‘preserver of birds and beasts’. His traditional attempts to preserve nature in a natural setting are weirdly reminiscent of a Dr Who story line, one in particular with 7 puffins makes me squint and double take. I am sure those feathers move every time I turn my head. Continue reading

A whole lot of ‘Ging Gang Goolie’

12th Hinkley Scouts

12th Hinkley Scouts

Although I am ‘Blogger in Residence’ for the ‘First World War in the Air’ exhibition, it is not the only exhibition at the RAF Museum and it does not exist in isolation. Just like teaching the history of the First World War, you have to understand what went before and what came after to truly begin to understand the human history of war as well as the development of flight. The Grahame-White Factory may be the oldest part of the site and the closest link to that early aviation history, but at the museum you can also take in the Milestones of Flight gallery and see the major events in the history of aviation. You can wander around the historic hangers, the Bomber Hall and the Battle of Britain Hall, not forgetting the cafe, restaurant and shop when you are in need of a little rest! Continue reading

Unseen: The Lives of Looking by Dryden Goodwin – The Queen’s House Greenwich

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It is fascinating to watch an artist at work, to see how they begin an artwork, a blank canvas or piece of paper in front of them. What are the first marks they make, how do they start, it is as if by watching you might be able to grasp and capture some of that inspiration and technique to be able to replicate in some humble way. I have been completely sucked into watching ‘The Big Painting Challenge” on BBC1, where each week amateur artists attempt to paint a still life or a portrait. I am intrigued by the process from where they start and what they finish up with. There is something very powerful about watching a piece of art being created, and the new contemporary exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich allows the visitor to do just that – be the watcher. Continue reading

Forensics – The Anatomy of Crime, Wellcome Collection, Feb 2015

2015-02-24 09.44.33Who killed Lucy Beale? Will Joe Miller go down for Danny Latimer’s death? The nations is gripped by crime, murder and court room drama. Well, you may not have a clue what I am talking about if you don’t watch EastEnders or Broadchurch. But if I mention Jack the Ripper or Dr Crippen then these at least are names that will be familiar. Murder has fascinated us through the centuries, whether it is fact or fiction. Notoriously brutal crime stories often seem to be handed down like folk tales, each generation looks with modern eyes on horrific acts that are never dimmed by the passage of time. Often the only thing that changes is our understanding of the evidence, how quickly forensic methods move on, where once a DNA sample would have been an unimagined weapon in the policeman’s methodology, a whole new armoury is opened up with technical medical advances. Continue reading

Plantastics – Horniman Museum, Feb 2014

2015-02-14 10.28.10Another Valentine’s Day, another romantic trip with all the family in tow. Last year I visited Hampton Court to sample the delights of their Chocolate Kitchen. This year we are off to our favourite family haunt, the Horniman Museum, for the launch of their new ‘family friendly exhibition’ – Plantastic. We while away the journey with a debate on whether we say “Plantastic” with the plant as in aunt or plant more like ant, because that affects the way you say ‘tastic’. Seriously try it yourself to see what we mean. Continue reading

Bethlem Museum of the Mind – Feb 2015

Bethlem Museum of the Mind 1930s hospital administration building

Bethlem Museum of the Mind a 1930s hospital administration building

I am in a peculiar position of having a long, long connection of sorts with Bethlem Hospital and museum, but I have only visited the site recently and only found out about the museum a couple a years ago. I lived about 15 minutes away from the Bethlem Hospital for 27 years, I have, like all local residents been very aware of it’s presence. You only need to do a quick search of the local newspaper to see the kind of headlines and impressions that local people have been given. Sadly they are mainly negative, “Bethlem Hospital secure unit incident attended by police and firefighters”, “Dangerous man still missing from Bethlem”, “No to mental health unit expansion.” Continue reading