I’ve got the Hendon Habit

Glimpses of the past

Glimpses of the past. Copyright RAF Museum

I will never forget my first trip to the Claude Graham-White Factory, I was so excited to become Blogger in Residence for the First World War in the Air exhibition. My first glimpse of the factory was really as it should be: full of people working; hard hats; fluorescent jackets; planes being moved into position; tools and work gear strewn across the space. I remember vividly how they opened up the doors to the hanger and instantly it reminded me I was in an original aircraft factory. The people working around me a faint echo of the hundreds of people who worked for the entrepreneur airman Claude Grahame-White all those years ago. Continue reading

Alice Anderson – Memory Movement Memory Objects – Wellcome Collection July 2015

Alice Anderson at Wellcome Collection July 2015

Alice Anderson at Wellcome Collection July 2015 – I spy an artist

Gone are the ‘Dolls Houses of Death’ and the blood splatter remains of the last Wellcome Collection exhibition – Forensics. I have returned to Euston to the same display space to Alice Anderson’s painstaking sculptures at ‘Memory Movement Memory Objects’ their new exhibition. I have read nothing about Alice’s work, no reviews. I am completely fresh to this experience.

Mummifying a Ford Mustang

Mummifying a Ford Mustang

As I walk into a dark room I am momentarily disorientated. I see bodies clothed in black, barefoot, moving with intent and care. There is the occasional gleam and glint of copper wire as they wind thread around the carcass of a car, a Ford Mustang. More than a static exhibition this is a participatory experiment, at first I am unsure if I have come into the right place, I stand still to watch.

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RAF Museum on Tour

2015-01-17 14.33.36Hendon Aerodrome, where the RAF Museum is based, has a long history and connection to the birth of aviation and the beginning of the RAF. The new ‘First World War in the Air’ exhibition is telling a story uniquely linked to its location. The exhibition is trying to evoke a sense of the stories behind the objects and the people who held, trained, flew and wore them. The story of the First World War, and the role of aviation is not one that only has resonance in Hendon, it connects with people up and down the country and across the world.

The hard part for museums is to translate those stories beyond their four walls and to involve and engage with people from different locations and across the generations. Digital media is often a fantastic way to do this; sharing pictures, blogs and tweets can enable the museum to reach out to new audiences and encourage new visitors. Yet as much as I love social media and blogging, there is nothing as powerful as being hands on with objects. The touch and feel, even the smell of an object can reveal hidden memories or stimulate new questions and thoughts about a time we cannot now fully understand. 2015-01-17 14.26.28

When I heard the RAF Museum was taking their handling collection ‘On Tour’ I was keen to find out more and speak to some of the people involved. I spoke to Vernon Creek, Education Officer at the RAF Museum, about the types of objects going on tour and asked him to pick out a favourite for me.

Our collection mainly consists of items of uniform and flying clothing, some original and some reproduction; full-length leather flying coats, leather and fur flying helmets, fur rimmed goggles, sheepskin lined boots, and culminates in original and reproduction Sidcot flying suits.

One of my favourite items is a very early (for flying) life belt called an Auliff-Perrin, which is inflatable and has strapping over and under the shoulders.  This was a pre-cursor to all the aircraft life jackets of later wars, so is very special indeed.

First stop was the Yorkshire Air Museum, (4-7th June), Ian Reed, Director, told me why it is important to take the museum out of the museum.

In today’s world, artefacts in glass cases are no longer acceptable. As time passes, the politics of world history fades and it is the memories and experiences of individuals that matter most. “Social” history has meant that the stories of emotions, personal sacrifices, honour and courage in the face of overwhelming horrors, which a society was simply not prepared for, is a fascination for people of all ages today.

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The next phase is to engage with visitors to the Chalke Valley History Festival, (25-28th June). Co-founder of the festival James Holland explained the appeal of living history and how the RAF Museum objects fit in.

The whole point of the festival is to excite, inspire and enthral people of all ages about history because we believe that it’s only by learning about the past that it is possible to understand the present and prepare for the future. One of the best ways to bring the past to life is by allowing people to make that link to real objects.

Final stop on the tour is a visit to the National Museum of Flight in Scotland, (9-12th July). Volunteer, Barry Currie, will be helping visitors get dressed up and talking about some of the stories behind the objects. He let me in on the best bit about being a volunteer.

 It’s amazing how often people know something more about the object you’re talking about, so often we all gain from the conversation.

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I have been privileged to get to know the learning team at the RAF Museum and talking to them about the handling collections has been a fascinating insight into how visitors love to get hands on. By taking the museum on tour the experience can be shared with more people and I guarantee new and fascinating stories have come to light. If you get a chance to see RAF Museum staff out and about, don’t forget to try on a uniform or two, take a few pictures and make sure you say hello. xxxxxxxxxxx The RAF Museum on Tour is part of our First World War in the Air Programme of Events. This activity is supported by Airfix. First World War in the Air is supported by BAE Systems and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Please vote for the RAF Museum and the First World War in the Air exhibition for a National Lottery Award. Voting ends on 29th July 2015 http://www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/project/first-world-war-air

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Twitter Takeover at the Science Museum for Early Birds Autism morning

An Early Bird Science Museum

An Early Bird Science Museum

I am nervous, we are off to the Science Museum. Early on a Saturday, got to get all the kids up and on the train by 7.50am. Last night thunder and lightning, two kids slept through the lot, one was up till the early hours. Very tempted to stay in bed but today is special, today the Science Museum are letting me take over their Twitter feed so I can tweet our family visit to the Early Birds opening for families who have children with autism.

I am nervous. I remember our first visit, way back in 2013. That day I was nervous about getting out the door, getting on the train, getting to the Science Museum, how my daughter would cope in a new environment, would we have a good time? Would it work out? What if it all goes wrong? Those worries have all gone now. I tell my daughter that I am tweeting today, she tells me not to worry about it. “All you have to do is tweet amazing tweets Mum” – no pressure then. The worries I do have are all from me, they are more about tweeting from the Science Museum account that has half a million followers and not making spelling mistakes or tweeting something inappropriate, or being late. I really can’t be late. Continue reading

Trust in me, Bromley Museum is lost

2015-02-21 13.51.45I am actually quite angry at myself for coming to this London Borough of Bromley executive council meeting. I said I was done with Bromley Museum – what will be will be. But I can’t keep away, I know what the decision is going to be, but sometimes you have to bear witness. You just have to hear the words said, you might be raging inside, but the time for making a difference feels over to me. At least for the kind of museum I have in mind, the kind of museum I was working towards over two years ago.

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The deal is done, the vote is unanimous, Bromley Museum will move from the Priory in Orpington, a lovely medieval building (in need of tlc). The fate of the Priory is still in the balance, local community groups are still working on an arts and heritage centre. Good luck to them, they are going to need it.

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#TwitteratiChallenge / #MuseumTwitterati Mashup

I am going to try (in vain no doubt) to keep this blog post short and sweet.

#TwitteratiChallenge is all about nominating 5 fellow educators who are your Twitter ‘go-to’ in times of challenge and critique, or for verification and support. It was begun by @TeacherToolkit and I was nominated by Kay Topping at Haslemere Museum, I failed miserably to respond in 7 days due to multiple hospital trips with various members of my family (yes, it has been one of those months).

I was also nominated by Paolo Viscardi at the Horniman Museum (who will forever in our house be known as the Extreme Curator) but he has taken #TwitteratiChallenge and obviously didn’t fancy sticking to the rules so has created his own version #MuseumTwitterati. His aim is to broaden the focus beyond educators to ‘museumy’ people, and in the process hopefully create a good follow list of Twitter inspiration, you can read his post here.

Anyone who has read any of my blogs knows I love museums / Twitter / blogging. So this is right up my street. But little did I realise how hard it would be! You can’t nominate anyone you work with, technically I don’t work(!) but to make it hard on myself I am not going to pick anyone from the Museum of London, RAF Museum or Horniman Museum, all places where I volunteer. Not everyone in my list blogs, but they all have a Twitter presence and are well worth a follow.

So here we go! My #MuseumTwitterati / #TwitteratiChallenge Continue reading

Volunteers’ Week: Skills Sharing

CCC pic 1This week is one of my favourite weeks at the Museum of London, the 1-7th June is Volunteers’ Week, a celebration up and down the country of all those who give up their time to work for free. This week is all about sharing the hard work and achievements of volunteers as well as celebrating the contribution that we make to different organisations. Volunteering is very much a two-way arrangement, volunteers give up their time, contribute their passion and enthusiasm and often their own knowledge, and in exchange we meet new people, learn new skills and quite often have a lot of fun too.

At the Museum of London volunteers are supported with a varied and interesting training programme, this can be informal talks and hands on training, as well as access to more formal training that is often open to volunteers who work at other museums as well. For this blog I have joined the Collection Cleaning Course, which is funded by Arts Council England, at the Museum of London Archive in Hackney to see how volunteers and paid staff from museums across London are benefiting from learning new skills.

You can read the rest of this post on the Museum of London Blog – Volunteers’ Week