Why and How? Engaging children with Special Educational Needs in creating art and cultural experiences – Royal Academy, March 2015

Royal Academy of Arts, sculpture by Frank Stella

Back in March I was kindly invited by Molly Bretton, Access Manager, to a one day workshop on children with special education needs (SEN) and art at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA). I have been to one of their SEN family workshops before and I was very impressed with the way in which art can break down barriers, and in a supportive atmosphere allow a whole family to enjoy themselves regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities. It seems ridiculous to break it down in those terms – I witnessed families having a good time and that is what really stayed with me. This conference was an opportunity for the RA to share experiences with others and look at how children with special educational needs can be supported in a gallery or museum setting.

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Defining Beauty – British Museum, May 2015

2015-04-16 16.26.38My footsteps lead me to the British Museum, again. I am having a bad day. I don’t know why I often end up here, maybe it’s the anonymity I find in the huge crowds of people. There is a reminder that there is so much out there to learn about, so many lives, different worlds. Objects that have meanings we can’t always grasp. That urge to create, whether it is for religious meaning, economic value or trade, beauty, fashion and power. I am fascinated by these things we value, these old things. I don’t want to write a blog about an exhibition. I don’t want to write anything. I owe a couple of blogs to different people. I don’t have any time and I have all the time in the world. I think my last few blogs have emptied me out a bit.

I remember a couple of weeks ago saying to someone I began writing these blogs for me and no one else. I think that has changed. I remember just writing blogs about experiences, exhibitions, how I felt and not worrying what other people thought about them. Not caring if anyone read them. Now I think, “will this blog get views?”, “who will read it?”, “will it be interesting?”. I don’t know what I am doing now really. I avoid writing, because writing is becoming a little too honest.

I am typing up notes after visiting the British Museum’s new exhibition. I can tell you that these first two paragraphs aren’t in my notes. Back to the blog, back to the blog. It is my 4th visit to the new exhibition space at the British Museum. Whilst the Vikings was a disappointment, and Ming didn’t quite capture me, Defining Beauty I am very excited about. Continue reading

Blog 101 – saying goodbye

I heart museums

I heart museums

100 blogs – I can’t believe I have written 100 blogs. On good days this seems like an amazing, creative, powerful turnaround in my life. At other times it seems like a waste of time, why I have spent hours upon hours writing away late at night, early mornings, snatched moments. This week I gave a talk about blogging and engagement – I was incredibly nervous, it has been a long time since I have had to stand up in front of people and talk about anything. It seemed faintly ridiculous, I am not an expert in blogging. I looked back at my first blog – 12th October 2012, 500 words where I talk about beginnings and first steps. Continue reading

100 First World War objects – but do you have a favourite?

his anti-airship incendiary device was developed by the Royal Laboratory, Woolwich. The spikes were intended to pierce and lodge in the airship's gas bag, triggering a firebomb contained in the orange sphere. Copyright RAF Museum.

This anti-airship incendiary device was developed by the Royal Laboratory, Woolwich. The spikes were intended to pierce and lodge in the airship’s gas bag, triggering a firebomb contained in the orange sphere. Copyright RAF Museum.

Museums often look after thousands of objects, the V&A for example has 2,263,314 items in the Museum’s collections, but only a small proportion of those items are actually on display. The British Museum has a mind-blowing 8 million objects, with only 8,000 on display, a tiny 1% of the whole collection. I am always intrigued when a new exhibition opens to see these artefacts that have managed to escape from the stores to see the light and delight new visitors who never knew such objects existed. But how do the curators choose objects from the thousands that sit in boxes wrapped in tissue paper? How do they narrow down database searches that pull up hundreds of relevant objects? Continue reading

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