A new year of blogging… strangely this is filling me with apprehension. I haven’t written anything since the 8th of December, I thought a break would do me good but it seems to be making it hard to get going again. 2016 saw me write 41 blogs: 41 museum exhibitions, art shows, experiences, ideas and thoughts. There will have been more exhibitions that I visited that I never quite got round to writing up. I have had more views on the blog than ever, over 20,000. It should be an incentive, but it kind of feels like a wall I have to climb.
I am trying to remember the days when I wrote for me, not for anyone else. When it was just about how I felt and what I had done and seen. I started the blog in 2012, it feels like a long time ago.
This can’t go on forever, it has to end sometime. I am not sure when, I don’t think I am quite ready to stop yet but I feel like I am edging towards that time. So for this blog I thought a gentle look back at 2016 was in order. A walk down memory lane to remind me of all the amazing things I’ve seen. I need a refresher, I need to get back to thinking not about the views and the numbers but just those moments when I walk into a new exhibition. The moment I take a deep breathe, feel that flutter of excitement as I step into a different place, a different world and a different time. I have to remember being surprised, being intrigued and the job of listening to a curator, passionate about their subject and so keen to share their knowledge.
I have to acknowledge all those hours spent designing an exhibition, the ideas and concepts, the object selection and layout. To appreciate the technicians and conservation specialists and of course the volunteers too who freely give of their time to help in all manner of ways.
So of those 41 blogs, what stands out from 2016?
Well, my exhibition of the year was Emma Hamilton at the National Maritime Museum in London (still open till April 2017). Beautifully designed with great depth in story and objects, the wonderful tale of the rise and fall of an 18th century ‘It’ girl. So good to see a woman take the centre stage, a story I didn’t know well but one that I lost myself in. The George Romney portraits were a revelation, it was like seeing an obsession laid bare, as fresh and powerful as it must have been for Romney all those years ago.
The best museum experience without a doubt was my first visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. My mind was completely blown by a museum full to the brim and bursting out at the seams with curiosities and oddities. The longer I stayed the more my thoughts turned to the challenges of collecting, the ethics of acquiring, keeping and display the past.
My most anticipated exhibition was the wonderful Georgia O’Keeffe at the Tate Modern. I had been waiting what felt like a lifetime to see her work in the flesh and it did not disappoint. Simply beautiful.
I branched out into a little bit of book blogging with the Wellcome Trust Book Prize. The first time I have ever read an entire book award shortlist. It was a great way to broaden my reading. Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes will always be my personal winner from that list. A book that speaks to my personal experience of autism, a book that opens the door to the past but also gives me a way to positively step into the future.
I have had some fantastic press treats, pre-exhibition exposure to excite and promise so much more. I met and was charmed by Cygan the 2.4m tall 1950s robot and a sunny river boat trip down to Docklands with the Museum of London left me contemplating the archaeology of Crossrail (and also a little wet from the choppy Thames).
The precarious state of smaller local museums was reflected in my blogs on the closure of Bromley Museum and the threat to the Museum of Fire, Edinburgh. There were museum openings and refurbishments to balance some of the sadness of those words with a new Design Museum and the re-opening of the Queen’s House Greenwich. But I have no doubt museum closures and cut-backs will be a feature of 2017 and beyond.
I have written popular blogs on SEN in museums and autism events at the Natural History Museum. I hope to see many more events like these in 2017, it is such a change from when I began the blog and autism events who few and far between.
So what does 2017 hold for the blog? I already have a number of delicious opportunities lined up. Sitting in a Vulcan bomber at the RAF Museum, walking Crossrail tunnels at Canary Wharf, robots, robot animals and electricity are just a few for starters. I just hope I find the time to write them all up. I also hope you will find the time to read and share in my adventures. There is such good work going on in museums, such beautiful objects and fascinating stories it is a privilege to be able to share them with you.