The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Teaching opportunities with the Open University

The OU is advertising vacancies for Associate Lecturers at the moment, including a new module on heritage. Might be worth considering if you need to bump up your teaching hours.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Internet art in the museum

Just a quickie to point anyone interested in internet art or digital media in museums to this thesis by Karen A. Verschooren. You may want to start at Where Do We Put It? Fitting the Web Into Museums by Nina Simon (blogging on Museum 2.0), which pointed me to it and which includes interesting reflections on the categorisation of internet art. The thesis looks very interesting to the likes of me, but until I'm a bit further through its 200-odd pages I can't confirm this.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Happy (belated) Birthday to Us!

The Attic is one year (and four days) old. Hurrah!

The end of the 'golden age' of funding for museums and heritage?

Doubtless it will soon be a time looked upon with nostalgia in the museum sector, the time Before the Olympics (BO for short).

As I suspected already the articles about lottery cash that could (or should depending on your point of view) be going to museums and heritage projects is being siphoned off to pay for the Olympics have started. This one in the Guardian this morning predicts funding for larger projects (those over £5 million) will be cut by around £60 million.,,2157927,00.html

As I am not a huge fan of the Olympics - at worst it seems to me to be an excuse for national posturising whilst athletes try not to get caught for taking illegal substances - it is devestating to see that the government can easily raid the Lottery's coffers for as much as they like, whilst the HLF must continue to meet the demands of the public and the sector but with reduced money. Of course it might stimulate innovative techniques to meet these demands and with more competition money is (hopefully) likely to be spent on the most important projects, if such a thing can ever be judged effectively. I for one would rather my Lottery money go to heritage than to sport, which always complains about being under-funded but then spends millions keeping footballers and their WAGs in fast cars and fake tan.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Museum crawl III - From museum crawlers to ghost walkers

Anyone who has been to Leicester Museums recently - whether in person or to their website - can hardly miss the milking of ghosts for all they are worth by Leicester City Council. Obviously seizing on a money making initiative (and who can blame them really) they are currently charging £35 to go and sit in a dark museum with the hope of spotting some paranormal activity (and anyone who knows anything about the paranormal is that 'they' are usually very choosy about whom they appear to). I may be rather cynical about it, but I must confess to having a fascination with ghosts, particuarly when I was younger when I spent long hours reading about haunted royal castles and the Borley Rectory. As much as I feel most of it is made up, it cannot be denied that some buildings, particularly older ones, often have strange atmospheres that cannot always be accounted for. After the Belgrave Hall visit it therefore seemed right that we should make the next 'museum crawl' a ghost walk around Leicester city centre, held as part of the Castle Park festival on Monday bank holiday.

It was a slightly chilly Monday night as we gathered in Twilight next to the Castle Yard to begin the tour (the evening had begun in the Orange Tree for pre-tour fortification). I forget the name of our guide but she was a good storyteller, having that very slow, patient way of speaking which is actually quite spooky. We started with a tale about St Mary de Castro, built in 1107, when a cleaning lady was confronted by the ghost of a monk with a green light for a head. Why this was so was not explained, but then we did not go for explanations did we?

One thing that has always interested me, and was reinforced that evening, is that ghost stories are as much about social history as they are about frightening people. For instance, a story about a young lady who died in the 1960s running out in the road to meet her date for the night was awash with detail about the times and revealed that the Alliance and Leicester offices in that part of town used to be a knitting factory. Similarly the haunts often take place along roads and buildings that no longer exist, showing another side to the modern city and keeping alive how things used to be in the past. We learn about costume (although ghosts are always dressed in drab colours, I read somewhere this is possibly because of the huge amount of energy required to manifest they cannot extend to full colour) and the former use of houses, however macabre. One story that will stick in my mind was about the Age Concern offices near the Cathedral which used to be haunted by a pair of ghosts called Ebeneezer, a practical joker apparently, and Winifred, who entertained herself by walking through walls or vanishing in front of astonished workmen. Apparently when they were clearing out the cellar the bodies of three people were found buried under the rubbish. If this was not strange enough the guide went on to say that the building used to be inhabited by surgeons, suggesting that they were also potential body snatchers (considering there is a grave yard opposite we were meant to put two and two together). Other interesting snippets include the staggeringly wilful desecration of graveyards by city councils, in this case to build the Guildhall cafe on the site of one, which is blamed for the hauntings of the Guildhall by a white lady/monk (its those pesky monks again). Prosaic reasons are not entertained for a series of triggered burglar alarms... um could the system have been faulty? Amy was also alarmed to learn that the room where she felt chilly around the feet was the same one in which a cleaning lady had ghostly skirts brush against her. A more funny tale was the one where a cleaning lady saw a wooden chair unfold by itself and rotate in a circle silently across a wooden floor in the former museum of costume, but the ghost of a boy sobbing and crying his heart out on the stairs, found by a bemused museum assistant, was strangely touching.

After some fairly believable tales it all became a bit silly, especially with the story of Black Anna who supposedly built a tunnel all the way from her cave in Dane Hills to the castle gate with the express intention of stealing children away and skinning them. I mean how stupid to hang about in such a secluded spot, surely the city centre has more children? It proved a good legend though to ensure that children came home quickly from school and stayed out of mischief. And the monk who walks around the cathedral and supposedly falls to the ground and points at you if your number is up. Furthermore Amy and I began to question the ethics of ghost tales, after all they mainly concern death and suicide and pain and loss; it is easy to forget that these were people who had families and friends and I am not sure I would like one of my ancestors to be picked over and used as part of a tour such as this. There was something sensationalist about it, fuelled I suppose by suspicion of programmes such as Most Haunted.

However despite some developing reservations it was an entertaining evening and something different to do for a modest amount of money. I learnt some more about Leicester and there were also some real curiosities along the way, for instance why is a house on Friar Lane numbered 17 and a half? Yet again it raised more questions.... I could not help feel that most of the narratives were pretty similar to those told elsewhere with ghostly monks and headless hunchbacks being a little cliched. Why monks should be more restless than the rest of the population is also a moot point... but with all that self-denial in life (mostly) I guess they would have enough restless energy to keep fuelling themselves after death.

(Ghost tours are a regular fixture, more information presumably from the Tourist Information office in town. They cost £4. Thanks to Amy, Magnus, Angela, Mike and Naz who came along and sorry Amy for making such terrible jokes. Its my way of coping.)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Conference Alert/CFP: Performing Heritage

From Informaworld Alerts:

International Conference: 3rd-5th April 2008

We are pleased to announce that the Performance, Learning and Heritage project will be hosting an international conference in April 2008. The conference will take place at the University of Manchester, and will provide a forum for discussing how research and practice in the field of museum performance/live interpretation can inform one another.

The Performance, Learning and Heritage project is an AHRC funded investigation into the uses and impact of performance as a medium for learning in museums and at heritage sites. The scope of the project is international, and since 2005, the team have been researching case study sites and carrying out a detailed mapping of practice. (For further details visit 2008 marks the final year of the project, and presents a timely opportunity for debate and knowledge exchange in this fast developing area of performance and interpretive practice.

Areas to be covered by the conference include (but are not limited to):

- Making connections: the intersection of performance/performativity, site specific practice and notions of heritage;

- Gauging impact: audience response and longer-term impact, the place of interactivity, and community outreach;

- Reports from the field: accounts and findings from research and evaluation projects in the UK and abroad. Some sessions at the conference will be devoted to the emerging findings of the PL&H research and the implications for future practice and policy making; but we are keen to hear about, and compare notes with, other research projects across the globe;

- Developing practice: examples of practice – live and recorded – to illustrate the range of performance practice and provide opportunities to interrogate that practice; workshops from practitioners and academics are invited as a means of exploring how research and practice interconnect;

- 'research at the heart of practice' – the focus will be on research as it informs practice, practice as it informs research and (not least) practice as a means of research in the museum/heritage sector.

We warmly invite proposals for papers (20 min. max.), performances, workshops and panel or round table discussions from practitioners, academics, policy makers and others working in the cultural heritage sector. Contributions will be especially welcome from those around the world engaged in research, evaluation and development in this field. (Further details of the types of presentation envisaged can be found on the conference webpage at

Proposals or expressions of interest (300 words maximum) should be sent to by September 14th 2007. Ensure you provide your name; your organisation or company if applicable (including position held); your postal and email addresses; the type of presentation you are offering; and your A/V or other technical or space requirements.

Updates on the conference – including registration details – will be posted to the project website over the summer months at

Friday, August 24, 2007

The return of Friday Catblogging (sort of!)

To counteract the number of dead tigers that have been appearing on The Attic recently, we have adopted a real live one (see the left-hand sidebar). In case you were wondering, his name is a museum crawler in-joke. Click on 'more' to feed him a bit of steak, if you feel like throwing off the shackles of academia and getting in touch with your inner child for a couple of minutes.

CFP: Museums and the Web 2008

From H-ArtHist:

Museums and the Web 2008
April 9 - 12, 2008
Montréal, Québec, Canada

CALL FOR PARTICIPATION. Deadline: September 30, 2007.

You are invited to participate in the twelfth annual Museums and the Web Conference.

Museums and the Web addresses the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line. Taking an international perspective, the MW program reviews and analyzes the issues and impacts of networked cultural, natural and scientific heritage.

Proposals are invited from professionals and
researchers in all areas actively exploring the
creation, on-line presentation and use of
cultural, scientific and heritage content, and
its re-use and evaluation.

MW is very international; the 2007 conference
welcomed over 800 delegates from more than 30
countries. Full details are available on the
conference web site at

Search the bibliography of past papers (all
on-line since 1997) at

On-line proposal submission is required. Use the
form at


Proposals are due September 30, 2007
- for papers, workshops, mini-workshops +
professional forums (written paper required by
Jan. 30, 2008)

Proposals are due December 31, 2007
- for demonstrations (written paper optional)


All proposals are subject to critical peer review
by an International Program Committee.
* Peter Bruce, Director General, Information
Technology Branch, Library and Archives of
Canada, Canada
* Sebastian Chan, Manager Web Services, Powerhouse Museum, Australia
* Rich Cherry, Director of Administration,
Operations and Finance Skirball Cultural Center,
* Costis Dallas, Lecturer in Cultural
Heritage Management and Advanced Technologies,
Department of Communication, Media and Culture,
Panteion University, and Vice Chairman, PRC Group
SA, Greece
* Marthe de Vet, Head of Education and Public
Services, Van Gogh Museum, The Netherlands
* Jim Devine, Head of Multimedia, Hunterian
Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow,
* Gail Durbin, Head of V&A OnLine, Victoria & Albert Museum, United
* Franca Garzotto, Associate Professor,
Department of Electronics and Information,
Politecnico di Milano, Italy
* Stefan Göbel, Digital Storytelling, Head, ZGDV Darmstadt e.V.,
* Susan Hazan, Curator of New Media, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
* Michael Jenkins, Manager, Met Images,
Office of the Director, The Metropolitan Museum
of Art, USA
* Brian Kelly, Team Leader and Web Focus, UKOLN, United Kingdom
* Paul Marty, Assistant Professor, College of
Information, Florida State University, USA
* Dana Mitroff, Head of Online Services, San
Francisco Museum of Modern Art, USA
* Kris Morrissey, Director, Museum Studies, Michigan State University,
* Liddy Nevile, Adjunct Associate Professor,
Computer Science and Computer Engineering, La
Trobe University, Australia
* Ross Parry, Lecturer in Museums and New
Media, Department of Museum Studies, University
of Leicester, United Kingdom
* Darren Peacock, School of Management,
University of South Australia, Australia
* Jemima Rellie, Head of Digital Programmes, Tate, United Kingdom
* Ed Rodley, Content Developer, Research,
Development & Production, Museum of Science,
Boston, USA
* Rob Stein, CIO, Indianapolis Museum of Art, USA
* Christopher J. Terry, President & CEO,
Canada Science and Technology Museum Corporation,
* Kevin von Appen, Associate Director, Daily
Experience Operations, Ontario Science Centre,

Please co-ordinate your proposals with your
collaborators. Multiple proposals about the same
project will not be accepted. Papers are reviewed
individually; full sessions are rarely accepted.
Proposals for sessions should be submitted as
individual papers with a covering note. The
committee may choose to accept some papers and
not others.


Contact the MW2008 Conference Co-Chairs
David Bearman + Jennifer Trant , Archives & Museum Informatics

Jennifer Trant and David Bearman
Co-Chairs: Museums and the Web 2008 produced by
April 9 - 12, 2008, Montréal, PQ Archives & Museum Informatics 158 Lee Avenue
email: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
phone +1 416 691 2516 / fax +1 416 352-6025

Museums and the Web 2008 is presented in conjunction with the
Department of Canadian Heritage through the
Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) and
Canadian Culture Online (CCO).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

International Slavery Museum, Liverpool

A couple of links to articles about Liverpool's new International Slavery Museum.

Tristram Hunt (the Guardian's resident historian it seems, not that I'm complaining) feels that the museum strikes the right balance between humility for the exploited of the slave trade whilst seeking to understand why it is an integral part of our history, no longer hidden beneath layers of either arrogance or crippling guilt.,,2154381,00.html

In The Times, the museum gets a review by Rachel Campbell-Johnston who is slightly less enthusiastic, feeling that although the museum presents the subject well it fails to provide a deeper understanding, to really to get to grips with the slave trade and the African culture that slavery violated. It struck me that it was a similar comment to that which I made about Newarke Houses Museum below, itself a 'new' museum.

I am looking forward to visiting this museum next time I am in Liverpool to see for myself. I always disliked the former gallery in the Maritime Museum because it was stuck in the basement, windowless and with low ceilings, making it rather claustrophobic. Although this is apt in some ways when thinking about the hardships that the enslaved people endured it is surely worth a little discomfort?

I am especially looking forward to how the museum makes links with slavery that continues in the world today, particualarly the sticky issue of how we in the West are able to have so many cheap clothes and products to consume.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Museum Crawl II - Newarke Houses Museum (now with added photos!)

The first time I tried to visit Newarke Houses Museum was the very day it closed to be refurbished. Doh! Since then I have been back twice, one a very quick run round and last Sunday 19 August, a proper visit with four other intrepid museum crawlers which will be the subject of this review.

Newarke Houses is located in enemy territory... ahem its close to De Montfort University, taking over the premises of some ancient almshouses close to Leicester Castle (or what remains of the castle). As explained above I did not have the opportunity to see it prior to its renovation with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund so I cannot make any comparisons as to what it was like before. But the new museum is certainly very smart looking with colourful text panels and well laid out rooms that seem spacious rather than cluttered.

Like dutiful visitors we followed the rooms as laid out on the map in the entrance, starting in a room which looked at travel and the diverse population of Leicester. It was good to see that visitors were encouraged to add to a map of the world, saying where they had come from. Hopefully the number of people who contribute will grow with time as it was looking a bit sparse! There were some films which looked at Leicester from the eyes of young people living here which glossed over the reality of life somewhat; the film of Highfields made no mention of the seedy side but then that's hardly a topic matter for a museum is it?

I was most engaged with the reconstruction of a drapers shop from the 1940s and Wharf Street, a reconstruction of a cobbled street with shops and dingy pub.

A place where the spirit of nostalgia seemed to work its evil spell, I found myself wishing I lived in a more simple time with no computers or mobile phones where the pub served oatmeal stout. Shaking away these evasive thoughts I instead tried to be critical about the terribly shoddy looking notices which warned people not to touch as it would set the alarms off. But even when an alarm was inadvertently set off no angry museum workers appeared so it seemed rather pointless to spoil the intricate displays with them. Still despite the prettiness of the reconstruction it seemed to be missing something.... people most of all, despite the soundtracks that made me jump. Also the ceiling was too low which spoiled the effect of 'being' outside (and I promised not to be critical, the girl can't help herself....)

I reserved most of my ire however for a film about the modern growth of Leicester which managed to be both highly patronising and historically suspect. The surroundings of the old fashioned cinema were plush and relaxing but the film... well maybe it was just me but the voiceover sounded like something out of Blue Peter and it was incredibly biased in the way that it presented the 1960s virtual demolition of the city as a positive and progressive event. Fair enough that they have chosen to present only a snippet of Leicester history in detail (the 1940s onwards in the main) for those who only a rudimentary knowledge of Leicester's history like myself I found it really irritating to have the entire 19th century dismissed as some period of poverty and slum dwelling. That's not to say that it didn't have its problems but I object to the sweeping generalisations made that serve to reinforce people's prejudices about the world and history, just as the reconstructed street probably taps into misplaced nostalgia for a time when there was apparently no crime and everyone could leave their doors open. Still I have no evidence for this and I should probably stop being so defensive but I could not help but have a bad feeling about the presentation of the past. Perhaps I have been reading too much Lowenthal!!

Upstairs the bulk of the display is linked to the First and Second World Wars and is also the new home for the Leicestershire Regiment. I must admit most of the collections here were the usual uniforms and weapons but there was a pleasing emphasis on letters and personal artefacts which helped to show that these were people as well as soldiers. Most fascinating, and the subject of much debate, was the curious tiger's head snuffbox in one room which was not only supremely ugly and distasteful, it was also on wheels! I can only imagine what larks the officers had pushing that thing around the table in the mess...

Also of interest was a small display on the home front and a reconstructed Anderson shelter to crawl into; it felt very claustrophobic so I'm glad I wasn't around during the war. But then people coped with all sorts of horror in those days so we could be here today.

The last couple of rooms were a reconstruction of living rooms from the 1950s and 1970s, and most bizarrely, a room from the 17th century! This was a bit jarring considering the bulk of the museum deals with the period 1940 to the modern day, with a small excursion into the first world war period. It gave me the sense that Newarke Houses is a bit of a leftover museum where things which do not quite fit in elsewhere can go. This is far from being negative, only seeking to endear it to me further and partly making up for the dreadful film.

Also there are some lovely gardens out the back to sit in but due to the rainstorm (which fortunately held off for our picnic in Castle Park) we were unable to appreciate the tranquility of it except looking down from the window on the staircase.

One of the museum guides assured us it was peaceful enough to imagine you were no longer in the city and, later on, walking through the cobbled streets around the castle we could understand what he meant.

As with most of the new museums I have been too recently, including Clifton Park in Rotherham and Weston Park in Sheffield, there is a similar feel to them, like the HLF are employing the same designer who fetishes stripped wood floors, bright colour palette and generally a lack of text with the emphasis on films and interactives (which of course fail to work properly). I did like the museum. It felt homely and accessible. It was enough to while away the afternoon without feeling too much 'museum fatigue.' However if I was looking to understand Leicester as a city I do not think I gleaned it from this museum; there were some interesting glimpses of it for example the interview in the 1970s living room with a family forced to move to Leicester from Uganda and the comments of people living in the city which sound horribly familar to those people today expressing anti-immigrant sentiment.

I do not feel I understand why Leicester has been so popular for immigrants, why textiles was such an important industry nor the probable devestation it caused when it collapsed. How did Leicester come to be the second wealthiest city in the world by 1936? I didn't get it and the museum raised more questions than it cared to answer. So if you are seeking history as a means of looking for the 'soul' of Leicester then I suggest that you will not find it in the museum.... instead it will be on the streets and in the minds of people around you. Perhaps it is not the museum's role to provide this but although I enjoyed the visit it left me feeling curiously empty.

(Thanks to Amy for suggesting the visit and to everyone who came, Mayra, Magnus and Naz, without whom I would have been much more disappointed :D)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Symposium: Contesting Knowledge

From H-Museum:

Contesting Knowledge: Museums and Indigenous Perspectives
Newberry Library, Chicago, IL
24 September 2007

The 2007 CIC AIS Symposium "Contesting Knowledge: Museums and Indigenous Perspectives," the first of a three-year symposia examining "Indigenous Past and Present," will be held at the Newberry Library on Monday September 24th from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Session I. Ethnography and the Cultural Politics of Museums
Commentator: Ray Silverman, University of Michigan

Elite Ethnography and Historical Memory: Representing the Quintessential
Primitive in Early Nineteenth-Century Brazil
Hal Langfur, Department of History, SUNY-Buffalo

Re-Inventing George Heye: Nationalizing the Museum of the American Indian
and its Collections
Ann McMullen, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian

Ethnographic Showcases as Sites of Knowledge Production and Resistance
Zine Magubane, Department of History, Boston College

Ethnographic Elaboration, Indigenous Contestations and the Cultural Politics
of Imagining Community: A View from the District Six Museum in South Africa
Ciraj Rassool, Department of History, University of the Western Cape

Session II. Curatorial Practices: Voice, Values, Languages, and Traditions
Commentator: Jacki Rand, University of Iowa

West Side Stories: The Blending of Voice And Representation through A Shared
Curatorial Practice
Teresa Carlson, Diefenbaker Canada Centre, University of Saskatchewan and
Brenda Macdougal, Department of Native Studies, University of Saskatchewan

The Construction of Native Voice at the National Museum of the American
Jennifer Shannon, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University

The National Museum of the American Indian: A Virtual Material Reaction to
the Problematized Past
Miranda Brady

Museums and Mexican Indigenous Territoriality
Paul Liffman, Centro de Estudios Anthropològicos El Colegio de Michoacàn

Session III. Museums and the State
Commentator: Brenda Child, University of Minnesota

Recognizing Responsibilities Towards Knowledge: The Zuni Museum and the
Mediation Of Different Knowledge Systems
Gwyneira Isaac, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State

Reimagining Tribal Sovereignty through Tribal History: Museums, Archives,
and Libraries in the Klamath River Region
Brian Isaac Daniels

Tsi?niyukwalho?ta, the Oneida Nation Museum: Creating a space for
Haudenosaunne Kinship and Identity
Kristina Ackley, The Evergreen State College

Museums as Sites of Decolonization: Truth Telling in National and Tribal
Amy Lonetree, American Studies Department, University of California, Santa

The program is in place, as is the registration and hotel information.

Please follow the below link to view the symposium website and please share
the link with others you think might be interested.

Laurie Arnold, PhD
Associate Director
D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian History The Newberry Library 60
W. Walton Chicago, IL 60610
312.255.3575 (p)
312.255.3696 (f)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Research Week Review: Tuesday, 22nd May 2007 (afternoon session)

Apologies for the lateness (and sketchiness) of this post. And I should point out that it's a kind of collaborative effort. Sally took the notes and I wrote the report!

The afternoon's session was very much focused on museum education and younger audiences.

Mette Houlberg used her presentation to introduce her proposed research project; to explore - using Bakhtin's approach to investigating 'dialogue' - the meaning making processes visitors to the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen utilise. After giving a little background to her research, Mette provided her audience with a clear understanding of Bakhtin's theories which was, for the uninitiated, much appreciated! She then outlined her planned empirical approach to the project, which will be grounded in qualitative interviews with focus groups comprised of adult visitors to the museum, plus - she hoped - recordings of conversations (dialogues) between visitors as they traverse the galleries.

For the academic year 2006-2007 Anna Chrusciel was based at the Department of Museum Studies as a visiting scholar.

Her research explores the relationship between German museums and teenagers from disadvantaged (educational) backgrounds. Specifically Anna's research investigates museums' social responsibilities from the perspective of young Germans. After providing a brief overview of the German educational system (which appears quite different from its British counterpart), Anna revealed that currently teenagers comprise the smallest group of museum visitors. There is a sense (perceived, or otherwise) that museums were not for them. Using Bourdieu's theory of cultural capital, Anna's research explores the link between educational and family background and museum visiting, and seeks to find ways of empowering young people by getting involved in evaluating and working with museums to improve their relevance for teenagers.

After a quick tea break, Afshan Heuer presented her research into 'Cultural Aspects of Communication and Learning in Museums', concentrating - as her project is in its early stages - on the theoretical perspectives she hopes to utilise. Specifically Afshan has been looking at audience research, pedagogies and theories of communication, and gave a comprehensive survey of changing ideas and attitudes towards these aspects of socio-cultural understanding.

Last, but not least, Anna Woodham gave an update on her research which analyses data collected by a previous RCMG project.

In 'Mapping Museum Visits: Representing exclusion geographically', Anna described how this data has enabled her to geographically map and begin to analyse the pattern of school visits to museums. The focus of her research is on the relationship between museums and schools in disadvantaged postcodes. Interestingly, and - perhaps - surprisingly, Anna revealed that the majority of visits mapped in this project were made by schools from less prosperous areas, and her research will seek to find out why.

Friday, August 17, 2007

ICOM Conference Session: Transformations

From H-Museum:

ICOM General Conference 2007 Vienna

Concurrent session: ICOM Cross Cultural Task Force

Theme: "Transformations: Museums and Cultural Diversity"

Time: 09.00 - 13.00 Wednesday, 22nd August 2007

Venue: NIG II, University of Vienna, Dr.Karl-Lueger Ring 1, 1010 Vienna


The integration of tangible and intangible heritage in museums continues to be a challenge that needs to be addressed worldwide. This requires a fundamental approach to connecting collections and communities in all their diversity. This concurrent session brings together directors of major museums and researchers across the world to discuss and debate methodological concerns based on their first hand experience in addressing heritage diversity and cultural diversity through the museum as critical cultural space. It is envisaged that their perspectives with be based on case studies at the level of the individual museums as well as national and regional experiences.


The aim of this session is to interrogate critical issues that need to be
addressed in bringing collections and their communities together within the
universal and local contexts of museums, with a particular focus on cultural

Convenor: Amareswar Galla, Chairperson, ICOM Cross Cultural Task Force and
Professor of Museum Studies, the University of Queensland, Brisbane

Moderators: W. Richard West, Jr. Director, National Museum of the American
Indian, The Smithsonian Institution; Tereza Scheiner, Coordinator -
Postgraduate Program in Museology and Heritage, Federal University of Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil; and Pascal Makambila, Conservateur en chef des musées,



ICOM as an Inclusive Global Organisation

* Alissandra Cummins, President, ICOM and Director, Barbados Museums and
Historical Society, Barbados

Regional Diversity and Cultural Diversity

* Kapila Vatysayan, Vice Chair Indian National Cultural Council, Ministry of
Human Resource Development of India, New Delhi (To be confirmed)

* Museology and Diversity in Latin America
Nelly Decarolis, Director, Museums of Buenos Aires

* 'What Museums Africa' - Dealing with Diversity
George Okello Abungu, CEO of Okello Abungu Heritage Consultants and Kenya's
Rep. to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and Lorna Abungu, former
Executive Director, AFRICOM

* Small island Countries and the Challenges pf Dealing with Pacific
Emmanuel Kasarhérou, Directeur, Agence de Développement de la Culture Kanak,
Centre culturel Tjibaou, Nouméa, Nouvelle-Calédonie

11.00 -13.00pm

Museums, Diversity and Community Engagement

* Steven Engelsman, Director General, National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

* Corazon Alvina, Director General, National Museum of the Philippines,

* Hongnam Kim, Director General, National Museum of Korea, Seoul

* Jatti Bredekamp, CEO, The Iziko Group of National Museums, Cape Town

Rethinking the Nature-Culture Binary in Museums - A Critique

* Michel Van-Praët, Conservateur général du patrimoine, Inspection générale
des Musées Direction des Musées de France, France

Intergenerational Challenges - Youth Perspectives

* Lina G Tahan, Lebanon/UK

* Bruno César Brulon Soares, Brazil

* Kim L Selling, Australia/Sweden

Anticipated Outcomes

* A framework for critical engagement in addressing museums, universal
heritage and cultural diversity

* Draft material for developing Strategic Recommendations for the General

* Action Plannning for the ICOM Cross Cultural Task Force

Contact: Amareswar Galla,


Dr Kim Selling
Project Officer
Cross Cultural Task Force
International Council of Museums, Paris

School of English, Media Studies and Art History
The University of Queensland
Brisbane QLD 4072 Australia
tel: +61 7 3346 9804 fax: +61 7 3365 2799

CRICOS Provider No: 00025B

Funding Opportunity: MCN Scholarships

From H-Museum (note imminent deadline!!!):

Scholarship Announcement - Museum Computer Network

MCN is delighted to offer the opportunity to apply for scholarships to attend the MCN annual conference in November. The annual conference provides an occasion where you can meet and learn from experts on the technology topics challenging today's museums. It's also a great time for networking and establishing new relationships to strengthen your resources for the coming year.


This scholarship is available to museum professionals who meet one of the

- Employed at an institution with no more than 20 permanent staff.
- First-time MCN conference attendee.
- New to the profession with less than 2 years experience in the field.

Five stipends are available to attend MCN's 2007 annual conference. Each
stipend includes the full conference registration fee and an additional
$500.00 toward hotel and travel.

40 Years of Museum Information and Technology November 7-10, 2007 Chicago,

The annual MCN conference offers tremendous personal and professional
benefits and rewards. Not only do attendees gain professional knowledge from
sessions, they also have the opportunity to network with professionals from
around the world.

Application Deadline is August 22, 2007. Apply today at ( )

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Art and Young People

Anyone interested in museums and their relevance for young people? I just want to promote the new section of The Danish National Gallery (where I happen to work). After many months of collaboration with 60 Art Pilots (young people between 12-20 yr.), the Art Labs for young people opened in May this year. Working from a constructivist learning perspective and with every intention of taking young people’s experience and interest in art seriously, the team behind the labs has managed to develop a dynamic and progressive area of the museum, where young people can explore art.
The labs consist of a working gallery space, where art from the permanent collection is displayed along side plans and schedules for coming installations and individual comments made by the participating visitors. Everyone is welcome to join in. The galleries have a real atmosphere of ongoing work and highlight the processes behind museum practice. Connected to the galleries are a series of workshop rooms where the newest media facilities are on hand. These are always open to investigate, but participation must be booked and are available for schools as well independent young people. During weekends and Wednesday nights there are workshops, electronic music, art tours by young people etc. All based on the idea that young people communicate with each other focussing on their special interests. Many of the art pilots who helped develop the project are now working there in their spare time, introducing other young people to the labs and organizing events and workshops.
As any new facility the art labs have also an exciting online face. The address is Here is web 2.0 tried out with interaction, debate, tagging and everything.
I know I am properly biased - even though I have had noting to do with the development of the labs, but I am really exciting to see something for young people and art actually working. Of course there are things that could be improved (fx. The English version of the web site (o; ) There are so much potential to raise difficult issues such as identity, sex, politics etc though art and it is frustrating to see the whole group of young people passing it by thinking it is not for them. Well just a bit of optimism here on a rainy day in Copenhagen.

Amy's soap-box: Daytime auction programmes

Am I the only person who finds programmes like 'Cash in the Attic' and 'Flog It' ever so slightly disturbing? To be specific those people who sell off their family heirlooms, and say things like, 'Oh well, I'll be sad to see it go, but my daughter needs her driving lessons.' I find that terribly sad, that people are willing to sell objects passed down from generation to generation (and which, as a result, must have acquired some sense of meaning) for short-term monetary gain.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Conference Alert: Action, Interaction and Reflection

From H-Museum:

6th Conference of Hands On! Europe

Action, Interaction and Reflection
Children’s museums in the 21st century
Akademie der Künste, Berlin (Germany)
November 6th to 9th, 2007

For more than 30 years, children’s museums in Europe have been providing hands-on exhibits and programmes that help to deepen children’s understanding of themselves and of the world.

As society changes, children’s museums must keep pace, reflecting contemporary social, cultural, economic, and educational trends. This is extremely challenging within the context of an increasingly diverse society, where people from different backgrounds are living with conflict but striving to co-exist in harmony.

On top of this, our information society gives rise to ever-increasing expectations for children’s museums to be innovative and progressive in the development and execution of their programmes. With more and more »traditional« museums setting up interactive elements and a range of other facilities offering children’s museum types of experiences, it is necessary to reflect on the position of children’s museum in the broader informal learning sector. This conference examines the key aspects of the role of children’s museum in the areas of education policy and politics, social and cultural change and museological standards.

Conception & Organisation
The Hands On! Europe Conference 2007 is organised by the European Children’s Museums Association Hands On! Europe and the Bundesverband Deutscher Kinder-und Jugendmuseen. They are supported in their work by a Programme Group, whose members include representatives of the Board of the Bundesverband, the Board of Hands On! Europe and numerous persons and organisations. In addition, the services of expert mentors have been obtained for providing assistance in the selection and contacting of the speakers.


Tuesday, 6th November 2007

4.00 p.m. Opening of the conference registration

6.30 p.m. Opening address
Nele Hertling, Vice-President of Akademie der Künste

6.40 p.m. Welcoming note
Bernd Neumann, Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Minister of State to the Federal Chancellor, Germany
Thomas Krüger, President of the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Germany
Leigh-Anne Stradeski, President of Hands On! Europe
Michael Popp, Chairman of German Association of Children’s and Youth Museums, Germany

7.00 p.m. Key note speech
Die Echtheit: Finding a Sound Place for Children’s Museums in a Contentious World
Elaine Heumann Gurian, museum consultant, Arlington, US

8.00 p.m. Welcome drink and snack

Wednesday, 7th November 2007

8.00 a.m. Registration

9.00 a.m. – 9.30 a.m. Opening ceremony of the conference

Moderation of the day: Claudia Henne, journalist, Germany

Leigh-Anne Stradeski, President of Hands On! Europe

Welcoming note
Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen, Secretary General of the Cultural Foundation of the German Laender, Germany
Udo Gößwald, President of ICOM Europe

9.30 – 12.00 a.m. Session 1: The museums in the 21st century – challenges and perspectives

Until recently, action and interaction were the unique characteristics that distinguished European children’s museums from traditional museums and other educational experiences. At the turn of the 21st century children’s museums have lost this exclusivity as many of their best ideas and approaches have been adopted by other facilities, thereby giving the visiting public and schools much more choice in hands-on, quality experiences. The significant role of children’s museums within this context, changing policy and values within the formal education sector, and the demands of the knowledge society are factors which affect the position of children’s museums and necessitate a re-examination of their role. This requires a rethinking of the positioning of the children’s museum, a review of the conceptual framework and a discussion of contemporary perspectives and experiences on an european level.

Rethinking the museum?
Presentation by Volker Rodekamp, Director, Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig, Germany

Museum, education and entertainment
Presentation by Paul M.L. van Vlijmen, Director, Spoorwegmuseum Utrecht, Netherlands

Is »hands on« enough?
Some reflections on education in children’s museums
Presentation by Yvonne Leonard, Director, Neues Universum, Berlin, Germany

Panel and open discussion

12.00 a.m. Lunch break

1.30 p.m. – 3.30 p.m. Session 2: The knowledge society – what kind of knowledge is needed in the 21st century?

The 21st century knowledge society, where knowledge continuously increases and simultaneously non-knowledge rises, imposes new demands, claims and aspirations in the areas of education and development. Over the last decade a children’s »knowledge culture« has developed which encompasses organisations like Children Universities and Labs, providing opportunities for learning across many disciplines using methods previously unique to Children’s Museums. This session offers an exemplary framework for discussions about education policies and politics – it looks at the Children’s Museum as a place for educational policy discussions, controversy and examples, as a place of creativity, innovation and development and as an arena for the negotiation of cultural and appropriate educational standards.

Science Centres and museums between experience and knowledge
Presentation by Asger Høeg, Past-President of ECSITE and Executive Director, Experimentarium, Copenhagen, Denmark

The need of cultural education
Presentation by Pamela Rosenberg, General Manager of Berliner Philharmoniker, Germany

Panel and open discussion

3.30 p.m. Coffee break

4.00 p.m. Excursion Afternoon
Visit of 4 children’s museums in Berlin (organized bus tours)

Tour I: Labyrinth Kindermuseum & MACHmit! Museum
Tour II: Jugend Museum Schöneberg & Juniormuseum Dahlem

8.00 p.m. Social Event – Evening
Reception at the Bode-Museum and dinner

Thursday, 8th November 2007

9.00 a.m. Session 3: Social fragmentation, ethnic conflicts and poverty – children’s and youth museums between the lines of social conflicts

Moderation: Claudia Henne, journalist, Germany

During the last several decades, many children´s museums in Europe and North America have established their role as places of cultural and intercultural dialogue and experience. They developed methods to approach children and young people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, initially to present the various cultures of immigrant children, and later to facilitate their adjustment to a contemporary western societal context. As the context of our »multicultural society« continues to change, children’s museums need to look more carefully at how they can help children and families from many different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds live in harmony.

Urban development and cultural diversity – challenges for the 21st century
Anne Querrien, sociologist, urbanist, editor of Annales de la Recherche Urbaine, Paris, France

Social affairs and their impact on (children’s) museums, community arts and education programs
Presentation by Mindy Duitz, President, Learning Leaders (a 50 year old volunteer program serving NYC public schools); museum consultant; and former Director of the Staten Island and Brooklyn Children’s Museums, US

Children’s and youth museums between community and museum demand
Presentation by Petra Zwaka, Director, Jugend Museum Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany

Panel and open discussion

11.00 a.m. Coffee break and snack

11.30 a.m. Talking Circles – statements and discussions
Introduction by Gail Dexter Lord, museums planner, President of LORD Cultural Resources, Toronto, Canada

Concepts of education – how to make knowledge a best seller?
Moderator: Paul M.L. van Vlijmen, Spoorwegmuseum, Utrecht, Netherlands
Speakers: Alberecht Beutelspacher, Mathematikum, Gießen, Germany; Michiel Buchel, Amsterdam Science Centre New Metropolis, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Peter van Roden, Sesame Workshop, New York, US

Eyes on – Hands on – Minds on! Art in children's museums or children in art museums?
Moderator: Nurit Shilo-Cohen, the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
Speakers: Cornelia Brüninghaus-Knubel, Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, Germany; Elisabeth Cederstrøm, Statens Museums for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark

The catch phrase »creativity« as a main focus of education – which approaches to convey creativity are there?
Moderator: Gabriele König, Kinderakademie Fulda, Germany
Speakers: Veronica Sekules, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK; Fred Wartna, Villa Zebra, Rotterdam, Netherlands

New media – new challenges for children’s museums: information and promotion of creativity and interactivity
Moderator: Asger Høeg
Speakers: Claudia Haas, museum consultant, Austria; Christopher Lindinger, Ars Electronica FutureLab, Linz, Austria

Is science a topic of children's museums? Different methods in science mediation in children's museums, science museums, children's universities and UniLabs
Moderator: Leigh-Anne Stradeski, Eureka! The Museum for Children, Halifax, UK
Speakers: Jiri Zeman, National Technical Museum, Prague, Czech Republic; Xavier Limagne, Exhibition Division of La Cité des Sciences, Paris, France

Can children’s museums be places of examination on difficult and painful issues?
Moderator: Tanja Grönke, Jewish Museum Berlin, Germany
Speakers: Noa Barbara Mkayton, The International School for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel; Petra Katzenstein, department of education and children’s museum within the Jewish Historical Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands; Elisabeth Menasse-Wiesbauer, Kindermuseum Zoom, Vienna, Austria

(Inter-) Cultural projects in social melting-pots and trouble areas – examples and perspectives
Moderator: Mindy Duitz, Learning Leaders, US
Speakers: Marion Neumann, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Germany; Karmit Zysman, Discovery Center for interactive learning, Pristina, Kosovo

2.30 p.m. Excursion Afternoon
Visit of 4 children’s museums in Berlin (organized bus tour)

Tour III: Kindermuseum im FEZ & Neues Universum
Tour IV: optional – according to interest

Packed lunches in the bus

7.00 p.m. Trip by ship
start: Neues Universum, Oberschöneweide

Cruise to party location
(please note: the trip is not included in conference fees, per Person: 23 €)

8.00 p.m. Social Event – Evening
Party with evening meal

Friday, 9th November 2007

10.00 a.m. General Assembly Hands On! Europe
For members only

11.00 a.m. Children’s museums in the 21st century – a positioning
Panel discussion (moderators of the Talking Circles)

12.00 a.m. Coffee break

12.30 p.m. Closing speech
Moderation: Leigh-Anne Stradeski

The science of well-being – some recommendations for children’s museums
Presentation by Nick Baylis, Psycologist and Well-being Scientist, Cambridge University, Times columnist, UK

1.30 p.m. Saying Goodbye!

8.00 p.m. Post-conference evening

For all who want: organisation of meeting points in town.


Conference Venue:
Akademie der Künste
Hanseatenweg 10
10557 Berlin-Tiergarten

For further informations (registration, early bird registration, conference fees, etc.) see the conference flyer:

Bundesverband Deutscher Kinder- und Jugendmuseen e. V.
Elisabeth Limmer
Michael-Ende-Straße 17
90439 Nürnberg
Tel. 0049 + (0)9116105535
Fax 0049 + (0)9116105536

Hands On! Europe
via Matteo Bandello,16
20123 Milano, Italy
Tel. 0039 + 24981480
Fax 0039 + 243993466

Conference Alert: The Future of the Past

From H-Museum:

The Future of the Past: Ethical Implications of Collecting Antiquities in the 21st Century
Southern Methodist University Dallas, TX
October 18-19, 2007

Please join us for a unique conference that explores the controversial world of antiquities collecting, with a focus on the ethical dilemmas that abound in this complex realm. This exciting two-day conference will bring together the many differing voices and opinions that surround this timely debate. Keynote speaker is Dr. Donny George Youkhanna, Ph.D., who served as Director General of the Iraqi Museums from 2003 to 2006 and was central to the recovery of some of humanity's most important antiquities following the looting of the Baghdad Museum. Youkhanna is Visiting Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stony Brook University in New York. Other speakers will include art dealers, collectors, museum directors and curators, representatives of source cultures, archaeologists, art historians, legal scholars and ethicists.

Ownership of "the past" - a concept invoking age-old struggles to posses and
control ancient objects - is an essential theme in understanding our global
cultural heritage. Beyond ownership, however, lies the need for stewardship:
the responsibility of owners and possessors of ancient objects to serve as
custodians for the benefit of present and future generations. In fresh
dialog and new understandings relevant in the 21st century will lead to
solutions that are acceptable to all who care about the fate of our world's
antiquities. Moving toward new solutions is the goal of this significant


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Framing the Issues
Key Interests, Values and Priorities Affecting the Collection and
Preservation of Antiquities

Existing Parameters
Legal Frameworks and Ethical Codes Shaping the Antiquities Trade

Hot Topics
Key Controversies Affecting the Collection of Antiquities

Public and Private Collecting
The Complexities of Museum/ Private Collector Relationships

Thursday, October 18, 2007 from 5:30 to 6:30 to be held in The Greer Garson

Keynote Address
Thursday, October 18, 2007, at 8:15 p.m. to be held in the O'Donnell Lecture
and Recital Hall of the Owen Arts Center
Keynote Speaker:
Donny George Youkhanna, Ph.D

Friday, October 19, 2007

National Patrimony
The Impact of Collective Ownership Claims on the Antiquities Trade

Indigenous Heritage
Objects of Sacred or Cultural Importance to Descendant Communities

"Tainted Objects"
The Fate of Antiquities Having Problematic or Unknown Provenance

Moving Forward
The Search for Integrative Approaches to Establishing a Future for Objects
of the Past

Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility
Southern Methodist University
Dallas, Texas USA

Contact Info:
SMU Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Faith that is set in stone: Jehovah's Witnesses and The British Museum

Here's just the sort of article that lays bear all my hypocrisies!

On the one hand I am an passionate advocate of enabling multivocal interpretations of objects and exhibitions...until the thorny question of religion and, in particular, fundamentalist religion rears its (ugly) head. At the very least it makes me intensely uneasy (even if the tours described in the article are raising significant sums of money for the museum). The whole venture is certainly discordant with the Enlightenment values the museum symbolises, as the journalist notes.

With one hand I wish to destroy the modernist museum and everything it stands for. And with the other I jealously seek to preserve it. I'm a mess of contradictions!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Summer Sundae (warning non-museum review)

As Amy mentions below, us 'museum people' are inclined to seek out extra-curricular activities which is why I thought it would be pertinent to do a review of the Summer Sundae festival which took place in Leicester this weekend. Music and museums have not always had a fertile relationship (see the history of the National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield for starters) but perhaps greater links could be made in the future? Arovane, an experimental composer of electronica from Germany, last year at the festival used video images of New Walk Museum to accompany his tunes which I felt was very effective and could be easily transported into the gallery environment. However I imagine a lot of people would be horrified by this thought... so I best move on.

For the uninitiated, the Summer Sundae is a music festival that takes place at De Montfort Hall every year, tending to focus on alternative and relatively new acts. Starting as a one day event it has since morphed into a three-day extravaganza which is pretty amazing considering the small size of the site.... there is a lot going on yet it is almost impossible to get lost. I decided to go for the three days (since poor Leicester often misses out on medium and big name bands the rest of the year due to its proximity to Nottingham and Birmingham) and met up with Amy on the Saturday. Who knows how many more museum-related people were lurking in the crowds?

Sadly there were no overt museum references at the festival this year but there were plenty of interesting acts. On the Friday, Kate Nash entertained the crowds with her Mary Poppins-inspired take on life, which was pretty enough but soon became extremely irritating. She is a sweet girl but her lyrics reminded me of bad 6th form poetry, like rhyming 'bitter' with 'fitter.' More engaging was Candie Payne, a Liverpudlian singer who in my mind has been unfairly compared with Cilla Black. Singing about the less romantic side of relationships like Kate Nash, nevertheless she delievered it in a darker and more engaging manner, backed up with incredible musicians who brought a sense of doom to the sunny day. The last act I saw on the Friday was DJ Yoda and although I managed to appreciate his genius at mixing records together I soon got bored and so went home.

On Saturday there was more time to soak up some of less well known musical acts. Mat Andasun was fine if you like indulgent 'muso' types and five minute bongo solos; The Displacements are a Leicester band but their blend of indie rock was pretty samey and so I do not think Kasabian will lose any sleep; Jeremy Warmsley was a curious singer, just as we started to warm to his rich vocals and warm musical arrangements, he would go and yell or sing in a strange key which made it a very jarring experience. Maps were more of an immersive experience, creating an atmosphere to engulf all the senses (except perhaps smell which was amply provided for by the crowd) in their pretty soundscapes, a contrast to Martha Wainwright who was amazingly powerful for someone with only an acoustic guitar, her voice soaring to the roof of De Montfort Hall. Finally !!! trying to defy the tyranny of the music shop cataloguing system (in HMV they are under Chk Chk Chk - the cheats!!) and presenting a pretty un-identifiable music style to boot, I greatly enjoyed watching the singer pant and pose his way through the high-energy set.

Sunday was more of an introspective and experimental day, especially when confronted with Gruff Rhys (erstwhile singer with the Super Furry Animals) singing from inside a giant TV set. I then thought he was joking when he introduced one song as a 20 minute power ballad about a flight ending in disaster but no, he decamped to the side of the stage, donned a pilot's hat and sat in a flight seat for the performance, which encompassed lyrics about bomb disposal experts, press conferences and everyone living happily ever after. Echo and the Bunnymen were quite a contrast, familiar, traditional, just five men playing music and Ian McCulloch not having to label the songs as everyone knew them. Last of all, closing the festival, were Spiritualized - Acoustic Mainlines. Formerly an experimental band, Jason Pierce (or J Spaceman as he likes to be called) have gone almost (I shall whisper it) 'normal' with stripped down songs played only with acoustic guitar, string quartet, gospel singers and organ. The only nod to oddness was Jason's shiny silver shoes. It was an intimate and poignant performance concerning recent history (Jason Pierce almost died in 2005 and he still looked a bit fragile) and as someone in the crowd next to me said, like being massaged aurally for an hour. It was a very beautiful end to the festival.

And to make this review less tenuous, I imagine if the festival was a museum it would be something like the Tate Modern. There is some familiarity to recognise elements that you feel comfortable with but every so often as you turn the corner something is thrown up that surprises and even disturbs you. And for me that is the essence of Summer Sundae, it has introduced me to a great many bands that I would not otherwise have encountered and challenged some of my prejudices. So it will be interesting to see how this festival develops in the future especially as 'alternative' music becomes more and more mainstream.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Museums and Big Brother

Y'know, every year I say 'I'm not going to watch Big Brother this year' and usually about three or four weeks in I succumb. But not this year. I haven't seen any of it. It's only now, with three weeks (??) to go, I discover there are two, yes TWO, museum people in the house this year. Both contestants - Gerry and Jonty - are still yet to be evicted, and both apparently have interesting 'private' lives. Who'd have thought museums would be such hotbeds of...err...permissiveness. What might this do for the popular image of museologists?!!!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Workshop: Feather Conservation

From the ICME listserv:

Message forwarded from the ICON Ethnography Group.

Dear Colleague

Feather Conservation - a two day workshop

Wednesday 17th& Thursday 18th October 2007

The ICON Ethnography Group is organising a two-day workshop to study the conservation of feathers, held at the conservation studios, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, UK and led by Allyson Rae. Allyson has extensive experience in the conservation of artefacts incorporating feathers. Now a freelance conservator, she was, until recently, Head of Organic Artefacts Conservation at the British Museum.

Encompassing both theoretical and practical sessions, the workshop will cover the structure and nature of feathers, their causes of deterioration and principles and practice for non-interventive and basic interventive options (soil removal, reshaping, repair techniques).
Participants have the opportunity to bring feathered objects to the workshop for discussion.

The cost of the 2 day workshop is =A3200, includes materials, handouts, tea and coffee but not lunches. 13 places are available. A limited number of student places are available at the reduced cost of =A3150.
Please send proof of status with your registration form.

A draft programme and electronic registration form are attached. Please send the registration form to Charlotte Cowin at ICON, the details are on the form.

Advice and a free accommodation booking service is available from Tourist Information in Birmingham on 0121 202 5005.

If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact me.

best wishes

Cordelia Rogerson, ICON Ethnography Group Committee Member

The Terracotta Army leaves China for its assault on London!

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm dead excited at the prospect of seeing the Terracotta Army in London. The British Museum's new exhibition 'China's First Emperor: The Terracotta Army' opens on September 13th and will be the first time such a large number of the warriors (twenty, to be precise) have been loaned to a museum outside China. The Times is helping to build the hype with an enlightening little article describing the packing and shipping of exhibits for the exhibition.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Williamson Tunnels, Liverpool

I always knew it would be a risk going into museum studies research; suddenly all those heritage sites and museums and art galleries are no longer 'things to do at a weekend' like they are for 'normal' people but they become places which must be thought about, analysed and dissected in minute detail. So it was with some dismay and cries of 'but its the weekend!' that I greeted my sister's suggestion to go and visit the Williamson Tunnels in Smithdown Lane, Liverpool. Fortunately she ignored me and my eyes were opened to this unique and incredibly bizarre (and very British) tourist attraction.

Tucked away in one of the less salubrious parts of Liverpool, the Williamson Tunnels were the project of one Joseph Williamson, an eccentric philanthropist, a self-made millionaire who blew most of his fortune building a labyrinth of tunnels beneath his house and the neighbouring lands of Edge Hill, characterised by its sandstone outcrops. In the process he hired soldiers and sailors returning home from the Crimean Wars, providing work for those who society otherwise shunned such as disabled soldiers (and remember in those days there was no equivalent of the Job seekers allowance etc) and enabling them to learn a skill. In the process of building his tunnels, many of which were experimental, he allegedly bumped into George Stephenson's navvies who happened to be building the railway cutting from Manchester to Liverpool (which still marks the entrance to Liverpool Lime Street station all the way from the sandstone magnificance of Edge Hill station). They thought they had met demons, covered in the soot of hell and ran shrieking to Stephenson, who went over to take a look at the tunnels. Bumping into Williamson, Stephenson was significantly impressed to offer work to several of Williamson's men. Just as well because Stephenson's cutting 'cuts' through one of Williamson's three-decker tunnels, remains of which can be seen from the train (if you have night vision that is since its in the tunnel). Williamson's men even built some of the columns for Albert Dock (they took too long though and the rest were made of cast iron). When Joseph died of water on the chest in 1840 it was found that he actually had very little money left, having spent it all on his tunnels and building impressively unique houses, sadly none of which now survive. Even the church where he is buried has been demolished and made way for a car park. Such is the wisdom of city planners.

Fortunately the tunnels survive, buried away beneath the depressing flats and council housing of the surrounding area. Thanks to the efforts of some modern 'eccentrics' and volunteers a bit of the tunnels have been dug out, by removing tons and tons of Victorian waste material which had been dumped there in subsequent years. For a modest fee you can go on a guided tour of the tunnels; our guide was one of the men who originally discovered them and it was wonderful to see his enduring and obvious passion for what is a very strange landmark. It was damp and warm inside, and we all had to wear a hard hat, and you cannot help but be impressed by the dedication of Williamson and his men, as well as the dedication of the modern volunteers. Whilst we were there three men were hacking away at the rubble with picks and carting it away in wheelbarrows to reveal a collapsed archway, the beginning of the three decker tunnel that was sadly truncated by Stephenson's railway. There is not much tunnel to see at present, and they are hoping to open up more of them to visitors in the future, but it was very interesting to see the workmanship that had gone into the making of them, the vaulting all fashioned from handmade sandstone brick. Also a room filled with bits of 19th century rubbish, uncatalogued and all higgledy-piggledy, was interesting in terms of seeing what our forebears threw away. You can always pet the rather lonely looking Shire horse who lives there as well, the council once having used the site to stable their horses who used to cart the rubbish and perform other unenviable tasks.

So although the tunnels to some might seem pretty pointless, for me it was a fascinating place. There is only a small exhibition which brings some more detail to the life of Williamson, who remains somewhat an enigmatic figure, and the heritage site itself is looking a little worse for wear with a very old fashioned approach to display etc. However it didn't really seem to matter for once. Essentially it is the tunnels which are the star of this attraction and are well worth a visit if you are ever in Liverpool as an alternative to the more flashy tourist attractions.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Funding Opportunity: Scholar-in-Residence, Munich

From H-Museum:

Scholar-in-Residence Program of the Deutsches Museum, Munich

The Deutsches Museum, Munich has several attractive scholarships to give out for research projects involving the museum's vast and heterogeneous collections, and lasting either six or twelve month. The scholarship program is international and interdisciplinary in scope.

There are myriad opportunities at the Deutsches Museum for innovative research into scientific processes and the changing cultures of technology: founded in 1903, the museum's holdings comprise some 100,000 objects; an archive of 4,500 shelf meters including an extensive collection of scientific photographs, technical illustrations, company records and private papers; and a specialist research library for the history of science and technology with 875,000 volumes, 5,000 journals, and an extensive collection of rare books. The museum's collections have grown organically in the sense that instruments, manuscripts and books of individual scientists and engineers as well as entire scientific research groups have been absorbed as historical totalities reflecting by-gone experimental life-worlds and cohesive cultures of innovation.
The unique structure of this collection enables scholars to develop cross-referential methods of research on the basis of texts, images and artifacts available on site and to engage in the historical and archeological exploration of science and technology.

Applicants are invited to co-operate with curators and researchers of the
Deutsches Museum in preparing their research proposals. Projects involving
innovative approaches to artifact-oriented research are especially welcomed.

During their stays visiting scholars will have daily contact with curators,
archivists and librarians from within the Deutsches Museum (approx. 50 staff
members) as well as members of the Münchner Zentrum für Wissenschafts- und
Technikgeschichte (Munich Center for the History of Science and Technology;
approx. 50 staff members).

They will have their own workplace with a desktop computer and telephone,
and privileged access to temporary housing in subsidized apartments of the
museum complex. They will present their research projects to colleagues at
the beginning of their stays and are expected to participate in the regular
Monday colloquium series that convenes every two weeks. They may also be
invited to publish their research findings in various publication series of
the Deutsches Museum.

Pre-doctoral stipends in euros comprise: 7,500 (six months) / 15,000 (full
year). Post-doctoral stipends in euros comprise: 15,000 (six
months) / 30,000 (full year). Scholars at any level of seniority are
eligible to apply, provided they have at least one university degree.
There are no restrictions regarding nationality. All scholars are requested
to make their own provisions for health insurance.

Application deadline: September 28, 2007
Candidate selection: October 15, 2007
Scholarship commencement: January 1 and July 1, 2008 respectively

Please send applications, including:
1. the filled-out online application form
2. curriculum vitae
3. project description (3-5 pages)
4. two confidential references (these can be sent directly by the referees)

to the following address:

Andrea Walther
Coordinator of the Research Institute
Deutsches Museum
80306 Munich
tel: 00 49 (0) 89 2179-280
fax: 00 49 (0) 89 2179-239

Friday, August 03, 2007

Symposium: Objects and Narrative

From H-ArtHist:

Telling Stories: Objects and Narrative

an international one-day symposium

Friday 21st September 2007

Loughborough University School of Art and Design,
Epinal Way, Loughborough, UK

Loughborough University School of Art and Design are pleased to announce the third of their Telling Stories symposia. 'Objects and Narrative' explores the possibilities of narrative in relation to particular objects or collections. Fashioned or found, the object maintains its status as a familiar trope within contemporary practice. Things may be located and dis-located, de-valued and re- valued; whether as souvenirs, keepsakes or kitsch, objects reference memory, nostalgia and identity. The 'situated' or 'contingent' object conveys the particularities of place, culture and time. Objects and Narrative brings together writers, artists and performers to discuss a range of interpretations of this theme.

Keynote addresses will be given by:
Stuart Brisley (artist)
Martha Buskirk (Montserrat College of Art)

Selected papers include:

Unpacking My Father's Library
Polly Gould (University of the Arts, London)

On speaking and listening to artefacts - a Chinese understanding of the
making of pots
Geoffrey Gowlland (University of Cambridge)

Curating the City as Text: Contesting Art Display using Literary Narrative
Robert Knifton (MIRIAD, Manchester Metropolitan University)

The house of an architect
Andy Milligan and Helen O'Connor (University of Dundee)

Counterfictions through objects in art
Magali Nachtergael (Université Paris)

Appropriated Imagery, Material Affects, & Narrative Outcomes
Marie Shurkus (Pomona College in Claremont, California)

For further information (including electronic booking form and information
on the series of symposia) see Telling Stories website at

or to book a place at the symposium please contact Sandra Leeland, 01509
228901 - or do get in touch with us at email or

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Why shouldn't museums be for pure pleasure?

Why shouldn't museums be for pure pleasure?

Disneyfication! Theme parks! Museums exploring popular culture, staging sensuous and interactive exhibitions and making use of the commercial opportunities that comes their way, have been called many names the last decade. In an interview with journalist Michael Binyou from the Times, Mark Jones, director of the V&A gives his view on this issue, defending the Kylie exhibition.

What I think is interesting here is the immense threat that popular culture and fun seem to have on traditional museum culture and the very rigorous view that the two cannot exist side by side. It is almost as if fun, enjoyment and light heartiness will contaminate and disrupt a precious ‘pure’ space, which almost reminds me of Carol Duncans notion of the museum as a religious site. What is it that links so tightly the issues of seriousness and professionalism, with silence and hard work (it should not be too easy to go to the museum? This of course opens up for a whole debate around our notion of knowledge and the strenuous ‘path’ to enlightenment, which is also why this issue is so interesting. It also links to the recent discussion here on the blog about the curator/educator/museologist where power and the right to distribute and communicate knowledge seem to be fundamental.