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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'm 'Enery the Eighth, I am...

For the Henry VIII enthusiasts among us, visitors and students alike, an article about a new exhibit of armour going on display. The video is worth watching - fascinating experimental archaeology going on there. I love the discourse - the journo is being all fake-naive, and the "expert" is being all earnestly academic, and the dresser, who probably knows far more than anyone else there, is totally silent. It's so very typical of museum publicity pieces - let's all play dress-up and have a bit of a laugh at serious history! (And if you are in dress history, like me, you get bonus points for mentioning poor hygiene, corsets-as-torture, or the naughty bits and lack thereof of our prudish/exhibitionist ancestors! This piece comes close, and it's good to see even as macho a subject as armour be treated so cavalierly. You know, in a schadenfreude sort of way...)

Also interesting is the politics of the suit of armour (the last surviving set made for him) and the arms, now separated. One of the things that came out in my MA research was the rivalry between the English museums and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York at the turn of the 20th century: The British were very upset that their heritage was leaving the country after auctions in country houses, but they didn't exactly have the financial wherewithal of JP Morgan (chairman of the board of directors of the Met and passionate collector of European arms and armour)! I always find it interesting when these "reunion" exhibitions happen, particularly since at least in medieval art, it's not very common - you will often find Jesus separated forever from his cross, or side panels from altarpieces scattered around museums, never to be reunited into a triptych/screen.

Slightly off-topic, but suggested by the BBC website: can someone who has been to Hever Castle explain those dreadful mannequins of Henry's wives to me? Hever isn't a Tussauds property, is it? ...It always fascinates me how the boundaries of real and unreal are blurred at places like Hever. There's David Starkey in that wonderful great hall with the portrait of Elizabeth of York, and behind him are those horrible fiberglass wives! Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived... in effigy! Talk about the experience economy in museums!

3 comments:

Amy said...

That articulated skirt is something else. I. WANT. ;)

On the subject of mannequins, I've never really understood the point, unless they are there for the express purpose of scaring small children (and small 32 year olds!).

Amy said...

Ah, just remembered something else I was going to mention...

Katy and I went to Compton Verney last Saturday. They have a portrait of Edward VI, in which, rather than looking wan and consumptive as usual, he's chubby and mischievous...and the spit of his father!

Back to the mannequins...that rather haughty one in black? Catherine Howard, I reckon.

Ceri said...

Well having to sit through David Starkey was quite excruciating however I managed it... Anne Boleyn is the haughty one in black BTW rather than her cousin Catherine Howard as they are arranged in chronological order (Catherine of Aragon and Jane Seymour (yuck) either side. Sorry I have a hatred of Jane Seymour for being so insipid and wet). It interests me that mannequin technology is somewhat woefully behind everything else... the ones with the talking faces scare me to death as well as making me laugh hysterically so they are not very useful either. I like the way they have subtley stuck to stereotypes about Henry's wives in the expressions, although film is the worst culprit - The Other Boleyn Girl really took the biscuit in terms of ravaging her character, I had to lie down after seeing that film!