Museums have been in the news a lot this week. First, Attic favourite, Henry VIII, gets another mention as a series of portraits of people at his court are on display, and the tapestries he commissioned in 1545 have been "digitally restored" to show their original colours. Hampton Court does a lot of very interesting and important textile conservation work - in fact, the Textile Conservation Centre (sadly, now closing at Winchester School of Art) used to be based there. They have a wacky sort of fellow who tries to stop dust from harming the artifacts, and if you watch the first video on that digitally restored link, you can see that this is pretty much a futile endeavour!
I find it fascinating that the original tapestry colours are so close to Italian Renaissance fresco colours of the same period. Having seen the Raphael cartoons at the V&A, I knew that this was sometimes the case, but Raphael was an actual Italian Renaissance painter; having been indoctrinated about the differences between Northern and Italian Renaissance aesthetics in art history classes all those years ago, I didn't expect there to be just such an affinity. It's truly impressive to be faced with an expanse of not just colour, but texture of that size.
Speaking of size, watch the second video to see the man they have playing Henry VIII - I think its amazing that there are people out there who look so much like historical figures. Also fascinating is the radical change in HRP policy about portraying deceased monarchs. It used to be that this was out of bounds for the costumed interpreters, as the long-ago kings and queens were, after all, ancestors of the current Queen, and this would not have been respectful. And yet, with the new troupe of actors, they seem to do this all the time. I guess the Crown has seen how popular these characters really are? I feel I need to explore the politics of this further at some point. (I've just stumbled on this: Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen's "Men of Fashion" radio 4 show about Henry VIII.)

The second museum news story this week gave me a fit of the giggles: "Charles Darwin's egg rediscovered." I had no idea Darwin was oviparous! This truly is news! Just kidding, the actual news story is about a museum volunteer who found the only surviving egg collected on Darwin's Beagle journey. Three important morals to be learned here: museum stores are undiscovered treasures; museum volunteers are also treasures; the BBC needs to pay better attention to syntax when composing its headlines.


Ceri said…
I am just writing up a case study of costumed interpretation at HRP so I was intrigued about the policy of not representing dead monarchs until recently! I was wondering if you had a reference for that at all?

Who we choose to venerate in history is very strange sometimes. Henry VIII - I am so bored of him already! I am waiting for the King John u-turn / revival and then we can all celebrate an equally interesting tyrant, who killed relatively fewer people than Henry (from what I can tell) but is seen as evil incarnate. John was also one to split with the Pope but because he had no fancy pants religion to replace it, I suppose he is not celebrated for such things.

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