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, July 21, 2009

V&A: Last Friday

For want to anything interesting to say (in pre-submission limbo at the moment) here are some arty shots I took at the V&A last week...

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

CFP: The Science Exhibition (Book)

***Could be a good opportunity for all you scientists?***



We invite papers for a forthcoming book which will explore three related themes in relation to science exhibitions in museums:

* the processes involved in developing new science exhibitions in and for museums;
* the issues involved in transforming scientific ideas or events into exhibitions;
* the challenges faced by museums in communicating science to a wide audience.

We are particularly interested in new, innovative and successful initiatives in this field.

Much has been written about the difficulties of disseminating science to the public through a variety of new and traditional media. It is, indeed, a complex subject to tackle in the exhibition space, yet a challenging and multidimensional one.

How best to understand the process of working from scientific data to the ideas-based exhibition? What exactly is lost during the transformation of factual information into an exhibition environment? And more importantly, how can the exhibition work most effectively as a tool for narrating science, its past and present?

We welcome a range of submissions including, but not limited to, the following issues/themes:
* both theoretical perspectives and case studies relating to science exhibitions
* exhibition design for science: problems and opportunities
* successful design techniques and approaches in relation to science displays
* science communication in the museum: interpretation issues
* learning activities and science collections
* developing learning resources for science exhibitions
* object stories and science learning
* exhibitions interpreting the history of science

Deadline for abstracts and bio: 30 September 2009
Selection for inclusion: 30 October 2009

Please submit an abstract (up to 400 words) and a biographical note (up to
250 words) by email to both:

Dr Anastasia Filippoupoliti
Museologist and Historian of Science
Democritus University of Thrace, Greece

Graeme Farnell
Publisher, MuseumsEtc Ltd, UK

H-Net Network for Museums and Museum Studies

Museums and Moving Images (Los Angeles, CA/US, 17-21 March 2010)

Call for Papers

Museums and Moving Images
Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference
Los Angeles, CA
March 17-21, 2010

This panel explores the complex relationship between museums and moving image media. Since the emergence of the film archive movement during the coming of film sound, the role of the museum in the collection, preservation and exhibition of films has been subject to much debate. It is a site at which the cultural value of the medium has been both claimed and contested. The late twentieth century brought about two important developments: the establishment of specific museums dedicated to the history of the moving image and the innovations in video technology (first analog, then later digital), which brought moving images into museum and gallery spaces in diverse ways. As science, technology and natural history museums increasing rely on IMAX theaters to draw visitors, so art museums are curating more shows by contemporary artists working in moving images. Both of these developments have sparked wide-ranging debates about entertainment, art and pedagogy in the museum.

Possible paper topics include (but are not restricted to)

-- the history and politics of film museums
-- the film archives of museums (such as MoMA's Film Library)
-- IMAX in the museum
-- museums and film curation/programming
-- the integration of moving image technologies into museum display
-- moving images in the contemporary art museum
-- the representation of museums in film, television and new media

Please send paper proposal (250-300 word abstract, brief bio and biblio) or inquiries via email to by August 9, 2010.

Dr. Roger Hallas
Assistant Professor of English
Syracuse University

H-Net Network for Museums and Museum Studies

Monday, July 20, 2009

Museum Musings

I'm on holidays, traveling in Holland. Obviously, being me, I have been going to museums everywhere - we bought a Museumkaart, and admission to most of the major museums is therefore free, making the 39-euro cost very worthwhile. So much for the touristy tips, however.

What I really wanted to write about was the variety of museum display techniques I have been encountering. In Den Haag (The Hague, for the rest of us), we went to the Municipal museum, because I wanted to see the 18th century dollhouse, and I heard there was a costume collection. Though the dollhouse was awesome, it was inexplicably housed deep in the contemporary art rooms, making the experience of finding it rather unpleasant. (Not a fan of modern art.) The costume collection, as well as bits of everything else, was housed in the basement, called the Wunderkammern - a hodge-podge, vaguely themed selection of bits and bobs from the collection designed to make visual links between objects - things about childhood, colour, music, etc. It was very po-mo, and kind of annoying, because none of the objects were actually labelled - you had to make your own meaning, though the selection and arrangement forced a meaning on the viewer anyway.

In contrast, the Teylers Museum in Haarlem (can't find the English version, sorry) is a preserved 18th century Wunderkammer in itself. It was the private home of a collector, whose executors decided to open his collection to the public when he died in the 1780s. Much of the original structure is preserved, as well as the arrangement of the specimens. There is a new wing, where new exhibitions are put on, but most of the displays are in that typical crowded arrangement one usually sees in photographs (or maybe at the Pitt Rivers, though a talk by the collections manager at the conference I went to last week suggested that the displays at the PRM hadn't actually been at all preserved from his own time). It was very cool to see all the antique instruments and specimens of science (back when science was beautiful, before it went nano and became invisible - how do you interpret the invisible? Although the Wellcome did a cool thing by printing out the Human Genome in huge thick tomes, 6 volumes in size 9 font for each chromosome, all Gs and Ts and As and Cs...) but you really had to already know what you were looking at, because the interpretation was minimal. How do I know what a Leiden jar is? (Answer: I nearly failed chemistry and never took physics, so I don't.)

The two museums - one arranged very recently, the other over 2oo years ago, had a very similar effect on me. One is overwhelmed at the displays, is intrigued at the apparent similarity between objects, but is given no real guidance as to what it is one is looking at, exactly. Only having some specialist training and knowledge in cultural and visual history could I guess at the overall meaning intended by the curators. It made me think about even better-interpreted museums, ones with text. You really need a great deal of cultural capital, to use a Bourdieu-ian term, to engage with museum galleries. Even if there is an infinite amount of text, the referents will not be clear to a hypothetical Martian, and they cannot build on any existing knowledge to assimilate the new concepts shown to them. It all makes me feel sad and helpless - is this whole museological thing actually futile?

Friday, July 10, 2009


A big Attic-style congratulations to all the Museum Studies students graduating today!!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Burn her!!!

Sadly, this is not one of those adverts you would find on Jim's Job Desk. Wookey Hole, Somerset, is looking for a witch. If the terms of my fellowship didn't prevent me from seeking full-time employment, I would be all over this one. Benefits - 50k a year for living in a cave with cats, cackling at people and throwing curses at them. I pretty much do this as a hobby already. Plus, I have the profile for it - paint my face green, I'm a dead ringer for the Wicked Witch of the West. Still, it's nice to know that my talents are remunerable, after all.

One & Other

One & Other, by Antony Gormley: Sikh man launches paper aeroplane from the Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square, London
via ChrisJohnBeckett

Did you know you can watch Anthony Gormley's project One & Other, to enable members of the public to become living art in Trafalgar Square, online? Visit the website for the live streaming video and to find out more about the participants and their fifteen minutes of fame (well, to be fair, more like an hour each) atop the fourth plinth. And, if you fancy it, there's still time to apply to take part!

Welcome... all our new readers, many of whom have have recently subscribed via Google Reader! Apologies that things have been a little quiet round here recently. Please dodge the tumble weed and bear with us; we're all a little busy at the moment (damn PhDs!). Normal service shall resume shortly.