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.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


During a break in our very atmospheric Halloween Museum Crawl through Leicester today, I read this Times article about a new project in London's National Gallery, which uses music to highlight and enhance the experience of certain works in its collection. Some quite famous musicians are involved in this project, and as long as the results don't get too obvious or obscure, I think it's a great idea. Gesamtkunstwerk, synaesthesia, and all that aside, it's also a very different way of experiencing art galleries, as the article's author points out, and as we were discussing on the Crawl today (podcast to come!). Wouldn't it be great to plug in your headphones, let the soundscape take you away from the bustle of busy tourist crowds, and commune with art? I also think this would be an awesome digital download to carry around on one's mp3 player!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A New Digital Media Website

I've got to stop posting mainly Digital Media stuff...where do I get it from...

New Center at UC Irvine to Seed Research and Collaboration on Digital Media and Learning

Oh yeah, H-Net...

Museum Computer Network Webcasts

I received this email this morning - for those of you unable to attend MCN in Portland next week, this might be of interest.

Hello everyone,

The Museum Computer Network is pleased to announce that five MCN 2009
sessions will be webcast live, free of charge. MCN 2009 takes place week
after next in Portland, Oregon. While we urge everyone who is interested
to attend the conference in person as the only way to engage with its
full array of workshops, sessions, events, exhibitors, and networking
opportunities, we know that some are unable to do so because of
especially acute funding issues this year.

If you can't be with us at the conference, we hope these webcasts may
enable you still to benefit from some of its knowledge sharing. If you
find this useful, we encourage you to join MCN to help support these
efforts for the wider community.

The webcasts will be on Thursday and Friday, November 12 and 13. We'll
use Twitter to harvest online questions during Q&A in those sessions,
which are:

Museum Data Exchange

Tweets to Sweeten Collaborations for Archives, Libraries, and Museums

Libraries, Archives, and Museums: From Collaboration to Convergence

Ramping Up while Scaling Down: Strategic Innovation in Challenging Times

2009 Conference Roundup Roundtable

<> has more information.
Short URL <> leads to the same page.

Please plan to join us online even if you can't join us onsite!

Rob Lancefield
President, MCN

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Call for Comments!

Hello All,

This is just one of your friendly web-elves reminding all those who read this blog to please feel free to comment! We love getting your input, and we know that you're out there. The Attic gets a wide readership and it would be so nice to hear your views on what we write here. So please, comment away.

Let dialogue commence!

Van Gogh Letters

A new comprehensive edition of the letters of Vincent Van Gogh have just been released to the public, coinciding with an exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam called 'The Artist Speaks'. Provided both as a book and online, the letters may show a different side to a figure who has been turned rather into the poster-boy for deranged geniuses. With the words of the artists alongside them, works become so different. That isn't necessarily better, but every layer of an object's meaning is worth exploring. The exhibition will come to the RA in January next year.

Van Gogh Letters

The Neues Museum

The newly renovated Neues Museum in Berlin opens this Friday. Beyond the usual issues of architectural restoration or renovation, lie a museum and a city with a distinctively political history. What is to be done in such a situation - and who are the primary stakeholders? The museum being restored? The government? The people of the surrounding area?

The Neues Museum Website

The Project on David Chipperfield Architects

Brown Bag Review 28/10/09: The Pitt-Rivers Museum

Organising team: Sandra Dudley & Julia Petrov
Visiting Speaker: Alison Petch (Senior Research Associate and Registrar, Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford)
Title: Muddying the waters: The Pitt-Rivers collection from 1850-2009.
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers (1826-1900) used typological distinctions to think about the artefacts in his extensive collections. He was an important contributor to the development of anthropology as a discipline, and a museum subject, between 1850 and 1900. He believed that ethnographic and archaeological collections were vital tools in the study of contemporary and past human cultures.
Pitt-Rivers divided his artefacts by type of artefact, either by use or function, or by the decorative designs inherent in it. These divisions were not only intellectual but physical, visible in the museum displays of his collection in London from 1874 to 1884 and again, for his private collection, at Farnham in Dorset between 1880-1900.
The Pitt Rivers Museum was founded in 1884 on the understanding that the University of Oxford would carry on Pitt-Rivers' general method of arrangement of objects during his lifetime and the agreement that any changes after that date would only be instituted if the advance of knowledge required it. In reality, however, changes were wrought almost immediately and Pitt-Rivers' categorisations altered as new artefacts were constantly added to his typographical series. This paper will examine the history of these events and contextualise it in the light of the conclusions Pitt Rivers, his peers and his successors, drew from them.
Alison's talk focused on evolution, both in terms of socio-technological evolution as Pitt-Rivers perceived it, as well as the evolution of the collection and museum themselves. Having started collecting in 1852, by 1874, when some of his collection was displayed at Bethnal Green Museum, Pitt-Rivers' belief in using a natural history approach toward the classification of ethnographic and archaeological material had crystallized into a demonstration of the linear progression of design and technology from the simple to the complex. Through the exhibits, organized by typologies and series, Pitt-Rivers' explicit political aim was to demonstrate to the under-educated museum-going public that improvement of material conditions was a slow and gradual evolution, not to be gained by revolution. As his relationship with the authorities of the South Kensington Museum [now the V&A, parent body to the Bethnal Green museum] deteriorated, P-R began a new collection in Farnham, Dorset, where he sought to educate the agricultural workers of that remote area. These educational goals were probably at the core of his decision to donate the Bethnal Green/ South Kensington Collection to Oxford in 1883.

While initially the same fittings and arrangements were used for the Oxford displays as had been in London, changing curatorial interests (with the legal transfer of the collection to the University, P-R himself ceased to be involved, and a succession of professional, academic curators were appointed to maintain and develop the Museum) and the continued arrival of new artifacts meant that displays were constantly rearranged - contrary to popular belief about the PRM being a time capsule of Victorian anthropology. Using the example of tribal shields, Alison compared the initial arrangement of the displays by type and evolutionary series to a later, more contextualized arrangement which compared items by geographic region. She also challenged the notion that the museum's space (not just the interiors of cabinets) was static by presenting an unrealized plan for a rotunda-style building, as well as by pointing out the numerous interventions and rearrangements of thematic displays and temporary exhibitions. She concluded, however, that whereas the evolution of the museum had been roughly in line with contemporary preoccupations in the wider museum community, this had somewhat problematically and unreflexively clashed with the initial mission for the museum, and had led to an unclear statement of purpose for the raison d'etre of the displays as they have evolved.

Alison's talk was an excellent example of well-researched institutional history, serving as an example of the curatorial and collecting pitfalls frequently warned against in museological literature. It was also a surprising report on the actual confused state of the displays in the Museum, frequently assumed to be static and "frozen in time." Some questions remained unanswered - for example: how did the original displays compare with other epistemological systems evident in other, similar museums and collections of the time? How can the PRM make clearer its current aims and objectives while staying true to its idiosyncratic history? Perhaps Alison's new research project, focusing on the now-lost Farnham collection, can go some ways toward illuminating the unique, and also the common aspects of this historic collection.

Bosworth Field: Not where you think it is

I love it when people get all up in arms about whether something is "authentic" - it's so much fun ina schadenfreude sort of way to watch them debate what is or isn't real when it comes to heritage. Apparently, Bosworth Field isn't quite where we all thought it was: new research suggests it was 2 miles south-west. Now, your dreams of re-enacting "My horse! My horse! My kingdom for a horse!" will have to be moved...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Age of Destruction

Since we museum-y types tend to be pretty gung-ho about preserving things (everything! for all time!) I thought this was an interesting discussion of vandalism of art and cultural heritage. Thoughts?

Yet More Dinos!

This monster should satisfy all you with a craving for large prehistoric skellys out there! Check out how big he/she is in comparison with a human diver.

And it's good to know that local fossil hunters are still going strong. But that the environment is being managed too.

Sea Monster

Digital Strategies for Heritage Conference

Runs 8-10th December in Rotterdam, and features our own Ross Parry!

Here's the link for you techno-buffs,


Monday, October 26, 2009

CFP/New Publication: Journal of Art Historiography

Call for contributors

This journal will publish its first issue on 31st December 2009 and will appear every six months thereafter. It intends to offer a focus for the study of art historiography. Its mission statement reads:

This journal exists to support and promote the study of the history of art historical writing. Much of this practice has been shaped by traditions inaugurated by Giorgio Vasari, Winckelmann and German academics of the
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Consequent to the expansion of universities, museums and galleries, the field has evolved to include areas outside of its traditional boundaries.

There is a double danger that contemporary scholarship will forget its earlier legacy and that it will neglect the urgency and rigour with which those early debates were conducted. The earlier legacy remains embedded in
'normal' practice. More recent art history also stands in need of its own scrutiny. The journal is committed to studying art historical scholarship, in its institutional and conceptual foundations, from the past to the present day in all areas and all periods.

This journal will ignore the disciplinary boundaries imposed by the Anglophone expression 'art history' and allow and encourage the full range of enquiry that encompassed the visual arts in its broadest sense as well as topics now falling within archaeology, anthropology, ethnography and other specialist disciplines and approaches. It will welcome contributions from young and established scholars and is aimed at building an expanded audience for what has hitherto been a much specialised topic of investigation.

Besides articles, it will accept notes, reviews, letters and translations. It will be published every June and December and include both peer-reviewed and commissioned contributions.

The Editor invites submissions from interested scholars.

For more information see:


Humanities-Net Discussion List for Art History
E-Mail-Liste fuer Kunstgeschichte im H-Net

Editorial Board Contact Address / Fragen an die Redaktion:

Submit contributions to / Beitraege bitte an:


Brown bag Seminar (28th October)

Brown Bag Seminar Wednesday 28th October 1pm collections room ALL WELCOME

Organising team: Sandra Dudley & Julia Petrov Visiting Speaker: Alison Petch (Senior Research Associate and Registrar, Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford)

Title: Muddying the waters: The Pitt-Rivers collection from 1850-2009.

Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers (1826-1900) used typological distinctions to think about the artefacts in his extensive collections. He was an important contributor to the development of anthropology as a discipline, and a museum subject, between 1850 and 1900. He believed that ethnographic and archaeological collections were vital tools in the study of contemporary and past human cultures.

Pitt-Rivers divided his artefacts by type of artefact, either by use or function, or by the decorative designs inherent in it. These divisions were not only intellectual but physical, visible in the museum displays of his collection in London from 1874 to 1884 and again, for his private collection, at Farnham in Dorset between 1880-1900.

The Pitt Rivers Museum was founded in 1884 on the understanding that the University of Oxford would carry on Pitt-Rivers' general method of arrangement of objects during his lifetime and the agreement that any changes after that date would only be instituted if the advance of knowledge required it. In reality, however, changes were wrought almost immediately and Pitt-Rivers' categorisations altered as new artefacts were constantly added to his typographical series. This paper will examine the history of these events and contextualise it in the light of the conclusions Pitt Rivers, his peers and his successors, drew from them.

UoL History of Art Public Lecture Series Autumn 2009...

...looks jolly interesting. Am planning to go along to the session this evening entitled 'Painting the Nation in Russia'. For information about that, and the other lectures this term click here.

Gallery Chat: The Carnivores

OK, so the point of this post (and following 'Gallery Chat' posts) is to see what you folk out there make of various exhibits and museumy things. Talk... give opinions... it will be fun!

This summer I spent some time in the USA, and managed to get in a fair few museum and science centre visits. I can't possibly inflict all the photos on non-museumy people, so I'm going to put some of the more interesting ones up on the blog.

The thumbnail picture above is a case from the extremely famous, and generally wonderful American Museum of Natural History in New York... inspiration for such movie greats as The Squid And The Whale, and Night At The Museum. Hidden away, in between some of the more modern and glossy galleries is a corridor containing about 8 cases, including, and all very similar to, the one above. This is the gallery of wildlife local to New York and it's environs.

So, what do you think?

While I'm Spamming the Attic...

There is a conference here for those of you interested in Learning Futures. It's free to all University staff and postgrads, and it's all online!

Beyond Distance Research Alliance Festival

Hope you all had a good weekend!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Allosphere

I thought that this was a rather cool project

It just makes you think about how arts and sciences can come together. And it also makes me there really that much difference?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Two Conferences for you

Here is the first, announced via H-Net today, from our very own Kostas!

Museums and Restitution

And the second is something I thought was cool. But then I would!

The Gothic

Have a good weekend all, and Anna - Good Luck!

Survey on Handheld Guides

I received this email from the MCG network today, and perhaps some people would be interested to fill in the survey. I know this blog is widely read, and so I thought I'd put it out here.

Hi All.

I would like to draw your attention to an online survey into the use,
challenges + future of mobile interpretation in museums. See

'Thank you' to all those that have taken the survey already. Since
its launch a couple of weeks ago we've had over 100 responses, and the
findings are already pretty telling. We're hopeful the community will
find them interesting and valuable.
The final research findings - inc. the raw data - will be published
online so as to enable anyone to collaborate in interpreting the data.

The survey was developed together with Learning Times, hosts of the
2009 Handheld Conference Online last June. With mobile interpretation
becoming an increasingly ‘hot-topic’ for museums, and with the medium
becoming evermore powerful/ubiquitous, we thought it would be
interesting to identify:
1. why museums use (or don’t use) handheld guides
2. the challenges relating to their use
3. how they saw the medium’s future
4. and how to improve knowledge share in this field

If you’ve not taken the survey yet, it would be fantastic if you could
please find 10 minutes to do so. The survey is ‘open’ to all museums,
whether you use handheld guides and/or are interested in doing so or
not. And obviously, the more responses we get, the more interesting
the results. Add to that, UK-based museums are a little
under-represented at the moment!

The survey is online at

We hope you chose to respond, and look forward to sharing the results
later in the year!

Loic Tallon & Learning Times.

The Big Microbe Knit

Heard about this via Ravelry. As part of Manchester Science Festival, Touchstones, Rochdale(which bills itself as a hands-on family museum) is hosting a drop-in knit-your-own-microbe event on 31st October 2009, 11am - 4pm. Chose from salmonella, the common cold or this season's favourite, swine flu!

For those on Ravelry (the knitter's Facebook) click here for the patterns.

Event: Brown Bag Seminar Wednesday 11th November

School of Museum Studies
University of Leicester
Brown Bag Seminar
Wednesday, 11 November @ 1pm

Steph Mastoris, Head of the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, is going to talk on: 'When does the opening end? Taking the long view of establishing a new museum.'

Whilst the museum opened to much acclaim in 2005, Steph would advocate it has taken some years to assess how a new museum really functions and to rectify all those good ideas that in actuality didn't work

The seminar will be in the Collections Room for a 1pm start

All welcome!

Conference: Exhibitions as Research (Glasgow, 15-17 Apr 10)

Call for Papers:
Exhibitions as Research: Theory, Practice, Problems
(Session in 36th AAH Annual Conference, 15-17 April 2010, University of Glasgow)

Deadline for submission: 9 November 2009

Ideally, exhibitions always present audiences with new research. When exhibitions are outcomes of individual academic research projects, however, the research undergoes a process of translation. Under the guidance of curators and other museum and art gallery staff, art historians discover how to turn their work into a phenomenological and conceptual experience that communicates not only with their academic peers but also with public audiences, not only through the act of writing about objects and ideas, but also through encountering them and placing them in space and time. As a collaborative situation, the process of exhibition-making can, for some academics, become a form of research in itself.

In this session, the term 'research' is inclusive, incorporating conventional art historical research, research conducted by artists and curators, and other research practices. Forms of research may range from traditional scholarship which informs large-scale survey or blockbuster exhibitions such as Gothic: Art for England, 1400-1547 (V&A, 2003) and Babylon: Myth and Reality (British Museum, 2008/9), and more focused academic exhibitions such as Freud's Sculpture (Henry Moore Institute, 2006) and Close-Up: Proximity and defamiliarisation in art, film and photography (The Fruitmarket Gallery, 2008/9), to artist-led research as in Tacita Dean's An Aside (Hayward National Touring Exhibitions, 2005). This session will consider how research is translated in exhibitions of art from any period, from medieval to modern and contemporary. Questions include: How can display be used to express an argument, explore a concept or even work against the presentation of research? How can interpretation support or extend academic research? What role can contemporary art play to inform exhibitions of historic objects, and vice versa?

Deadline for submission of paper propsals: 9 November 2009. Please contact the session convenors with an abstract (no more than 250 words long), and your name, institutional affiliation and contact details.

Session convenors: Dr Stacy Boldrick (Research and Interpretation Manager, The Fruitmarket Gallery; and Stephanie Straine (Exhibitions Organiser, The Fruitmarket Gallery; ).
Additional contact details: The Fruitmarket Gallery, 45 Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DF; (p) +44 (0)131 225 2383; (f) +44 (0) 131 220 3130.

Dr Stacy Boldrick
Research and Interpretation Manager

P 00 44 (0)131 226 8183
F 00 44 (0)131 220 3130

The Fruitmarket Gallery
45 Market Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1DF


Humanities-Net Discussion List for Art History
E-Mail-Liste fuer Kunstgeschichte im H-Net

Editorial Board Contact Address / Fragen an die Redaktion:

Submit contributions to / Beitraege bitte an:


Thursday, October 22, 2009

University of Toronto Journals...

The University of Toronto are putting selected journal articles on Facebook each Wednesday. If you want access, follow the link to become a fan!


Fun link for those among you who are all wired and into newfangled intrawebz technology: a Twitter feed of random (often absurd because out of context) sentences taken from old newspapers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Value Added

The BBC reports that museums across the UK experienced a boost to their visitor numbers over the summer, which they put down to the poor economy forcing people to stay close to home for their leisure time. Lest we get too excited about the 10% increase across 225 institutions (which include major national museums, which are free), the article reminds us that operating costs have increased by up to 30%. So what does this say about the public's attitude towards museums? I think it clearly says that more people will take advantage of museums only if they are free or easily accessible, and only if there is nothing else to do. Meanwhile, these same museums have to bend over backwards to make themselves exciting and competitive with all the other options for British leisure time. Presumably, this means changing exhibitions more often so that repeat visitors and new audiences are ensured. The economics of this just doesn't work, though, because the investment is so much greater than the return; I return once again to my favourite rhetorical question about non-profit industries - if we're not in it for the money, what are we in it for? And how do you measure that value?

CFP: Social History Curators Group

Call for Papers
The Social History Curators Group
Annual Conference
Birmingham, 8-10 July 2010
More for Less: Big Impacts with Small Resources

Museum professionals are experts at utilising creativity, verve and imagination to overcome the potential limitations of small resources. At different times we are all likely to face the difficulties of shrinking budgets, limited funding options and overburdened resources.

This year's conference tackles these problems head on, and shows you how you can rise to the challenge and provide high quality and engaging experiences for your visitors. Topics covered will include proven strategies from previous times of economic difficulty and recent case studies that have demonstrated innovation and inspiration despite various restrictions

SHCG are pleased to invite proposals from across the museum profession, for presentations which address one or more of the core conference themes

Survival stories; how museums have coped with resource cuts and limitations
Engaging and increasing your audiences without increasing your costs
Creative ways of working with small budgets; examples relating to collections, interpretation, partnerships, learning and marketing
Minimising the environmental cost; sustainability and recycling
Developing partnerships with libraries, archives and children's centres
Digital technologies; new solutions for age-old problems

Please email proposals for presentations to Hannah Crowdy, by 1st February 2010.

Proposals for a 30 minute presentation should include a 200 word summary of the presentation, contact details and institutional affiliation (if any).

Speakers’ travel and subsistence costs can be reimbursed (travel reimbursed at standard rail fare rate) and there will be no attendance fee on the day of speaking.

The Social History Curators Group was formed to improve the status and provision of social history in museums and the standards of collections, research, display and interpretation. The group acts as a forum for sharing ideas and practical experience with others involved in social and local history in museums.

Best wishes,



Jim Roberts Hon FMA
University of Leicester
School of Museum Studies

+44 (0)116 252 3961

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sensory Archaeology

This looks as if it might be a fascinating conference. Sensory experiences of the world and history are often so indefinable and strange that they are worth exploring. Even if we can't always recreate them, they should not be ignored.

CFP: Making Things

Via Icme

First Call for Papers
`Making Things'
Museum Ethnographers' Group (MEG) Annual UK Conference 2010
Monday and Tuesday 12-13 April 2010
Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading

From technological interpretations through to gallery-based artistic interventions, museum ethnographers have long grappled with issues of creativity and with the physical techniques and social forces that underpin the making of our material worlds. However, in recent years other topics—collecting processes, disciplinary histories, and questions of `materiality'—have come to the fore, often at the expense of pragmatic and material-centred relationships between people and things. This conference seeks to re-engage with the practical elements of the profession.

As museum ethnographers we facilitate the passage of material culture from its physical construction amongst source communities through to its careful management in the applied contexts of everyday museum practice. Echoing this, we seek papers that explore the broad theme of `making things'. These might relate to manufacturing processes, field-collecting methods, conservation techniques, exhibition design, creative intervention, educational resource production, or even the means by which institutions themselves have come into being.

It is hoped that the resultant conference will include several sessions comprising traditional papers as well as at least one session involving practical activities, interactive opportunities, and less formal experiences. As such, the organisers are very keen to hear from potential speakers who wish to deliver hands-on displays or who are keen to incorporate the actual `making of things' into their contribution. For example, these might include demonstrations of conservation approaches, artistic performances, or exhibitions of manufacturing techniques. There may also be scope for demonstrations—internal or external—in the breaks between sessions.

Papers will be 20 minutes in length with an additional 10 minutes for questions. There will also be a work-in-progress session comprising shorter presentations of 10 minutes in length. Conference contributions may be considered for publication in the Journal of Museum Ethnography published annually by the Museum Ethnographers' Group.

For further information or to propose and discuss papers, sessions, demonstrations, or performances please contact:

Ollie Douglas
Museum of English Rural Life, Redlands Road, Reading, RG1 5EX UK
[+44] [0]118 378 8660

The closing date for submissions and abstracts is Friday 15 January 2010

Monday, October 19, 2009

Morbid Sightseer

For those of you of a dark persuasion...we could have a creepy heritage site crawl!

Museum in a Day

Dan Zambonini and Mike Ellis have challenged themselves to build a museum website in a day. That day is the 2nd November. Check out the blog and twitter if you're interested!

I was walking around Leicester today and I realised what a city of contradiction it is. Such great beauty, greenery and grandeur, then turn widdershins and there is poverty, homelessness and degradation. It is a city of faded glory, a former lordship and stronghold. Somewhere within it lie the bones of a villified king fallen in battle, the forgotten remains of a great Roman bath house, all hidden below the modern city. Leicester is, in so many ways, a bricolage assemblage of every era of history.

Publication: Museum History Journal Vol. 2 (2009), No. 2

Museum History Journal
Edited by Hugh H. Genoways and Mary Anne Andrei
July 2009
Vol. 2, N. 2


*Table of Contents*

From the Editors


Our Works of Ancient Times: History, Colonization, and Agency at the 1906-7 New Zealand International Exhibition - Conal McCarthy

The Public's Signatures: Visitors' Books in Nineteenth-Century Museums -
Liesbet Nys

Taking Pictures: Looting, Preservation, and Photography During World War II
- Catherine Roach

Universities, Museums, and Civic Formation: A Case Study of the University of Toronto Museum of Natural Science, 1840-1890 - Lynne Teather


El Desierto en una Vitrina: Museos e historia natural en la Argentina, 1810-1890, by Irina Podgorny and Maria Margaret Lopes - reviewed by Kristy Wilson Bowers and Don E. Wilson

Lost in the Museum: Buried Treasures and the Stories They Tell, by Nancy Moses - reviewed by Henry Nicholls

Curiosity and Enlightenment: Collectors and Collections from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century by Arthur MacGregor - reviewed by Valentina Pugliano


TO ORDER this issue or to subscribe to the bi-annual Museum History Journal,
visit our website at:[1]

Journal ISSN: 1936-9824
Issue ISBN: 978-1-59874-829-1

For more information, contact Stefania Van Dyke at

Museum Studies and Practice
Journal orders: 925-935-3380
Book orders: 800-621-2736, 773-702-7000
Fax: 800-621-8476, 773-702-7212
1630 N. Main Street #400
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

H-Net Network for Museums and Museum Studies

Event: Museums, Inclusion, Engagement (London/UK, 14 December 2009)

Museums | Inclusion | Engagement
London, Monday 14 December 2009

Museums | Inclusion | Engagement is a highly-practical, information-packed one-day event in which leading professionals involved in the fields of inclusion and engagement within museums and galleries will share their experiences and insights.

Among the key issues to be addressed will be:

* how to obtain sustainable, ongoing funding to support long-term programmes which make a difference
* how to evaluate the short- and long-term impact of your projects
* how to reaching the most excluded groups or individuals
* how to prioritise your work among the various communities
* how to use new community-based communication media
* how to build the right organisational structure to deliver effective programmes
* what can be learnt from the experience of other sectors working in these fields

Presentations from a range of highly experienced speakers will include strategic overviews, practical how-to sessions, and detailed case-studies.

Who should attend?
The seminar is designed for professionals involved in: social inclusion initiatives; community outreach and engagement; audience development; access initiatives; learning and education; project management; organisational
development; interpretation, design and information; marketing and communication; human resources; and visitor services.

We are currently releasing a limited number of places at a reduced rate of £147, saving a full 25% on the normal rate of £197. These reduced-rate places will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Order online at

DEADLINE: 12 December 2009

H-Net Network for Museums and Museum Studies


For those of you slackers who also happen to be competitive, you might benefit from a kick in the pants offered by November's National Novel Writing Month revamped for academic purposes: National Research Writing Month has its own LiveJournal community. Check it out!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Object Retrieval: The ultimate interdisciplinary research project

...what happens when you bring together minds from such diverse specialisations and focus them on the same item?

- asks the Londonist.

Found while searching online for something else is this fascinating participatory art project organised by Joshua Sofaer. Visitors (passers-by) are encouraged - along with specialists from across the arts and sciences - to contribute to the interpretation of a single object from the UCL collections; to map its biography and unlock its hidden meanings.

Worth checking out methinks should you find yourself in or around Gower Street over the next few days.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Are you a Museopunk? Part Deux

Do you identify with the Museopunk moniker? If so, why not join the growing Museopunk ning community?

Talk: Cultural diplomacy

Museums for World Peace?

Photo: © Jessica Long
Wednesday 21 October 2009, 18.30–21.00
Cultural diplomacy' is in vogue. The idea is that museums, galleries, libraries, art, theatre and music can play a critical role in international relations. The think tank Demos recommends these institutions address terrorism and conflict in the Middle East, and work to enhance relations with diasporas. Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, argues that the museum, its staff and collections can play a role in state-building and promoting peace and stability internationally, as well as helping those who visit in Bloomsbury to understand and appreciate other cultures. It is argued that in the context of a world that is experiencing a dramatic resurgence in nationalism and sectarian violence, encyclopaedic museums can play a positive role in encouraging understanding and tolerance between cultures.

But can culture really ease international conflict and foster tolerance? Or does looking to old objects to find messages of tolerance for today meaning obscuring the contemporary reasons behind conflicts? Does assigning cultural institutions such a role risk undermining their more traditional goals, or even compromise their scholarly objectivity? What kind of relationships should Western cultural institutions have with their counterparts abroad, and to what purpose? What role, if any, can and should museums play on the international stage?


Dr. Stephen Deuchar, Director of Tate Britain

Dr. Tiffany Jenkins, sociologist; Director of the Arts & Society programme at the Institute of Ideas

Jonathan Jones, Art Critic of the Guardian

Andrea Rose, Director of Visual Arts at the British Council

Tim Stanley, Senior Curator, Middle East at the V&A, as well as the principal author of Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East

Claire Fox, Director of the Institute of Ideas and panellist on BBC Radio 4's Moral Maze

In association with the Institute of Ideas

Tate Britain  Auditorium
£10 (£8 concessions), booking recommended

For more info please go to

Dr Tiffany Jenkins
Tel: 07983640133

A revolution in collection?

Well, that's what the MA (UK Museums Association) is calling it. It's launched an online database of objects for disposal.

As any good student of museology should know, the MA describes disposal as ethical when:

• it is within the framework of a clearly defined collections policy

• it is on the advice of a range of staff (not an individual) and is agreed by the governing body

• it is done with the intention that wherever possible items remain within the public domain

• it is unlikely to damage public trust in museums

• it is likely to increase the public benefit derived from museum collections

• it is communicated openly to stakeholders and the public.*

Points 3 and 6 are often achieved by advertisement in the Museums Journal; in a format somewhat akin to 'classified listings' in the local rag. Though, of course, these items are not 'for sale' in the conventional sense, just free to a good (institutional) home.

Since I first subscribed to the MJ back in 1998 the disposal notices have fascinated me; what weird and wonderful things museums have in their possession (and desperately want to relieve themselves of)!

The new online listings make equally fascinating reading. Got a hankering for back issues of Practical Wireless? Then the Royal Signals Museum can help you out. Need an Edwardian witness box? North Lanarkshire Council will do you a 'deal'. Require a low-tech printing solution? Dover Transport Museum's Arab Press could be just what you're after.

* see - Disposal Toolkit: Guidelines for museums, Museums Association, 2008.

Fast Food?

So, last Wednesday, at our regular 'Tea in the Attic' event, we discussed Gediminas Lankauskas' really fascinating (at least, in my opinion) paper about the Grutas Statue Park in Lithuania. One the key aspects of Lankauska's analysis was the role food served in the park restaurant evoked nostalgic memories of the old Soviet regime for some of the visitors. This got us thinking about how the museum visiting experience could be extended into lunch, or afternoon tea (but not quite to the extent described in The Onion's recent 'report'!).

And then I read this. McDonalds is to open in Le Louvre, or more correctly, in the shopping centre adjacent to the museum.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Go Dino!

We are very proud to announce that our very own Dave Unwin has made the news today, with the announcement of his find, in collaboration with colleagues in China, of a new pterosaur (a flying dinosaur, for any non-paleontologists out there). And they didn't just dig up one of the fellas, but 20!

What's really exciting, is that this little chap, about the size of a crow, provides evidence of an aspect of evolution called modular evolution. *Warning... Science bit* In this case, we had fossils of earlier pterosaurs, with long tails, and later ones with short tails. You might expect that the intermediate pterosaur would have a medium tail, but in actual fact it still has the tail of its ancestors, while the body and head have evolved into the form we see in the later pterosaurs. So, basically, different bits of the pterosaurs are evolving at different rates. For anyone with a mad image of weirdly morphing flying dinos, don't forget that this takes a very, very, very long time!

Anyway, in celebration of the evidence provided for yet another aspect of the much maligned theory of evolution, the pterosaur has been given the name Darwinopterus. In Darwin year, this is only right and proper. Go Charles! and Go Dave!

You can read more about the story in the BBC here and the Leicester Mercury here

Monday, October 12, 2009

CFP: The Museum 2010 (Taipei/TW, 17-19 May 2010)

The Museum 2010
National Taipei University of Education, Taipei/Taiwan
17 –19 May, 2010

An international conference exploring the value, purposes and priorities of museums at the start of the 21st century

In recent years, museums and galleries around the world have had to contend with shifts in the political, economic, social and technological environments they inhabit that have had profound effects across the cultural sector. At a time of significant change, this conference provides an opportunity to reassess and re-examine the value, purposes, and priorities of museums. The conference aims to provide a forum for an interdisciplinary and international exploration of the meaning, function and impact of museums and a platform for discussion of issues and ideas that are relevant to the contemporary museum world.

The conference organisers are inviting proposals from delegates wishing to present 30-minute papers, or 90-minute colloquium sessions. These can be academic papers with a theory or research focus, or presentations describing how initiatives have been put into practice.

Social responsibility of museums
Museum management, policy and marketing
Collections, interpretation and design
Engaging visitors: museum communication and education The digital museum

Who Should Attend?
Museum practitioners
Researchers, academics and research students Policy makers and senior managers

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:
Diane Lees, Director General, Imperial War Museum; Robert Janes, Editor-in-Chief, Museum Management and Curatorship; Simon Knell, Professor of Museum Studies, University of Leicester; Richard Sandell, Director of Museum Studies, University of Leicester; Suzanne MacLeod, Deputy Head of Museum Studies, University of Leicester

Call for Papers:
All those interested in presenting papers at the conference are requested to submit an abstract in English of their proposed paper by 15 December 2009 by email attachment (the document should be made with Word 2003 compatible application) to Dr. Yung-Neng LIN (email: The abstract should not exceed 300 words and should include the following information:
Author name(s)
Email address
Affiliation and position
Title of paper
Authors will be notified of the acceptance of their proposals by the end of January 2010. Accepted authors must submit papers or case studies of between 1500 and 3000 words in English (3000 – 5000 in Chinese) by 15 March 2010 by email to Dr. Yung-Neng LIN. All proposals, presentations and papers must be in English or Chinese.

Enquiries may be sent to: Dr Yung-Neng LIN

Instructions for Papers:
The guidelines for submitting a paper will be sent to each of the contributors.

Registration is free.
Coffee breaks, lunches & dinners are US$50; please pay on arrival.
The organisers are also offering US$200 towards travel costs for up to 20 overseas participants who submit a paper. Applicants will be assessed on the basis of the quality and relevance of their submission to the conference aims and themes.

Sponsors: Council of Cultural Affairs, Taiwan
Organisers: The University of Leicester; National Taipei University of Education; National Taiwan University of Arts; Taipei National University of the Arts; Fu Jen University

Co-Organisers: Chinese Association of Museums Japan Museum Management Academy Tokiwa University, Japan

Secretariat for the Conference
All correspondence and questions concerning the conference should be directed to:
Department of Cultural Industry, National Taipei University of Education, 134, Sec. 2., Heping E. Road, Taipei, 106, Taiwan

H-Net Network for Museums and Museum Studies

Publication: Journal of Museum Education Vol. 34 (2009), No 2

Journal of Museum Education:
A Publication of the Museum Education Roundtable "Educational Leadership"
Editor: Elizabeth L. Maurer
Summer 2009
128 pages; Vol. 34, N. 2


*Table of Contents*

From the Editor – Elizabeth L. Maurer

Guest Editor's Introduction: The Museum Educator Crisis – Tina R. Nolan

Recessionary Layoffs in Museum Education: Survey Results and Implications – Ron Kley

Welcome Mr. Director and Good Luck! – Rafael Rosa

Sidebar One: Growth and Leadership without Advancement, A Case Study – Rafael Rosa

A Conversation about Educational Leadership in Museums – Leslie Bedford

Sidebar 2: How to Survive a Graduate Program While Working Full-Time at a Museum – Amy Schwartz

Shared Professional Knowledge: Implications for Emerging Leaders – Lynn Yuen Tran and Heather King

Benchmarking: Education on the Road – Maria Mingalone

A Scenario for the Future of Museums – Mary Kay Cunningham

From the Margins to the Center: Recommendations for Current and Aspiring Educational Leaders – Tina R. Nolan

The Leader's Bookshelf: Suggestions for Reading More about Change Leadership – Tina R. Nolan


TO ORDER this issue, visit our website at:

Journal ISSN: 1059-8650
Issue ISBN: 978-1-59874-821-5

Stefania R. Van Dyke
Museum Studies and Practice
Left Coast Press, Inc.
Journal orders: 925-935-3380
Book orders: 800-621-2736, 773-702-7000
Fax: 800-621-8476, 773-702-7212
1630 N. Main Street #400
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

H-Net Network for Museums and Museum Studies

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Staffordshire Hoard Appeal

Please support the appeal to keep the Staffordshire Hoard in the West Midlands. This is a find the like of which hasn't been seen in this area - indeed the UK as a whole - for many years. Thank you all.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

These were posted by New Curator on the Museopunk Ning site.

Made me think about a couple of things in terms of museums and the web.

Thought the First: We can all be curators now. What value does this accord to collections that are placed into the public domain? Who has the right to accord these things their value?

Thought the Second: I've been thinking a lot recently about the space within which the museum "experience" occurs. In online environments, this experience must be modified in some way. The ease of accessing collections is something of a conundrum, for this access via a computer could be seen to be more removed from tactile apprehension than ever. While a computer might only be able to provide auditory and visual experiences of an object, what other sensory experiences might it be able to offer that seeing the actual object could not?

The experience, for certain, would be different - but would it be worse? World Wide Web or other computer experiences can be incredibly multilayered and rich, as is the case with such hypertextual resources as The Victorian Web, or the more graphical environments of 3D gaming.

Ah, musings that come to you when you've fallen asleep in the middle of the afternoon. I think that suggests an early night for me...

Materiality & Intangibility: Provisional programme

I am delighted to be able to post the provisional timetable for our PhD symposium Materiality & Intangibility: Contested Zones. There's plenty of delegate places left! See the flyer and booking form for more details.


Materiality and Intangibility: Contested Zones
A two-day international symposium for PhD students and early career researchers.
Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th December 2009.

Day 1
10.00am WELCOME (Dr Richard Sandell, Head of the School of Museum Studies)
10.30am KEYNOTE: Dr Sandra Dudley (University of Leicester)
11.30am Davies – Are we all curators now?
12.00pm Gestsson & Iervolino – An attempt to challenge the role of Art in the Public Sphere: embarking on a “journey” with a contemporary artwork

12.30pm LUNCH

2.00pm Visit to Live Art Event
2.30pm Fitzpatrick – Offerings at the Wall: An exploration of the artefacts from the Vietnam veterans’ war memorial Washington
3.00pm Wang – Looking for the subjectivity of British-Chinese in English Museums

3.30pm TEA & COFFEE

3.45pm Pieren, Lester & Marchant – Filling the void between museum displays and cultural identities to empower museum visitors
4.15pm Owain – Dynamic Music and Myths: DVD content as object.
5.00pm Visit to Live Art Event

6.30pm Group Dinner/Social Event
Day 2

9.30am TEA & COFFEE

10.00am KEYNOTE: Dr Kostas Arvanitis (University of Manchester)
11.00am McKenzie – From the Contested Zone: String figures in the museum.
11.30am Scott & Vine - Crafting the Viewer’s Experience: Digitizing the Maya
12.00pm Visit to Live Art Event

12.30pm LUNCH

2.00pm Moore – The Material in the Immaterial: An archive of 1930’s film from Angola and Namibia, and contemporary physical and material responses
2.30pm Wade – The Unknowable Exhibition: using the archive to reconstruct the 1839 Leeds Public Exhibition of Works of Art, Science, Natural History, and Manufacturing Skill
3.00pm Powell – Curating Chances

3.30pm TEA & COFFEE

3.45pm Gadsby – The Affect of Encouraging Emotional Values in the Interpretation of Real Objects
4.15pm Woodall – Lost and Found: The Mary Grey Collection
5.00pm KEYNOTE: Emeritus Professor Susan Pearce (University of Leicester)
5.45pm CLOSE

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

CFP: Museums and Popular Culture

Call for Papers
Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association

Libraries, Archives, Museums, and Popular Culture Area

The Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association annual conference will be held March 31 - April 3, 2010 in the Renaissance Grand Hotel St. Louis and across the street in the America's Center, in St. Louis, Missouri. Scholars from numerous disciplines will meet to share their Popular Culture research and interests.

The Libraries, Archives, Museums, and Popular Culture area is soliciting papers dealing with any aspect of Popular Culture as it pertains to libraries, archives, museums, or research. In the past this has included descriptions of research collections or exhibits, studies of popular images of libraries or librarians, analyses of web resources such as Wikipedia and YouTube, and reports on developments in technical services for collecting popular culture materials. Papers from graduate students are welcome.
Prospective presenters should send a one-page abstract with full contact information (electronic preferred) by November 30 2009, to:

Allen Ellis
Professor of Library Services
W. Frank Steely Library
Northern Kentucky University
Highland Heights, KY 41099-6101
FAX: 859-572-5390

Monday, October 05, 2009

Hands Off!

The Onion (a satirical American website) has published this hilarious "news" article about the Metropolitan Museum of Art allowing visitors to touch paintings if they pay membership fees. The picture is particularly great.

All levity aside, though, it does raise the old beast of a question about materiality in museums. Let's face it, people still want to touch certain things! And I have little doubt that if there was actually an option to pay more to look at a painting of one's choice over lunch in the cafeteria, people would take it!

So, in the spirit of the impossible, if you could fondle any object in any museum, which would it be? And how much would you pay for the privilege?

(I want to sleep in the Great Bed of Ware at the V&A - I'd pay up to a thousand pounds for that.)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Historical photographs of Leicester Market

For those that are interested, Leicester Market's website has a nice gallery of photographs from the 1930s to the present day.

I've got some jolly nice postcards of it too!

The Market seems to me to be one of the few constants in the development of the city over the last couple of hundred years. I noticed, as I walked through this afternoon, that traders are concerned about its continued future, worried that the Council has plans to evict them. Frankly, after the Bowstring Bridge debacle, nothing would surprise me about LCC.