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, December 29, 2009

CFP: dark/death/thanatourism, NYC April 21-22, 2010

CFP: Conference on Dark/Death/Thanatourism (New York, April 22-23, 2010)

Thanatourism, also known as dark or death tourism, refers to the exhibition, promotion and attraction to sites of violent death, such as former prisons or concentration camps, sites of murders, natural disasters and terror attacks, burial grounds and memorials. These sites are part of the recreational landscape of tourism, which, through the genre of thanatourism, has managed to incorporate this particular form of "negative sightseeing" into what is otherwise an industry dedicated to pleasure, time out of time, and escape, as well as to edification, spiritual experience, and personal transformation.
Rather than judge or critique such phenomena as "Holocaust tourism," pilgrimage to Ground Zero, or travels to New Orleans immediately after Katrina, this conference will raise and discuss the tensions that arise when juxtaposing sites of memory and tourism destinations. How does a state promote a site of tourism that criticizes the state itself? (Germany, Argentina). How does a state redefine its national identity after years of dictatorship, and what is the role of thanatourism in defining this new identity? (South Africa, Rwanda). What kind of visitors/tourists/pilgrims come to sites of memory, and how do they use and share the space? What are the tensions within a site of memory that is also a public artwork, often by a celebrity architect? What are the multiple functions of a memorial, and does commemoration remain the main purpose? How are sites of memory marketed by travel agents, guidebooks, and publicity material?

These are some of the issues that the conference will examine from a transnational and interdisciplinary perspective. The goal is not to compare the politics of memory or the architecture of memorials in different countries, but rather to identify fundamental issues and investigate the ways in which various sites of memory address them (or not).

Until recently, thanatourism has been studied mostly from a management and hospitality perspective. The conference aims to enrich the scholarship on the topic from a variety of methods and disciplines. Related topics include public policy, memory politics, trauma, art, human behavior, commerce, reception, media, and rituals, to name a few. We hope to cover prisons, concentration camps, "houses of terror," sites of terror attacks and natural disasters, from Argentina to Hungary, New Zealand to New Orleans, Cambodia to Ground Zero.

The conference will take place at New York University on Thursday, April 22 and Friday, April 23, 2009 and will include a keynote speaker in the field.

The conference sponsor is "Transitions," an academic partnership between New York University and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS, France). The conference organizer is Brigitte Sion, Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow in Religious Studies, New York University.
Unfortunately, no funding for travel or accommodation is available.

Please send a 250-word abstract, a 50-word narrative biography, and contact information in one single word or pdf document by January 28, 2010 to<>.
Acceptance letters will be sent by February 10.

CFP: JUPTRR Dark Tourism Issue

The Journal of Unconventional Parks, Tourism & Recreation Research (JUPTRR)


JUPTRR is soliciting manuscripts on dark tourism, the act of travel and visitation to sites, attractions, and exhibitions, which has real or re-created death, suffering or the seemingly macabre as a main theme (Stone, 2005). Examples of dark tourism locations include cemeteries, battlefields, prisons, hospitals, memorials, disaster sites, and haunted places.

For a broader discussion of dark tourism principles and practices, please visit The Dark Tourism Forum at

Submission deadline for the dark tourism issue is February 15th. Applied researchers, first-time authors, practitioners, graduate students, and researchers with a sense of exploration are encouraged to participate.

Articles submitted to JUPTRR should not be under review by any other journal or previously published. Published articles will be archived and may be used and shared in accordance with fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law.
• Email articles to in Word or rich text format.
• Include a cover page with a manuscript title and complete list of authors.
• Provide contact information for primary author (i.e., institution, mailing address, email, and telephone). Author names should not appear elsewhere in the manuscript to assist in blind review.
• Include an abstract of 120 words or less.
• Papers must be in English.
• Format using the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th edition) and APA Style Guide to Electronic References.

For additional information, please visit the Journal's website at

For clarification of topics for the Dark Tourism issue, contact Dr. Teresa O'Bannon, Editor at

Dr. Susan Van Patten, Executive Editor ( or
Dr. Teresa O'Bannon, Editor (
Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism
Radford University, Box 6963
Radford VA 24142
(540) 831-7720

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Did I dream this? Help!

I confess that I frequently vividly dream up extremely plausible (but alas! fictitious) things having to do with my research interests (like the time I dreamt that 18th century fashion dolls were actually foldable paper dolls, and I read about this on a website that had a picture of two 1830s women collapsing this doll and her accessories into a flat box...), and I fear this may have happened to me again. I might be having a Paul-McCartney-esque moment (he woke up with the tune of "Yesterday" stuck in his head, but refused to record it before he was convinced that he hadn't just had a song stuck in his head), so I need your help. Did I actually read something to the effect of "as professional conservation grew, collecting and exhibiting on a large scale became prohibitively expensive for museums"?? Or did I dream it? It sounds good, but I need to know if I can cite someone!!!

Friday, December 25, 2009

An Attic Advent: 25th December 2009

Scents of time Maya and Nenufar gift set (British Museum)

A beautiful gift for that special someone on any occasion. Introducing the Scents of time gift set with Maya - a beautiful scent with notes of jasmine and an array of tropical fruits and flowers and Nenufar - A transparent floral-green blue water lily bouquet, with the pungent aroma of nutmeg rounded by light powdery notes with angelica and almond. Perfume fit for a queen - enjoy the sacred scent of Cleaopatra and discover a lost fragrance from the ancient Americas.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!

I just wanted to wish all the Attic readers and contributers a happy festive season, whichever festival you are or are not celebrating. Take time out and I hope to see you back and refreshed for some more blogging in 2010!

Take Care all,

Jenny, in the Wilds of Wales...

An Attic Advent: 24th December 2009

Lego Lights Dynamo Torch (Science Museum)

20.00 sterling

No more scrabbling in the dark with this cheerful torch to light your way. With a bulb concealed in his foot, this LEGO man strides in to help when a little extra light is needed. And he's eco friendly too - just turn the crank handle and the torch lights up.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Attic Advent: 23rd December 2009

Whoops - nearly forgot today's advent surprise!

Magno Wooden Radio - Mini Edition (Design Museum)

Designed by Singgih Kartono, 2009

A brand new version of the bestselling wooden radios, now in a cool and cute mini edition!

Hand-crafted in an Indonesian farming village, the Magno AM/FM radio has a highly appealing mix of retro and modern styling.

Each wooden radio is made in an environmentally sustainable production process, which covers fair social standards for workers. The profits from the sale of the radios to the Design Museum Shop support the development of a plantation surrounding the production facility, including the ongoing education of 30 young people in handicraft and work skills.

Only new growth plantation wood is used and for every tree that is used in production, a new one is planted.

Naturally Harvested New Growth Wood


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

An Attic Advent: 22nd December

One for Jen...

Tenement T-shirt inspired by Tunnock's Caramel Wafer (Glasgow Museums)

Glasgow tenement T-shirt inspired by the famous Tunnock's Caramel Wafer. 100% cotton, M/L slim-fit (43cm across) ladies T-shirt with contrasting cuffs and neck rib, foil print.


Monday, December 21, 2009

An Attic Advent: 21st December

Egg Pants (Design Museum)
Designed by Design Glut NYC, 2008


Egg Pants have three stubby "legs" which will keep your breakfast eggs standing tall.

White on the outside and yellow on the inside, just like the eggs they hold.

While the material looks like ceramic, it is actually quite soft and flexible. The flexibility allows these little cups to stretch and give a perfect fit to all different sizes of eggs.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Running amok in Museum Studies

Merry Christmas from the School of Museum Studies secret community of elves, pirates and vikings!

An Attic Advent: 20th December

For Ceri...

Adopt a Book: The Poetical Works of Lord Byron (British Library)

Author:Lord George Gordon Byron
Published Date:1880
Library 1

A beautifully illustrated and bound edition, with a critical memoir by the editor WM Rosetti. English poet and a leading figue in Romanticism.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

For those of you who haven't yet heard, the sign over the gates of Auschwitz, the Polish concentration camp, which read "Arbeit Macht Frei" (work will set you free), has been stolen. Experts believe that this was a pre-planned theft to commission by someone who collects Nazi memorabilia. Certainly, it's not something that could be sold on the open market. If the deal fell through, the sign might be melted down, and this would be a real tragedy, as it is the materiality of Auschwitz that gives it its power. The article I have linked to explains it well - I agree that this is one instance where a reproduction would fail to be an adequate replacement.

London Debates Report

The School of Advanced Study is delighted to announce the publication of London Debates 2009: What role do museums play in the globalisation of culture?

The University of London's School of Advanced Study is pleased to announce the publication of a policy document on museums and the globalisation of culture, arising from its 2009 London Debates workshop.

The report, coauthored by a select group of early-career researchers drawn from across Europe and North America, incorporates innovative research in the humanities and social sciences and presents the most important results of a three-day workshop held at the School of Advanced Study in May 2009. This report will be disseminated to stakeholders and policy-makers at local, regional, national and European level. The report is available online at<> and print copies are available on request.

The London Debates 2009 report presents a series of recommendations for museums facing the myriad challenges and opportunities of globalisation. The report begins with an introductory essay by Sharon Macdonald, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester. This is followed by summaries presented by the workshop participants of the five dichotomous relationships through which museums are seen to play a key role in the globalisation of culture: continuity/discontinuity; the local/the global; the unique/the universal; inclusion/exclusion; the material/the immaterial. The report concludes with a series of action points that summarise the main recommendations of the early-career researchers.

The School of Advanced Study's London Debates is a series of three-day discussion workshops at which a subject of broad concern in the humanities and social sciences is debated by a small group of invited senior academics and 15 outstanding early-career researchers, chosen by open competition. The 2009 workshop was opened by the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Sir Graeme Davies, and featured talks from leading figures in museology, including: Professor Sir Mark Walport, the Director of the Wellcome Trust; Dr Cilly Kugelmann, Program Director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin; Professor Sharon MacDonald, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester; Lars Tharp, Director of the Foundling Museum; and Dr Paul Basu, Reader in Material Culture and Museum Studies at University College London. The next London Debates workshop, 13–15 May 2010, will be on the topic of 'How does Europe in the 21st century address the legacy of colonialism?'. Further information on the London Debates is available from the School website:<>

Professor Naomi Segal, Director of the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies at the School, was delighted to see the first of the London Debates, a series that she had devised, take off so well: "The event was a great success with an excellent atmosphere and a brand new network generated. The aim was to provide the opportunity for early-career researchers to meet one another, to have access to senior researchers, and to make a significant contribution to debate in an important cross-disciplinary area. It succeeded."

For more information, please contact Rosemary Lambeth at the School of Advanced Study, University of London on 020 7862 8695 /<>

The School of Advanced Study at the University of London is a unique scholarly community in the heart of London. It brings together the specialised scholarship and resources of ten prestigious postgraduate research institutes to offer academic opportunities across a wide range of subject fields in the humanities and social sciences. The School is the only institution in the UK nationally funded to facilitate and promote research in the humanities and social sciences.<>

An Attic Advent: 19th December

Tate Pocket Diary 2010
RRP £6.36 Save £1.36 Now £5.00

This handy and attractive diary is a week-to-week view, with twelve colour reproductions of works by modern artists from the Tate collection. Featured artists include Pollock, Picasso, Warhol and Johns.

This matt laminated hardback pocket diary is 144 pages with a ribbon to highlight the week. Sized 155 x 110 mm.



Friday, December 18, 2009

An Attic Advent: 18th December

Sutton Hoo jewellery (British Museum)

An unusual earrings and bangle set based on the border design of a purse lid found at the famous Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo site in Suffolk, England. The bracelet is sterling silver with carnelian.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

An Attic Advent: 17th December

Indian Pattern A4 Notebook

This fabulously flamboyant design is a detail from an album of Indian flower designs in the V&A collection (opaque water-colour on paper. India, 1750-1800 © Victoria and Albert Museum V&A: 4779-1854). We thought it so splendid that we chose it to adorn an A4 soft backed notebook.

Created exclusively for the V&A. 46 leaves of 140gsm plain cartridge paper, acid free, sized for wet media.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blog Round-up

Some interesting things I've recently spotted in the blogosphere...

The New History Lab has its own advent calender. Colin Hyde from EMOHA is blogging a daily post about historic Leicester. Highlights so far include a Victorian photograph of a family once resident at 1, Salisbury Road and the foundations of Leicester Civic Society.

Also over at the NHL blog Matt has written of the current state of Raw Dykes - Roman earthworks adjacent to Aylestone Road. And you thought Jewry Wall was neglected! Shocking.

For the knitting obsessives amongst us, Ysolda - knitwear designer extraordinaire - has written about a recent visit to the V&A and specifically the museum's collection of lace-knit baby garments. I wonder where in the building they are on display - any ideas?

An Attic Advent: 16th December

The Rest is Up to You (SFMOMA)
By Cohen Morano and Aye Jay Morano

He may be only eight years old, but Cohen Morano has already had several solo art shows. For years, his inspired father has been inviting other artists to embellish Cohen's watercolors. The collaborators now number more than 100, and include the likes of Paul Frank and Shepherd Fairey.

2009; softcover; 176 pages


CFP: The Task of the Curator (Univ of California, 14 May 10)



Museum and Curatorial Studies (MACS) at UC-Santa Cruz brings together museum professionals and scholars from a variety of disciplines to study the poetics and politics of display. This year we are hosting a number of events related to the 2009-2010 research theme, "Critical Curations." We are pleased to welcome Griselda Pollock, Irit Rogoff, and Carolina Ponce de León for our annual Speaker Series. For more information about our organization and events, please visit:

On May 14, 2010, our year of collaboration will culminate with a conference open to scholars from around the world. "The Task of the Curator" will explore the roles of curators in relation to how objects are displayed in museums and galleries, considering a variety of disciplinary and professional perspectives. The title, inspired by Walter Benjamin's theories of translation, brings attention to the often overlooked or naturalized labor of curators, which involves subtle but nonetheless transformative acts of framing and poetic interpretation. Presenters are encouraged to "look outside of the white box" toward new and alternative display methods. Proposals are due on February 5th, 2010 (instructions below).

A PDF of our CFP and updated information can be found at:


Keynote Speaker:
World Arts & Cultures, UCLA

Panel Moderators:
History of Consciousness, UCSC

History of Art & Visual Culture, UCSC

Performance Studies & Rhetoric, UC-Berkeley

Visual Arts, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Opening Remarks:
History of Consciousness, UCSC

Closing Remarks:
History of Consciousness, UCSC

Please send the following documents by Friday, February 5, 2010 via e-mail to:
* 350-500 word abstract
* Curriculum Vitae

We welcome and encourage early submissions. Papers will be accepted on an ongoing basis until the deadline. Final Drafts will be due Friday, April 23, 2010 to

* Artist as Curator
* Exhibition as Translation
* Critical Histories of the Curator & Curatorial Practices
* Contemporary Approaches to the Art/artifact Debate
* Feminist/Queer Curating
* Radical Curating, Curatorial Interventions
* Marxist Museology, Archival Anarchy
* Curating Performance and/or Performance Art
* Para-Sites: Exhibiting in Alternative Spaces
* New Media & Display Practices
* Disciplining Objects in Museums & Galleries
* Comparative Studies of Exhibitions
* Strategies for Relaying Trauma in Museums & Galleries
* New Approaches to the Archives
* Collaboration and/or Curatorial Collectives
* Producing Virtual Collections & Displays
* Curating and Authorship
* Reflections on Biennale Projects
* Outsider Exhibition Proposals
* Dramaturgy of Display, Experience-Driven Practices
* Addressing Visitors, Imaginary Publics, Engaging Feedback
* Curatorial Mistakes
* Exhibitions & Pedagogy

This event is co-sponsored by The Center for Cultural Studies and the History of Consciousness Department at UC-Santa Cruz.

Submitted by:
Lucian Gomoll
Director, Museum and Curatorial Studies
University of California, Santa Cruz


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:


CONF/CFP: Second Call for Papers: ICCPR2010 International Conference on Cultural Policy Research

The 6th International Conference on Cultural Policy Research

Welcome to the 6th International Conference on Cultural Policy
Research, Jyväskylä,
Finland, 24 - 27 August 2010. The Conference will be organized by The Cultural Policy Unit of Jyväskylä University in collaboration with the International Journal of Cultural Policy.

Second Call for Papers and Sessions: Due to several inquiries, the Scientific Committee has decided to postpone the deadline for proposals. The new deadline to submit proposals is 6th of January 2010.

The Conference Programme will be published on week 51.

Warm Wishes for the Holiday Season from the Organizing team!

Join our PhD community!

The School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester is advertising 6 PhD scholarships and awards, for full- and part-time students to begin in the academic year 2010/11.

AHRC PhD studentships – 2 awards (covering fees and stipend) are available for new full time PhD students to study any museum or heritage related PhD (HEU applicants only)

Museum Studies PhD Studentships – 4 awards (each valued at £12,000) are available in the following subject areas (HEU and International applicants):

  • Landscapes, cultural politics and policy
  • Narrative Environments
  • Senses and Emotions
  • New technologies and museum learning

Museum Studies PhD Research Awards – 2 awards (each valued at £6,000) are available in the following subject areas (HEU and International applicants):

  • Architecture and Design
  • Digital Heritage

Please find full details at

The University of Leicester's School of Museum Studies has the highest proportion of world-leading research in any subject in any UK university (RAE 2008), in 2009 the University was awarded the Times Higher Education University of the Year Award.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An Attic Advent: 15th December

Anemone Lamp (Art Institute Chicago)

Illuminate your space with unique contemporary lighting design. Hang alone or in pairs as shown here for a unique statement. Made of Tyvek, this light shade is a three dimensional structure composed of connected four-wall cells. Anemone unzips to accommodate a protective metal sphere that serves as the lamps structural core. Cord and socket included. Requires one 60 watt bulb (not included). Made in USA.


Monday, December 14, 2009

And we're off...

Our PhD symposium Materiality & Intangibility is underway! Check the blog regularly for blog posts and images.

An Attic Advent: 14th December

"Schlep" tote bag (Jewish Museum, London)


"Schlep" tote bag by Barbara Shaw. Includes the word Schlep in both Yiddish and Hebrew, including the definition of the word in English. A must have for every shopper. Schlep your shopping home in style! 100% cotton. Cream bag with black text and black handles.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Historic Images of Leicester

Some fascinating vintage photographs of Leicester from the English Heritage archive are available to view here. The 1930s shots of Lewis' Department Store are particular favourites of mine.

An Attic Advent: 13th December

Cushions (The Freud Museum)

Relax & unwind with the father of psychoanalysis himself! Wind it up in the back and an old-fashioned music box plays the song 'Memories'


Saturday, December 12, 2009

An Attic Advent: 12th December

Skull & Crossbones Hoodie (National Maritime Museum)

Even pirates need to keep warm, so rug up with our fantastic fleece lined skull and crossbones hooded sweatshirt.

This black sweatshirt features a white skull and crossbones at chest height on the front, as well as a hood and a useful front pocket. At the back there is another skull and cross bones, this time outlined in white towards the bottom of the sweatshirt.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Pre-symposium excitement

In excited anticipation of the symposium, I was inspired to create the following picture...

Ok, so it's Friday, and my brain is obviously melting. Anyway, I'm looking forward to meeting other folks on Monday, and I'm now off to make up the conference packs.

An Attic Advent: 11th December

Leonardo Finger Puppet (The National Gallery)

A hand made finger puppet of the famous painter Leonardo da Vinci.

Made with polyester fibre stuffing, this finger puppet is perfect for both adults and children alike.

Suitable for ages 4+.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Materiality and Intangibility: Contested Zones

What's shaping up to be the symposium of the decade has its own blog. Check it out here.

An Attic Advent: 10th December

Miners in a Pub mounted print (Amgueddfa Cymru Shop)
Price: £5.99

A single mounted print showing a group of colliery men enjoying a drink in Cwm Bach, Aberdare, about 1940. One of three prints depicting life during the heyday of the Welsh coal industry.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

An Attic Advent: 9th December

Camera Diana F+ (National Portrait Gallery)

Price: £86.95
Members price: £78.26

With its square 4x4cm images and various light and flash settings, this vinatge-style camera is perfect for those who seek all things retro.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

An Attic Advent: 8th December

Marmite Plate (IWM)

A lovely plate featuring an iconic brand, sure to add vintage chic to any kitchen. Available in a variety of colours, these porcelain plates are dishwasher safe.


Monday, December 07, 2009

An Attic Advent: 7th December

District moquette door stop (London Transport Museum)

A stylish and unique door stop crafted by Matt Fothergill using District moquette fabric with a leather trim. Moquette is a particularly versatile and hard wearing material that is used as seating fabric.

This brightly coloured geometric fabric is reputedly designed by the Design Research Unit in the late 1970’s for use in a new fleet of trains then about to be introduced on the District Line (D78 stock). The fabric design was also used on most new buses entering service in London, notably the large fleets of Metrobus and Titan types as well as new trains purchased for use on the Jubilee Line (1983 stock). Four colours were used in the moquette design: orange, yellow, brown and black which complemented brighter bus and train interiors which gave London’s buses and trains a distinctive identity in the 1980’s and became a subconscious icon of the city for 1980’s residents and visitors.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Viva tips

So, it's my Viva on Friday.

Got any survival tips for me?

An Attic Advent: 6th December

Roman Soldier Set (Museum of London)

A 16 piece Roman magnetic dress up roman soldier set, which is perfect for anyone wanting to know what a legionary or centurion looked like. These pieces can be attached to any metal surface.


Saturday, December 05, 2009

An Attic Advent: 5th December

Pan Am Toiletry Bag (Smithsonian)

The collapsible toiletry bag with handle is perfect for personal items and TSA-approved containers. Rugged leather-like exteriors are embossed with the authentic Pan Am logo. Custom medallion zipper pulls and nylon logo lining. 6"h. x 10"w. x 5"d.

Ground-breaking commercial aircraft are exhibited at our National Air and Space Museum and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Period aviation clothing and accessories is also a large part of the collection.


Friday, December 04, 2009

Museum advertising takes to the skies!

Just spotted this on Tumblr.

Bit of background info here.

Virtual Footsteps

Google has added Pompeii to its Streetview service. Apparently, you can also virtual-visit Stonehenge. I'm very interested in visuality, especially of places, and Google Streetview to me is a fascinating meld of traditional cartography with filmic visuality, so that the mapped point of view becomes both omniscient and yet individual, almost as in a dreamscape.

This summer, I heard Mary Beard talk about nineteenth-century imaginings of Pompeii and the slow development of its tourist myth. She made some interesting points about how the archaeology of the site, and what bits were accessible influenced how the city's history was perceived. For example, the fact that in the Romantic period, you entered the site via the necropolis, contributed to it being seen as a City of the Dead. In the recently-screened Thirties in Colour documentary on the BBC4, techniques from Hollywood were used to revivify the city (view in iPlayer here, starts at 6:38), to the extent that the plaster casts of bodies were dragged back out in the street from the museum! Now, with Streetview, we can all tap into the video-game visuality of "participaction"; you can walk the streets as a tourist/inhabitant amalgam, the virtuality of the medium adding, I would argue, an extra freedom of imagination.

What's fascinating about this is that while it gives one the illusion of access and freedom, the perspective is still pre-determined. You cannot turn off into an alley. You cannot stand on your tiptoes and peek into the darkened interior of an ancient villa. You can "walk" the straight lines traversed by the 360-degree camera. It's the strangest combination of two- (pictorial) and three-(spatial) dimensional vision I've ever seen, and I am fascinated to see how it will affect perceptions of place.
Check out this fantastic blog from the Mary Greg Collection, an interpretation project which is underway at Manchester Art Gallery. The creators of this website will be presenting at our symposium (Materiality and Intangibility: Contested Zones) this month so yet another reason to check it out and come along!

An Attic Advent: 4th December

Set of 7 Shoe Ornaments (Met, NY)

Brighten up the Holiday season with our charming selection of one of a kind shoe ornaments. Each ornament in this set is based on dazzling shoes in the Museum’s Costume Institute. Included are the Art Deco Tapestry, Venetian Carnival, Red Beaded, Gold and Silver, Masquerade, Versailles Embellished, and Green Slingback ornaments—all fit to jazz up the Holiday season.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Bands with Museum in the title

After Amy's Spotify playlist of songs about museums, this band caught my eye in The Guardian because they actually have museum in their name, albeit in French - Musee Mecanique. Paul Lester hails them as 'hushed and gentle, elegant and restrained' and they play multiple instruments, sometimes more than one together. It seems that they are actually named after a museum in San Francisco called, yes you've guessed it, the Musee Mecanique which has 'one of the world's largest privately owned collections of mechanically operated musical instruments and antique arcade machines' - visit their website here for more.

UK Museums on the Web, Part the Seventh - and Last

Richard Morgan's Keynote

The internet has scattered the presence of museums across the world. In an informative and exciting speech, Richard Morgan presented how museums should and are dealing with this, and what the role of the museum is in the world of the Semantic Web. How do we, as cultural and marketable institutions, integrate the maverick activity of the online world with the 'corporate' activity of the museum?

The first task facing any museum in such an endeavor is to capture it's data. Simple enough, you might think. But with the magnitude of potential taxonomies that museums can use and the costs that are involved in such data collection, this task can seem insurmountable. But it isn't. Through generating innovative user interfaces and allowing members of the public to contribute to data collection, projects such as FABRIC and World Beach allow diverse and previously unconsidered connections to be made between diverse objects and permit wide ranging browsing options for system users.

But how do museums provide this? It's all very well, of course, talking from such a famous and well supported institution as the V&A, but what of museums which don't have such resources at their disposal? There's no doubt that this is hard. Richard Morgan showed that there are the resources out there - museums are already good at building strong concepts and projects which address particular niches, and there are already many tools out there (such as Flickr) that museums can use, but it is imperative that museums build networks to gain the resources and expertise to put such ideas to use online. There are those museums, of course, who are less aware of the possibilities of such work, and it is here, I maintain, that MCG needs to work to support institutions and groups.

We must move from niches to a world of web insight and intelligence. We must attempt to find links and fragments that aren't immediately obvious. We should use technology to work out how items in our collections are relevant – perhaps in terms of clothing fashion, for the V&A, it might be possible to predict trends, which we should learn to anticipate rather than exploit. We need to move from this observation and intelligence to action and participation. We need to inform consumers of information. 'Cutting Edge' projects such as Decode should of course be lauded - there is a world out there that is waiting for us to explore and enjoy. But when I say us, I mean all of us. The newly branded MGC aims to work for that, to connect, support, and inspire. I might be buzzing from yesterday still, but I am sure that they can.

Thank you to the V&A and the MCG for such an exciting, informative and enjoyable day. As my first real professional conference, it will remain in my memory for a long time to come. There are, no doubt, problems to be faced. But I hope that the museum community can face them together. I know that the innovative MCG will provide a wonderfully open forum in which ideas can be heard - from ALL members of the museological world.

An Attic Advent: 3rd December

Less Is More Mug
Designed by Build x Design Museum, 2009


Part of the Design Museum Shop’s exclusive product range, this mug bears one of our most favourite design maxims; “Less Is More”.

You will be sure to drink more tea when you own this mug, so perhaps add less sugar, to reflect the maxim effectively.

The phrase “Less Is More” is commonly attributed to architect Mies Van Der Rohe and is often referred to in discussions of anything relating to Modernism. Many designers debunk it as nonsensical (including architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Robert Venturi) while others stick to it as a defining mantra (Dieter Rams, John Maeda and Apple’s Jonathan Ive). Its true origination is in the 1855 poem by Robert Browning, Andrea del Sarto. It is possible Van Der Rohe extracted the phrase from there, which brings to mind that other well worn phrase; “Good designers copy, great designers steal”.

Each mug has a design on the front, the back and the base, so whether you are left handed or right handed, you can still let people know you are a design afficionado who enjoys a fine brew.

A satisfying Design Museum Shop item, designed by Build, made in the UK.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

UK Museums on the Web, Part the Sixth

Accessible digital culture: past, present and future
Helen Petrie and Christopher Power, Human Computer Interaction Research Group, Department of Computer Science, University of York, Chaired by Marcus Weissen.

This presentation provided the linking bridge between the MCG Conference and the Jodi Awards. Presented both in English and BSL, the discussion centred around challenging and empowering methods in which digital media can be used to engage all, including sometimes marginalised communities.

Accessibility for those with disabilities and older people is often something that is tacked on at the end. But what about seeing it as a positive challenge?

In the mid noughties there was a huge interest in the potential as digital culture as an inclusive tool. The Web Content Accessibility Guidlines was produced much earlier, and the Disability Rights Commission Formal Investigation between 2003-2005 found a significant lack in websites. Culture Online and the MLA promoted accessibility as part of their mandates, so there is knowledge, experience and potential.

A new study of Web Accessibility is starting. Interestingly, in the commercial sector, the situation seems not to have improved. As technology develops, accessibility becomes an increasingly complex issue. The law in relation to web accessibility has not yet been used successfully. How can we keep accessibility in the arena in the world of the rapidly changing, sensory, semantic web? What is being asked of us in working in digital accessibility?

Perhaps there is a new burst of creativity. Martha Lane Fox has been appointed as the Chairman of a Digital Inclusion Task Force. What else can be done and what does this mean? The Eurpoean Commission is continuing to push for eAccessibility. The old WCAG aged and was not reflective of the changes in technology. Officially WCAG 2.0 was released in December last year. But very few people are using it. Why? Is it harder to use? It is certainly different, both in form and content and there are a significant number of criticisms of it that I am not going to go into here. I'm sure you can find them yourselves.

We need, as a community, to start testing the technologies that we are interested in. It isn't all doom - we are gaining a new insight into what accessibility actually means. And what it means is: Who is the audience and what do they want? What does it really mean to adapt our content- whatever that content is? Through the development of accessibility networks, such as the EC's eAccessibility, we can begin to work towards this goal.

Museums are meaning makers, amongst other things, and they embed their meaning and content in technologies. It is this meaning which is the crucial content - and it must be communicated to all, in all possible and suitable ways. It is a hard task. Because meaning is so individual, we cannot hope to present exactly the same meaning to all people, but through personalisation we can enable them to make the richest, deepest meanings that they can.

UK Museums on the Web, Part the Fifth


This session explored haptic, gestural, emotional and embodied ways of engaging with new media content. This is where materiality meets virtuality, where anthropology and material culture studies meet technology and development. How do we, and how could we, experience museum content through new media?

Joe Cutting - Telling Stories with Games.

There's a lot of uncertainty about how museums might use games to tell their stories. People see them as unreal somehow. But games tell us a lot - and they can be very locally based and cheap. The Company of Merchant Adventurers of York commissioned a game, which Loic played as an example for us, providing a very entertaining interlude! (By the way, he made a profit.) It gives you an idea of what Merchant Adventurers did, where they sailed and what they sold. The storytelling potential is enormous. The crucial element, really, is learning through feedback, which is what you do with a story and what museums need to apply with their games. You need to carefully consider what you need to make a good game. You need to have a learning purpose, a choice, and gradual progression from failure to success. The purpose of a museum, I suggest.

By the way, you might want to check out Lego Star Wars...

Anne Kahr-Hojland from DREAM - Ego Trap

Ego Trap was developed as a PhD Project at the Experimentarium. It is a digital reality or narrative built with secondary schools as the primary target, but is open to all. With the aim of stimulating interest in science and improving the learning within the museum, this narrative structure added to the existing exhibition at the Experimentarium. It is accessed through your mobile (which is free within the museum). This project is an example of real life application of the multiple levels of narrative and information which were discussed in a previous post, but there is also a social element, whereby people come to learn about themselves and others, and how they relate to the real world. Works such as this promote the questioning of the didactic nature of some museum displays by questioning the nature of the interpretive agents. This isn't to say that there aren't problems - presenting multiple narratives risks the primacy of one over another. Nonetheless, I think it can be used. Different participants benefit from it in different ways. New technology is, in my opinion, an opportunity for museums to add to what they were originally set up to do - to explore the world. For one thing, the museum is itself a technology, and in some places, it is still a new one.

Victoria Tillotson - i-Shed and the Pervasive Media Studio

The studio is a research facility in the heart of the city of Bristol, which provides access to community groups, artists, education and IT companies. It aims to produce immersive environments in which people can work, through installations in public spaces and buildings. The kernal of the project was Mobile Bristol, which launched mscape, a website in which people can create information which is linked to the geographic environment. Though it is currently limited in the hardware upon which it runs (HP iPAQs), funding is coming in to develop in this area. Using such technologies, fictions, and present and former realities can be played out in the here and now, revealing hidden histories and current political issues (the Soho Theatre's Drom project engaged with Romany history and culture and the problems that they face, for example, through online involvement and physical presence). The use of 'pervasive games' has the potential to be very widespread and diverse - long or short lasting, socially and geographically extensive or locally and individually based. I wonder, how would you yourselves choose to use such a technology in the heritage sector?

Here's an interesting example: As If It Were The Last Time

Ah, the possibilities - tell me your thoughts, please.

UK Museums on the Web, Part the Fourth

'Open Mic'

A sequence of 5 minute presentations highlighted projects and concepts in short bursts. The ability of people to sign up on the day, to call for assistance, comment and input from their colleagues is an extremely valuable opportunity to advertise and learn about proposals and initiatives. Projects highlighted include Manchester Art Galleries Public Sculpture QR and Augmented Reality tagging project, BMAG's Pre-Raphaelite Online Resource,'s proposed collaborative video conferences between museums and schools, the art of successful blogging and Hartlepool Art Gallery's Articus website...and I'm sure they'd be interested in your views!

In all of these cases, the issue of measuring success is prominent. How do you define success for a museum or project? It's certainly a problem. The issues of usability and accessibility are also highlighted - for museum staff too, not just the public. Any suggestions?

Uniting the Open Mic was serving key audiences - and working with varied clients across - and beyond - the sector. We need to address this diversity.

This came after lunch - and I'd like to compliment the conference on it's provision of vegan eatables!

UK Museums on the Web, Part the Third


Usually, we think of museums as an experience within walls. But with the rise of mobile technology, the external possibilities, and for pre- and post- museum experiences increase. Three more presenters, Paul Golding, Andy Ramsden, and Mike Ellis were invited to discuss different aspects of this.

The first, Paul Golding's address, was rather technical, yet accessible, dealing with devices, applications and issues that you might be able to use in bringing the situated web into the museum. Possibilities and trends suggest the possibilities for museums in a world of augmented reality, geo-tagging and locational content. With people using virtual worlds and three dimensional computer generated realities, then the possibilities for museums become both wider and stranger.

Andy Ramsden spoke about QR codes, which we are actually using at the conference! Coming from a teaching and learning perspective, he discusses the applicability of QR codes to the museum and questions if they are simply a fad. Given the information about the technologies provided above, I am dubious if this will be the future. However, they do have applications - physical spaces can be simply connected to electronic information and allows readers and users to comment and augment the provided information. RSS delivery becomes much simpler and accessible from mobile devices using QR codes which aggregate all the information. Physical and virtual learning materials can be connected. For museums, the possibilities arise for guided tours with accessible informational and discussions which are simply and cheaply changed. This is useful - but it depends on people having the technology. While this may be true for many people, I do wonder whether those without the money to use such technologies, or without the training, however few these may be, will lose out.

Mike Ellis, with great humour, addresses the above with a question. 'Yes, but, what about the real world?' in a general philosophical exploration of what the technological developments mean. the potential, he says, is limited only to the imagination of everyone. How does content and meaning flow between the virtual and real space? In the realm, he says, of the 'virtreal'...

The potential, Mike Ellis feels (and I tend to agree), lies mainly in the layering of objects and information. This can become so much richer and deeper and people have the access to much more varied levels of information with far more ease than they ever had before. THIS is what we can use technology for - to integrate at a more intimate level with the real world than we ever thought we could. But it depends on a willingness and the resources to engage with, invest money in, and embed the concepts within our minds and lives so that they become natural and invisible...

UK Museums on the Web, Part the Second


The social possibilities provided by the Web are immense. They stretch far beyond Facebook or Twitter. The web, really, is a social tool and the first three projects presented showed the diverse possibilities for interaction that the Web provides.

'A History of The World in 100 Objects'

This is a project that I've blogged about here before. Concerns were raised at the time as to what the purpose of the project actually was. I don't think the publicity really presented the story in full - it's an incredibly interesting project. It isn't just limited to the Radio 4 programme presented by Neil MacGregor, but stretches far beyond that. CBBC will be broadcasting a programme called 'Relic: Guardians of the Museum'. From the objects chosen, a website is being generated which tells the story of the objects and allows people to read and comment whilst listening to the broadcast, an opportunities to link to the British Museum website. Not only this, but museums and regional BBC networks from across the country - and indeed, it is hoped, across the world - are involved in partnerships to create their own local versions of this site, which the public can contribute to. The public will also be able to contribute objects important to them to the main website, which is hoped to run from next year until at least the Cultural Olympiad in 2012.

Tower Hamlets Summer University

Tower Hamlets is an inspiring educative and social project. Originally beginning as an anti-crime initiative, over the last 14 years it has provided free summertime courses for young people in the East End of London. But the name is something of a misnomer - it is nothing to do with Tower Hamlets Borough Council and actually operates all the year around and since April 2007 they have been operating across all the London Boroughs.

Their use of social networking site such as Facebook, and Tumblr is inspiring. There are certainly problems in using such websites - issues of child protection and the possibilities of negative feedback presented in a public place are some of the things which Denise Drake, the speaker, highlighted. You have to carefully manage yourself. Negativity must be responded to positively, not simply deleted or ignored. You should maintain a professional distance between your work and personal online identities, and you should always treat people with the same respect that you would in real life.

But how can such techniques be applied to museums? I think with the increasing interactivity that the web allows, the rules that Denise Drake applies to her work hold true for museums - not just for those who manage education programmes, but also those who manage websites and blogs to which the public can contribute.

Always treat people with respect
treat Comments as rapidly as possible
make sure the content is relevant and timely
always expect the unexpected.

Forget who your audience is – use the right register of voice
Don't remove negative comments
Don't appear online after work – this could be seen as unprofessional.

There are many resources that are available - E-mint, the Facebook Developers Page and Mashable: The Social Media Guide

Go on and join in!

Wikipedia Loves Art 2009/ Britain Loves Wikipedia 2010

Started by Brooklyn Museum in 2009, Wikipedia Loves Art invited people to go to museums to take photographs of objects chosen to illustrate particular subjects. Though intended as a data gathering exercise for Wikipedia, it became a huge participatory event - becoming something of a competition to see how many photos people could upload! Flickr, Twitter and Facebook communities all arose and the collaboration and engagement between people, collections and museums increased exponentially...

The only UK participant was the V&A and they are now spearheading a campaign in the UK for Britain Loves Wikipedia 2010. I wonder how much participation we'll get here?

An interesting question for you to ponder which arose from the Q&A...should museums use the content that is there, or should they build it? What do you think of these projects? I'd really like to hear your views.

UK Museums on the Web, Part the First

We have had a lovely welcome to the morning by Ross Parry and Gail Durbin, Head of V&A Online. The aims of this conference are manifold and interesting. In recognition,

A theme for the conference is chosen every year. After last year's rather technical subject 'The Semantic Web', the aim of this year is to return to the world of museums and to engage with the social, situated, and sensory aspects of the interaction of museums and the web.

In a world hit with recession, it may be difficult for people to engage with technologies - but perhaps those technologies can also provide the way to solve problems and get involved with people who can help - or to help themselves. Tied in with the Jodi Awards, accessibility is key.

The web is changing. It is becoming embedded in many things all around us. There are many material ways of engaging with online content - far more than ever before. Let us see where the ideas can take us.

More to Come...

An Attic Advent: 2nd December

Geometric cufflinks (British Museum)

Geometry lies at the heart of Islamic design. Interlacing circles, triangles, stars and polygons underpin the decoration of objects and architecture throughout the Muslim world. The vibrant intellectual environment at the medieval Arab and Persiancourts fostered the development of science, mathematics and geometry which had an impact on the arts of Islam. This particular design has been inspired by the geometrical designs on the inlaid wood and ivory sarcophagus of the first Safavid ruler,Shah Isma 'il I, at the Ardabil Shrine, Iran, AD 1524.


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

An Attic Advent: 1st December

Fuschia Draped Jewel Purse By Louise Buchan

This exclusive limited edition purse is inspired by an album of designs for Indian jewellery (c.1774, Faizabad) from the V&A's Indian and South East Asian collections.

Hand printed by Louise Buchan for the V&A. Made in England.

Exclusive to the V&A.