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.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year 2011

Dear Attic Readers, Followers, and Contributors, at home and away - we wish you a very happy and healthy New Year!

2010 was an eventful time for the Department - two members of the Attic completed their PhDs; we were joined by new Atticites; there were Museum Crawls and Competitions; and of course lots of funding, job, publication, and conference announcements.

Next year, we hope to bring you even more exciting stuff - the Curiouser and Curiouser conference will take place, Research Week promises to be an exciting event, and of course there are more reports from Brown Bags and other seminars. The Attic will also be partnering with The New History Lab for a special event, and we will probably be joined by even more museum studies PhD students next fall.

Why don't you use this space to let us know what features you enjoy and what you would like to see more of? Perhaps you are dying for a new layout, or have an idea for a new poll? Do you have any zany museum quotes to add to our header, or museum comics to share? Let us know, and we will try to accommodate your request.

Meanwhile, have a safe celebration and see you on the other side!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Museums and the Web 2011

Museums and the Web 2011 (MW2011)
the international conference for culture and heritage online
April 6-9, 2011
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

==> MW2011 Program Online <==
The program for MW2011 [our tag!] is now available on the conference web site, featuring contributions of more than 165 people from 15 countries. See for details.

Our thanks to the International Program Committee -- -- for their peer-review of proposals, and to everyone who proposed for making that task so challenging.

==> Register Online <==
Registration for Museums and the Web 2011 is now open. Register online before December 31, 2010 for the best rates. See

Remember, pre-conference tours and workshops have limited enrollment, and are first-come first-served. Register early to ensure your choice.

==> Demonstration Proposals <==
It's not too late to participate in MW2011. The deadline for Demonstration proposals is December 31, 2010. For full details, and a link to the online proposal form, see

==> Scholarships <==
Several different scholarships are available to assist professionals from smaller institutions with attending Museums and the Web. See for details. Many scholarships have a December 31, 2010 deadline.

==> Need To Know More <==
Full details about MW2011 are on the conference Web site at

See frequently asked questions -- and ask yours if it isn't answered -- at

You can also follow @museweb on Twitter and connect with MW on various social networking sites. See for details.

Email with any questions.

We hope to see you in Philadelphia.

jennifer and David

- - - - - - - - - - -
Jennifer Trant and David Bearman
Co-Chairs: Museums and the Web 2011
MW2011 | April 6-9, 2011 | Philadelphia, PA |

produced by Archives & Museum Informatics | 158 Lee Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
email: | phone +1 416 691 2516 | fax +1 416 352-6025

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Brown Bag 15th December - Queering the Museum

Brown Bag 15th December 2010

Queering the Museum”

Matt Smith and Andy Horn

Clearly, there was something about this Brown Bag seminar which felt, well, right. I have to say that it was one of the best attended in quite some time, which given the time of year and the general grottiness of the weather in these parts, is really cheering. So thank you everyone, for attending, and I hope you got as much out of it as I did.

I think, however, the biggest thanks have to go to the organisers and presenters themselves. Marianna and Lisanne did a great job in bringing in two such affable and interesting presenters. Matt Smith, an artist and curator working mainly in ceramics, and Andy Horn, Exhibitions Manager at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery spoke to us, at times amusingly, and at others rather movingly, about their intervention project at BMAG, Queering the Museum. (Incidentally, both are former students here - it's nice to see what people go on to do!)

Running from 4th November this year, until 31st January next (so get in whilst you can!) this project, run in conjunction with SHOUT, brings out the stories which BMAG, along with many museums, doesn’t usually tell. Though in this context the concentration is largely upon LGBTI culture, Matt stresses that ‘queer’ can be applied to people beyond this community. The stories of the non-normative, the unrepresented, those of us who at times feel excluded: these are the stories of the ‘queer’.

Using his own original artworks alongside existing displays and juxtapositions of objects from the stores, Matt has intervened in the displays throughout the museum in a manner which is paradoxically both overt and subtle. His intentions, he explained, were to explore why museums find it difficult to represent queer culture, and examine ways in which they could do so, despite the frequent paucity of directly related materials. By examining a variety of themes, which included the questioning of museum protocols, the questioning of heterosexual representation, slang and popular culture, politics, and the idea of ‘queer as a verb’ Matt and BMAG have created an intervention which seems both challenging and positive.

As I haven’t seen the intervention yet, though I intend to visit BMAG when I go home for the Yuletide break, I can’t really comment on its’ appearance in reality, however, I can certainly comment on the rationale behind it. Stemming from Gay Birmingham Remembered and the Proud History Exhibition at the Central Library in 2008 and 2006 respectively, the project from Andy’s point of view was one which could tackle negative representations of LGBTI culture, which could provide a way of re-imagining the collections of BMAG, and which could allow this 19th century institution to represent the contemporary in a way which only it could, subtly, fairly, and powerfully.

But it was this very institutional nature which was of concern for both Andy and Matt. Though museums should be challenged to push the boundaries of what they represent, it can often be difficult, for various reasons, to do so. However, the endeavour is not a Quixotic one, for when you do succeed, as Andy pointed out, the ramifications can be immense, far more effective than the same kind of representation in contemporary art galleries, which are often so much more likely to challenge our expectations of material culture and its meaning. Because the museum ‘queered’ is a strange thing, at once comforting, and yet not what it was. Repositioning and unsettling the museum, an institution often perceived as so static, is a powerful statement, but a statement which is embedded in an environment of, it is to be hoped, trust and respect.

This is not to say that there were no concerns. The city council themselves were a worry for Andy, particularly with the programming of the exhibition occurring so close to the recent papal visit to the city. However, many of these barriers seem to have been overcome, and whilst the exhibition has received some negative comments, it appears that overall, the response has been very positive.

Much of this positivity turns on the fact that Andy knew how to work with people, for his colleagues at the museum seemed more than happy to help. Indeed, it seems that the very success of the project turned precisely upon this willing collaboration and trust. I have to applaud BMAG here, for being very open and trusting. Matt commented that he expected only to make a single piece of art, or perhaps a small display. What he was given, in the end, was the whole museum.

If the museum is a storyteller, it is important that they tell as many stories as they can. Whilst they cannot afford to simply present subjects as add ons, because they think they should, museums must work towards an openness in using the resources that they do have. And those resources are not just objects, but staff, artists, buildings, the public, and all of the manifold interpretations which these mixtures provoke. For objects are never singular in their meaning, they are not simple things. They are ambiguous, difficult to categorise, shifting and sometimes excluded. They are, or they can be, as queer as you like. And this is what makes them beautiful.

You’ll have to wait a while for my review of the exhibition itself, I’m afraid, but hopefully, I shall be able to give you one fairly soon! That is, if the snow lets me get out of the house! In the meantime, I'll hopefully soon be putting up a recording of the presentation on go and listen, if you can!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Greetings from Berlin II

Is one exhibition more successful than another if you can remember it better after your visit? Well, let’s see…

There are just seven hundred meters as the crow flies between the “Museum for Communication” and the “Martin-Gropius-Bau”. Both museums opened in the end of the nineteenth century and the main characteristic of both buildings is a spectacular areaway. But whereas the Martin-Gropius-Bau presents international exhibitions of visual arts and cultural history, the Museum for Communication is dedicated to post history.

Two weeks ago I visited first the exhibition “WorldKnowledge” in the Martin-Gropius-Bau and then the exhibition “Rumors” in the Museum for Communication. “WorldKnowledge” celebrates 300 years of science in Berlin, “Rumors” deals with the phenomenon which is named in the title. And now, I close my eyes and see what I do remember…

In the first instance two different colors and atmospheres come to my mind. “WorldKnowledge”: black and subdued, “Rumors”: light green and gay.

I recollect the entrance situations: “Rumors” welcomed me with a picture of Fama, the rumor goddess, interpreted in a cool style by a modern designer. I can remember the dozens of eyeballs surrounding her, looking for new stories to tell. I still know that the text explained that Fama was not only meant to be responsible for rumors but also for a good reputation, which I found quite interesting.

“WorldKnowledge” began in the areaway where a colossal shelf is filled with circa 200 objects like skeletons, statues, apparatuses, fossils and so on. I can remember that I liked to look at the shelf, trying to discover connections between the diverse objects. I was impressed by the size of the shelf and mused about the miracles of the world. But I was not able to decipher the deeper meaning of the installation.

The objects in “WorldKnowledge” were exhibited in conventional show cases – and that is all I can recall about the design. No, not true, I remember that the second part of the exhibition, where different research methods like “experiment”, “travel” or “interpret” were deployed, the main color was white and that multimedia was used. That is all. In my opinion simple design does not mean bad design. But in that case it goes along with my conclusion that I can remember out of the abundance of exhibits only two objects: two paper bags with the portraits of the Iranian shah and his wife who visited Berlin in 1967. Students demonstrated against the visit wearing such bags on the head. I am sure that I just can remember them because I asked myself, who on earth preserved these fragile objects.

Apart from that I remember show cases all over show cases filled with documents, books and other papers. And I remember names, famous names: Grimm, Herder, Schopenhauer, Einstein… But I cannot connect the names to certain objects nor could I tell in which context the men (yes: men!) were mentioned. And even though I read the department texts attentively and even took notes, I could not tell you what was so characteristic about 300 years of science in Berlin! I just remember that the Prussian Kings played an important role in developing science and founding research institutions – but which Frederick did what: I am sorry.

Thinking at the “Rumors”-exhibition the extraordinary design comes immediately to my mind. Objects – just partly exhibited in show cases – and labels hang in a chaotic frame of wooden slats. Standing in the exhibition I had to think of a forest, but now I would describe it as a net, where rumors get caught. I remember a lot of the exhibits and in every case I can recall “which story they told”. Stuffed sea gulls were displayed to explain the origin of the word “mobbing”, because animals sometimes attack predators. A lively tarantula illustrated an “Urban Legend” (a woman licked an envelope, her tongue swelled, a doctor cut the tip of the tongue and a parade of little spiders emerged… The woman was a friend of my aunt – I swear!) and a sweet china carriage embodied the escape of a countess who had to flee because of a buzz which was launched on purpose to harm her. Strolling around in the exhibition I was surprised about the different facets and variations of rumors, something I had not expected but found very convincing.

I remember two more insights: that every rumor needs someone to tell – and someone to listen, and that a rumor just comes alive if it is relevant for both persons. Moreover I learned how important facts and information are to stop a rumor. These insights were cemented by the multimedia units. At one computer station I could generate a rumor about my person just entering some facts about me. (I carefully looked that nobody could read the created rumor – it was really mean!) At another I had to decide as the mayor of one small town in Egypt how I could fight a rumor which threatened tourism.

I remember how much fun I had strolling around the exhibition “Rumors” and how curious I was to discover the next facet of that cultural phenomenon. And I remember how proud I was going through “WorldKnowledge”, because all these famous men lived and did research in my home town and I felt connected to them, rooted in tradition. So, even though in my opinion the exhibition which I can remember more vividly two weeks after visiting is more successful, I had to admit, that in retrospect both achieved their goals. As I am convinced that the creators of “WorldKnowledge” would be perfectly content to know that they made me proud of being a Berliner…

Friday, December 17, 2010

CFP: Geographies of Collections

RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2011
31 August to 2 September 2011 at the Royal Geographical Society and Imperial College in London
Session Title: Geographies of Collections
Research Group Affiliation: HGRG
Session Convenors: Caroline Cornish (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Philip Hatfield (Royal Holloway, University of London; British Library)
Collections of diverse types provide rich sources for geographical enquiry. The specific systems of organisation developed within them, along with their contexts of use, can variously form or inform the geographical imagination. The collection is also never static, whether it is aggregated as an archive, a library, a museum collection, a scientific dataset or a twenty-first century digital database. As a result, the knowledges and geographies developed within them are always ripe for re-imagination.
The theme of the 2011 RGS-IBG Conference - ‘The Geographical Imagination’, presents an opportunity to adopt what Rebecca Duclos has termed ‘a cultural geography perspective’ towards collections, and to reconsider their geographies at a time of intensified interest in this area. Popular events such as A History of the World in 100 Objects and the British Library Growing Knowledge exhibition show, from opposite sides of the spectrum, how interaction with myriad different collections is changing. This session therefore seeks to question how geographers working within this shifting landscape are engaging with the collection across a range of forms and materialities.
We would be pleased to receive submissions for papers from researchers engaged in a wide variety of ‘collections’ including fine art, natural history, cartographic, photographic, ethnographic, archaeological, and digital. We are particularly interested in papers which address the issues of place, space and imagination in the accumulation and deployment of collections, and in papers which have a historico-geographical focus. Topics might include:
Collections and imaginative geographies
The languages of collections
Materialities of collections
Spaces of collections
Colllections and networks
Collected objects and knowledge production
The fluidity of collections
Collections and agency
Instructions for Authors
Those interested in participating in the session should contact Caroline Cornish ( AND Philip Hatfield ( The deadline for submission of abstracts is 18 February 2011.

When submitting your paper please include the following information: 1) name 2) institutional affiliation 3) contact email, 4) title of proposed paper, 5) abstract (no more than 250 words) and 6) technical requirements (i.e., video, data projector, sound).

Museum Funnehs

It's kind of a slow news week/month here in The Attic, so here's some funnies to bring the holiday cheer in. Museum-related, of course! Courtesy of the always-brilliant but not-always-understandable XKCD comes this guest comic. Be sure to click on the exhibits - it's truly inspired stuff!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

CFP: Re-Imagining Materiality

[Can't help but snerk slightly at the continued hailing of the discovery of material culture by academia.]
Royal Geographic Society-Institute of British Geographers 2011 Annual
Conference, 31 Aug - 2 Sept 2011

Call For Papers: (Re)Imagining Materiality

Sponsored by the Social & Cultural Geography Research Group

The first decade of the 21st century has been marked by growing interest
in the material dimension of the social, and the role objects and
materials play in multiple areas of social interaction. The ‘material
turn’ has an implicit normative dimension at a time when the material
resources of the planet are under increasing stress, and when the
dependence of particular lifestyles on specific interactions with the
material world is becoming ever more apparent. Central to these
necessarily interrelated concerns are notions of resource use, the
production and consumption of materials and material goods, and their
multiple impacts in social, environmental and economic domains, including
the effects of the processes of ‘wasting’. As knowledge of the potential
repercussions of these global challenges underlines the need for
significant shifts in the ways in which we resource, produce, consume and
interact with material goods, we are forced to question some of the
central concepts that underpin our relationship with material culture.
Questioning, indeed, reimagining these concepts – such as value,
materiality and waste – could be key to facilitating the move to living
more closely within our means.

In this session we invite papers that deal with concepts of materiality,
value and waste, their interlinkages, and their place(s) within the nexus
of current social, environmental and economic challenges. Papers might,
amongst other things, address:
• the nature and implications of the socio-culturally shaped definitions
of these concepts – how notions of ‘value’ might be understood to be
changing, for example;
• the interrelations between concepts of transience and durability, both
of material items and our relationships with them;
• the role of design in informing, enabling and constraining human-object
• relationships with particular materialities such as landscapes,
souvenirs, clothing etc.;
• the meanings and impacts associated with commodity chains and their
legacies, as well as other ways in which objects move, shifting the
definitions applied to them as they change context;
• cultures of production and consumption, including the notion of ethical
production/consumption, the meanings that individuals bring to these
processes, how these meanings emerge and how they determine subsequent
• particular conceptual and methodological approaches such as social
practice theory, actor-network theory, or commodity chain studies that
might illuminate these debates.

We invite contributions that open up the discussion of how rethinking and
reimagining value, waste, materiality, and other associated ideas in the
contexts of production and consumption geographies might in turn recast
our relations with the material world. Papers may present conceptual
ideas, recent empirical work or methodological approaches related to one
or more of these themes.

Abstracts of no more than 250 words should be sent to: Rebecca Collins,

Deadline for submission: Wednesday 9th February 2011

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sharing Cultures 2011

Sharing Cultures 2011

Following the UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage, Sharing Cultures
2011 will welcome papers on:

- Oral traditions and expressions;
- Performing arts;
- Social practices;
- Traditional craftsmanship.

Under "Oral traditions and expressions" Authors may present research
work on language and communication, mainly if considered as means to
express or transmit intangible cultural heritage.

"Performing arts" will accommodate all contributions on music (instrumental and human voice), dance and theatre in their traditional, classical, ethnographic, or other forms.

The topic of "Social practices" will include all forms of social intercourse, corresponding to day-to-day life activities, rituals (religious or non-religious) and festive events that mark the way of life of a certain human group; under this topic gastronomy will also have
a place.

"Traditional craftsmanship" will gather contributions on various forms of material production, having in mind that all material culture has an intangible meaning and that the "know-how" is it-self intrinsically intangible.

CFP - Material Culture, Craft & Community: Negotiating Objects Across Time & Place

20-21 May 2011

University of Alberta

Material Culture Institute

This interdisciplinary conference will explore the varied expressions of craft – social, cultural and material – in past and present societies. Craft has a rich history and vibrant present-day practice, sustaining communities while negotiating cultures. Craft-made goods were and continue to be created for domestic or institutional use, for local or international markets; they express gender roles and cultural aspirations, sustaining economies. At the same time, craft practice defined and continues to define communities and groups, in the midst of global trade networks. Moreover, the flow of ideas, goods and peoples animate the making, circulation and meanings of craft goods. These issues will be addressed over the course of the conference.

Keynote Speaker:

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Harvard University

Confirmed Speakers:

Eiluned Edwards, London College of Fashion, UK

Edward S Cooke, Yale University

Janice Helland, Queen’s University, Kingston

Laura Peers, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

Ruth Phillips, Carleton University, Ottawa

Conference Organizer: Beverly Lemire, Department of History & Classics and Department of Human Ecology, University of Alberta

Proposals should be sent to:

Fourth International Conference on the Inclusive Museum

Fourth International Conference on the Inclusive Museum

29 June 2011 to 2 July 2011, Johannesburg, South Africa


Contact Name: Emily Kasak

This conference invites museum and culture professionals, and interested scholars, to explore the current and future role of the museum in this era of tremendous global change.

Digital Media and its Applications in Cultural Heritage

DMACH 2011
Digital Media and its Applications in Cultural Heritage

Organized by
The Center for the Study of Architecture in the Arab Region, Jordan
Al-Turath Foundation, Saudi Arabia
In collaboration with
Queen Rania Institute of Tourism and Heritage, Hashemite University, Jordan


Over the past few years, a remarkable increase has occurred in the use of digital techniques for the documentation, management, and communication of cultural heritage. This has drastically transformed the way we capture, store, process, represent and disseminate information. The techniques employed have evolved from standard surveying and CAD tools and/or traditional photogrammetry into laser scanning virtual reality and fully automated video-based techniques. However, it is often argued that digital media tend to create and compile value-free content and thus are inefficient in capturing and communicating cultural and symbolic meanings. Digital media, as any other medium, tend to amplify or reduce the cultural phenomena as a result of their constraints and limitations. Thus the issue of using digital media for cultural heritage is by no means a simple one and must be examined from different angles. The aim of DMACH2011 is to explore the opportunities and challenges of using digital media in the research, preservation, management, interpretation, and representation of cultural heritage. Of particular interest for this year conference are issues related to interactive virtual reality, intelligent and wireless hand-held devices, high speed multi-media, and making virtual reality and augmented reality user-friendly and available resources for the general public.

The Visitor Studies Group AGM + Conference

The Visitor Studies Group
AGM + Conference

02/04/2011 - 10:10

02/04/2011 - 16:30


Audience research in an age of austerity: Ensuring continued support for the visitor voice

VSG AGM and Conference

Weston Theatre, Museum of London

Friday the 4th of February

10.10 am - 4.30pm

Is Audience Research a legitimate cut? In the face of severe cuts for the cultural sector difficult decisions have to be made about funding priorities, including core collections, opening hours and front-line staff. However, if the burden of the financial shrinkage falls too heavily on learning and research, is the quality of the visiting experience itself at risk? What does this mean for funding bids which increasingly demand evidence of impact and demonstrations of lessons learnt from previous projects and audience consultations? If insight into visitor expectations and experiences is cut, how can we effectively engage people with our collections and stories?

This one day conference will provide examples of how major projects have been turned around on small budgets, how audience research can be strategically embedded in the aims of an organisation and how smaller organisations keep audience research alive. We will hear first hand from DCMS what some of the issues facing us are.

Keynote speaker from the USA

Following the success of John Falk’s visit last year, VSG is bringing in another leader in the field of audience research from the United States. Alan Friedman is the former Executive Director of the New York Hall of Science. Alan’s dynamism and tenacity in building an organisation from something very small into one of the world’s top institutions for informal learning during some difficult times will provide us with inspiration and valuable insight into how to cope with our own age of austerity.

Other speakers include David Fleming, Director - National Museums Liverpool, Adam Cooper, Head of Research - DCMS, Liz Neathy, Curator - Havering Museum and Jean Franczyk, Director of Learning - Science Museum.

Whether an experienced evaluator or new to the field, the discussion of some of these topical issues, and examples of how they are being addressed, should help you cope with the challenges you and your organisation are now facing.

Funding culture and the arts

Wednesday, 2nd March 2011

Guest of Honour: Colin Tweedy, Chief Executive, Arts & Business

This seminar will look at the options for funding art and culture in the UK, with the Government announcing a cut of 15% to the national budget for frontline arts in the Spending Review.

Delegates will assess potential new sources of funding, including corporate and private philanthropy, ways organisations can innovate to deliver more for less and the possible impact of reduced public investment on British culture in the future.

We are delighted that Moira Sinclair, Executive Director, London, Arts Council England and Colin Tweedy, Chief Executive, Arts & Business will be delivering keynote addresses at this seminar. Other confirmed speakers include: Meg Abdy, Director, Legacy Foresight; Ian Brown, Artistic Director & Joint Chief Executive, West Yorkshire Playhouse; Dr Stephen Deuchar, Director, The Art Fund; Chi-chi Ekweozor, Director, Real Fresh TV; Tim Jones, Executive Director, motiroti; Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery; John Nicholls, Managing Partner, Arts Quarter; Julia Payne, Director and Co-founder, The Hub; Mark Robinson, Managing Director, Thinking Practice and Liz Thompson, Director of Communications, Royal Shakespeare Company.

Alison McGovern MP has kindly agreed to chair this event.

IMLS to Hold Next 21st Century Skills Workshop at the Miami-Dade Public Library

IMLS to Hold Next 21st Century Skills Workshop at the Miami-Dade Public

IMLS's Making the Learning Connection Campaign Brings Together Leading
Local Institutions

Washington, DC-The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has
announced that it will hold a workshop at the Miami-Dade Public Library
as part of a national campaign aimed at engaging museums, libraries, and
civic leaders in meeting the 21st century learning needs of their
communities. IMLS is co-hosting the event with the Miami-Dade Public
Library System and the Wolfsonian-Florida International University.

The national campaign, Making the Learning Connection, is intended to
assist communities as they build their capacity for helping individuals
of all ages acquire critical 21st century skills such as critical
thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, communication
and collaboration. The campaign includes a six-city workshop tour, a
national contest, new online tools and resources, and a series of
interactive webinars.

The six-city tour kicked off on June 21 at the Walters Art Museum in
Baltimore and continued with workshops at the Richland County Public
Library in Columbia, SC in August and the San Francisco Public Library
in San Francisco, CA in November. The tour provides an opportunity for
museum, library, and other community leaders to discuss the 21st century
learning landscape of their city and explore strategies for furthering
21st century learning goals.

"Libraries and museums are keenly focused on the challenges their
communities face and will create powerful foundations for implementing
and sustaining a community-wide vision for 21st century skills," said
Marsha L. Semmel, IMLS acting director. "At IMLS, we are pleased to
support institutions across the country that are focused on helping
learners of all ages acquire critical 21st century skills."

The Making the Learning Connection campaign is part of IMLS's continuing
initiative to engage libraries and museums, community stakeholders and
policymakers to meet the educational, economic, civic, and cultural
needs of communities. This campaign builds upon the release of Museums,
Libraries and 21st Century Skills
[](PDF, 2.0MB), which
provides an online self-assessment for libraries and museums to
encourage a strategic approach to 21st century learning and a report for
library and museum practitioners and policymakers.

Workshop participants leave each session with a better understanding of
the role museums and libraries play in the learning landscape.
Participants will also begin drafting a map that documents some of the
work currently being done in the community around 21st century skills.

In the coming months, IMLS will announce the other workshop tour stops,
dates for webinars, and contest details.

To learn more about 21st century skills, please listen to Semmel's
podcast [].

TX Association of Museums Educator's Committee Workshop

The TX Association of Museums Educator's Committee is hosting its annual workshop this January 24th in Austin. This year's focus will be on fundraising. It is a great bargain at $25 for members, $30 for non-members (for $35 you could become a member and join TAMEC!)
For more information or to register please go to and download the registration form.

BM museum studies day

The British Museum
Museum studies day
Thursday 24 February, 11.00–15.30
BP Lecture Theatre, British Museum
£10, no concessions A behind-the-scenes insight into the running and organisation of the Museum.
10.30–11.00 Registration and coffee
11.00–11.30 Harvinder Bahra, Community Programmes Coordinator – Special Exhibitions Harvinder is responsible for increasing the engagement of local audiences who are under- represented in the Museum’s current visitor profile. Harvinder provides an overview of the current Room 3 display, Sikh fortress turban and talks about the process of community consultation and the importance of involving the Sikh community with the display.
11.30–12.00 Stuart Frost, Head of Interpretation Stuart provides an overview of the work of the Interpretation team at the British Museum and the ways in which audience research informs exhibition development and the visitor experience. He focuses on the development of the Museum’s current exhibition, Journey through the afterlife: ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, as well as other recent projects.
12.00–12.30 Sarah Longair, Research manager, Getty East Africa Programme As part of the British Museum Africa Programme, which seeks to support colleagues in museums in Africa and build capacity in the heritage sector, a team has undertaken an in- depth scoping project to assess the training needs of museum professionals in East Africa. This presentation highlights some of the key findings and how they will be incorporated into a training programme across East Africa.
12.30–12.45 Panel Q&A and short introduction to Future Curators Programme
12.45–13.45 Lunch (not provided)
13.45–14.15 Faye Ellis, Digital Learning Programmes Manager The Samsung Digital Discovery Centre provides digital education activities for schools and families. More and more children are now equipped with the skills to use technology, and the Centre helps them engage with the Museum's collection through a familiar medium. Faye discusses the Centre's core range of programmes, as well as more experimental projects and partnerships.
14.15–14.45 Evan York, Senior Museum Assistant, Ancient Egypt and Sudan The Museum Assistant teams have a vital role within the departmental collections, in all aspects of its everyday work. They are responsible for looking after the collections to ensure their preservation and accessibility, within the Museum and on loan.
14.45–15.15 Catherine Eagleton, Curator of Modern Money Combining research, collections work, exhibitions, educational programmes and international partnerships, Money in Africa is a large project which grew from a small temporary exhibition at the Museum in 2005. Catherine talks about the project and the ways it enables people to engage with the Museum’s collection, and also about the practicalities of funding and delivering collaborative and international projects.
15.15–15.30 Panel Q&A
Book through the British Museum Ticket Desk 020 7323 8181
Programme subject to change.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

CFP: Material Networks

Material Networks | Networked Materials


We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our
fellow men.

- Henry Melvill, Golden Lectures, 1855

A network, as a universal concept, is any interconnected system of people
and objects. Networks are a primary and innate function of all cultures,
promoting communication and exchanges of objects and ideas. Our vision of
the "material network" focuses on the objects and ideas of exchange, the
messages they convey, and their changing identities and associations across
diverse temporalities, geographies and cultures.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

* Patrimony
* The practice of collecting
* Coercion, occupation, and foreign missions
* War, looting, and spolia
* Correspondence and gift exchange
* Travel and trade

The conference will take place on May 6, 2011 at the Bard Graduate Center in
New York City. Students currently enrolled in a graduate program are invited
to submit an abstract not to exceed 500 words (eventually for a 20-minute
paper) as well as a current C.V. or

résumé in PDF format to Please send your
submission before Friday, February 4, 2011. Accepted speakers will be
notified via email by the end of February.
Bard Graduate Center | 18 West 86th Street | New York, NY 10024

The Museum of Everything

As regular readers will know, we're all about the eccentric and curious here at Attic Towers right now. So when I got called down to London last week, I couldn't resist a trip to the weird and wondrous Museum of Everything (Exhibition #3) in Primrose Hill. This is essentially a full-building art installation made up of Sir Peter Blake's personal collections of outsider art, ephemera and found objects. I have to admit that, as a natural history fan, the main draw for me was a selection of Walter Potter's taxidermy dioramas. So I braved the snow and slippery pavements, and went to see for myself.

Sadly, as is generally the case in British art galleries, photography is not allowed (£1000 fine! warn signs in every room), so I will have to paint a picture with words.

The 'Museum' is tucked behind a public library, and from the front looks pretty unassuming. I passed through the very welcoming foyer, proudly sticking my Museum of Everything sticker onto my winter coat as I went. The exhibition takes place in a series of rooms, which follow one from to another in order, although there is nothing to stop visitors from going back into rooms they have already seen should they choose.

It starts off in a corridor with a small display case containing a pair of shoes allegedly owned by the famous nineteenth century dwarf General Tom Thumb. The rest of the corridor is made up of postcards, photographs and circus billings for various circus freaks and performers from times past - giants, human skeletons, siamese twins, bearded ladies and so on. This set the scene for the rest of the exhibition, both with the recurring theme of circuses, and the questions of what is art? and what is acceptable?

I won't describe every room, but dolls, shells, matchboxes, puppets, circus advertising posters and miniature fairground rides all had their place. I was particularly struck by the naive embroideries of Ted Wilcox, an ex-sericeman who learned to stitch while recovering from a war injury. His work includes a selection of pin-up girls with psychedelic backgrounds, and two wonderful and slightly wonky recreations of the scenes of Alice in Wonderland. There was something incredibly human and touching about this outsider art which is very different from the usual art gallery experience.

Finally, I reached the Walter Potter room. For those not in the know, Potter was a Victorian self-taught taxidermist who used the bodies of small animals (particularly kittens, puppies, rabbits, rats and squirrels) to recreate scenes from nursery rhymes and everyday life, which were then displayed in his Museum of Curiousities. Taxidermy is a distinctly weird artform at the best of times (I say that as a lover of natural history museums) and Potter's dioramas help remind us why. One scene depicts toads of all sizes playing games in a playground, like an amphibious Breugel recreation, while in another rats drink and play cards, and in third around ninety birds (somewhat ironically) mourn the death of Cock Robin. As with all taxidermy, the scenes are human constructs - creating images of our own interest from the skins of animals. As with much of Blake's collection, the discomfort we feel when we look at these pieces challenges us to think again about the meanings and values we place on our world.

What also struck me as I wandered through the various rooms was that almost anything can become mysterious and seem valuable when it is part of a collection. Shell-covered plastic owls are tat that many of us will have (rightly) passed over in seaside souvenir shops. But in a room where the walls and everything within them is covered in shells, these objects seem somehow more special. So maybe my final thought was to question museums themselves, and the strange human phenomenon that is collecting. I believe that for many museums, part of their job is to help people understand the world a little better. So maybe the MoE can be seen as a meta-museum, helping us museum folks to understand museums a little better too.

The exhibition ends on the 23rd December, so there isn't much time for intrepid curiousity hunters to see this one. However, this is Exhibition #3, so we can keep our fingers crossed that more exhibitions will tumble forth from their creative brows before too long.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

CFP: Building Identity: the making of national museums and identity politics

Another department event:
Here is the URL for The Museum 2011 conference website which also includes the call for papers. The conference is entitled 'Building Identity: the making of national museums and identity politics' and is a partnership between the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester, the National Taipei University of Education, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the National Museum of History, Taipei. The conference will be held in Taipei 16th-18th November 2011 and the organizers would be extremely grateful if you could circulate this url as widely as possible so that they get a good response to the call for papers.

Calling All Social Media Types!

Our very own Ross Parry has just requested that I highlight this workshop that's taking place on Thursday. Do attend, if you're able, because everyone would be really pleased to see you! It's free, and if you're traveling any distance, then accommodation and expenses, within reason, can be covered.

Come, have fun, if social media is your thing. And given that you're reading this blog, it may well be...

A one-day ‘SkillsCamp’
funded by the AHRC

Learning Studio, School of Museum Studies,
Museum Studies Building, University of Leicester, LE1 7RF
10.00am-4.30pm, Thursday 9 December 2010


The aim of this event is to bring researchers, practitioners and trainers together to share experience and identify best practice of working with social media in research and heritage contexts. Through a series of activities (and use case scenarios) together we will explore the social Web as a research environment, as a data source and as an object of study.

The SkillsCamp has particular resonance for anyone working with digital media and cultural heritage (‘digital heritage’), but will also be of relevance and use to any researchers using or studying social media.

Refreshments and lunch are provided.

**And we are pleased to announced that all travel and accommodation costs of all participants will be covered by the partnership**


To book your place at this SkillsCamp, simply contact Dr. Ross Parry (Academic Director, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester) on


10.00-10.30 – arrival and coffee

10.30-11.00 – introductions – What’s my relationship to social media and to cultural heritage?

11.00-12.00 – Mapping exercise - What are the researcher’s challenges with social media? And what are the strategies that we are all developing to help us overcome these challenges?

12.00-12.45 – Lunch provided

12.45-1.45 - Use Case 1: The social Web as research environment.
My research profile and visibility in the social Web - how do I network and communicate my research? What do I put into the social Web?

1.45-2.45 - Use Case 2: The social Web as data resource.
What can we use from the social Web? What can the social Web give me as a researcher? How do I work ethically within social media?

2.45-3.00 Tea break

3.00-4.00 - Use Case 3: The social Web as subject
How do I study social media? What methodological tools and theoretical frameworks can I use to understand the social Web?

4.00-4.30 - Wrap-up


Over the last two years the Universities of Leicester, Newcastle, Glasgow and Manchester have been collaborating, with project partner The Collections Trust on the ‘Digital Heritage Research Training Initiative’. This partnership, funded under the AHRC’s Collaborative Research Training call, has allowed these institutions to design and produce a series of online research skills units (with accompanying teacher/supervisor/trainer notes) targeted at researchers working with digital media in heritage contexts.

Drawing upon the partnership’s experience of producing distance learning materials, the eight units (each between 8,000-10,000 words, structured around a series of activities and discussions, and each representing around 14 hours of study time) cover subjects such as: ‘Disseminating your research with digital media’; ‘Harnessing the digital heritage community as a research tool’; ‘Using social media in research’; ‘Tools for evaluating museum websites’; and ‘Finding and using heritage databases’.

In producing these research skills units, the aim of the initiative has been to bring together the expertise of these institutions to help meet the new skills requirements of a new generation of researchers working in the emergent areas of digital heritage.

In the New Year these units will be made available online (for free use) by the Collections Trust.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Caruso St John Announce Plans for Tate Britain

"In February 2011, Tate will begin an exciting project to transform the original Tate Gallery, rededicated in 2001 as Tate Britain. This project aims to conserve the beautiful fabric of Sidney Smith’s 19th-Century building and carry out a major upgrade to the galleries, enabling Tate to show more of its Collection in conditions suitable for a wider range of art media. The project will remodel and renovate core visitor areas – opening up the stunning domed atrium at the heart of the gallery – while creating much-needed learning studios and public spaces in order to meet growing demand. This phase of Tate Britain’s development will span 2010 to 2013 and is budgeted at £45 million, over half of which has been raised already..."

Given the interesting job they made of Nottingham Contemporary, I'm interested to see what they do to this veteran museum...

For More visit the Caruso St John Website...

A Little Section of News

From the Global Museum Webzine, I have handpicked for you some interesting stories from the headlines of Museum Culture worldwide - and within the UK! Enjoy...

Unknown Picassos Discovered in Paris
From the story...

"An extraordinary cache of hundreds of works by Pablo Picasso, painted during his most creative period and worth a conservative estimate of €60m (£50.5m), has been uncovered at the home of a retired French electrician.

The collection of 271 paintings, drawings, sketches and lithographs, many of which were previously unknown, dates from 1900 to 1932.

Among the works are nine cubist collages worth at least €40m, a painting from his celebrated blue period, drawings and models for some of his most important works and portraits of his first wife, the Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova..."

Unveiling the Zayed National Museum
From the story

Foster + Partners have unveiled designs for a museum on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. The Zayed National Mueum will feature five lightweight steel towers resembling birds’ wings, set within a landscaped mound with gallery spaces located at ground level...

Put it Down, Minister!

From the story

For any parent taking the children to a museum, it’s a heart-stopping moment – inquisitive little fingers reach towards a priceless artefact and disaster seems inevitable.

So imagine the panic at the British Museum yesterday when a visitor tried on a 3,000-year-old Bronze Age bracelet which is so delicate that it should never be touched by an ungloved hand.

Embarrassingly, the culprit was Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, who blushed as he was told off like a naughty schoolboy by an official...

CFP - Southern Cultures

Southern Cultures, the award-winning and peer-reviewed quarterly from UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South, has opened its virtual reading room. Over 60,000 readers at more than 1400 colleges and universities in 66 countries already have accessed our content online.

Our readers include scholars and students of food, film, folklore, history, labor, sociology, politics, literature, photography & art, music, women and gender studies, economics, environment, oral history, religion, sports, African American studies, American Indian Studies, and many other subjects under the umbrella of American Studies. We also offer complimentary CDs and DVDs to teachers and students for use in college classrooms.

All of our content from the last decade is available by subject at

We also would like to encourage submissions from scholars and archivists around the world. For submission guidelines and more information, please visit

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

DigCCurr Professional Institute Registration

DigCCurr Professional Institute: Curation Practices for the Digital Object

Registration Now Open at:

May 15-20, 2011 & January 4-6, 2012 (One price for two sessions)
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Visit for more information.

The Institute consists of one five-day session in May 2011 and a two-day
follow-up session and a day-long symposium in January 2012. Each day of the
summer session will include lectures, discussion and hands-on "lab"
components. A course pack and a private, online discussion space will be
provided to supplement learning and application of the material. An opening
reception dinner on Sunday, break time snacks and coffee, and a dinner on
Thursday will also be included.

This institute is designed to foster skills, knowledge and
community-building among professionals responsible for the curation of
digital materials.


* Regular registration : $750
* Late registration (after April 15, 2010) : $800
* Summer Institute accommodations (includes 5 nights of a private room in a
4 room/2 bath dorm suite on the UNC campus, with kitchen, linens, and
internet access) : $250*

*We highly recommend that you choose the on-campus accommodations. This fee
covers accommodations for May 2011 only.

If you are a grant recipient working on a digital project, we recommend that
you check with your program officer to request approval to use available
grant funds to attend the institute.

Institute Instructors:

* From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Dr. Cal Lee, Dr.
Richard Marciano, Dr. Helen Tibbo.
* Dr. Nancy McGovern, from the University of Michigan.
* Dr. Seamus Ross, from the University of Toronto.
* Dr. Manfred Thaller, from the University of Cologne.
* Dr. Carolyn Hank, McGill University.

Institute Components: (may still be subject to some revisions and

* Overview of digital curation definition, scope and main functions
* Where you see yourself in the digital curation landscape
* Digital curation program development
* Engendering Trust: Processes, Procedures and Forms of Evidence
* LAB - DRAMBORA in action

* Strategies for engaging data communities
* Characterizing, analyzing and evaluating the producer information
* Submission and transfer scenarios - push and pull (illustrative examples)
* Defining submission agreements and policies
* Strategies for writing policies that can be expressed as rules and rules
that can automatically executed
* LAB - Making requirements machine-actionable
* Importance of infrastructure independence

* Overview of digital preservation challenges and opportunities
* Managing in response to technological change
* Detaching Bits from their Physical Media: Considerations, Tools and
* LAB - Curation of Unidentified Files
* Returning to First Principles: Core Professional Principles to Drive
Digital Curation

* Characterization of digital objects
* LAB - Assessing File Format Robustness
* Access and use considerations
* Access and user interface examples
* How and why to conduct research on digital collection needs
* LAB - Analyzing server logs and developing strategies based on what you

* Overview and characterization of existing tools
* LAB - Evaluating set of software options to support a given digital
curation workflow
* Formulating your six-month action plan - task for each individual, with
instructors available to provide guidance
* Summary of action plans
* Clarifying roles and expectations for the next six months

January 4-6, 2012
Participants in the May event will return to Chapel Hill in Jan 2012 to
discuss their experiences in implementing what they have learned in their
own work environments. Participants will compare experiences, lessons
learned and strategies for continuing progress. Friday, January 6th will be
a public symposium, free to the Institute participants. (Accommodations for
January will be the responsibility of the attendee.)

Visit for more information.

For more information, contact Kaitlin Costello ( for
Institute questions or Wakefield Harper ( for payment
or registration questions.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections: The Crisis of Cultural Authority

Since the late 1970s human remains in museum collections have been subject to claims and controversies, such as demands for repatriation by indigenous groups who suffered under colonization. These requests have been strongly contested by scientists who research the material and consider it unique evidence.

This book charts the influences at play on the contestation over human remains and examines the construction of this problem from a cultural perspective. It shows that claims on dead bodies are not confined to once colonized groups. A group of British Pagans, Honouring the Ancient Dead, formed to make claims on skeletons from the British Isles. And ancient human remains, bog bodies and Egyptian mummies, which have not been requested by any group, have become the focus of campaigns initiated by members of the profession, at times removed from display in the name of respect.

By drawing on empirical research including extensive interviews with the claims-making groups, ethnographic work, document, media, and policy analysis, Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections demonstrates that strong internal influences do in fact exist. The only book to examine the construction of contestation over human remains from a sociological perspective, it advances an emerging area of academic research, setting the terms of debate, synthesizing disparate ideas, and making sense of a broader cultural focus on dead bodies in the contemporary period.

You can get this HERE

Spring Courses in Cultural Resource Management

Opportunities to balance work and study for museum and heritage professionals …

Cultural Resource Management at the University of Victoria offers engaging and accessible online courses that strengthen you capacity to be effective in the workplace. Courses can be taken on a non-credit basis or for credit toward a Diploma in Cultural Resource Management.

Please register by December 13, 2010 to ensure your materials arrive on time. To find out more and to register, please visit our website:

Spring 2011 at a Glance
Spring term courses run from January 10 to April 17, 2011

Museum Principles and Practices II: Instructor: Deborah Tuyttens
Learn about the diverse ways in which museums present exhibitions, programming and outreach activities to fulfill their mandates.

Managing Cultural Organizations: Instructor: Carrie Brooks-Joiner
Develop critical management skills to support all aspects of your practice in museums or cultural heritage organizations.

Curatorship: Instructor: Beth Carter
Examine contemporary curatorial concepts and practices in collections planning, research, analysis, documentation and exhibition development.

Building Community Relationships: Instructor: Elizabeth Kidd
Build your knowledge and skills to facilitate meaningful community cultural and social development activities.

Determining Significance: Instructor: Alastair Kerr
Explore a values-based framework for conservation decision-making that supports heritage conservation planning and management.

The Cultural Management Program also offers intensive 6-day on-campus courses for museum & heritage professionals. Learn more on our website about our courses, and our diploma program.

2011 DigCCurr Public Symposium

The 2011 DigCCurr Public Symposium - Curate Me: Stewardship of Personal
Digital Archives is now open for registration.

Date: January 7, 2011
Time: 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Location: Pleasants Family Assembly Room, Wilson Library, UNC-CH
Price: $45, includes coffee breaks and boxed lunch

About the Symposium
* Explore strategies for:
* Integrating personal digital information into a curation workflow
* Guiding individuals to manage their own collections of digital content
* Engaging audiences with collections of personal digital information
* Meet other professionals working with digital collections and personal
* Participate in collaborative group discussions with attendees and panel

This one-day event will include panel discussions with experts and
interactive group sessions.

Panelists include:
* Cal Lee and Helen Tibbo, professors at the School of Information and
Library Science UNC-Chapel Hill
* Cathy Marshall, Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research's Silicon Valley
* Nancy McGovern, the Digital Preservation Officer for the Inter-University
Consortium for Political and Social Research
* Naomi Nelson, Director of the Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special
Collections Library at Duke University
* Jeff Ubios, The Bassetti Foundation

For more information and to register for this event, visit

Partially supported by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, grant
# RE-05-08-0060-08.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Museobunny and his PhD colleagues are pleased as punch to announce that the website for Curiouser and Curiouser is now live and available for browsing!

At the moment we are still working on some aspects of the site, such as the draft programme, so don't forget to keep checking for news and additions to the site.

We have also started a new blog for the symposium which will keep you up to date with everything taking place in Wonderland:

We hope to see you there in March 2011!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Of Cabinets and Calendars

Hope everybody had a good weekend.

Part of mine was spent looking at new exhibitions in old cabinets in the Small Collections Room at Nottingham Contemporary as recommended to me by J at the start of term- thank you J!

Occupying the sort of space one might ascribe to a large wardrobe, this box room is appropriately situated in a study area and contains four cabinets from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries containing exhibitions by three contemporary artists.

I wasn't much taken with the lumpen artefacts of Des Hughes, but adored the eighteenth and nineteenth-century micromosaics (once a means of creating stable copies of a painting, but later fashioned into jewellery and trinkets for foreign tourists) as exhibited by Fabrizio Manacorda, which work wonderfully well within their current setting. Enticing the cabinet to give up its secrets with its wobbly, stuck or squeaky drawers and missing handles was all part of the fun, and magnifying glasses were provided so you can really appreciate the craftsmanship of the objects when they emerge into the light.

Trevor Paglen's covert military patches in the final cabinet were another interesting treatment of the cabinet's association with signs, symbols and esoteric knowledge, and his interpretations illuminate some mildly disturbing yet wryly humourous insignia.

Sadly, there was little information on the cabinets themselves, which perhaps would have given a greater insight into the nature of the artists' interaction with them.

I did enjoy opening up the middle section of the second largest cabinet, however- on a superficial note, and because I just bought an advent calendar, it put me in mind of opening the final window as you always know it's going to be something good! Inside was a miniature architectural space- a black-and-white tiled, mirrored enclosure, flanked by black pillars and reflecting both the physical space of the box room and endless spaces leading off into infinity. It was just marvellous, and my first experience of re-opening a cabinet of the old school.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Porous City

Imagine that the city you live in is riddled with tunnels and incursions, almost as much air below you as solid rock. Since being a child, I have been fascinated by caverns and grottos, these hidden spaces which are at once terrifying and yet, on some primal level, deeply evocative. Nottingham is such a city, a city built on caves, a fantastical underground world below the modern streets.

Go, look, and watch the videos. Geoff Manaugh does a great job of poeticizing about them here. The official Nottingham Caves blog is here.

In praise of libraries

Here's a thoughtful and passionate piece about the symbolic value of libraries in the BBC's Point of View column. Gudrun and I saw a couple of gorgeous early libraries a couple of weeks ago in Dublin (Trinity College, and Marsh's Library); both of us were deeply moved, as there is a very visceral beauty in seeing and smelling the sum of human knowledge so enshrined. You just don't get that with a Kindle. In Leicester, the beautiful Central Library building on Belvoir Street (originally built as a Baptist Church in 1845) is closing over Christmas, both jobs and books are disappearing as a result, and with them, opportunities for self-improvement and sheer pleasure. I'm afraid that the social project that saw the increase in public access to literacy and printed resources is disappearing for good. Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating for the return of some mythical disappeared Golden Age, but it is clear that the so-called Big Society cannot succeed in a culture where a strong philanthropic tradition based on religious and moral beliefs no longer prevails among the economic elite. When neither the liberal nor conservative rich are interested nor have the resources (thanks to the institution of income tax) to support public resources such as charity schools, lending libraries, social housing, and medical/social care, on the scale that is necessary for innovation but also sustainability, then the government has to step up and do so instead. That is its job and responsibility. Cutting these services isn't an option; I really believe that. There is no personal or economic freedom to be gained from letting these things go.

Moving On from the V&A

One of my favourite places in the whole world, the V&A, is going to get some new leadership soon. It has been announced that Sir Mark Jones, the museum's director over the past decade, is leaving to take up a post as Master of St Cross College at Oxford in September 2011. New leadership always means new priorities: what do you love about the V&A, and what do you wish they could change or improve?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lottery Winners

Scraping in just before the funding crackdown, the newest winners of Heritage Lottery funding are indeed lucky. The Dicken's Museum will receive money for restoration and expansion. The other winners are as follows:
House Mill, the largest remaining tidal mill in the world, in Bromley-by-Bow, east London, has been given preliminary approval for a £2.65m grant, including an immediate £248,000 to develop restoration plans.

Castle Drogo, in Exeter, Devon, the last castle built in England, was given a first-round pass of £2.5m, while the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland was given initial support for a £1.8m grant, including £165,000 in development funding.

Dunfermline, the Scottish capital between the 11th and 15th centuries, was given initial support for a £2.8m grant, of which £24,000 was given immediately. A heritage and cultural centre is being planned in the town.

Curiouser and Curiouser - hard at work shortlisting!

Museobunny is definitely looking forward to putting his paws up with a nice cup of carrot tea this Sunday. He and his helper bunnies have been hard at work reading through abstract submissions for Curiouser and Curiouser all this week. Apart from the UK and US, they have read proposals from as far away as Mexico, Serbia, South Korea, Estonia, Norway, Turkey, the Netherlands, Ireland, New Zealand, Argentina, Australia, Croatia, the Philippines, Italy, Iran, and even Indonesia! Museobunny has had to refresh his geography knowledge, though he shouldn't be surprised that all these countries value their heritage so much! There was 59 proposals, more than double of what the helper bunnies can fit into the conference programme, and Museobunny's whiskers drooped sadly every time it looked like an abstract would have to be declined, because they were all so interesting! Frankly, Museobunny is emotionally and intellectually drained; he has delegated the responsibility of sending out acceptances and rejections to his helper bunnies. He is sure they will do a good job of putting up the museum website, sending out speaker information, and registration details in the next couple of weeks, while he has a nice refreshing hop around a nearby museomeadow.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Restoration, Italian-Style

No, it's not a re-release of some Sophia Loren farce from the 60s featuring a political dicator and dubious conservation practices. It is the latter but in real life, and it's not at all farcical. You see, everyone's favourite septuagenerian lustful leader, Sylvio Belusconi, has ordered the restoration of ancient Roman statues in his house; it's the sort of clean-up job they preferred in the 18th century, and that the Italians used to excel in, especially when they were duping rich English lords looking to buy antiquities during their Grand Tour. He's ordered the addition of a hand and an *ahem* 'member' for Venus and Mars. Now apart from its amusing appropriateness for the PM's persona, it is a deeply problematic act. The statues seem to have been deaccessioned from a museum and now enhance Berlusconi's cultural capital at home, but experts are outraged because reconstructing antiquities is no longer considered a 'done thing' in conservation, and moreover, Berlusconi ordered cuts of over 40% for the arts budget in Italy, something that means that the country's already crumbling antiquities have no chance of even the most minor preservation work. Oh dear, oh dear...

The Physical and the Virtual Museum Remain Divided

Brown Bag 17th November 2010

“Museums, Communities and the Internet: Digital Reciprocation”

Carl Hogsden

When Ross Parry first met Carl Hogsden 6 years ago, Mr. Hogsden was already thinking about stretching the potential of web-based technology for museums and how this might re-shape object interpretation, audience engagement and collections knowledge. Today, Mr. Hogsden divides his time between curatorial responsibilities in his capacity as a Research Associate at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge (MAA), and technological development within the museums sector.

He is currently technical lead and project manager for Artefacts of Encounter, a three year project investigating how digital technology can be used to develop networks between museums, objects and their source communities, and how this approach might also generate new knowledge about collections.

More specifically, Artefacts of Encounter focuses upon objects collected during European and American voyages to Polynesia between 1765 and 1840, and seeks to (virtually) reunite dispersed artefacts with their surviving documentation and archival material, such as images and texts. It also draws historical connections between these early encounters while exploring their meaning and legacy for Maori communities today. Finally, it provides a means of making new associations between seemingly disparate objects, via algorithms and researcher and fieldwork data from a number of participating institutions worldwide, such as the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford.

Mr. Hogsden makes the point that many museums have paid lip-service to government demands for greater accessibility and inclusivity in the virtual as well as the physical museum, and have, for example, posted great reams of information about their collections online, but have neglected to involve the voice of the community in the process. For this reason, he argues, there exists a divide between the digital museum and its physical counterpart, citing as another example the anthropology galleries at MAA, which, he feels, are still very much dominated by the voice of curatorial authority.

Mr. Hogsden also questions the wisdom of the global scale of many virtual museum projects, and argues that smaller-scale, targeted and collaborative outreach projects that can be replicated are of more use to both museums and communities than large scale projects which generate user content which is rarely of any use to the physical museum. An early experiment which involved Mr. Hogsden designing and building a website for MAA’s exhibition on the 1934 Wordie Arctic expedition failed to engage with Inuit communities by inviting visitor feedback and comments on the collection solely through an online comments form with no collaboration or prior contact with the community. Also, the vast majority of comments left by non-Inuit visitors did not add to collections knowledge in any way, and therefore had no impact upon the day-to-day work of the physical museum. Thus, although this exercise had made a particular collection more accessible to some, it was not truly participatory, instead serving to distance the community it had wanted to engage.

Mr. Hogsden’s team of researchers are currently working in partnership with the Maori community Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti in collaboration with their arts management team, the Toi Hauiti. This community were largely based in Tolaga Bay, New Zealand, around the time of Captain Cook’s first voyage (1768-71), but are now dispersed across a wide geographic area. The team hope to use digital technology as both a tool and a catalyst for building sustainable and reciprocal relationships with the community on an equal footing, rather than falling back on traditional models which hold that the museum retains the control and ownership of information which it then disseminates as it sees fit.

For instance, the Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti wish to set up a web archive for the use of their community, and particularly for the benefit of younger members whose awareness of their Maori heritage is not as great. Access to this system is to be strictly in accordance with the Maori tradition of proving one’s Whakapapa, or lineage. Ultimately, Mr. Hogsden hopes that his approach will lead to better curatorial practice, by demonstrating through digital reciprocation that source communities must be given autonomy in determining what information they wish to share, or not, with the museum and its partners. Only by sharing control and ownership at a local level, he argues, do we truly create a working partnership of equals.

There have also been some exciting developments in other areas. Recently, MAA developed their collections management system into an open-source web platform, inviting direct contributions by opening up a number of object fields such as names, descriptions and contexts to researchers and other institutions. The museum also releases data on a regular basis. As part of the Reciprocal Research Network, a co-developed web research site by four first-nations communities from British Columbia, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia and thirteen partner institutions, partners can be notified when MAA changes an object record, but as their databases can also talk to the museum’s database, they are free to access and retrieve data whenever they choose, and interpret it in new ways.

All of these observations led to a very interesting discussion about the possibilities and limitations of digital technology for museums. While Mr. Hogsden acceded that initial contact with source communities was by necessity physical, and at least partially dependent on pre-existing connections as well as anthropological expertise, digital technology made continued contact a viable possibility through long-distance working with communities and colleagues all over the world and the instantaneous and dynamic exchange of data, as well as enabling the dispersed Tolaga Bay community to reconnect with each other over common ground.

In discussing the implications of Mr. Hogsden’s work for the museum sector as a whole, Sandra Dudley recognized that while it is not the case that all curators would perceive digital reciprocation as a loss of control, it does pose some very difficult questions surrounding the authorship of what is said about culturally-sensitive objects.

Mr. Hogsden explained that the museum’s core data remains unchanged; extra information from non-museum sources is added as an overlay, and can be removed. Personally, I would argue that this still presents problems for the seamless integration of poly-vocality into the fabric of museums and in bridging the divide between the physical and virtual space of the museum. Issues of access protocol and content ownership also present challenges.

Certainly, digital technology has proven itself a valuable and powerful tool in engaging and collaboratively working with source communities, but only when used in tandem with face-to-face contact, fieldwork and the physical handling of objects as well. For example, in reconnecting the Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti with the artefacts of historic encounters, the team noted how important it was for them to be able to touch the objects, and what an emotional experience it was for them. Finally, as Ross Parry observed, digital space is not by definition neutral space, but if the community themselves were to own and run that space then this is a potentially empowering tool which could also be sustainable beyond the life of the project.

This was an interesting talk which raises some important questions about the ways in which museums build relationships and ‘conversations’ with all communities, not just those with a special interest in a particular collection, and whether it is possible for museums to be truly democratic institutions if the sharing of knowledge, curatorial authority and the ownership of material culture remains an impossible dream for some of them.

Our thanks go to Carl Hogsden for taking the time to speak to us today, and we hope to hear more about the development of the Artefacts of Encounter project in due course.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lost Villages

I'm fascinated by the idea of lost places, lost villages - and this has been piqued by finding this post on the Brum Conservation Blog - and then following that this site. Does anyone know of any lost Leicestershire Villages? I'm thinking Museobunny likes this too...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Leicestershire Revealed

More local museology for you all; Leicestershire County Council, following the BBC's good example, has started a project called Leicestershire Revealed. You can vote on your favourite out of 100 objects that tell a story about Leicestershire's heritage online here, comment and win a free passport to county museums for 2011. The deadline is November 30th.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pin a Piece of History

Pin a Piece of History

I just found this via the good old Birmingham Conservation Trust. Sadly, I've seen nothing near the city centre here in Leiecester - let get to work!

The Attic: Witching Hour

The Attic: Witching Hour

Witching Hour

Hello everyone,

I hope you're all enjoying a pleasant Remembrance Sunday afternoon.

I was just thinking about the weird and wonderful in museums and heritage in connection with our forthcoming PhD symposium, Curiouser and Curiouser, and wondered if anybody managed to catch the 4 day Witching Hour exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery's Waterhall Gallery. Billed as a multi-media exhibition about the 'disconcerting, strange and uncanny that exists in our built environment, our social fabric and in our own minds', it features 20 artists from Birmingham and the West Midlands, and closes today.

If you saw it, I'd be so interested to hear your thoughts!

Friday, November 12, 2010

DCMS Masterplan Unveiled

Well, we saw it coming - the axe has fallen. Here in the UK, the Department of Media, Culture and Sport, which oversees museum funding, has unveiled its budgetary priorities for the coming years. Former Leicester student and fellow Tumblr-er Museums and Stuff has excellent commentary.
Also on Tumblr, ClassisistMike (whose videos we have featured before) points our attention to AAM's Speak Up For Museums campaign. Activism for cultural heritage in the USA: we can get behind that.

Curiouser and Curiouser - last call for proposals!

Museobunny would like to remind his gentle readers that Monday is the deadline for proposals for his upcoming Curiouser&Curiouser conference. His minions inform him that some excellent proposals have been received so far, but he wishes to hear more about eccentric collections, kooky collectors, wacky museums, and unusual heritage attractions from all over the world. He points you again to the CFP and admonishes you to send in your ideas for presentations, traditional and otherwise!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Save the Museum of Oxford

I've just come back from a trip to Oxford, and I'm a little bit heartsick. The reason for this follows...

The shiny, high profile stories of the Ashmolean's reopening, and the newly developed Pitt Rivers Museum, mask the sad truth that the Museum of Oxford is under threat. This is, in my experience, the only museum in Oxford that really tells the story of the city in any great detail. It looks a little shabby, sure. It could do with a lick of paint. But it has the potential to be a great heart for the community. Indeed, it has a beating heart of its own - the volunteer docents are hugely passionate and dedicated.

Its an LEA museum, so unlike the others it does not have a university to underwrite its financial problems. Yes, there are money problems, yes, the museum is not as tidy or as publicized, or as visited as some of its neighbours. But please, don't loose your museum Oxford Council, your museum with the Death Mask of Cromwell, your museum with passion, with a heart - the museum that isn't about the university, but about your city.

I'd like people to write to the Council to support the museum, if they would. I'd be truly sad if this went, and the collection was broken up or sold off.

So go on, just for Oxford the city - a place often masked by the academy with which it shares space.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Greetings from Berlin 1

I am a new PhD student and I enjoy to explore the universe of the School of Museum Studies. As a distance learner the virtual world is extremely important for me so I want to contribute my share and send you from time to time "Greetings from Berlin".
One of my favourite museums in Berlin is “A museum of things” (Museum der Dinge) in Kreuzberg because of its sophisticated exhibitions which are always presented highly aesthetically. That should not be a surprise: the museum is at the same time the archive of the “Deutscher Werkbund”, an organization founded in 1907 to promote the quality and aesthetic demanding design of industrial products. A huge part of the permanent exhibition is thusly dedicated to explore through dense arrangements of everyday objects the concept of the “Werkbund”. The other part is used to show objects combined under certain headings like “body shapes”. In this way aspects like material, function or form are highlighted. Both parts are presented as an “Open Storage” and indeed the exhibition possesses the intimacy and magic of a hidden place which you are invited to explore on your own. The exhibits communicate strongly with each other: even though every object has of course its fixed place, they seem to jump from one cupboard to the other. The black-and-yellow vase is displayed together with other black-and-yellow things but seems to crave for standing among other “kitschy” vases and why shouldn’t it be presented in the cupboard labeled “body shapes”? In challenging the ideas of the institution “museum” – especially with its temporary exhibitions –“A museum of things” is rather unique in the Berlin museum landscape. But there is definitely no other museum in the German capital which trains the view of the visitors so well for what I would call the “thinginess” of things.