Friday, December 29, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Black death - human flea's role?
Very good article on the Black Death reported on Britarch - it has a useful summary of the various viewpoints very well. It concludes that there were indeed some differences from the 19th Century bubonic plague - mainly in how virulent it was and comes to the conclusion that this is because the plague was spread by the human flea.
The Shifting Explanations for the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague in Human History
By John Kelly
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Museums Without Barriers Grant application rejected
The pot had very little money in it and they could afford few grants but as I had gone on the training course, met the grant coordinator I was pretty sure we would be successful, but I think I left the project too open-ended and lost out to more tightly constrained projects.
I wanted a visit by the consultants to help us decide how best to concentrate our efforts to improve access. The application was that simple - obviously too simple that they did not think we had put any effort in.
London Array Windfarm proposed
For more details:
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
How London is Divided Up
I have no idea who made these decisions but clearly some are not so obvious.
Southwark is in the Central Region but the City is in the Eastern Region given that all the bridges across the Thames in Southwark join up with the City this seems crazy!
A report which discusses the issue of dividing up London can be seen here.
Kensington & Chelsea
Barking & Dagenham
Corporation of London
Hammersmith and Fulham
30m New Visitors since Free Museums
End of year at the Old Operating Theatre Museum
We had our Christmas party at the Bermondsey Kitchen on Bermondsey Street last night. The restaurant was a long way down the street towards the site of the old Abbey -this street has come up so much in the last few years - it is now full of restaurants and pubs.
Dinner was good and how amazing that we have come through such a hard year in such good heart. We survived 6 months enforced closure, we built an alternative display and moved back into the old museum with just a couple of days closed. Our visit numbers are back up and the staff have done just amazing work. Its inspirational.
We move into yet another year of uncertainty, as the Landlord is selling the building under us and we hope to buy it, but fear someone else will buy it before we can raise the money.
Cognitive Dissonance and the Post Grad Certificate in Higher Education
Labels: narrative environments
Sunday, December 17, 2006
East End Dwellings Company
From the Museum or from Bethnal Green Tube, walk down Cambridge Heath Street to the Sir John Soane's St John's Church built in 1826. Turn left into Roman Road and walk along until the Buddhist centre and turn left up Globe Road.
The road has got an interesting series of public housing built by the East End Industrial Dwellings Company between 1900 and 1906.
The company were one of the philanthropic societies called the 5 percentage companies - which tried to build good housing for the poor and make a 5% return to encourage commercial landlords to improve their standards.
There is nice no smoking pub of the period, with great tiled exterior called the Camel - does pie and mash for food.
Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood -reopens
To me the overriding problem of the old museum was that it was not much fun - it was a traditional object-orientated display-case Museum that was really designed for adults revisiting their childhood toys. It was not really designed for children - the museum of childhood not the museum for children
Not much has really changed. On the plus side are new front-of-house facilities, education rooms, toilets, a lovely new pink/lilac paintjob for the old corrugated iron shed, new cases, more interactives and hands on activities (a surprising number of which are 'out of order)' And yes there is definitely more fun here for the kids but the displays are still traditional case bound object displays and it is still a Museum of Childhood and not really a children's Museum.
The objects are still in rectangular cases of particular dullness, an attempt has been made to impose a narrative structure on the objects but it fails. Visitors will adore the objects, the toys, the dolls, the robots, the dolls houses, but will learn precious little about childhood through the ages and not much more about the history of toys other than that which will be gleaned from the objects themselves. The narrative panels sometimes seem written for a post-modern adult and sometimes to encourage kids to explore - but they fail to engage and I suspect most people don't bother to engage with them.
The architects have done a good conservative job inside - experimenting only with the colour, but the open plan nature of the building causes problems - it now seems a lot noisier than it used to and the cafe smell pervades the space. The Cafe seems no better than the one it replaced and it fills exactly the same space. The shop is also not a fantastic toy shop - which surely it should be?
The exhibition designers seem to have been working on a shoe string - the downstairs cases are ok but uniform and dull, the upstairs cases are quite terrible, old cases reused with new system designed wooden interiors - the dressing is really not up to much at all, very lifeless. Also upstairs is a multicultural inclusive display on the local area. I suspect it might have been ok in a local museum but the design gets lost in the huge space and as part of a large relaunch it seems very weak.
The new front entrance block seems also to be designed not to fit in with the 19th building at all - the old V&A 'boiler house' have a triangular roof line, semi-circular arches and red brick, the new front entrance is a blocky square clad like a London Mosque and does not fit in with the original building at all not in colour, in shapes and forms or in mood.
To sum up, it is competent piece of conservation architecture inside, a lack-lustre exhibition in side and the Museum has failed to take advantage of a £4.7m chance to reinvent itself.
For interviews with the architect and director follow the link:
BBC - London - TV and Radio - The V&A Museum of Childhood unveils its million pound transformation
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Theatre Museum may relocate to Blackpool
This seems a disaster to me as much of the Collection is London based and a West End location seems the most appropriate.
I am surprised that there has not been a storm of protest about the Theatre Museum - I think this is because the HLF refused two grant applications on account, it is said, of the difficult site the Theatre Museum occupies - being essential subterranean. And so we acquiesce. However, the site is difficult not impossible and it is in the right place - just over the road from the West End's first theatre, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, close by the Royal Opera House and near most of the great London Theatres.
This suggests to me that the HLF has too much power - they reject a grant, the Museum closes, and we all accept it!
To help protect the Theatre Museum Guardians of the Theatre Museum
Guys World Medical Heritage Site
Could be this is what the Museum needs for its development?
London Museums of Health and Medicine AGM
Robert Bud and his team reported on the Science Museum's projects in particular a new project called 'Sickness and Health' to create a new web resource for the 'Medicine through time' curriculum and for Medical Students. He reported there were 60,000 school children doing 'Medicine through time'. The core of the project is digitising 4,000 new images from the Wellcome Collection, there would be a user interaction (wiki type) area of the site. He reported that it was not a networked project which he regretted but he felt the time for that was in a few years time. I suggested that it would be an ideal opportunity for a national museum to fulfil its brief to work with smaller museums particularly as 'Medicine Through Time' is so important to us. He suggested there would be web links.
I reported on the proposed medical trail which the 24hr Museum has agreed to host. Sue Weir and I wrote the draft and this is soon to go live. I also reported on the London Museums Group.
Museums need full time Professional Exhibition professionals?
On the face of it a strange suggestion - what are Exhibition Designers then? What are 'Content developers'? What, for that matter, are Museum Curators?
So his suggestions needs some amplification or unpicking. He believes that often the role of 'exhibition editor' is often missing or fulfilled by people with too little experience, or knowledge, and that curators are often too busy with other things to fulfill this role properly.
I think he is saying that modern good practice demands a multidisciplinary team, and extensive public consultation, and that this process needs to be led by people who understand both the curatorial information content, the design process and how to communicate effectively with the public.
Sounds like our course at Central St Martins!
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Sorrows of the Moon
to quote the Camden New Journal 'Iqbal Ahmed did not grow up in London.... But his first book – Sorrows of the Moon – has an instinctive feel for the guts of London with his observations of Brick Lane tailors and café life in West Hampstead.'
Camden New Journal
Monday, December 11, 2006
Early sketch of Stonehenge found
keyword = archaeology
Friday, December 08, 2006
Hitler's reasons for War
It has always puzzled me why he was happy to honour his treaty with Japan and take on the might of the US. The answer seems to be two fold - firstly he believed that the international jewish conspiracy was lead by the States so that to defeat the jews it was inevitable he had to take on the US - the japanese entry in the war at least gave him an ally in this epic struggle. He started the war in 1939 because he saw that the democracies were beginning to overtake Germany in war production, and that 1941/2 would be too late for Germany to take them on successfully, he gambled by going early.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Clerkenwell Tales Walk
The book is a bit of a potboiler with really the only point of interest being the local colour that Ackroyd has added. I can't help thinking he was dashing off a quick book to pay for his time spent on the more academic studies.
Firstly, the title was obviously chosen to resonate with the Canterbury Tales, and the people in the book are supposedly drawn from Chaucer's masterpiece. Except they are not - they may have the same job titles, friar, pardoner, nun's priest, manciple etc. but their characters are absolutely nothing to do with Chaucer's. Just one example - William Exmewe the mastermind behind the murders is not a jolly corrupt friar, he is a hard bitten Machiavelli, but virtually every other character is also nothing to do with Chaucer. So I felt cheated.
Secondly it is not a who-do-it - it is a why-done-it. You are pretty sure who did the murders but the question is who is behind it all or will the plot be foiled, but you don't really care about any of the characters, nor do you believe in the medieval terrorist campaign - the likelihood of a bomb campaign in medieval London, although technically feasible is vanishingly unlikely. So this leaves the local medieval colour as the main point of interest - and it has some of these but the characters are 'dressed' with medievalisms they don't seem to me to live them.
I did think of a good way to do the walk - this was to emulate Ackroyd - 50% of output historically accurate academic, 50% magical realism and pseudo pyschogeographic mumbo jumbo - could create a pyschodrama out of it?
The Clerkenwell Tales Walk for what its worth would be some thing like this:
Start Clerkenwell Green
St Martins Le Grand
Holy Sepulchre Church
The group were a very pleasant group and it was a real pleasure to see them again as I did a walk for them 2 or 3 years ago.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Stonehenge was a hospital
And so to Stonehenge the Druid's Circle, the Astronomic Computer, the Shaman's Den is now added Stonehenge as Spa.
Simon Jenkins of the Guardian reports Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | Not a fortress, or a temple, or a calendar. Stonehenge was a hospital
Article in the Telegraph
keyword = archaeology
Medieval Sourcebook: The Questioning of John Rykener, A Male Cross-Dressing Prostitute, 1395