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  • Bentham, Utilitarianism and Sex

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 5 February 2014

    Bentham later in life.  Photo courtesy of UCL Art Museum.

    Bentham later in life.
    Photo courtesy of UCL Art Museum.

    On February 14th (yes, Valentine’s day) I will be giving a short talk at ‘Late London: City of Seduction’, part of the Museum of London’s special events program, on the auto-icon of Jeremy Bentham. I will be introducing the auto-icon, discussing how it was made and talking about some of the legends that have built up around it (head used for a game of football anyone?). I will then relinquish the floor to Professor Philip Schofield, head of the Bentham Project, an expert of Bentham’s life and works.

    So, a dead Philosopher, a mummified head and an articulated skeleton don’t sound very suitable for Valentine’s day do they? And maybe they aren’t, however if you look closer at the philosophy Bentham helped found…

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    Whose story is it anyway?

    By Alice M Salmon, on 31 January 2014

     This Wednesday, 29 January, UCL Museums and Collections, and UCL Library Special Collections, teamed up with the literary charity First Story to deliver our annual creative writing event. Around 90 students from local London secondary schools spent the afternoon exploring and writing about our collections.

    Students from Lambeth Academy absorbed in their work in The Rock Room, UCL

    Students from Lambeth Academy absorbed in their work in The Rock Room, UCL

    Events like these remind me of how lucky I am to work as an educator in museums. As museum professionals, we spend a long time thinking about how to tell stories (stories of our museums, stories of our collections, stories of our objects, stories of the people that owned said objects,  etc, etc…I could go on) but it is so refreshing to hand the role of the storyteller over to students, who can provide us with a totally fresh take on the collections we know so well.  The results were, quite simply, fantastic. Below is just one example of the quality of work produced from the visit:

    Jack Isaaz –La Grotteri, from King Solomon Academy, was inspired to think about his heaven and hell through  working with the UCL Library Special Collections and, in particular, by Botticelli’s  illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy:

     For it is All that I Need

     Sensations seldom felt grip the air.

     More stains of darker, saturated hues. But still

     All feels grey. Unlike once before, the silence

     Is now silent: sounds of death, dead

     Vibrations permeate the dust that you hear

     And breathe. I can’t bear the nothing that

     I never had. You don’t see for there is nothing

     To observe.

     

    She smiles again once more, though not one thing

     Could ever make one forget such a sight.

     The sun shines on the clouds and as it should,

     It does not shine on us. We are left with

     The fray of the familiar. The cold that embraces us is

     No foe, cooling our skin with its inviting breath.

     I imagine the park adjacent to the grass where I

     Lay down gazing at nothing because it is nothing that

     I’ve become accustomed to. The fun nothings I need.

     

     Raindrops now, stain the tar that bleaches the roads I’ve

     Walked upon my entire life. The buildings are calmed

     As their shadows find homes with the darkening

     Surface. There is no need for thought or speech for

     All is as it should be. I imagine

     Her smile.

     Jack Isaaz –La Grotteri, King Solomon Academy

    To find out more about the work that First Story do you can visit their website: http://www.firststory.org.uk/

    Alice Salmon is a Senior Access Officer in the Access and Learning Team for UCL’s Museums and Public Engagement Department.

    Looking Through the Eyes of an Orangutan

    By Alice M Salmon, on 25 October 2013

    I am going to start this blog off by openly admitting that I am breaking social media convention by blogging about an event that took place nine months ago. *audible gasps*. Yes, I do really mean nine months ago. However, there is good reason for this. In February this year, UCL’s Museums and Collections, and the Library Special Collections, worked in collaboration with the UCL English Department and literary charity First Story, to deliver a creative writing day  for 100 students from local non selective secondary schools.  Today, the schools’ poetry anthologies have landed on my desk and they are definitely worth blogging about.

    A selection of poetry anthologies by The First Story Group

    The anthologies by First Story Group that are happily sitting on my desk.

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    A “humerus” way to spend the holidays…

    By Alice M Salmon, on 19 April 2013

    Firstly, I need to apologise for the lack of immediacy in writing a blog about the year 8 “spring school” that I ran on behalf of UCL’s Museums and Collections last week. With my teenage years a distant memory, a bit of R and R was required to recover from the energy of 38 constantly excited 13 year olds.

    Reconstructing the look of a plague doctor

    Reconstructing the look of a plague doctor

    That aside, it was certainly a week to remember! Participants witnessed a barber surgeon in action, analysed animal poo, and created their own alien dissection, all in the name of education.  They discussed the ethics of human display, philosophised over what makes us human, and took great pleasure in analysing the “worth” of a dismembered foot that had been consumed with dry gangrene. (more…)

    What’s in a name? Outreach with a capital “O”…

    By Alice M Salmon, on 22 January 2013

    So the time has come for me to write my first blog post and, after an initial panic, I decided that this would be an opportune moment to talk about Outreach: What it is, why we do it, and what it actually involves.

    Now I know that discussing outreach in this forum is pretty much preaching to the converted but, for my role, there is a distinct difference between outreach and Outreach and, although this might be incredibly pedantic of me, I want to talk about it.

    Participants of the 2012 Language and Study Skills Summer School celebrating their achievements at the end of the two week programme.

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    The Fellowship Continues

    By Edmund Connolly, on 15 January 2013

    A new year has begun and our Fellows are now developing their projects back in their respective institutions. The Cultural Heritage Fellowship, which was established in 2012, aimed at promoting and analysing means of community engagement in cultural institutions in the MENA region. With Fellows from such a range of countries and institutions the projects are developing in unique and original ways. Following from our post last year, I will briefly profile our Jordanian Fellows, Nada Sheikh-Yasin and Mohammad Shaqdih.

     

    M Shaqdih

    Mohammad Shaqdih started as the Education Officer at Darat al Funun, a pioneering institution for Jordanian and Arab world arts and artists, and now is the Assistant Director for the Outreach Program. Founded in 1993, Darat al Funun has a holistic melange of facilities, including library, gardens and performance spaces, as well as the exhibition galleries and workshops. The current exhibition, “The power of the word”, uses pieces from the private collections from more than 20 artists from a mix of Arab Countries (such as Muna Hattoum, Rashid Quraishi, Lila Shawwa, Adel Abdin etc.). By choosing artworks that include  words and writings, this lively collection seeks to: “provide the public with a bird’s eye view of works of art created by Arab artists and gives the opportunity to witness, as closely as possible, the development of the Arab Art Movement”. With a background in graphic design and a degree in Applied Arts, Mohammad proved a very insightful Fellow, with experience of working on both side of the art industry, as artist and, now, Director. (more…)

    How not to do public engagement

    By Rachael Sparks, on 22 December 2012

    A few weeks ago, I found myself standing in the artefact store, staring down the barrel of a film camera while the cameraman and director stared expectantly back at me. I was supposed to say something bright, pithy, and appealing about our collections, and I was supposed to say it now.

    Pointing at old stuff for dramatic effect

    Pointing at old stuff for dramatic effect

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    How the rattlesnake’s tail came to Camden Town

    By Celine West, on 20 December 2012

    Once upon a time there was a rattlesnake, he lived in the high desert of North Western New Mexico. No doubt conceived in love, he was born live, not out of an egg like most other snakes. He grew up big and strong, lithe and supple, with dark diamond-shaped patterns along his back. When he was growing up, he grew larger than his skin so he slipped out if it, shedding the thin scaly coat on the sandy ground and not looking back.

    Crotalus atrox by Clinton and Charles Robertson

    Crotalus atrox, Western diamondback rattlesnake by Clinton and Charles Robertson

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    No lies and some statistics

    By Celine West, on 16 November 2012

    One of the things we do as part of Learning & Access is outreach work with London schools. This is teaching with objects in the classroom, most often with Primary school children. I have been away from work for a while and returning recently I realized this is something I don’t talk about enough so I’m just going to share some numbers with you about outreach that’s happening now.

    In 2 months staff are visiting 23 different Primary schools on 27 different days. They are teaching in 66 classes and are working with 2000 children, children of all ages from 4 to 12 years old.

    The schools are spread across 5 London Boroughs and in this 2 months, staff will have spent about 45 hours in total travelling on London transport to and from schools… (more…)

    Touching Heritage

    By Nicholas Vogelpoel, on 22 October 2012

    Volunteers in the ‘Touching Heritage’ programme, funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant have been taking objects from across UCL’s museums and collections to people in hospitals, care homes and other community health settings for the past couple of months, and facilitating object-handling sessions with participants who would otherwise be excluded from visiting museums.

    Patient in object-handling session

    The programme is unique not only because of its intentions to actively engage excluded communities in cultural activity, but because it offers volunteers the opportunity to become the facilitators of heritage-in-health sessions. The benefits of object-handling and the potential for improved experiences of health and wellbeing through cultural engagement for participants have been a priority of the heritage-in-healthcare research team at UCL for a number of years. Researchers have found that the kinaesthetic and tactile properties of the objects have the potential to influence and improve experiences of health and wellbeing for participants of a session. (more…)