Museums & Collections Blog
  •  
  •  
  • Categories

  •  
  • Tags

  •  
  • Archives

  • Archive for November, 2013

    Do Dodo Bones Belong in a Museum?

    By Jack Ashby, on 14 November 2013

    This week the Daily Mail reported that two bones from a dodo were set to sell at auction for £30,000. This would be the first private sale of a dodo bone since 1934*. My first reaction was one of horror. Why is that?

    These are two main reasons why I might deplore this sale:
    1) It should be in a museum.
    2) We shouldn’t put a value on natural history objects.

    I’d like to explore why these might not be reasonable objections.

    It Should be in a Museum: For Science
    This is the reaction I got on Twitter when discussing this story, and it seems reasonable. Valuable natural history specimens that aren’t in museums are lost to science, as I have argued before when discussing Channel 4’s Four Rooms.

    But are these two bones – a femur and partial pelvis – valuable natural history specimens? I’m not convinced. (more…)

    Away daze – or how to make workshop training work for you

    By Rachael Sparks, on 12 November 2013

    UCL Museums and Collections 2007

    UCL Museums and Collections staff enjoying an Away Day at Kew Gardens. No post-it notes were harmed in the making of this photograph.

    Last week, I attended a Collections Trust training event aimed at developing my managerial skills. It was a slick, well-run affair, which I enjoyed despite being in the throes of a terrible cold.

    Now I’m a bit of a training junkie, and go to a lot of these sorts of things. Past highlights of my training calendar include courses on dealing with contentious subjects, museum mount-making, digital photography, and record and archive management, not to mention away days visiting countless museums I’d never previously heard of.

    Something of a gestalt has developed out of all this, and I think I’m beginning to see a pattern emerging in the culture that is the museum workshop event. So here’s my take on the five key ways in which training works for the museum sector, and makes us better and happier employees. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 109

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 11 November 2013

    Having waved goodbye with a heavy heart to the baby eagles that hatched on my balcony and fledged during the summer, Saruman (hamster) and I were alone. Don’t get me wrong, he keeps me busy. He is as naughty as a mammal gets. The other day after an episode of particularly noteworthy naughtiness, I put Return of the King on the television and showed him exactly what happens to Sarumans that misbehave but instead of admitting the error of his ways and repenting, he went to bed and ignored me for the rest of the evening. Sigh. Anyway, despite having the right hand of Sauron keeping me on my toes, I felt the need to expand my family. Let me therefore introduce you to General Grievous, Darth Maul, Mumm-Ra and Grun the Destroyer – my new variable platyfish (picture to follow). We don’t have this species at the Museum but in their honour I will tell you about something else a little fishy. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    It’s Australia v England, in battle over Stubbs masterpieces

    By Jack Ashby, on 8 November 2013

    In September I wrote a post about two paintings by George Stubbs – of a kangaroo and a dingo – which had been placed under an export bar to allow time for the National Maritime Museum to raise funds to save them for the nation. This was because they had been sold to an oversees buyer.

    This week we learned that the campaign was successful. Had it not been, the paintings would have been bought by the National Gallery of Australia. They are understandably disappointed. I was asked by The Conversation (“an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community”) to update my article for them, covering the Australian case for their acquisition. (more…)

    The Press Photography of Red Vienna 1929 – 1938: An interview

    By Helen R Cobby, on 8 November 2013

    Helen Cobby interviews the researchers of the Red Vienna project, Eva Branscome and Catalina Mejia, before their Pop-Up Display and Lecture on Tuesday 12th November.

    This photo is a wire photo: It shows the Nazis using the Karl-Marx-Hof as a politically laden backdrop to their feeding station for the starving Viennese

    This photo is a wire photo: It shows the Nazis using the Karl-Marx-Hof as a politically laden backdrop to their feeding station for the starving Viennese

    This event is based round American press photographs depicting social housing estates during the turbulent inter-war years in Vienna. The photographs record three specific epochs within this time frame, from the building of the social houses to the take-over of Austria by the Nazis. The interview below includes Eva’s and Catalina’s thoughts about the development of their project, the active role of the photographs in the manipulation of historical events, as well as the importance of new photographic technologies emerging at the time and new relations between image and caption that this brings. (more…)

    The time to live life is now

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 7 November 2013

    As both of my parents worked in travel I guess whether you fall down in the camp of nature or on the side of nurture, eitherway I was probably destined to be a traveller myself. Although I was a late developer in this area, only travelling alone for the first time once at university, I have since clocked up 49 countries and have back of the envelope plans for well over fifty more. As a zoologist and conservationist seeing the natural world first hand is indescribable, though my background also makes me only too aware of the rapidity with which the planet is changing. I don’t just mean animals and the environment, people themselves are changing as well. It is not an uncommon site in Kenya to see Masai tribesmen in the bush wearing traditional red blankets and sandles, and herding goats whilst chatting away on their Nokia. But I feel privileged to have seen them and witnessed their lives and cultures even in this transitional state. In a few years they’ll be wearing GAP t.shirts and Nike trainers, tearing around the bush on quad bikes*. There is simply nothing like seeing mountain gorillas in the wild, being woken up in your sleeping bag by a giraffe munching leaves outside your tent, or being caught in the middle of a capuchin monkey turf war in the Amazon rainforest. (more…)

    A stylish workshop on Subversive Millinery

    By Helen R Cobby, on 5 November 2013

    P1010920-2Subversive Millinery was an eclectic, creative and colourful evening event at the UCL Art Museum. It comprised of a mini art history lecture on the role and significance of hats, and a hands-on practical workshop where participants were encouraged to create their own beautiful hat or fascinator. This fun mix was led by Sue Walker, who completed her MA and PhD in art history at UCL, specialising in 18th and 19th century French prints.

    Sue began by explaining why she had become obsessed with hat making and encouraging communal creativity. She felt it was predominantly triggered from feeling disconnected with art objects after studying so much theory. She decided to start making things and focused on fashion as a way to get others involved and interested because it is something everyone is affected by and has opinions about. This idea of making judgments and engaging with ideas through ‘visual signs’, such as those of fashion, is fundamental to art historical questions that ask ‘what is it and what do we do when we make a visual sign?’ (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 108

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 4 November 2013

    There is a lot to celebrate around this time of year. Halloween was just a few days ago, bonfire night is tomorrow, and there were plenty of sparklers and fireworks over the weekend (my hamster wasn’t impressed). Plus there is the changing of the seasons, the onset of brown and orange leaves, and it’s reaching the time to dig out the very thick jumpers rather than the medium thick jumpers I’ve been wearing for the last month. It is tempting to write a blog about a species connected to any one of these festive events, so many creatures could be both realistically and tenuously linked to such times as this. But I’m not going to do any of that. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    From the Field to the Museum and Back Again

    By Edmund Connolly, on 1 November 2013

    by guest blogger: Alice Stevenson
    What are the chances? Two teams of archaeologists separated by a more than century stumbling across small fragments of the same object while working across a wide expanse of desert? Quite high as it happens.

    At the turn of the 19th century Flinders Petrie’s teams were trawling through the debris of the tombs of the first rulers of Egypt at a site called Abydos.

    Reconstruction of First Dynasty royal tomb of Den at Abydos, February 2013

    Reconstruction of First Dynasty royal tomb of Den at Abydos, February 2013

    (more…)