Sunday, January 8th, 2017
This highly intelligent and witty title is of course referring to this being my first blog post of 2017! It’s almost a year since living in London and I’ve still not been to all the Museums. (Not that I was ever expecting to, there’s about ninety???)
I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of cartoons, excluding the Beano, of which I had a membership and a fan-club card when I was a child. Punch, however, if they did fan-club card for adults, I would definitely get that. So when The Cartoon Museum had a temporary exhibition displaying Punch cartoons, I knew I had to go. The temporary exhibition is celebrating the 175th anniversary, with Punch founded in 1841. A celebration of all the artistry, satire, as well as an exploration of the social, political and cultural changes so subtly while also blatantly portrayed in Punch.
While I went to the Cartoon Museum expecting to spend a long time in the temporary exhibition, and fly through the permanent galleries to be polite, that wasn’t the case. The contemporary cartoons including Corbyn, Brexit and Cameron were gripping, both in their humour and relevance. I had also forgotten that they have in their permanent collection the Charlie Hebdo cartoon, produced after the terrorist attacks that defined satirical cartoon discussion for much of 2015.
What likewise had struck me most with The Cartoon Museum was their use of space. As a self-funded, relatively small museum, with the daunting competition of the British Museum literally over the road, I wasn’t expecting much in terms of interpretation. While the budget restrictions compared to their neighbour are of course huge, they’ve used what they have to best effect. Their ‘Young Artists’ space is low-key, while also being somewhere schools, families, and probably even adults would love. Sometimes you don’t need tablets, TVs and computers to engage with audiences, sometimes you just need a clipboard, some crayons, and a drawing kit.
Sunday, October 2nd, 2016
My main piece of advice to any museum visitor, don’t go to a University museum during Freshers Week. The idea of university museums is incredible, inspiring the students to be curious, to learn about history or science or art in ways that books or lectures just never could. But, freshers week, avoid. I didn’t do this. I didn’t even think of this. That said, obviously, being just off from Euston and in the middle of one of the biggest universities in the country, I was expecting busy. Grant Museum of Zoology was worth making my way through the crowds.
Established in 1827 by Professor Robert Edmund Grant, originally built the collection on finding he had no sources to teach with. Now, the museum is open the public. One thing that struck me about the Grant Museum of Zoology was the feeling you were still in the 19th century, which is meant as a compliment. The museum does have modern interpretation methods in place, and public engagement is modern in its essence, but somehow it has held onto its magic.
The cabinets still feel curious.
Grant Museum of Zoology has a niche market, students of the broad but narrow subject of Biology, but also the vast market of those seeking the morbid and macabre. I fit into the second category. Noticeably, so did many of the other visitors around me. Big crowds gathered around the jar of Moles, a photograph of which adorned a postcard in the gift shop. I’m sure there’s a lot of research about the psychology of this, I’m sure most of the UCL students would understand it. Fortunately for me, and for you, I’m not one of those people. I’m just making uneducated speculations about this obsession with looking at brains in jars.
The grandeur of the architecture, the curiosity in the macabre cabinets and the finely balanced engagement methods all make up a fascinating museum, tucked away just across the road from Euston station. Brace yourself, maybe carry a folder or a laptop to blend in with the students, and visit the Grant Museum of Zoology.
Sidenote: Grant Museum was one of the Museums in my ‘twenty five to-dos’, remember that? Me neither. Was I ever really going to visit twenty five museums in twenty five weeks, of course not. A girl can dream.
Thursday, July 7th, 2016
It’s been circling around in my head for what seems like weeks, how to write about the opening of Tate Modern’s new building. Circling spiralling thoughts of how to write in a way that is concise, intellectual, factual. So much so, ironically, I’ve left it too late to discuss it as ‘new’ at all.
Today I realised: it doesn’t matter.
I realised this wearing my new hat. To me, this new hat is a highlight of an otherwise monotonous tube commute. What is a highlight to me, no one else glanced at.
The best, and worst, thing about living in London is that no one cares. Every person and every community is so wonderfully diverse and interesting and cool that you can do almost anything and barely stand out.
While that may seem intimidating, perhaps even depressing, it’s also incredibly, incredibly relieving.
It doesn’t matter that I know nothing about art, or art galleries, or architecture. There’s another million blogs that discuss that. There’s another million readers that read that. So I guess I can write whatever I want, wearing my new hat, and no one really cares. In the best possible way.
So, here’s the unintellectual, barely factual, most certainly not concise, thoughts about the new Tate Modern building. The view. There’s nothing I could type that can’t be said by looking at these photos. In terms of visitor figures, tourism, etc, the view will be a stand out addition to the gallery. To draw in crowds, what more could you need than these beautiful views. I’m sure the art snobs amongst us are cringing at the thought: commoners, coming into the exquisite Tate for something as simplistic as a view. But, Tate’s gotta pay the bills. That said, of course the extension has more to offer than the views. Of course it does. But that’s where it gets a big stickier for me. I wish this could read as some Guardian worthy think piece analysis, but it won’t. What does stand out is the atmosphere, the new building feels more accessible, more open, more light, less elitist, more democratic. Maybe I felt this with rose tinted glasses, embracing the crowds who were there for opening weekend that maybe aren’t the regular demographic. But I sincerely hope not. I hope the views draw diverse audiences, new audiences, and then it’s Tate’s job to have something to keep them there once they’ve left the tenth floor.
Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
I have one confession. I cheated with this one. That “I’ll visit one museum a week for twenty five weeks” promise I made, I had a few back ups in case I had to miss a week. I missed this week. I’ve been at Leicester University Museum Studies School for the summer school they put on once a year, so this week has been a miss. But, here comes in the plan B.
A few weeks ago, maybe even a few months ago now, time flies, I visited Viktor Wynd Museum in Hackney. There are so many, many things I could say about it. But, as the title suggests, it can be summed up in one word. Bizarre. But bizarre in the best possible way, a wonderful, literally full of wonder, curiosity cabinet full of all manner of oddities.
The ‘museum’ approaches interpretation and curation in such a fascinating way. By that, I mean, there’s barely any interpretation or curation at all, intentionally. The gallery, I’ll call it a curiosity cabinet from now on because that’s definitely what it is, had very few labels or interpretation in a traditional sense. As soon as you walked down the spiral staircase to be greeted by a mannequin with enormous breasts, you knew you weren’t in Kansas anymore.
The curiosity cabinet was a time capsule of everything odd, strange, against the grain, bizarre. It felt magical, like it was a secret lair of things you shouldn’t be seeing but wanted to see. Visitors giggling and pointing. In a wash of traditional, safe, family-friendly, interpreted to death museums, it is a refreshing change to see something so radically different.
Sunday, June 19th, 2016
Note to self: ALWAYS check the website before visiting a museum or gallery. That’s what I didn’t do when I visited House of Illustration as part of #25ToDos. (Remember that? Visiting 25 museums in 25 weeks – kind of keeping it up!)
I’m sure the website would’ve informed the entire permanent gallery was closed in-between exhibitions. I’m sure the social media feeds would’ve informed the entire permanent gallery was closed in-between exhibitions. I didn’t check that.
Luckily, the temporary exhibition, Seven Kinds of Magic, that was open, was brilliant. Seven Kinds of Magic displays the illustrations of Quentin Blake from seven wide-varied books. The illustrations themselves have been displayed fairly simply, in a classic white frame upon a white wall. But, some of the characters of the illustrations, as shown in the photograph below, appear to spill from the frame, scaling onto the wall. As if by magic.
Seeing original illustrations from Roald Dahl’s The Witches was a pleasure, as one of my favourite childhood books. As beautifully descriptive as Dahl’s language was, I have fond memories that the illustrations of the witches brought them to life in my imagination.
Most charming of the exhibition is a quote on the wall from Quentin himself, “These are books that have magic in them, but then, particularly in young lives, all books are magic.”
Tuesday, June 7th, 2016
As part of my pledge to visit 25 museums in 25 weeks, I visited Jewish Museum London.
I was beginning my route around the History: A British Story gallery, when I heard a little voice behind me, “hello, would you like me to show you round?” I was shown around by a lovely, passionate, knowledgeable, engaging volunteer called Maureen Moses. What struck me about the tour was the sheer love. The love of the museum and the love of the content. I used to volunteer at the Manchester Jewish Museum, for a fair few years, so I’ve given my fair share of tours. While I was aware of what might have been the ‘official tour script’ and what was her own personal, fascinating tangent anecdotes and knowledge, it blended seamlessly.
Volunteering is a bizarre concept, when you think about it, working for free. But volunteering in the museum sector especially is such a core centre to the front of house visitor engagement for many museums, big and small. While not undermining the volunteer sector of other industries, museums have such a strong relationship with volunteering as an ideal and a strong expertise of putting it into practice. Unfortunately, this is of course increasingly due to necessity.
#Volunteersweek is an annual celebration of the work of volunteers, this year taking place between the 1st-12th of June. Both Volunteers Week and my visit to Jewish Museum today has made me acutely proud that I have been in the past, and still am, a museum volunteer. For the sheer love of it.
Thursday, June 2nd, 2016
Museums are for the objects. Art galleries are for the artworks. I know that. But there really is something to be said for the grandeur of architecture.
Disclaimer: I’ve never studied the significance of museum and gallery architecture, so I’m only speaking as an uneducated visitor.
I visited Tate Britain as part of my 25 To Do’s pledge, to visit one museum or gallery a week for 25 weeks. The art works were, of course, beautiful. But what struck me was the architecture. The glamour of high ceilings, columns and marble.
I’m scared to say anymore than that, like I said, I’m wholly uneducated on the whole thing. Uneducated on art galleries in general, actually. But the grandeur of Tate Britain really does something indescribable to your soul. That gasp. That (and I hate this term) wow-factor.
Monday, May 23rd, 2016
I’ve lived in London since the 21st of February. The three month mark has just been and gone. And I’ve realised, I’ve done nothing. Commuting, working two jobs, moving house twice, and interning has taken its toll on my spare time. Not that that’s a complaint, I love all the things I’m doing, so much. But I’m also taking London for granted.
So here’s me, making a change. (If I post it online, I’m much more likely to stick to my word.) I’m going to *try* to visit one museum a week, for twenty five weeks, and take this blog along for the ride.
I took to Wikipedia, their list of London museums page, for inspiration. I fine-tuned the 100+ down to 25, because, who can commit to 100 weeks??
Anaesthesia Heritage Centre, Barbican Centre, Bethlam Museum of the Mind, Cartoon Museum, City of London Police Museum, Cinema Museum, Foundling Museum, Gordon Museum of Pathology, Geffrye Museum, Grant Museum of Zoology, Hackney Museum, Horseman Museum, House of Dreams Museum, Hunterian Museum, House of Illustration, Jack the Ripper Museum, Jewish Museum, Museum of Brands, Museum of Life Sciences, Museum of London, Ragged School Museum, Royal College of Physicians Museum, Tate Britain and the Vyktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities made the final cut.
I might not stick to it, let’s be honest, and realistic, I probably won’t. But here’s me throwing out my commitment into the wide world of the web. Let’s see.
Side note: I’ll be obviously blogging along the way, but you can also follow via twitter at @chloeturneretc and I’ll be hashtagging with #25todos, just because it seems pretty cool to make a hashtag huh, why not.