Book Lovers Day

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

To celebrate Book Lovers Day, I’m rounding up my collection of museum related books – from the delightfully accessible to the challenging academic doorstops. Luckily for me, a major perk the University of Leicester Museum Studies course is the per module parcel of all the books needed. Put on top of that a penchant for late-night whim Amazon purchases, and I’ve racked up quite the collection. Despite two years of solid reading around all things museum, I haven’t had enough and am continuing reading for fun – which is a pretty good indicator that I’m working in the right sector.

First up is Museum Revolutions by Simon J. Knell, Suzanne MacLeod and Shiela Watson. As Leicester Museum Studies staff, perhaps it’s slightly bias that I love this one. But, it was the first academic text that I utterly fell in love with, and it continues to shape my practice. Using primarily global case-studies, it was a great introductory piece to the world of museums’ social practice. The chapter by Robert R. Janes called ‘Museums, Social Responsibility and the Future We Desire’ is a personal favourite, with the margins scattered with excited notes.

As a rather pricey whim purchase based off the love of Jane’s chapter, I bought ‘Museums Without Borders’ from the Wellcome Collection gift shop, which heartbreakingly doesn’t take student discount, but was ultimately well worth the money. While academic, the book remains accessible throughout and is an enjoyable train read. Likewise, ‘Gender Sexuality and Museums’ by Amy K. Levin was the fundamental basis of my under graduate dissertation – so will always hold a sentimental place on my bookshelf.

For a more didactic read, somewhere in between academia and train-read-status, is ‘Writing for Museums’ by Margot Wallace. The breakdown into uses of museum writing (i.e. anything from labels to blogs) and discussing the correct and appropriate styles is a useful way to assist emerging museum professionals.

As a bit of an old-school text, I bought a second hand copy of ‘The New Museology’ by Peter Vergo while I was studying for my MA, just to see what all the fuss was about. Of course, parts of it are wholly out-dated, the principle values throughout really resonate with me. And that retro cover, iconic.

Now onto the fun ones. One of my most treasured books is ‘The Secret Museum’ by Molly Oldfield, I stumbled upon it in an Ofxam at an absolute steal for £6.99 – and I’m now horrified that anyone could ever give it away to a charity shop. It’s certainly the most beautiful in this list, the typography and marrying of images and text is stunning, the book almost feels like an art piece in itself.

The most recent addition to my favourites is ‘Curiosities from the Cabinet’ by Rebecca Reynolds, it’s still on my to be read pile, but I can tell just from flicking through that I’m going to love every page – and that cover, you can judge a book by it, I don’t care what they say. To end on an obvious one, ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’, are you really a museum fan if you don’t own this one? I have it in paperback, Kindle, and have listened to the podcast – obvs.


What i’ve learnt writing a dissertation

Monday, May 1st, 2017

It’s taken me a while to write this post, it got to the point where anything slightly dissertation related went straight out of my head, out of my laptop, never to be thought about again. I went to Leicester at the start of April to hand in what felt like years worth of work, and I suppose to an extent it was a culmination of everything I’d learnt so far doing the Masters in Museum Studies course with the University of Leicester. I researched how museums use social media to engage with activist and social justice themes, concluding that museums don’t use social media in this field to the extent that they could, but when they do they do it well. Basically, the whole experience has taught me that:

  1. I’m never doing a PHD.
  2. I need a bit of a break from thinking about museum social media, or museum activism, but that is oh so definitely where my heart is.
  3. Coffee fuels all.

I wrote a summary of the themes of my dissertation for the London Museums Group blog, which is available to read here, but here’s a few quotes from the blog.

“Museums and social media have much in common. Both have potential to emit knowledge, both arguably exist for the audience they speak to, and both have unprecedented influence upon their communities. Social media has the capacity to construct dialogue and social values, as do museums. Inspired by Richard Sandell, my Masters dissertation was always going to be in the social justice remit. But, equally fascinated by the fine-tuned practice of museums engaging with social media and the unprecedented changes social media use has brought to the sector, I thought, why not combine the two? Why not see what happens when both the museum sector, and the unique character of social media platforms unite to democratize knowledge, engage communities in equality and tolerance, deconstruct grand narratives, and develop a practice of social justice and activism awareness.” “As social media shifts museums use of the Internet from information to personal, including grass-root audience experiences and opinions diversifies debate and opens the collection to social justice agendas. It is the work of the future museum to effectively balance the intricacies of both social media and activism. Ultimately, the reciprocity, accountability, collaboration, and shared authority that social media can incite with its audiences makes our museums more engaging to the communities they are there to serve.”

I visited the brilliant New Walk museum in Leicester just after I’d been to hand in, I planned for this post to include a little review and some photographs while I was there. But, I was far too distracted after such a big day, so here’s just a photo of me holding my pride and joy like a proud mum.

11 things you learn being a Uni of Leicester Museum Studies distance learner:

Monday, August 8th, 2016

15th of April 2015 seems like a really, really, long time ago. Since then, I’ve changed jobs three times, moved house twice, and spent more money on “I’ll definitely write another 1000 words if I get another £3.60 flat white” than I care to admit. But it also feels like a really, really short time ago. The fear it’s all almost over is palpable. Sure, there have been points where I’ve counted down the months until I can Netflix binge guilt-free, but there have been points where I never want it to end. I love having a student discount card, I love having a student identity, mostly I just love the course. Would I do it all over again? Definitely. Here’s 11 things I’ve learnt along the ride.

1. Social Media is your best friend. Even if you don’t necessarily ~engage~ a lot, just seeing the “AAHH HELP WHAT EVEN IS A FOOTNOTE” status’ of others is wholly comforting in its camaraderie.

2. Anywhere becomes an office: Coffee shops, iPhone notes on the tube, staff rooms, scribbles on the back of receipt paper when one particular good idea pops up mid shift, sometimes even the actual desk you bought with all those good intentions.

3. “What would Richard Sandell do?” plods along even the most bleak essays.

4. Sweet freedom. No more boiling stuffy lecture theatres (minus Summer School 2015, enough said.) No more avoiding student societies pub crawls circa undergrad. No more vodka bottles on every flat surface of halls. No more 15p Aldi noodles. No more considering waking up at 10am an early morning.

5. The endless cycle of “I’ll definitely do every activity next unit!”…… “Well ok, that didn’t go to plan, but NEXT time!” And repeat.

6. Yet, you know more than you think you do. You’re more capable than you think you are.

7. Getting the parcel of books each module is almost like Christmas, and you’re almost as excited. “I’ll definitely read every book this module!!” “Ok, well that didn’t go to plan, but NEXT module!!” And repeat.

8. Knowing every ~museum profesh~ you tell you’re doing the course, is pretty likely to say, “oh yes, great course, [insert colleagues name] did that too”

9. Knowing every ~non museum profesh~ is pretty likely to say “You do it from home? Like all online? Seriously?”

10. Occasionally you have horrifying flashbacks to that time you used to think “maybe I’ll do a PHD after this.”

11. Even with all that, knowing there’s so, so many people, literally all around the globe, going through the exact same 11 things, makes it all that bit more doable. (So does coffee, and wine.)