Show off

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

“It’s an open mic night featuring curators, conservators, librarians, collectors, trustees, security people, retail folk, educators, funders, explainers, visitors, academics, archivists and everyone else associated with museums, libraries, archives and collections.” – https://museumsshowoff.wordpress.com

I’ve finished my dissertation today! All that’s left is finding a London printing and binding place that doesn’t cost more than the actual tuition fee. But I can see the finish line. 2 years of studying in the making, the end is nigh. So, as half treat half inspiration, I put my laptop away in my bag for a couple of hours, and headed to Museums ShowOff. Museums ShowOff is an open mic for museum professionals to talk about their museum, their role and their love for all things Museum.

This is my third Museums ShowOff night. I’d been once in Manchester and saw Dave Haslam (amazing) and a bunch of museum professionals based in Manchester. I also went this January in London, and saw people like Sascha Coward, Claire Madge, and the ever brilliant The Queer Cabinet Brigade perfect what Museums ShowOff is all about. They brought a humour, lightness and accessibility to their slots. In January, life and dissertation got in the way of writing a review, but this time I’m making the time.
First up, Eleanor Margolies spent her 9 minutes explaining how it takes so much longer than 9 minutes to describe what we see when we look at an object, and how they makes interpretation for blind visitors so tricky. Followed by Prachi Joshi talked about his MA project with the British Museum, a roleplaying event to shift our Prachi Joshi talked about her MA project with the British Museum, a roleplaying event to shift our perspectives of what a museum is. Next up was Catherine Freeman talking about… teddy bears. I’ll admit BM (before museums) I used to work at Build A Bear Workshop as my weekend job *shudders*, so I was ready to hate this slot, but there’s much more to bears than I first thought, and I ended up actually enjoying it.

Harriet Braine and Korantema Anyimadu spent their slots doing what Museums ShowOff is all about. Sharing their love of museums in the most creative, fun, and humorous way. Harriet Braine, from the National Maritime Museum,wrote, and sung a song specially for Museums Showoff and Korantema performed an incredible spoken word piece about shameful museum thoughts.

Rosie Lampard, who talked about the bizarre questions visitors ask. Hearing from a front of ouse perspective was brilliantly unexpected, and she completely nailed it. Slightly darker, well much darker was Sheldon Goodman, discussing cemeteries. From CemeteryClub.co.uk, Sheldon’s slot made cemeteries seem.. cool? Ever so slightly more of what you’d expect from a Museum event, Miranda Stearn spoke about the social mobility in Cambridge, or the lack thereof, and what University of Cambridge Museums are doing to change this.

I’d recommend Museums ShowOff to anyone. Whether you’re a director of a national museum, or a visitor, there will be something at Museums ShowOff for you. It’s basically a nerdy stand up show. The humour, creativity and excitement of Museums ShowOff makes you forget your learning stuff, and somehow manages to make hearing about museums an actual break from writing 15,000 words about museums…

 



On Being a Whisper

Monday, May 9th, 2016

This is some rambling, self involved thoughts about being a small fish in a big pond. As i’ve become more involved in the twitter museum community, it’s a feeling i’ve increasingly palpably felt. Listening to writers that are so eloquent, thoughtful, self-aware both inside and outside of the museum community is equal parts terrifying and inspiring.

To set the context, my ideas always come to me in inconvenient times. Blog posts come to me when I’m on the tube. Essay ideas come to me when I’m at work. It leads to scrambled jotting in my phone notes, or on the back of receipt paper. A flurry of excitement and inspiration. Published to WordPress, submitted to university.

And then. Silence.

Nothing to do but reread, self critique, repeat.

I wholeheartedly believe in writing your truth, but what happens when it doesn’t match up to others. Twitter is an instantaneous, conversational space in which I involve myself in the museum community. Sometimes, the conversation happens like this:

@me: “my opinion”

@them: “I don’t agree with your opinion”

*Oh god, maybe I’m wrong, I’m so stupid, I should give up this entire career *

@me: “ok, sorry”

What happens if your voice is a whisper, amongst a room of shouting. Beautiful, intelligent, eloquent, shouts.

I’m learning how to be a whisper. I’m learning how to get louder.

My First #MuseumHour

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

I’ve been a long time reader of the Museum Hour twitter meet up, this Monday however, I got involved. Mondays between eight and nine in the evening, Museum Hour initiates a discussion about a museum related topic, and twitter uses from all across the world discuss and share their thoughts and opinions.

This week was whether museums should charge for admission, and what it would mean if they did. AIM had produced a sector wide survey, researching how charging would impact the industry, both financially and in terms of a varied demographic outreach. As a visitor fundraiser at the Science Museum, the discussion of admission and donating and funding is particularly relevant for me.

Museums themselves, museum professionals, and just those generally interested in the debate, took to twitter using the hashtag to share their ideas. The responses were informed, varied, and engaging.

I went into the debate very much on the side of the fence that charging is always a bad idea. Perhaps i’m more left wing than I think, but I am a firm believer that museums should be accessible and welcoming of all demographics, regardless of their income. The exclusivity of charging for some segments of society can cannot be understated. My opinion hasn’t changed, and I doubt it will, but seeing all sides of the debate was enlightening.

What I enjoyed most about the hour was the inclusivity and community feel amongst the tweeters. Tweeting directly to museums, other museum professionals and varied stages of their career, and those with opinions both similar and different to myself was illuminating. As I’ve just moved to London, known as a lonely city by many, solo, feeling a part of a community of likeminded individuals was refreshing and enjoyable.

Making the jump from a reader to a tweeter has been an hour I’ve thoroughly engaged with, and can’t wait to hear the topics of weeks to come.