Thursday, July 27th, 2017
“Our summer exhibition shines a light on how each of us connects with nature. We are displaying objects borrowed from members of the public that tell a story about their relationship with nature. Together they create a collective snapshot of how we think about nature in the 21st century and explore how the health of our planet is intricately bound up with the behaviours and values of the people who inhabit it.”
Another blog, another Wellcome Collection temporary exhibition review. I love Wellcome Collection, their interpretation and their collections, so I’m always straight there when a new temporary exhibition opens. And their new one was no different. A Museum of Modern Nature is Wellcome Collection’s newest temporary exhibition, as a second part to the successful and brilliant Making Nature. This time – Wellcome Collection are displaying objects borrowed from members of the public. The donor of the object shares their personal affection for their object, rather than the clinical scientific experience, with Wellcome Collection asking you to “help us create a different kind of nature – one that celebrates our everyday relationship with the world around us.”
Each object has a one minute soundbite, in which the donor describes the object in whatever way they feel is most appropriate, as well as a label that gives their first name and age. As with most Wellcome Collection curation, the description isn’t full of inaccessible scientific jargon. With A Museum of Modern Nature’s interpretation in particular, the donor giving the description of the object themselves adds humanity to the object, adding personal and intimate glimpse into how typical individuals relate to their objects.
Like the exhibitions predecessor, Making Nature: How We See Animals, this exhibition explores why we love nature, why we hold such affection for nature, rather than an academic quest for scientific knowledge. Because of this, Making Nature: How We See Animals really got me thinking about the ways museums interpret their collections when they are catalogued, curated, and consumed by audiences. Perhaps the reason some natural history museums aren’t as loved as they could/should be is because of that inaccessible scientific jargon. This is particularly the case for me and art galleries. This blog rarely features art gallery reviews, and if it does it’s usually talking about the overall theme, rather than individual pieces – the reason is often my own misunderstanding, or sometimes complete lack of understanding, of the labels. There must be a reason people feel intimidated by art galleries, I think that terminology filled labels can be one of, if not the main, reason.
Making Nature: How We See Animals turned this on it’s head. going back to the root human interaction with material culture, remembering that “I like this object because it looks like home” can be just as valid a reason to display it in an exhibition than the scientific or artistic importance. While of course there is an enormous need to collect and preserve objectively important objects, audiences to museums and galleries must also want to feel moved by objects in a subjectively emotional manner, and for me thats where Making Nature: How We See Animals got it so right.
A Museum of Modern Nature, free admission
Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, NW1 2BE
22 June 2017 – 8 October 2017
Visitors can also get involved from home with Sharing Nature, Wellcome Collection are currently asking for online submissions, which changed themes every few weeks. All of the submissions appear on the website, then are voted on by the public, the ‘winners’ appear on the digital display in the exhibition itself.
Saturday, July 22nd, 2017
I’m very excited to write that I am now the Volunteer and Instagram Manager for Girl Museum, because what do I love more than Instagram and volunteer management! After two years volunteering with Girl Museum, writing blogs and running Instagram, I’ve now been appointed the title Instagram and Volunteer Manager, which couldn’t feel more ‘me’.
I’ll be managing the recruitment and coordination of the volunteers and interns, developing the volunteer strategy, and using my volunteer management to help coordinate the ‘Junior Girls,’ and hopefully improve their experience with Girl Museum. And basically, the staff team of Katie, Sarah, Tiffany, Ashley, Hilary are complete girlbosses, so I’m honoured to join them.
Shockingly, my first blog post with Girl Museum was on the 28th of August in 2015!! I have no idea where all that time has gone. Since, I’ve written blog posts interviewing the incredible Girl Against, as well as Emily Coxhead. I’ve also reviewed the Museum of Childhood, a film review tried my hand at a think-piece, and started a series of podcast reviews called Girls In Podcasts – the first of which went live last week.
I’ve also worked on the Kindertransport exhibition, where I worked alongside Manchester Jewish Museum to research and write about the Harris House girls diary, which was an amazing experience using a primary document to assist the research of an exhibition. Girl Museum have similarly launched the 52 Objects in the History of Girlhood exhibition. Each week during 2017, they explore a historical object and its relation to girls’ history and I’ve helped by writing about three objects, the Bronze Strigil with Handle in Form of a Girl, the Silk Princess Painting, and the Lovers Cassone.
I’m really passionate about Girl Museum’s mission, giving “girls a space in which they can document, preserve, and present their history and culture, we empower girls to lead healthy, happy lives dedicated to creating a better world for all.”
Monday, July 3rd, 2017
“From Selfie to Self-Expression. The exhibition is open from 31st March – 28th May 2017. The show is the world’s first exhibition exploring the history of the selfie from Velazquez to the present day, while celebrating the truly creative potential of a form of expression often derided for its inanity. Showing alongside examples of many influential artists’ work are selfies that have quickly became icons of the digital era – from the beautiful and sublime to the mad, bad and downright dangerous.”
Self-proclaimed ‘World’s No.1 Museum on Social Media’* hosting an exhibition about the history of selfies? Dream exhibition. Sloane Square and the Saatchi Gallery can be *cough* intimidating *cough* to some (read: me), so having an exhibition that opens up is audience is a more than a great thing. There aren’t two things I love more than selfies and exhibitions, apart from maybe dogs, but we can’t have it all.
From Selfie to Self-Expression is the Saatchi Gallery’s newest blockbuster exhibition, after the enormous popularity of the #SaatchiSelfie Competition – 14,000 entries from 113 different countries. The exhibition was a celebration of all things self-expression and the act of self-portraiture. Occupying two floors and 10 rooms of the Saatchi Gallery, it was hard to miss the From Selfie to Self-Expression exhibition, and hard to miss the audiences that were there to see it.
I didn’t quite understand the social commentary the curators were trying to put across; I felt an air of the “silly millennials obsessed with photos on a screen” argument that is so often portrayed in traditional media, but perhaps I just felt that as I’m so used to feeling it. Importantly, the glaringly clear comparison between the ‘traditional’ art form of self-portrait paintings to the era of phone camera selfies. If contemporary celebrities can be judged as self-obsessed by wanting to produce an image of themselves, surely so can Rembrandt, Picasso, Munch and Gogh? Of course, in terms of technical skill and aesthetic quality is far apart, but the act itself is two of the same. This comparison is charmingly displayed with the self-portraits displayed on screens with ‘Like’ buttons for visitors to press.
Most importantly, to me, the exhibition was fun. Exhibitions, especially in art galleries, can be daunting and silent. From Selfie to Self-Expression, however, was filled with giggles, engagement, and of course – selfies. The age old edutainment question of how visitors should engage with art is answered in From Selfie to Self-Expression, the overarching message the exhibition was put across to visitors, interpreted and engaged with while also leaving entertained.
Surprisingly, the interactive installations were not the most popular. A brilliant piece by Daniel Rozin called PomPom Mirror (2015) is a wonderful installation of 928 faux fur pom-poms and 464 motors linked up to a camera, that creates a moving furry image of the person stood in front of it. However, from what I saw of visitors, most were engaging with contemporary images – reminiscing the infamous Oscar selfie, the #Belfie, and the utterly striking Warhol selfies. Ultimately, the time to accept selfies has come, with Oxford Dictionaries announcing ‘selfie’ as their international Word of the Year 2013. Love them or hate them, they’re here to stay.
As said by the gallery chief executive Nigel Hurst, “The selfie is by far the most expansionist form of visual self-expression, whether you like it or not … The art world cannot really afford to ignore it.”
*I’m sure it’s not self-proclaimed, but I couldn’t find who gave them that title? I’d love to know!
Saatchi Gallery, SW3 4RY
Free admission, 31st March – 28th May 2017
Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
“Perry’s abiding interest in his audience informs his choice of universally human subjects. Working in a variety of traditional media such as ceramics, cast iron, bronze, printmaking and tapestry, Perry is best known for his ability to combine delicately crafted objects with scenes of contemporary life. His subject matter is drawn from his own childhood and life as a transvestite, as well as wider social issues ranging from class and politics to sex and religion.
Taking place during the Serpentine’s popular summer season, when the parks enjoy hugely increased local and international audiences, The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!, tackles one of Perry’s central concerns: how contemporary art can best address a diverse cross section of society.”
The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever is the new addition to the Serpentine Gallery from Grayson Perry. In true Perry style, the exhibition explores popularity and art, masculinity, and the current cultural and political landscape of Britain. After a visit this month, I can see why it’s the most popular art exhibition ever.
I’ve not always known about Grayson Perry, and the importance of his work didn’t really occur to me until I saw his political tapestries on display at the Manchester Art Gallery a couple of years ago, and later at the Tate Modern more recently. Both tapestries, from what I can remember, were satirical maps of British society, highlighting both the divisions and similarities in groups. One of Grayson Perry’s infamous pots was also recently part of a LGBT trail at the Brighton Museum, which I blogged about last year. Pretty much, all of the times I’ve seen Grayson Perry’s work, it’s been part of a wider collection. Visiting The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever was an insight into Perry’s work, concentrated into a small space; as The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever, that small space was full of people.
The audience to the exhibition was as lively as the objects, full and loud, discussing the pieces in both their visual and contextual importance. Each piece had something to be said about it, accessible to everyone (or at least everyone in the room) conversations were brimming in the crowded space. Themes of Brexit, class, media, and immigration are always going to open up some debates, even amongst strangers.
As well as opening up debate, the pieces are also visually brilliant. One piece of tapestry, pottery or whichever medium Perry had chose sucks you in to it for a long time. Attention to detail, and making each intricate detail beautiful is what Perry does best. I think this is what is missed when a Grayson Perry piece is displayed as part of a larger collection of other artists. Visiting The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever, you know you’re going to see a Grayson Perry work and you know you’ll need to take the time to look at each pieces detail. When a Grayson Perry piece is part of a larger collection, it can get lost. A visit to the Tate takes hours already, spending the 5 minutes (at least) that you need to see one piece isn’t often spent.
The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever deserves to be The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever, it certainly felt like it when I was there.
Grayson Perry, Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens London W2 3XA, open 8 Jun 2017 to 10 Sep 2017.
Sunday, June 11th, 2017
On my last day at the Museum of Brands as Visitor Services Coordinator (which includes managing the retail aspect of the museum) I thought I’d reflect on my first time dipping my toes in retail management. And, importantly, make the most of my access to a SLR camera, that DEPTH. I’ve convinced myself I need to buy an SLR for this blog now. Or maybe an iPhone 7 plus will do… (I don’t need either)
It’s worth mentioning first, I’ve never before been a retail manager of any description, and probably wont be again. I enjoyed it a lot, I learnt a lot, but ultimately it’s not entirely for me. Seeing as I reflected on volunteer management, that I LOVE, in 5 points, here’s the same of things i’ve learnt as a retail coordinator. I’ve probably learnt more than 5 things, at least I hope I hope I have. But
I’m aware this blog post is coming across as wholly negative. It’s not intended to be, it’s just a bit funnier that way. I tend to learn more from my own mistakes than from my own successes, and of course I don’t want to be read as arrogant! While retail management isn’t my forte, there is a lot I loved about it. Making shelves look pretty (which is not the professional way to describe it, I know), placing orders, and testing out new products has been a creative and exciting process.
Sunday, June 4th, 2017
“Take a journey from the First World War to the present day, exploring how peace movements have influenced perceptions of war and conflict in this major exhibition. From conscientious objectors to peace camps and modern day marches, Fighting for Peace tells the stories of passionate people over the past one hundred years and the struggles they have endured for the anti-war cause. Over three hundred objects including paintings, literature, posters, placards, banners, badges and music reveal the breadth of creativity of anti-war protest movements, reflecting the cultural mood of each era.”
People Power: Fighting for Peace is the newest blockbuster exhibition at IWM London, on until 28 August 2017, 300 objects explore anti-war sentiments from First and Second War right up until current concerns over Trident and Trump.
The exhibition runs in chronological order in this period, and begins its narrative of anti-war protests with the Conscientious Objectors of the First world war. Poignantly, the quote above the cabinets, “You might just as well try to dry a floor by throwing water on it, as to try to end this way by fighting – R&B” mirrors what is below told through the objects. Conscientious Objectors of the First and Second World War would, if lucky, be put into alternative service, and if not be subject to imprisonment.
These histories of anti-war demonstrations since the 20th century are stories predominantly told from an individual, personal heritage perspective, with case-studies of individual accounts highlighting each historical bookmark. Letters home from a Conscientious Objector’s prison cell are a powerful image to show the very real consequence of holding an anti-war viewpoint. If making a comparison to the permanent exhibitions, People Power: Fighting for Peace is much closer to a social history exhibition, and perhaps even an art exhibition at times. Throughout there is a focus on art and graphic design, counter to IWM’s typically object and text heavy permanent galleries. Entering the cold-war displays, there is a backlight image of the mushroom cloud as you enter, as well as an unexpected painting by Hockney’s dad. While these earlier years are given due significance in the exhibition, the exhibition is centred and highlighted by the cold-war era. The Cold War took anti-war protests to an unprecedented popularity. The very real threat of the total destruction nuclear war could bring was a major influence of popular culture.
People Power: Fighting for Peace explores protests, dissent, and peace camps. The International Women’s Blockade at Greenham Common, and the nine mile perimeter fence at Greenham Common in 1982 is a powerful point in the story the exhibition is telling. The women’s peace camp was to protest nuclear weapons being sited at Greenham Common, and was a crucial turning point of protests for peace entering a mainstream collective sentiment.
A standout point of what Imperial War Museum does so well with People Power: Fighting for Peace is visitor contribution, and creative tools to engage. With the 1980s Greenham Common protest, visitors are encouraged to engage, by using threads themselves to create the feature that stands tall in the centre of the exhibition, a replication of the perimeter fence. And upon the exit, an opportunity to add your thoughts to the peace symbol, with the pencils charmingly stored in peace symbol shape.
Of course, the exhibition ends poignantly with it’s contemporary counterparts. You exit the exhibition with a film of current activists discussing how and why we protest. Most notably, Kate Hudson, the general secretary of the CND, discussing the very real danger of Trump presidency. The exhibition is powerful in it’s relevance, and it’s reference to current events. The last space of the exhibition explores current climates in the Middle East, Balkans, the War on Terror, as well as the anti-war protests in the context of the Iraq conflict, right up to 2016 Trident protests.
People Power: Fighting for Peace is an engaging, thought-provoking, and powerful of an alternative viewpoint of war. One that is likely to challenge the perceptions of the often romanticising acceptance of war. Through creative and unexpectedly fun curation techniques, the exhibition does much more than tell an opinion, it invites you to listen and then tell one yourself.
Thursday, June 1st, 2017
“Volunteers’ Week is an annual event which takes place at the start of June. It celebrates the contribution made by millions of volunteers across the UK. It’s run by NCVO in partnership with Volunteer Development Scotland, Volunteer Now (Northern Ireland) and Wales Council for Voluntary Action. From showcasing the different volunteering roles on offer, taster sessions and team challenges with new partners, to volunteer recruitment events, awards ceremonies and launching new volunteering campaigns, events take place throughout the country.”
Today is the first day of volunteers week, so it’s a good time for a bit of reflection of what I’ve learnt working with volunteers. There isn’t a pre-plan for this blog, so it’s likely to get pretty rambly, but some of my favourite blog posts tend to be like that, so here goes!
The main thing I’ve learnt in working with volunteers, is that I love working with volunteers. Volunteers are some of the most passionate, enthusiastic, interested, and wonderful people I’ve ever met.
Sunday, May 28th, 2017
“The Museums + Heritage Show is taking place on 17 + 18 May 2017 at West Hall, Olympia, London. It is FREE to attend and offers two jam-packed days featuring more than 50 free talks, 150 suppliers and consultants and a raft of special new features. It’s the perfect place to discover new ideas and opportunities and to explore new ways of working, all designed to make your organisation bigger, better and stronger!”
On the 17th of May, I attended my first Museums and Heritage show, hosted in Kensington Olympia’s conference hall. For the two days, the Olympia hall was full of talks, stands, and importantly coffees.
The first talk I headed to was Inspiring Young Volunteers, hosted by Headstone Manor & Museum. Headstone Manor & Museum over the past few years has shifted it’s volunteer programme, thinking of innovative ways to engage wit a wider audience of young volunteers. In 2012, 100% were over 65 and 90% white British. In 2016, 45% were under 25 and 33% BAME. Headstone Manor & Museum spoke about the tips and tricks to diversifying their volunteer demographic, most notably offering internships to cater to young volunteers needs, while still being a reciprocal benefit to the museum.
Next up was The Future Of Volunteering – Sustainability And Your Museum by Claire Sully of Volunteer Makers. Volunteer Makers are a relatively new organisation, opened up a discussion of ‘blended volunteering.’ Volunteer Makers are an advocate of micro-volunteering and the economic and cultural value that can be to museums and galleries. The traditional notion of volunteering being a four-hour shift every week of giving guided tours was turned on its head.
Some of the day was then spent at the Kids In Museums stand. I volunteer with Kids in Museums as one of their volunteer reviewers, as well as helping with their Teen Twitter Takeover day in August. The ‘Ask The Expert’ stands, that Kids in Museums were a part of, were a great opportunity to talk to organisations directly. Museums Association, Heritage Lottery Fund, Association of Independent Museums, and Culture 24 (to name a few) were there to answer questions and share what they do.
Overall, the Museums and Heritage Show was a brilliant resource, especially being free. Conferences of this kind are typically expensive, inevitably excluding those in lower-paid, or perhaps even un-paid entirely roles. Wearing passes meant I could have a look* (*nosey) at where people worked and in what capacity, and seeing so many volunteers, apprentices, and interns was a great indicator of the sector opening up to new audiences, and free events like this pave the way for that.
Monday, May 22nd, 2017
“Based on the ground-breaking research of Wellcome Trust Professor at Oxford Brookes University, Paul Weindling, this exhibition examines coerced experimentation in Nazi-dominated Europe. Through the portraits of victims and perpetrators, the exhibition explores the legacy of medical research under Nazism, and its impact on bioethics today.”
On what felt like the rainiest day of the year, in new (and inappropriate for the weather) shoes, I attended the exhibition opening for the Wiener Library’s newest exhibition, Science + Suffering: Victims and Perpetrators of Nazi Human Experimentation.
On the 17th of May, after attending the Museums and Heritage Show in Kensington Olympia (whole separate blog post on that coming soon) I headed over to the launch event of the exhibition. The launch begun with a chance to see the exhibition and ended with a fascinating talk by Wellcome Trust Professor at Oxford Brookes University, Paul Weindling. Paul Weindling spoke about the processes of researching for the exhibition, a discussion of what is included on display, and the typical thank you’s of all involved. The Wiener Library also has a series of events connected to the themes of the exhibition such as film screenings of Unit 731 – Did Emperor Hirohito Know, Gray Matter, and Forgiving Mengele, as well as lectures from Professor A Keith Mant.
On that note, the exciting news of the title, is that I will be joining the Wiener Library! As of the start of June, I will be joining the Wiener Library as their Visitor Services and Volunteer Coordinator. The Wiener Library already has a great volunteer program, with opportunities like Blogger, Book Reviewer, Events Assistant, Social Media Assistant and Tour Guides. I’m looking forward to starting working with such a diverse team of volunteers, in a library that hosts such a great collection, opportunities, and events.
Thursday, May 18th, 2017
“The worldwide community of museums will celebrate International Museum Day on and around 18 May 2017. The theme chosen for 2017 is “Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums”. The objective of International Museum Day is to raise awareness of the fact that, “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” Organised on and around 18 May each year, the events and activities planned to celebrate International Museum Day can last a day, a weekend or a whole week. Participation in International Museum Day is growing among museums all over the world. In 2016, more than 35,000 museums participated in the event in some 145 countries.”
To celebrate International Museum’s Day, here are 5 quick reasons why I love museum’s, and how I know I’m working in the right sector.