Some are calling it a “renaissance.” Others call it “magic.” Whatever the catch word, in art circles around the Bronx, there’s an electricity in the air.– Arts scene in the Bronx is enjoying a new breath of life, artists say of recent wave of group exhibits
Ever wanted to try rock climbing? Maybe see what it was like to have a go at archery? Or wonder what it was like to wear a mask and fence? Charlotte and I were able to do all that and more this weekend at Ironbridge Gorge Museums Science, Sport, Life Festival at Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and ALL for free.
The first activity Charlotte tried was rock climbing. She wasn’t too sure about this at first, but soon got the hang of it and was reaching the top of the fabulous portable rock climbing wall provided by Wolf Mountain.
We then went inside Enguinity’s lecture hall to listen to an inspiring talk by Anna Turney, Paralympian Alpine Ski Racer. She described her courageous career change from able-bodied snowboarder to Paralympic skier after being paralysed while snowboarding. She is a true inspiration not just to athletes but to everyone.
Charlotte then had a fitness assessment which had her testing her balance by kneeling on an exercise ball. Back outside, Charlotte was able to clock her running speed. There were cones showing the length to run and camera’s at the end which provided a real-time reading of the time. This was great fun and something the kids (and adults) really enjoyed doing.
Inside the Museum of Iron, there was a wonderful exhibition of local sports memorabilia. This was fascinating to see the strong presence of sports within the West Midlands and a wonderful representation of the Wenlock Olympian Society.
Also inside was a brilliant activity that allowed you to race against Usain Bolt via the power of green-screen. Charlotte had a go first then we both had a race against the speed-demon. Happy to report, we won. J
Charlotte was desperate to do the Rock Climbing again and this time she was more successful and managed to reach the top several times. She truly enjoyed this event – so much so that she has asked if she could look into taking classes for it.
It was then my turn to have a go on an activity – fencing. This is an activity that I have only seen on TV so was quite excited about having an opportunity to wear the mask and point the sword. This was made even more thrilling by having a chance to learn this sport under the direction of skilled instructors.
Our last event of the day was probably my favourite – Archery. Again, this is an activity that Charlotte and I have never had the opportunity to participate in and having the chance to learn the sport with fabulous instructors was just brilliant. Charlotte and I were hitting our targets with ease after our instructors explained how to how hold the bow and guide the arrow ensuring you hold the bow with just three fingers. This was really amazing as it was not a sport we would ever have attempted had it not been for the fabulous Science, Sport, Life Festival.
Another wonderful day learning new skills and getting inspired to do more for London 2012 (starting with a roll down the hill).
About a week ago, Natural History Museum (London) emailed to let me know they were going to be asking people on Twitter to come to the museum for a ‘special’ mission.
Immediately intrigued, I waited for more information. I didn’t have long as I soon found out they were asking people who love the museum to come in on July 20th to be filmed. But that’s all that was said. Sadly, getting to London is not an easy task so I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go but, luckily, it was offered that I could film Charlotte and I, then send it into them.
However, when I told Michael about the event, he purchased train tickets for me to go as he knows how passionate I am about NHM. [Charlotte is going to film a separate bit to be added.]
So on July 20h, I arrived in London in time to meet with the other Tweeters who responded to the Museum’s quest for volunteers. We were given a bit more information – but not much. On arrival, we were taken to the gorgeous CentralHall, where a camera crew were set up near Dippy the Diplodocus (@NHM_Dippy). We were asked to make a sign (which I spent *way* too much time on creating..) then each of us were filmed saying why we loved Dippy and our memories of the museum. I babbled on and actually had to say it all again as my enthusiasm was a bit hurried for them. If allowed, I probably could have spoken for an hour on my love of the museum. I did mention something about wanting to marry it if allowed.
When we were done, I still had another hour or so to look around before the museum closed. I immediately headed over to the Attenborough Studios and watched two very brilliant films.
The first was about the filming of natural history. This film made me realize how there is a strong connection between technological advances which lead to scientific discoveries
The second was David Attenborough: Life on Camera. He is such an inspiring person and the one person I really want to meet. The 15-minute film went through Sir Attenborough’s career which spans over many decades and just highlights what an amazing person he is. Best quote: ‘Inspiring a love of nature is the best way to preserve wild life.’ I feel that could be used for most cultural aspects.
Afterwards, I went exploring. As much as I go to the museum, I always findsomething new and wonderful. This time it was the Human Biology exhibition which I happened upon after making a wrong turn (ok, so I was searching corridors and seeing where they went in hopes of … nevermind.) This exhibition was filled with laughter and lots of wonderful conversations in all different languages. There were very few displays that weren’t being viewed.
Another turn and I was watching a brilliant film on a painting call Dodo Raphus cucullatus in the Images of Nature gallery. Apparently when the 17th century painter Roelandt Savery first painted the Dodo, he allowed for some artistic license with the shape of the Dodo. Fast forward to this century and the amazing and talented Dr Julian Pender Hume took the challenge to re-create the same portrait but using scientific knowledge to trim the bird to its appropriate size. Seeing the actual painting of the before and after in the Images of Nature was fascinating.
As I continued my exploring, I ran across a wonderful statute of Sir Richard Owen, whose birthday it was. This led to a lovely conversation with a nice gentleman who was sitting near the statute at the time and queried why I was taking a photo. ‘That’s Sir Richard Owen - he’s the guy who made Natural History Museum happen and it’s his birthday.’ I replied. He looked the statute up and down and replied ‘Well imagine that, such an important guy but I only know of Darwin.’ I left feeling the same way – that maybe more should be done to promote greater awareness of the achievements of Sir Owen.
I also stumbled upon the Tree Gallery – a wonderful architecturally gorgeous room with a powerful artwork called ‘The Tree’ on the ceiling. This is complimentary to the videos and displays you can read to learn more on the room and the artwork.
The remaining of my time was spent taking photos of the architecture of the fabulous building on a mini Terracotta tour. Natural History Museum is more than just a museum to me – the building is an amazing piece of work in its own right.
Did you know that the west side of the building has Zoological species and the East side is represented with Geological species? There are over 200 ceiling panels decorated with plants from around the world.
Next time you’re at Natural History Museum, try to do your own Terracotta tour – it’s amazing what you find when you look up.
As part of the two-week Festival of Archaeology, Charlotte and I (along with friends Vivi and her daughter Roberta) took part in a local (and free!) Day of Archaeology at Coalbrookdale in Ironbridge.
We were surveying a Quaker Burial Ground which is in the care of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.The event started with a short introductory talk not just on the site but the history behind the site. Our Project Manager of the day was Shane Kelleher, Archaeologist Management Officer for Ironbridge Gorge museum. Shane was very conscious of ensuring we knew the background on the Quaker Burial Grounds that we were going to be working on without lecturing us. He also explained the methodologies and techniques that we were going to use to record the Quaker Burial Ground (and also about health and safety and risk assessment). Along with Shane, special guest John Stimpson, who’s own family had connection with the burial ground was able to give us a personal history to the site.
Filled with the newfound knowledge of the Burial site, and a new respect for Quakers, we walked to the site. Although it rained all morning, it was then determined to be safe enough for us to split into two groups of seven and work on the site.
Shane re-explained our objectives for the day (Group A on the Left, Group B on the Right)
• Take data on the site as a whole (measuring)
• Fill in the blank burial plan numbering each gravestone (L1 for Left one or R1 for Right One)
• Photograph each of the gravestone, document each photo with relevant data (Frame number, date, position such as North, whether or not the meter stick was used, who took the photo and a description – usually just L1, L2, L3, etc)
• Document detail of the gravestone: measure it on all angles and any writing you can make out. This includes filling in a form and documenting it via it’s name of L1, L2, L3, what type of font is used (italics, Roman, etc).
Our group discussed our responsibilities (I quickly asked to be in charge of the photographs, with Charlotte volunteering for the documenting my photographs for me on the way). We then naturally decided positions. Some went to the top first, others started at the bottom with Charlotte and I starting in the middle. This ensured we could avoid some bottleneck along the way.
Although it was a lot of work, the morning went quickly. Charlotte and I have been to other ‘archaeology’ events but this was the first time we actually were part of the survery. Knowing that our data was going to be used for archivist purposes made the tasks at hand less tedious. We weren’t just given a prop to work with; we were invited into the actual burial ground to do actual archaeological work. What an experience!
After lunch, we all went back to our duties at hand. Charlotte and I were able to complete our task soon after so were assigned another task of taking pictures of the site in different positions. Again, Charlotte had the job of documenting the positions such as Pier, Right wall, R 23, 24, 25, Meter. Before, none of that would had made any sense, but now Charlotte and I were communicating in a different language!
I can not thank Shane enough for putting on this tremendous event, or for the Festival of Archeologically for promoting this. As a Founding member of CultureThemes, I was aware of the Festival and Day of Archaeology but never thought that Charlotte and I would find so much joy taking part. We are very lucky to have this resource on our back-step and we’re looking forward to going back later this year to help digitalize the data we collected.
To find an event near you, check out these sites:
The Damien Hirst exhibition is another wonderful creation made available with the help of the Artist Room.*
The curator’s event I was invited to allowed the group to view the Damien Hirst exhibition before it opens. Having the curator describe the pieces and the ethos behind the collection was extremely beneficial.
The Artist Room collection consisted of only five pieces. However, the exhibition spans over three rooms as Damien Hirst, not involved with Artist Rooms, agreed to contribute for this exhibition. (Damien, while born in Bristol was schooled and trained in Leeds. ) This is the first time an artist exhibited in a public art gallery, got personally involved. The first challenge was working with everyone involved to make it work.
Both curators, Nigel Walsh and Sarah Brown shared their feelings and thoughts about the exhibition while allowing us to form our own opinions along the way. The first room we were invited to was probably the most controversial. I have never seen a Damien piece ‘in real life’ and have tried my best to not let others opinions affect mine.
When I first walked into the room, my eyes were immediately drawn, not to the infamous sheep in formaldehyde, but to the marble statue which I only briefly saw from the back and looked completely out of place in this exhibition.
The Wenlock Olympian Society hosted their 125th games on the gorgeous new fields at William Penny Brooke school**. As a member of the Society, I volunteer to help Paul Hutchinson document (film) the days events. Paul owns the very successful Virtual Shropshire and is the official video-grapher for the games.
As part of the day, we interviewed as many people as we could from Event organisers, President of the Society, car park detail, program sellers and everyone in between. It was a fascinating day to get to listen to the stories that every volunteer had to share.
A few weeks ago, we were told there was a special guest attending – Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport who would be escorted by our Local MP Phillip Dunne. It was already agreed that the Society would have dedicated interview time with him and that Helen, the Society Press Secretary, would interview him first, and I would interview him after.
Then the News of the World scandal hit this week which related to BSkyB. Up until his arrival, we were unsure of how the events of the days would be – would he still arrive? Would we be granted an interview? If yes, would we be limited in what was asked?
When our guests arrived, Peter Thompson, the Society’s secretary (and brilliant time-keeper!) did the initial introduction and asked about the interviews as by now, there were a lot more press than originally projected including several international news agency. Jeremy was more than welcome to be interviewed by anyone on ANY topic. I must admit I was impressed with this.
Paul and I followed Jeremy around as he attended several events, handing out medals and giving inspirational speeches to both parents and the kids involved in the Games. Then it was our time. As we were part of the Society, we were able to interview Jeremy privately, Helen interview Jeremy first and asked brilliant questions regarding Wenlock Olympian and then I was able to ask him about his views on Shropshire [Video of Interview here]. Then Jeremy went outside to be interviewed by the rest of the press. I am not sure what happened here as I was preparing with Paul what our next steps were to be but checking the news, it doesn’t seem like anything earth shattering happened.
We spent the rest of the hour following Jeremy before he had to leave to catch his train. Before he left, I asked permission from the Society if I could ask Jeremy a Library question. They were more than helpful and not only found time for me to ask the question, but ensure I wasn’t bothered by others.
I started by telling Jeremy that I was the one that tweeting him about Libraries and that I would be incredibly mad with myself if I didn’t ask him what he was going to do about the threat of libraries closing. He replied that yes, he has received my tweets and did read them. However, he replied, library issues is something that he can’t get involved with as it’s a legal issue and that local authorities need to work out the issues first before he can get involved. Essentially, he said there was a protocol to follow and that he was following that protocol. I asked him if cared about the libraries to which he replied yes. [See video here]
The interview ended as it had to go. However, Phillip Dunne (MP) came back and I was able to interview him about his work on promoting the Society in Parliament.
It was amazing day, not because of the interview, but because of all the great, inspirational and wonderful volunteers that work to keep the Wenlock Olympian Games alive every year. They have had the World’s Eyes thrown on them since Wenlock was named one of the Mascot for the London 2012 and they have held their heads high with dignity and professionalism that they should be proud of. I’m proud to say I’m a member of this brilliant Society.
**For those who don’t know, William Penny Brookes is the Wenlock doctor that brought the modern day Olympics back. See the Wenlock Olympian Society website for more information – it really is a fascinating story.
This week, Johanna Anderson put out a tweet asking if anyone wanted to join them in Birmingham for a court hearing regarding libraries. As it happened, I was able to arrange my schedule to be able to attend. To be completely honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what the hearing was about, but felt as it was virtually on my door step, I should show my support, if nothing else by just being there (which is essentially all I did).
These articles tell the story:
If you prefer the Twitter version:
Meeting Johanna, Nancy Graham and Demelza was the icing on the top. These stanch library advocates feed of each others energy throughout the day (as did I!). The court hearing itself would have been much more intimidating had it not been for us knowing we weren’t alone.
While the judge didn’t particular care for the lawyer for our side, he did see past the defence claiming Gloucestershire county council was ‘exemplary’ and agreed that there were 3 issues on which the council might be unlawful. This is a small victory with the next court hearing scheduled for sometime in September, but it’s a VICTORY. It means the fight is not over. It means councils throughout the UK need to start ensuring closing libraries can not and should not be the first area for cuts.
Again, a huge well done to Jo, et al and to all the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries for taking a stand and fighting for their rights.
On Friday, July 1st I had the honor of spending the day with director of the Pop Up Festival Dylan Calder. With a sponsored train ticket from London Midlands, I was able to see three amazing authors as they inspired 3 different classes from 3 different schools at 3 different events in one day.
I originally heard about Pop Up Festival when we attended the Children’s Laureate announcement as they had two Pop Up Festival Ambassadors at the BookTrust event. I was able to talk to them and their usher for the day and that is when I found out about this incredible literacy program which works with inner city schools over several months with the assistance of, well, a lot of people (authors, illustrators, publishers, volunteers, etc).
The premises is schools are invited to choose a book they would like their class(es) to work with. The teacher is then provided with assistance/resources to help with getting the kids to really digest the book – this could be in form of workshops, creating design & technology lessons, etc. The culmination is the children then being invited off site (really cool off-sites like the British Library or Foundling Museum) to meet the author and discuss what they learn and for the author to also learn what the kids learnt from their books.
At the end there is a huge two-day event called Festival of stories that has so many amazing authors and activities that I would challenge anyone to not find at least one activity that didn’t amuse them!
This Post is about my Day with Pop Up Festival (click Read More).
Today we stopped by Birmingham Art Gallery after our appointment at Children’s Hospital. We weren’t planning on going to the Home of Metal exhibition but I had my National Art Pass with me so we thought we give it a go. And we were so pleased with did. Neither Charlotte or I are into heavy metal but this allowed for some great conversation/dialogue between us.
Yesterday, I went to my library to donate some books (not to the library, but to the Friends of Bridgnorth Library for a book sale we have scheduled soon). As I was running this errand on the way to Rainbows, I really didn’t have much time to stop but was so grateful I did as out of the corner of my eye, on a prominent table by the entrance, the yellow of We Love This Book magazine caught my eye.
I knew about the magazine from Twitter (of course) and was itching to get my hands on a copy. While there are local indie book shops around me, none were close enough for me so finding the magazine on my doorstep was brilliant!
A quick peruse of the Contents and I was immediately impressed with the quantity of articles within the 82 pages. However, it wasn’t until I was able to read them today that the true quality of the magazine shines through. This magazine is a taster plate of all the best items on a menu at a fine bookshop.
Following the success of last years #AskACurator day, Jim Richardson and his team have launched AskACurator.com this week. This fabulous resource has striped the restrictions from Twitter and allows in-depth answers to the many questions asked on the #AskACurator Day.
I’ve been having a play as although I love IT, I have little patience when it comes to load times and finding my way around complex sites. I’m happy to report this site is so easy to navigate I’d go as far to say my mom (who detest computers) would have no problems at all finding her way around. Registration is very simple, I just connected using my Facebook account but you have the option to create a separate account if you wish.
While I find the use of video works best for my comprehension, every video is also follow up with a transcript for those that prefer reading. The transcripts are also very useful for iPad/iPhone users as there is a Flash conflict on the videos (this is only temporary as they upgrade the media player for client).
The first page has three simple topics:
- Question of the day with additional submenu: Trending Today, Ask a Question, Museum Channels, Subjects
- Popular questions
- Recent questions
I originally thought I would spend a few minutes clicking, see how it went and go on my merry way. Instead, I found myself clicking to get more answers. There are a lot of interesting questions, such as ‘What does research about a Museum object look like?’ and ‘What’s the most unusual object you found at the museum?’
Question of the day is where I’ve spent most of my time. Museum channels currently holds six museums but I can see that will be filling up quickly as this site gains momentum.
On each answer, you are able to Facebook like, add to Favourite and leave a comment. However, Jim is already looking at enhancements and new features to add.
Overall, another brilliant, well thought-out, and resourceful site from the Sumo crew. Go have a look around and let them know what you think.
Manchester Museums and Galleries Partnership in Education Programme ran from 2004-2010. I first came across this project from Twitter and asked to be kept in the loop when the final report was completed. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much, or to be remembered but luckily, Louise Sutherland @lsutherland, the Learning Development Manager for Manchester City Galleries (Renaissance) didn’t forget.
The 23-page comprehensive report shows a progressive, successful link between Manchester Children’s Services, local schools and cultural organisations. It proves that these links can and did work in not just improving relationships between the agencies, but more importable it improved the children’s attainment while given the teachers the tools to make them more comfortable to work deeper into the curriculum (thinking outside the box).
The bottom line? It worked.
Why? Collaboration and allowing pupils to explore a topic for more than 15 minutes burst.
The file can be found at the end of this document but I’m going to write about what I found important.
The pupils learned more from attending the museums and galleries AND they enjoyed it.
Pupil attainment in writing was 35% HIGHER than nationally expected. But it didn’t stop there. Improvements were also seen in emotional and social skills AND positive attitudes to learning. Speaking and listening skills, along with concentration levels were all improved.
Majority of the Head teachers felt it led to more cross-curriculum teaching. For me, this is a huge bonus as I personally feel the current national curriculum is too rigid and doesn’t allow for pupils to really absorb any subject properly.
Outside the school hours, parents and families also seen the benefit. Families and extended families (grandparents, etc) got involved via volunteering for the trips and by cheerleading the learning at home.
“As a result of this initiative, parents have developed both in confidence and in their commitment to using visits at weekends. Museums and Galleries are now enriching the lives of our school and the wider community.” ~Head teacher
Another key element was the collaboration and expansion of the core project with other third-party people. One in particular I really thought was brilliant Initial Teacher Training (ITT) project that linked literacy specialist student teachers with the project within MAGPIE schools. For me, it was enabling new teachers with this flexible, fun and different way of teaching which hopefully they will continue to use and take to whatever school they get placement in and spread the good practice.
MAGPIE also worked on a KeyStage 3 project linking with Manchester City Football Club museum to see how MAGPIE could work with their venue.
The pilot scheme was started with a core group of schools (113 school, 106 Primary and 6 Secondary) and whilst the model used throughout the programmes run was pretty much the same as the original, they did make slight modifications along the way to ensure feedback provided was adhered to. One key element was ensuring all involved (including Teaching Assistants and student teachers) were allowed to contribute to the model and ensuring everyone involved knew what their role was in the project.
The main goal was for collaboration to develop pedagogy, ensure long term use/planning in classroom and to make sure the experience for the pupils was worthwhile.
Essentially, the model was a simple one:
- Hold meetings with the key people to ensure objectives, delivery, evaluation, review and sharing of good practice.
- Professional Development.
- Teachers and cultural people collaborate on schemes of work etc
- Pre-visit meetings to ensure all involved know what is expected and best practice/approach to achieve the goals.
- Classes visit the cultural venue.
- Classes visit the cultural venue again
- Post-visit work in school
“… we are now taking a whole school approach to developing creativity. This will involve, staff meetings to share good practice, asking museums and galleries to come to school and help with the planning of the curriculum… The MAGPIE project has not only had an affect on the class involved, but this is being sustained and is becoming an integral part of our school.” ~Head Teacher
How brilliant is that? Integrating museums and galleries into the school curriculum because they seen its benefits. How can we get more Partnerships and Councils involved? Talk to them. Get the people (schools, museums, etc) talking to each other and use this report as the basis for discussion. It proves this style of teaching and learning CAN work.
Hear that Gove?
Being a #HomeTourist For Father’s Day.
We decided to go for a walk to High Rock today. Bridgnorth is a very interesting town for many reasons, and one of them is the many caves and stories behind them. It’s also a beautiful town and I do love seeing it from an angle that although I can walk to the base of in 4 minutes, took us 40 minutes to reach.
If you want to be a #HomeTourist on Twitter, @CultureVulture encourages you to just use the hashtag with your PostCode.
When we found out we were going to be in London for the Children’s Laureate, I contacted Ian, the Manager at my absolutely favorite museum in the world (Natural History Museum – NHM) and asked if we could meet up. I hadn’t an agenda, or fact, a clue as to what I was going to say or what the meeting was going to about but I tend not to let little details gets to me.
As I was also speaking to the person behind the NHM twitter account, the other CultureThemes partners were invited to attend. Luckily Michael from Poole Museum was able to attend with me. That meeting went very well with NHM agreeing to become a partner with CultureThemes.
Then we met Ian. For those who don’t know, Ian tweets under @NHM_MusMgr and has been using social media (mainly twitter) in a very positive way for a cultural institution. I have often tweeted Ian with either praise or sometimes suggestions (earning me the title ‘gadfly’ – which I’m sort of proud of ;-).
It was great discussing the fantastic work NHM is doing both via social media and for kids. I spent the morning at a London Ambassador meeting (for the Olympics) and they gave me a magazine which said NHM was third in London for kids to go to (beating the Science Museum). We also chatted about the Dino-snores events that are held there. I’m a mom of one and unfortunately, in order to attend a Dino-snores, you have to have 5 kids. I’m not sure what Ian could do about it, if anything, but it was nice to voice my issue.
We also chatted about social media for cultural institutions. NHM was used as a good example by Rich Mintz at MuseumNext for the way they have embraced twitter. NHM and Ian try to respond / acknowledge tweeters who mention them in their tweets. This is done by either answering the questions, or commenting on the people who might be annoyed with something (usually the queuing). But they also encourage visits from people who mention they *might* come to the museums. There is no statistical data to prove whether this is working or not, but I can tell you from a end-user point of view, it would swing my vote!
Natural History Museum has Seven Twitter accounts:
@NHM_London – the main account for general tweets
@NHM_Id – Have you ever found an insect you weren’t sure what it was? They will help you!
@NHM_MusMgr - Ian
@NHM_Visiting - Great account to follow, especially during busy times. Lets you know the projected waiting time.
@NHM_Dippy – Dippy the Dinosaur that greets you from the main entrance. This account has some exciting tweets in the works so Watch this space!
@NatureLive – Live tweets during after-hour events. Very interesting to follow especially for people like me that can’t get to London on a Friday night.
@NHMevents - news and tips about hosting events in the museum
We chatted for about an hour, with Michael and Ian also getting some words in (despite the tone of this update making it sound like I did all the talking).
It was great being able to reach out and discuss things with Ian. Point for social media as I know this meeting would not have taken place a few years ago.