Tuesday, August 2, 2011

curating britain

I am not really a museum person, but my stamina held up astoundingly well while in England.  Because I was given the freedom to explore each museum at my leisure and also, being older, had developed some appreciation for what I was seeing, I think this trip has been the most educational trip I have ever taken, even if the class aspect were taken out.

Realistically, most of the artwork and artifacts being displayed in the museums is under low security.  The Mona Lisa was considered very peculiar in that it was behind bulletproof glass and held above an escape chute.  Meanwhile, for other paintings, one only needs accurate timing to be able to sidle up and take a permanent marker to the portrait, as they are guarded only by a fallible guard patrol.  And even without cunning vandals, the museum's treasures are being stored in rooms that have constant traffic of sneezing, sweating, scratching human beings.  Eventually, won't dust, moisture, or germs cause harm?  I was puzzled about the seemingly low level of security in relic halls.
The most I heard of pro-active museum protections was of the British Museum's hurry to evacuate its contents in fear of a blitz bombing.  (Though there was a display of melted coins and other debris from the wreckage of the indeed-bombed museum -> apparently those coins were just left laying around?)

Otherwise, with so many museums lined up back-to-back, I was able to analyze other aspects, especially object arrangement.  I used to think that the museum's acquistions were simply put on display by the same methods as the Bodleian -> by date of acquisition.  It seemed like such a hassle to have to rearrange all the goods if someone delivered a huge Roman mural, but the section on Rome was already full.
The Pitt-Rivers museum in Oxford proved that even a location that does attempt to group things by category can end up a little bit messy.  (To be fair, the Pitt-Rivers museum also had a very small space to work with.)

I would really hate to be that person who has to design and arrange plinths, move wall hooks, etc. whenever a museum room needs to be updated.  (It probably isn't very often, but still.)

Places of Museum-like Historical Education that I Visited:
- The Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford)
- Cardiff Castle (and the Victorian Mansion, Cardiff, Wales)
- Blenheim Palace (Oxford)
- M Shed (Bristol)
- Roman Baths (Bath)
- Museum of Fashion (Bath)
- Tate Modern (London)
- National Portrait Museum (London)
- British Museum (London)
- Victoria and Albert Museum (London)
- Also, there was a Natural History and small art museum in there somewhere that I cannot remember because we were not allowed to take photos.  I am not too glum to have forgotten where it was -> the museum was nothing to be too excited about.
(Good Lord, that is more than I even remember.)

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