The Museum Experience

“Children were often surprised at what they saw in museums. Their experiences surpassed their expectations and often took them unawares.”[1]

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Continuing my observation of how visitors engage with the displays within the ‘Making of Modern Dundee and Dundee and the World exhibitions.’ In my last post I questioned, how different types of audiences explored the museum. Now, I would like to consider the visitor’s experience.

The adult museum visitor often experiences the exhibition by observing a curated object and reading the information provided. An atmosphere about the subject is created depending on how an object is displayed and the content of the information given. However, primary school children have to be encouraged to read the information. In my observation, children would rather listen to a story than read the facts. The spoken word becomes essential in establishing a unique learning experience for children. An oral history can add another element in creating an atmosphere, to allow a child’s feelings to connect to an artefact.

How younger audiences feel about objects, is also reflected in their previous knowledge. They benefited from researching a subject before a museum visit and used a mix of knowledge and feelings in the learning process. The ‘Creative Learning Team’ at the ‘McManus’ provides group workshops for both adults and children. These well-planned workshops usually involve a tour and a creative activity. This experience gives visitors an opportunity and time to discuss their observations, to ask questions and help visitors  to interpret the museum’s artefacts.

In my next post, I will discuss the visitor’s interpretation of museum artefacts.

 

 

[1] Hooper-Greenhill, E.. (Oct 2004). Learning from Culture: The Importance of the Museums and Galleries Education Program (Phase I) in England. Curator . 47 (4), p428-449.

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Museum Stories In-between

“It would be a mistake to think that an “object” as other simply seizes us, making us passive while it is actively dominating.”[1]

clockOver the past few weeks I’ve joined a variety of activities at the McManus Galleries, attended by groups of senior citizens from Dundee. While wandering around the displays, I have had the pleasure of listening to their stories. Allowing the memories of the past to be brought to life by objects found in the exhibitions.

I began to think about the relationship we have with these selected objects. Once placed in a display cabinet they become more that a mere object; placed beside ‘other’ chosen objects, each display tells a story, an object is a sign, a copy of itself, removed from the past and framed behind glass. The object transcends into artifact.

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“Although materially, these remain as they were, they become, on the plane of meanings facsimiles of themselves. They announce distance between what they are and what they were through there very function, once placed in the Museum, of representing their own pastness and, thereby, a set of past social relations.”[2]

The visitor who shares their story by observing a museum artifact, reveals their personal experience of an object. Reconnecting the past to present, the artifact to the everyday object, by placing a story in-between.

 

 

[1] Desmond, W (1995). Being and the Between. New York: State University of New York Press. P11.

[2] Bennett, T (1995). The Birth of the Museum. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge. P129.

 

 

 

The ‘Troupe’ Are Here

A group of older ladies called ‘The Troupe’, brought the gallery to life with a blether around the ‘Painted Colour Map’ of Dundee, found in ‘The Making of Modern Dundee Exhibition’ at The McManus Museum and Galleries.

The troup

‘The Troupe’ inspected the map in great detail. The ‘You Are Here’ pointer suggested the map was used at the west Railway Station, Dundee and made sometime between 1937 and 1941. I loved listening to ladies examining and discussing their exploration of Dundee’s past, through topography.

Click link above and have a listen.

These Splendid Ships

These splendid ships, each with her grace, her glory,

Her memory of old song or comrade’s story,

Still in my mind the image of life’s need,

Beauty in hardest action, beauty indeed. [1]

By John Masefield

The beautiful model ships conserved and stored at the McManus Collections unit in Dundee have now embarked upon a new voyage. Destined for a new display in the Albert Hall at the McManus Galleries.

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Bishop’s Move, a removal, and international shipping service ascended upon the unit at Barrack Street, to oversee the final voyage. The models had been packed carefully into boxes while other large models were carried by hand onto a bright yellow lorry. The museum staff Becky and Carly watched apprehensively, hearts racing as the fragile glass display cases were moved from their safe spaces. Each model was destined to travel adjacent to the flow of  River Tay to Noth Sea, roughly 300 yards to the gallery, in blustery windy conditions.

The Tay Estuary has seen many great ships built and launched, from high-quality wooden vessels, sailing barques and iron steamships. All built by local shipbuilders including David Livie and Sons, Alexander Stephen and Sons, Gourley Bros and Caledon. Each ship produced from Dundee’s past carried a tale to tell and by clicking the link below you can hear a ship launch story.

The Ship Models new permanent exhibition will be ready for visitor’s inspection at the magnificent Albert Hall in the McManus Galleries, early May 2017.

 

Please note: Audio file is on loan from the Cultural Services Oral History.

[1] Monroe, H & Henderson, A. ed. (1918). The New Poetry, An Anthology. New York: The MacMillan Company. P200-202.

Right Or Left For Queen Victoria?

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert have had a long-standing connection to Dundee’s past. This union will once again be transported into the future by the completion, early next year of the V&A Museum of Design Dundee.

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Victoria and Albert patiently await the completion of Dundee’s V&A

The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum is built upon Albert Square, a place named as a monument to Albert, the Prince Consort.[1] A statue of Queen Victoria can be found on the square and the museum was once named ‘The Albert Institute’. However, its name changed to ‘The McManus Galleries’ in memory of the former Lord Provost, Maurice McManus.[2] Historically Dundee has always had its own V&A, found on the first floor of the museum in the form of ‘The Victoria Gallery’ and ‘The Albert Hall’. You can also find two busts, sculpted by John Hutchinson in 1898, of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert located near the entrance of the museum.

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Queen Victora outside the McManus Gallery

My intention when photographing the busts was to represent, ‘Victoria and Albert patiently await the completion of Dundee’s V&A’. However, when I visited the museum I noticed the Prince Consort ‘s sculpture stood to the right of the Regnant Queen. Albert and Victoria seems a little odd so I altered the image in Photoshop, placing the queen on the right with the prince on her left.

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Original Photograph

A curatorial decision was made to place the queen on the left side of her husband. Was this decision made so the Queen would be nearer the front entrance? Or, was it an old fashioned concept of a woman’s place is on the left of man? If we think of a Christian wedding where the bride always stands or sits to the left of her husband and her family also sits on the left side of the church. I began to search for some context and I found an article suggesting:

“Traditionally, when a man escorts his partner, he offers his left arm. This tradition originates from medieval times when men escorted women around town and through the fields. Should a threat arise or the woman’s honor require defending, the man’s sword hand (his right hand) would be free, giving him quick and easy access to his sword, worn on his left side.”[3]

During my research, I also found a guide to the correct royal etiquette for various modes of royal seating at court and at other times, recommending;

The Sovereign sits to the right, with the Consort to His (or Her) left, if both are present.”[4]

When I think of any images I have seen of our current royals, we nearly always find Prince Philip sat on the Queen’s left side. Yet, regardless of the positioning of Queen Victoria or Prince Albert’s sculptures, when I consider the skill and craftsmanship of the work and the beauty of the marble. I reflect upon their royal romance, as we all wait patiently for their union to be transported into the future by the completion of Dundee’s V&A.

[1] Leisure and Culture Dundee. (Unknown Date). Streetwise: Albert Institute. Available: http://www.leisureandculturedundee.com/localhistory/streetwise/albertinstitute. Last accessed 31st March 2017.

[2] ibid

[3] Tan, N and Nicol, B. (2009). The History Behind Gentlemanly Action. Available: http://www.primermagazine.com/2011/learn/the-history-behind-gentlemanly-action. Last accessed 31st March 2017

[4] ‘William the Lucky’. (2002). SECTION VI — PROTOCOL, TITLES, AWARDS AND PRECEDENCE. Available: http://heralds.westkingdom.org/Handbook/vi_5-SeatingAtCourtAndBanquets.pdf. Last accessed 31st March 2017