Museum Tour: Europe

Hi!

I’ve wanted to go travelling since I was 17 and planned to do so after sixth form. But when the UK Coalition Government decided to up the university fees (boo you Nick Clegg 🖕🏽) I panicked and went to university without taking a gap year. Since then, every time I thought I could go, great work opportunities have popped up meaning, until now, I haven’t had the chance.

So finally after SEVEN years of travel dreaming, I am going on a solo Museum Tour around Europe and I couldn’t be more excited! 😁 I combined the two (travelling & museums) 1. Because I LOVE museums and would probably visit them anyway 2. because I really want to pursue my career in the sector and am hoping that by seeing museums around the UK & Europe, I can learn more about object history, European heritage and interpretation which I can bring to my own future roles.

My 1 month trip begins in Amsterdam, Netherlands. I’m super excited to start here as the reputation of Dutch Museums is outstanding. Also, Amsterdam has museums dedicated to Sex, Eroticism and Prostitution something that I cannot imagine happening in Britain!

My journey then continues to Berlin > Prague > Vienna > Budapest > Zagreb (Croatia) > Ljubljana (Slovenia) > Venice > Milan > Barcelona 🗺 Any travel tips or must-sees are very welcome so leave a comment or tweet me @EmClarkie. I am also documenting my trip on my new Instagram: museum.musings 📸

I will be blogging about the museums I visit throughout my trip so stay tuned!

Em xo

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Fashioned from Nature – V&A, London

Last week, my trendy, Fashion Marketing graduate sister came to visit me: her geeky, unfashionable, heritage loving sister. With fashion being her obsession and natural history being mine, we excitedly decided to take a trip to South Kensington to visit Fashioned from Nature, supported by the European Confederation of Flax and Hemp – CELC, at the fabulous Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).

The exhibition, displayed in the Gallery 40, in the Material and Techniques section of the museum, explores “the complex relationship between fashion and nature from 1600 to the present day” and looks at different aspects of the two through themes such as dyeing processes, the use of nature in fashion and where clothing materials are sourced from.

One of my favourite parts of the exhibition was looking at how nature inspired fashion during the Victorian era particularly with patterns and colours. Elaborate dresses and fancy clothing items were often inspired by books such as “Theatre of Insects, or Lesser Living Creatures” by Thomas Moffet, 1638; with realistic drawings of animals and plants being used to decorate the clothes. The use of natural specimens to inspire every day life is fascinating.

Left: Glove, 1600-25 (V&A: T.42-1954), Man’s night cap, 1600-25 (V&A: T.75-1954), Women’s waistcoat, 1610-20 (V&A: 1359-1900), Purse in the shape of a bunch of grapes, 1600-25 (V&A: T.172-1921), Sleeve panel for woman’s jacket, 1610-20 (V&A: T.11-1950). Right: Gown,  1780-85 (V&A: T.20-1971)\

The way that fashion has been inspired by nature was interesting but then came the objects that showcased fashion that used nature to create elaborate, exotic styles; appealing to the higher classes of the day. The three cases below display examples of clothing and accessories made from feathers, fur and even beetle carcasses! Fashioned from Nature not only exhibited the objects but also gave context of how animals were captured, killed and used for the sake of fashion, which highlighted a moral side to the interpretation written.

The exhibition also looked at how industrial and technological advances have changed the face of fashion, including the use of cotton, wool and new dyeing processes. The use of steam power to make clothes meant more production at reduced prices which was a win-win situation for workers, traders and consumers.

My exhibition highlights:

Although I knew silk worms made silk… I never really understood how! But thankfully, Fashioned from Nature solved the mystery and explained it so well, in such a simple but extensive way that I finally get it! I loved the way that this display could physically bring together fashion with natural history specimens in a contextual way rather than just through tedious links.

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What can I say about this stunning dress? Well, first off, it might look like it’s covered in beautiful gleaming jewels but in actual fact, they’re BEETLES! The iridescent colour of them was so eye-catching and like nothing I’d seen before. Such an interesting addition to showcase how nature and fashion are interlinked.

img_6669Dress (with later alterations and replica belt), 1868-9 (V&A: T.1698:1 – 5-2017)

The exhibition continues upstairs but in a different vain, instead, focusing on sustainability, environmentalism and global issues within the fashion world. Below shows part of the display which definitely stayed with me – numerous t-shirts with poignant slogans, placards and advertisements used in activism against particular aspects of the fashion industry including animal rights, plates and global warming. This section was very thought-provoking, opening my mind to my own shopping habits, where my own clothes are coming from, the materials being used and the choices that I can make better choices to help the environment, animals and ourselves.

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I would 10/10 recommend this exhibition as a way to open your mind to not only the marvellous connections between fashion and nature but also the ways that the contemporary fashion industry has made changes for the better. But how it, and we as consumers can still, do better.

Until next time,

Em xo

Votes for Women – Museum of London

Hi all, happy Tuesday!

Earlier this month, I spent the day exploring London with my Mum; looking around Borough Market, eating lots of Thai Food and visiting the Votes for Women display at Museum of London. My mum is undoubtedly the strongest, most hard-working and courageous woman I know and so I felt anything related to women’s rights and suffrage would be perfect.

The display focused on the 100 years since the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1918 was passed in the UK. The act granted women over the age of 30, who had property rights, the right to vote. (The act also gave all men over the age of 21 the right to vote but we won’t tackle that inequality today!) The women’s fight for the vote was won by the courageous and determined suffragettes/suffragists across the UK – fronted by my heroine and namesake, Emmeline Pankhurst. This year there have been lots of wonderful events, exhibitions and museum projects connected to the centenary and as a proud feminist I am excited to explore as many as possible.

I will start by saying, the Votes for Women display is a lot smaller than I’d imagined it would be… I think because I’d seen so much advertising and online marketing I was envisioning something a lot bigger and grander but what we found was a relatively small room (which was poorly signposted) and a handful of objects related to the 1918 campaign. Nevertheless, the objects that the Museum had selected to highlight, were powerful.

Along one side of the room there are cases exhibiting delicate, individual objects such as Emmeline Pankhurst’s Hunger Strike medal and a silver necklace commemorating Emily ‘Kitty’ Willoughby Marshall’s three terms of imprisonment in Holloway prison.

Right: Emily ‘Kitty’ Willoughby Marshall’s silver necklace Left: Emmeline Pankhurst’s Hunger Strike medal.

Projected on the opposite wall is a powerful film commissioned especially for the exhibition, which looks at how the Suffragette’s fight impacted Britain – both positively and negatively – and how their militant campaigns impact and influence fights for women’s rights in today’s society. Although Votes for Women wasn’t as fulfilling as we’d hoped, the Museum of London does also have an incredible permanent display of suffragette material in the People’s City gallery. This part of the Museum was by far our favourite and includes plenty of suffrage related objects to satisfy your needs!

My ‘People’s City Gallery’ highlights:

fullsizeoutput_3b9Suffragette panel, Janie Terrero, 1912, on display: Museum of London: People’s City: Suffragettes

This beautiful piece of tapestry is decorated in purple, white and green embroidery and was made in Holloway Prison by an inmate called Janie Terrero. It is embroidered with the names of hunger strikers imprisoned at Holloway with Terrero. The women had been arrested for their involvement in smashing windows as part of a suffragette campaign in March 1912.

IMG_5892Various suffragette pin badges, medals, photographs and event memorabilia on display in People’s City gallery, Museum of London

In the People’s City gallery, and briefly in the centenary exhibition, the Museum of London explores the Hunger Strike campaigns carried out by suffragettes in the early 20th Century.  The badges, medals and artwork are made using the recognisable green, purple and white colours associated with the Suffragettes.

Of course, the themes and stories shown in this display are incredibly important to exhibit in our museums as are the events being held throughout the year. 2018 seems to be shaping up as the year that we are telling local, national and international stories of courageous women who fought and continue to fights for women’s rights in the UK and around the world. I feel very lucky to be living in London right now to be able to participate in a variety of events, attend talks and visit centenary exhibitions to honour the incredible women who changed women’s lives in the UK.

However, I would agree with many others who argue that these kinds of displays and events should not be ‘special’ or ‘one-offs’ or curated just when an important date is impending. Instead, they need to become embedded in our museums, galleries, libraries and heritage spaces and we, as museum workers, collectors and heritage organisations should be documenting and collecting the work, stories and history of women to make it part of the norm. Uncovering stories that we are maybe not aware of, showcasing women that aren’t well-known and continuing to shine a light on women in fields that we have failed to do so up until now is just as important as having centenary exhibitions to celebrate famous women’s achievements.

Perhaps following the suffragette’s motto of ‘Deeds Not Words’ would be a good start for the sector…

Keep fighting!

Em xo