📍Poster Girls: A century of art and design, London Transport Museum

Poster Girls: A century of Art and Design at the London Transport Museum celebrates a century of exceptional poster art created by women. The exhibition shines a light on the incredible contribution that female designers and artists made to the world of poster design, with over 150 colourful, fun and unique pieces of artwork on display.

As you would expect from an exhibition at the London Transport Museum, the majority of the posters on display were designed for use on the London Underground, with many of the artists commissioning pieces for London Transport and Transport for London.

Posters are displayed chronologically from 1910’s to the present day; with a focus on how each new era offered changing styles, approaches and designs which are reflected in the artworks. The display also focuses on the positive impact London Transport had in showcasing female talent in an industry that was, like many others, predominantly male.

Creative minds such as Ella Coates, Nancy Smith, “Herry” Perry and Dora Batty created bold, colourful, eye-catching posters to advertise the London Underground as quick and cheap transport choice. Many of the posters would market the Capital’s main attractions, like the ones below.

Foxgloves; Kew Gardens by Dora M Batty, 1924 (1983/4/1639), Country Joys from Camden Town Station by Herry Perry, 1930 (1983/4/2940), Bluebell time in Kew Gardens by Margaret Calkin James, 1931 (1983/4/9210), Travels in time on your doorstep by Clifford Ellis and Rosemary Ellis, 1937 (1983/4/4963) and Regents Park Zoo by Arnrid Banniza Johnston, 1930 (1983/4/3038) 

The exhibition continues downstairs; documenting posters from the 1950’s to the modern day. The first thing you see is a wall covered in miniature versions of underground posters which was truly sensational.

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As you look closer you can pick out posters marketing everything from London Zoo to Borough Market, Hampton Court to London Museums. Below are a few of my favourites:

Top left: Hampton Court by Hanna Weil, 1963 (1983/4/7458), Bottom left: London’s museums by Carol Barker, 1979 (1983/341), Right: We Londoners by Dorrit Dekk, 1961 (1983/4/7270)

Although there was a lull in female representation during the 1940’s-50’s (possibly due to World War II), in the 1980’s, London Transport ran 2 major campaigns to reignite the fire for women in the Poster design market. Art on the Underground and the Simply series was influenced a lot by women and they play a major role in poster art and design. My 3 favourite contemporary posters were: Simply East London by Tube and bus by Sarah McMenemy, 2000 (2000/14610), Borough Market by Ruth Hydes, 2010 (2017/444) and Winter fun – shopping by Anna Hymas, 2016 (2017/380)

Aside from the #Vote100 Suffragette displays that keep popping up across the UK to celebrate 100 since the Representation Act 1918 was passed, Poster Girls is the first exhibition I’ve been to that it is solely dedicated to the work, perspectives and successes of women. Isn’t that absurd?! I felt pretty overwhelmed walking around & taking notes knowing that everything I was seeing was created by a woman, every name I wrote down belonged to a woman.

I think the sector could learn a lot from the London Transport Museum in terms of how to create exhibitions focused on underrepresented groups in society. From writing more inclusive interpretation, doing more in-depth research into collections, looking at how exhibition content is developed, who/what is represented and ultimately, who at the top of the organisation, is making the decisions about what is exhibited…

Poster girls: A century of art and design, located in the Exterion Media Gallery, is on display until January 2019.

Happy Museum Musings!

Em xo

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📍Altes Museum, Berlin pt.2

So, I promised you a second instalment of my visit to the Altes Museum and here it is! Aside from my star objects from the Numistmatics Collection (which I found surprisingly interesting!), there were lots of other fascinating objects housed in the oldest museum on MuseumInsel. These are some of my favourites!

Highlight objects:

  1. Cauldron attachments: Heads of Griffins, Samos, Greece, around 640-630 BC. Heraiom, acquired c.1914, Bronze.

2. Greek bronze helmets from 7th century BC. Greece, Italy, Egypt; acquired 1904-5. Bronze, 700-600 BC.

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3. Relief with Heroes and worshippers – Chrysapha/Sparta. Greece, acquired from the Sabouroff Collection. Marble, c. 540 BC. These reminded me of the Assyrian reliefs on display at my former workplace, the British Museum. Kings such as Ashurbanipal would have walls leading up to their thrones decorated with scenes of them overseeing construction work or participating in lion-hunts to showcase their power. The design and regal feel of these reminded me so much of those that will be on display for the next major exhibition at the British MuseumI am Ashurbanipal: king of the world, king of Assyria which is on display from 8 November 2018 – 24 February 2019.

4. Gold jewellery from Tarentum, Italy. The find consisting of gold hairnet, necklaces, armlet in the shape of snakes – (very Taylor Swift-esque 🐍), earrings and a finger ring showcase the complete set of jewellery of a rich Tarentine woman. They were most probably left as grave goods upon her death in the late 3rd century BC.

Gold hairnet: This exquisite gold hairnet was part of the gold haul and has an old, reused medallion with the head of Medusa as the centre piece. Found c.1900 in Tarentum, Italy. Acquired in 1980. Made and used in 230-210 BC.

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5. Jewellery from the Geometric Period:

Fragile golden bands with depictions of stencilled figurative patterns were most likely places around the heads of the deceased. Because the markings are difficult to see with the naked eye, the museum have scanned and recreated the stencilled bands to make the decoration clearer for visitors to get a better look at the intricacy. This simple but effective touch really helped the objects to stand out and be more accessible.

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6. Scythian Gold body ornaments and mirror. The largest Scythian jewellery ensemble outside the countries of origin.

The final special exhibition, Fleish (Flesh/Meat) was also very endearing. Themes such as Rost/Food, Kult/Cult and Körper/Body explores human relationship with meat and how it sits in a precarious space between life and death. The exhibition poses interesting questions about the conflicts of meat in society, how it it seen to some as repulsive but others as nutrition and ultimately how we as humans think about it in the modern day.

This was by far one of the most exquisite museums I’ve ever visited. The space was used so well and it didn’t feel overly repetitive as the statues, gold, numismatics, grave goods were distributed throughout the galleries rather than in one space. I spent hours exploring this museum and would recommend you make the time to do so too if you’re visiting beautiful Berlin 🏛🇩🇪

Happy museum musings!

Em xo

Tony Vaccaro: From Shadow to Light📍Getty Images Gallery, London

Last week I was exploring London and stumbled across this little gem whilst walking in the autumnal sunshine. The Getty Images Gallery is London’s largest photographic archive, holds one of the greatest collections of photos in the world. For context, Getty Images, the head US company founded in 1995 by Mark Getty and Jonathan Klein, has a collection of 80 million photographs and more than 50,000 hours of film stock.

The current exhibition on display at the London gallery is Tony Vaccaro: From Shadow to LightThis is Vaccaro’s first exhibition in the UK in over half a century and includes photographs taken during his time serving in World War II, living in post-war Europe alongside those he took of celebrities, artists and creators for global media.

Born Michelantonio Celestino Onofrio Vaccaro in Pennsylvania, December 1922, “Tony” Vacarro, is an Italian-American photographer who is well-known for his photographs taken during the Second World War when he served in the US Army. Against orders from army officials, he smuggled his beloved camera into battle. He would strategically position his camera lens through a torn button hole on his jacket to take images. He would also salute with one hand whilst secretly pressing press the shutter with the other to capture an image!

During ‘down time’, Vaccaro would take photographs of his fellow Infantry members which led to numerous reprimands but after an Army Major expressed an interest in his work, Tony was allowed to continue with his photography; under one condition – gun first, camera second. During this time, he produced almost 8,000 photos and went to extreme lengths to produce his images stating: “When I was not on a night mission, I processed my films in four army helmets and hung the wet negatives from tree branches to dry.” Many of his photos were destroyed or seized by authorities so only 25% of them still survive.

Unfortunately the lighting in the exhibition meant that there were reflections on all glass surfaces so the photographs I took (below) aren’t very good but I have found the best online links to the photographs which are included in the photo caption:

Firing Line in the Hurtgen Forest, Germany, 1945

Upon being honourably discharged from his position in 1945, Tony decided to stay in Europe rather than move back home to the US to begin a careers a professional photographer. During this time, he captured life in post-war Europe; covering issues across Germany and Western Europe.

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Kiss of Liberation, St. Briac Sur Mer, France 1944 – “Sargeant Gene Costanzo kneels to kiss a little girl during spontaneous celebrations in the main square of the town of St. Briac, France, August 14, 1944.” – Tony Vaccaro

With post-war America came a new age of popular magazines and celebrity; which Vaccaro took full advantage of. He travelled the world for 30 years, taking some of the most recognisable photographs of the 20th century; working with public figures from Sophia Loren and Pablo Picasso to Georgia O’Keefe and Hubert de Givenchy.

Top left: Picasso, Mougins, France, 1966. Bottom left: Marimekko Umbrella, (Tony ended up marrying the model at the bottom of this image)
Top right: Georgia O’Keefe with Cheese, New Mexico, 1960, Bottom right: Sophia Loren, actress, New York City, NY 1959.

The exhibition was curated by Shawn Waldron, a Curator at Getty Images, who worked alongside Tony Vaccaro’s studio to create this wonderful exhibition which showcases some of the finest photography I’ve ever seen. The humility and connection Vaccaro captures in his images is really special and his personal relationship with subjects is very apparent. The exhibition has just been extended for another month so you can catch it until 28th October. I’d recommend you make a detour if you’re in Central London before it closes.

Happy Museum Musings.

Em xo

📍Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

A little different from the other museums I visited whilst in Amsterdam aye! But this was one that I’ve wanted to visit ever since I saw a poster for it in the Ipswich Museum offices when I was a Training Museum Trainee in 2015.

The Rijksmuseum, located in Museum Plein, is so grand, it’s pretty breath-taking. As you walk through the dimly lit tunnels with buskers playing modern songs such as Seven Nation Army on traditional instruments, you feel like you’re stepping back in time.

Although there are copious amounts of paintings and art works (which aren’t really my thing in all honesty) I did find some pieces that really jumped out at me.

My object highlights:

1. Carità Educatrice (Charity the Educator), Lorenzo Bartoloni (1777 – 1850), Florence, c.1842 – 1845, marble, (BK-2008-5-A)

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The woman personified the virtue of Caritàs (charity) in her role as educator – a typical Italian theme. She is caring for two children and encouraging the older one to read. Inscribed on his scroll is the moral “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”. This piece was so beautiful with the shadow reflected onto the light grey wall behind and stood so powerfully in a room full of strong objects. With this sculpture, artist Bartolini contributed to a topical discussion about the importance of education in Tuscany at that time.

2. Glass vase in a brass mount attributes to the Wiener Kunstgewerbeschile, brass, glass, c. 1900 (BK-2015-21)

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I’m not really sure why I loved this object so much but I just felt mesmerised by it. The iridescent colours, contrasting materials and how I’ve never seen anything like it before. Also, the changing colours look pretty awesome in a boomerang!

3. Concentration Camp coat, worn by Isabel Wachenheimer, Texled, 1938 – 1945, rags printed with blue ink, synthetic buttons, (NG-2011-97-1).

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This numbered prison coat was worn by Isabel Wachenheimer (1928 -2010) in Lenzing Pettighofen concentration camp in Austria. Isabel had been transferred from Auschwitz death camp along with 500 other Jewish women in October 1944. This came just after her parents had been murdered at Auschwitz. The reality of this story really hit home; the fact that a human being who had survived the WW2 concentration camps had worn it and donated it was overwhelming. Underneath the coat is the Wachenheimer family photo album which made the display more relatable and personal.

4. Facial casts of Nias Islanders, plaster, after 1910, (NG- C-2012-3).

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These casts, created by anthropologist J.P. Kleiweg de Zwaan are the result of research he conducted into the physical characteristics of different ethnic groups. On a 1910 expedition to Nias – an island located off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia – he covered the faces of a group of living men with plaster to record their appearances. Something about the casts fascinated me and it wasn’t until I’d left that I realised it was the power imbalance displayed in the artwork that was most prominent. The white European anthropologist visiting ethic minority groups and documenting their differences for his own experiment. The research and outcome felt very supremacist; reminding me of the race inequalities that have been present for centuries and continue in the present day.

I would definitely recommend this museum for anyone looking to do one big culture trip in Amsterdam. It would take a whole day to go around properly and there’s something for everyone: art, sculpture, weaponary, delftware, dolls houses: the lot. Another one ticked off ✅

Em xo

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

Museum beginnings…

Hi, I’m Emily, an early museum professional, documentary enthusiast, proud feminist and David Attenborough lover.

Museum Musings is my first solo blogging project and I’m excited to document the museum experiences I have, the stories I learn through exhibitions, events and programming as well as the challenges I have seen within the heritage sector. As an EMP I am on an exciting journey, developing my skills in the heritage sector, learning a lot of new ways of thinking (and reinforcing how not to!), as well as allowing me to see some of the most beautiful, inspiring and thought-provoking exhibits and places I have ever seen.

My first few entries will look at my museum journey so far and some of the exciting projects I have been involved with over the past 3 years.

Training Museum

My museum journey began in 2015 when I joined Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service (CIMS) as part of the first cohort of the Training Museum; a programme funded by Arts Council England with the primary aim of diversifying the CIMS workforce.

Rewind to October 2015, I was unemployed after deciding not to return to university to do my Teaching degree. It was a massive decision to make as I’d wanted to be a teacher for such a long time and all work experience, employment and volunteering I had done up until then had been with the aim with pursuing a teaching career. So deciding not to continue this career was a tough one but I’m so bloomin’ glad I did!

The interview process for the traineeship was a strenuous one but after submitting a written application, doing a video interview and participating in a group assessment day, I somehow got one of the 6 positions available. The traineeship was a way to diversify the the museum services workforce, with the trainees there to bring new ideas, different experiences and a variety of skillsets to the team, an idea that is something that needs to be rolled out throughout the whole sector. Over the year was based at Ipswich Museums, working across their 3 sites: Ipswich Museum, Christchurch Mansion and Ipswich Art Gallery.

Throughout the traineeship I worked on some incredible projects including reinterpreting the Victorian Gallery,  co-curating a Battle of the Somme display and re-designing a museum trail alongside delivering a Supplementary Schools programme, presenting at two major conferences and working visitor service shifts at the 3 museum sites.

F0ED2377-B209-4056-BF1B-E5327FFA7EE3Each week I also attended in-house training with taught me fundamental museum skills including object handling & packing, documentation essentials, marking & labelling, fundraising, museum audiences,

My year on the Training Museum taught me so much and I am so proud that I was part of the first cohort that (I hope) helped to shape the way that CIMS recruits its staff, the programming they plan and potentially influence the ways that different skills are viewed within the museum sector.

I am looking forward to developing my career in the heritage sector, particularly museums and documenting the exhibitions, events and buildings I visit along the way!

Ciao for now.

Em x