📍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.


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


📍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.


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.


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.


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

📍Altes Museum, Berlin


After venturing to visit the Museum für Naturkunde, I spent the rest of my time in and around Museum Island and it might just be my favourite place on earth. Everything is so magical; the architecture, the views, the history, the food. If I could, I would live there forever!


First up was the Altes Museum, the oldest museum on Museum Island. Originally known simply as ‘The Museum’, the name changed to Altes Museum in 1855 due to a new museum being built. And of course, the only logical way to differentiate between the two was to call the old museum the Altes (Old) Museum and the newer museum, the Neues (New) Museum! 😂 Makes sense right?!

The museum specialises in Greek and Roman antiquities so included the standard object that you’d expect: statues, helmets, statues, grave goods, statues, pottery and MORE STATUES! 🗽🗿

Aside from marble busts, there were lots of other really beautiful artefacts on display inside this museum of grandeur. I surprised myself by spending a good 30 minutes reading every text panel and inspecting each coin in the Numismatic Collection vault. I actually think it may have been my favourite room… 💶


Honestly, until last year I didn’t even know what the word ‘numismatic‘ meant! But one of my first assignments in my role at the British Museum was to write a donor report for the Defacing the Past: damnation and desecration in imperial Rome exhibition. The exhibition, curated by Dario Calomino, presented ‘coins and other objects that were defaced, either to condemn the memory of deceased Roman emperors or to undermine the power of living ones’. Objects included a Suffragette defaced penny and the bust of Germanicus Caesar with his nose removed.

Whilst writing the report, I did lots of wider research into numismatics, the BM’s Coin Collections and even went on a BTS tour of Greece and Rome to improve my own knowledge (and make it seem like I knew what I was talking about!). I really think this prior understanding bettered my experience at the Altes Museum as it helped me understand this collection better. I know it sounds really self-indulgent but I find it very satisfying when I know something about an object or collection or person and find information relating to it – it makes me feel less intimidated by the academic language and more included in the museum.

My numismatic collection highlights: 

Left: Magnesia am Sipylos, Amazone nuit Peltaschild und Mauerkrone, Ihr gegeniber kykele, 197-217 N.Chr, Top right: Bank note: Röm. Republik: Aes Signatum280-242 v. Chr, Bottom right: Syracuse: Späte Dekadrachmen, Signatur: Kimon, UM406 V.Chr

A really great UK based group to get involved in if you’re interested in numismatic material and the like is The Royal Numismatic Society.  Established in 1836, the group and its members share a passion for coins, medals and other currency material. The Society recently sponsored an exhibition called ‘Currency of Communism’ at the British Museum. Another great resource is the Money and Medals Network, a group based at the British Museum and in association with the RNS, BNS and a number of key partners. “The Network aims to act as an information exchange for museum professionals within the UK whose collections include coins, medals and other objects relating to monetary and economic history and numismatics”.

In my next post I’ll feature some of my other favourites from the Altes Museum…

Happy museum musings, folks

Em xo

Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin

The next stop on my Museum Tour was Berlin, Germany 🇩🇪 I had heard so many great things so my expectations were very high. And oh my were they exceeded! If you haven’t had the chance to visit, put it on your bucket list RIGHT NOW! 🗒

I’ll write another blog post about why I am now obsessed with Berlin so much but for now here’s a little insight into the Deutsches Historisches Museum. The Museums main building is housed in Berlin’s former, Zeughaus (armoury), whilst the second section, added between 1998-2003 was designed by I.M Pei, the same man who designed iconic pyramid for The Louvre, Paris.

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You’re actually not allowed to take photographs of the exhibitions which was very frustrating but what I want to focus on is the museums amazing accessibility features – something that many museums could learn from. I’ll be focusing on the Museum’s accessibility in their current major exhibition “Europa und das meer” (Europe and the Sea) 🌊

Around the whole exhibition space there are white raised, textured lines along the floor. As I worked my way around the space I realised they were to assist visitors who are visually impaired with navigating their way around using the raised pathways. These pathways lead you around the exhibition in a logical order and also merge into a square of dots (like you find on pavements as you’re coming up to a road or crossing) symbolising that an audio-visual station was ahead.


At these stations there are 3 large panels.

Panel 1:

The first panel has text written in ‘academic speak’ using technical wording and “jargon”. This interpretation is usually written by specialist Curators who have an in-depth knowledge of a subject and is created to engage other specialists and visitors with a comprehensive subject knowledge. This type of text can be very overwhelming and I often find myself reading the first couple of lines and feeling well out of my depth so moving on without learning much. This is where panel 2 comes in…

Panel 2:

A simpler text panel written in what is referred to as “Simple German”. Smaller words, less text, same impact. This is such a brilliant addition to the interpretation and having worked with a range of audiences (people with Special Needs, visual impairments, English as an Additional Language etc) I understand many of the access issues that too much text or jargon words can have. There are also many other visitors that would benefit from this type of text panel: including those with Dyslexia, younger visitors, those with limited knowledge and people who only want a basic understanding of a subject.

Underneath this text was a Braille version of the wording above as well as the audio loop that played the information on the guide available from the exhibition desk.

Panel 3:

The third panels at each stations all had large maps so visitors could visualise where in Europe was being discussed alongside video interpretation being shown in German Sign Language.


Also, although the exhibition is displayed across two floors, all museum entrances are wheelchair accessible. I have been in museums (and actually worked in one) where if you couldn’t use the stairs you couldn’t access the whole building. Now I know for many institutions this is due to Grade Listings of buildings and the guidelines stopping lifts being added but it does rather spoil the vi and we as a sector should be working better to ensure access is a priority. Even having a video downstairs doing a tour of the upstairs rooms/exhibitions or having interactive collections online for visitors to view at their leisure would enhance the experience and ensure access issues don’t stop certain groups being excluded.

From a personal perspective, museums can often feel very exclusive, with their text, subjects and spaces which reinforces this ‘us’ vs ‘them’ notion. If the sector truly wants to be more accessible and inclusive, I think that following the steps of the Deutsches Historisches Museum would be a good way to go! Improving access, be it physical, representational or educational is something that I think is of the highest priority for the sector to become more open to the audiences is should be serving.

Top marks to Deutsches Historiches Museum 💯

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)


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)


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).


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).


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

📍 Sex Museum & Erotica Museum, Amsterdam

Well… what can I say? These museums are both very intriguing, fascinating, uncomfortable and unbelievable at the same time!

Sex is such a big part of Amsterdam’s identity and there’s no shortage of it everywhere you turn. So if you’re uncomfortable with sex or pornography or oversized phallic objects I’d urge you to look away now…!

First up: 📍The Erotic Museum. Located along a canal in the Red Light District, (next door to the Museum of Prostitution), it’s housed across 4 floors in a typical tall, narrow Dutch townhouse. My favourite objects in the first section were the household objects that were all overly sexualised – from paper weights and nut crackers to coasters and tableware – if it’s sexual; you can display it in your home!


The further up the house you go, the raunchier it gets: with a library of sex inspired books, a sexy art/photography gallery and leading to full on pornography films, audio and objects on the top 2 floors (including a very bizarre pornographic remake of Looney Tunes with Tom and Jerry having very rough sex with Donald Duck’s wife behind each other’s backs…) 🐱🐥🐹

Although this museum was fun, I didn’t learn very much and it all just seemed very over the top! I think the mission is to shock and excite people by displaying as many sexual objects as possible rather than to act as a learning resource – which is fine! But I do like to come back with some facts which was virtually impossible here!

Next up: 📍Venustempel Sex Museum, Amsterdam

The Venustempel (Temple of Venus) is the worlds first and oldest sex museum and it was brilliant. Although it was, of course, very sexual (I’d have been disappointed if it wasn’t), it felt very different to the Erotic Museum. From the outset it had a more historical context with themed sections depicting sex through the ages, sexual preferences around the world and it didn’t seem as crude. Although not the best, it’s definitely one to tick of the old Amsterdam bucket list!

My favourite objects:

1. Part of a temple wagon, India, 19th Century



When I worked at the British Museum, one of my main responsibilities was to write donor reports for supporters of exhibitions, posts and projects to give them evidence of where their money was being spent and how successful the support had been. One report I wrote featured the conservation of a beautiful chariot also known as a “Juggernaut” or “Ratha Yarta”. The object above is an example of the popular erotic decorations often found on such chariots which were pulled by pilgrims at religious ceremonies.

2. Baking tins, early 20th century


These baking tins were used to make cookies in the early 20th century and feature images from the Karma-Sutra. Karma Sutra cookies definitely sound very delicious. It’s a whole new take on you are what you eat and I LOVE it!

3. Terracotta tablet, representing a Roman orgy, Italy 1900.

The grey tablet is the Roman original and the terracotta version is the reconstruction. The text label asks visitors to look closely at the top one and see if they can figure out where the leaves on the bottom tablet should be 🍃🍂 And of course, it revealed a more sexual piece of art than expected! The leaves covered evidence of the subjects’ genitals or engaged in sexual intercourse or masturbation. This object was a real fun piece and the task of finding where the stray leaves should be was a great thing to do with other visitors next to the display!

4. Orchid inspired sinks


Okay so my last favourite piece isn’t technically an object but a beautiful sink installed in the Museum’s 2010 renovation to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Yes it’s in the visitor toilets, yes I got a few weird looks but I just think it’s lovely and so subtly sexual! It’s well known that flowers often have erotic meanings – the Orchid often symbolises love and beauty. More appropriately, and in theme with the museum, in old Greek, the word Orchid actually means “testicle” 🌺🌺🌺

These two museums, although similar in essence, are actually pretty different. The Erotic Museum is less educational and more humorous/outrageous so if you want more of a laugh then definitely go! But for me, the Sex Museum was more historical, and educational, thus making it a lot more engaging and compelling. I learnt a lot more than I expected I would or could about sex!

All in all, Amsterdam’s sex museums really are something else – you’ve got to tick them off 🍆🍑🏛✅

Em xo

📍Museum of Prostitution, Amsterdam

On my first day in Amsterdam I headed straight for the Tourist Information Centre and got my ticket to the Red Lights Secrets: Museum of Prostitution– which is included in the Top 5 Amsterdam Museums (pretty good considering there are over 75 in the capital!) 🏛🇳🇱

The Museum is located along the bank of a beautiful canal in the Red Light District, the oldest part of Amsterdam where sailors used to stop off to find entertainment. It’s nestled in-between the Erotic Museum, famous red windows and Moulin Rouge-esque bars.


As well as entry, a booklet and audio guide are included in the price which is a real bonus! The audio book is narrated by a sex worker/therapist named Inga – arguably the most famous prostitute in the red light district! Her honest, thought-provoking and often comedic commentary is so intriguing and intimate; she’s the star of the show!

Set in a former brothel, the exhibits are housed in rooms that would have been inside when the brothel was still fully functioning. The first room, ‘The Office’ has been kept exactly how it was when the brothel closed – with a register of workers, an early noughties computer and the story of a woman named Chinese Annie who was murdered in the brothel before it was closed down. Along the back wall is an interactive piece with video viewpoints from prostitutes, landlords, clients and pimps which gives different POV’s of those involved and their individual reasons for being involved in the industry (of course the Pimp acted as the loving boyfriend supporting his girl and keeping her safe rather than an exploitative waste of space).


Upstairs the rooms were set out in the typical style of a red window room, a prostitutes bed sit and a ‘luxury room’. The first two were pretty simplistic but somehow felt very gritty: with lots of sex toys, mirrors and condoms waiting to be used. The luxury room or ‘workshop’ as Inga described it was very over the top with its salmon pink 2 (or more) person bath, champagne and lots of sexy slinky underwear. Rooms like these would be used by men willing to pay a lot more than the typical €30 – €50 usually given to Red Window Girls.


For me, the museum had two main overarching themes – one was the positive side to sex work that is never usually displayed. There was a real sense of female empowerment and strength, with the women’s work being celebrated rather than revered or dirty which is the typical stance taken. Many of the women’s stories told us how they had chosen to do this work, they enjoy how much money they make from it and how in control it makes them feel.

On the other hand there were constant reminders of the negative realities of sex work around the world. Alongside the liberation narrative, the displays covered issues such as the global sex trafficking industry, the role of “loverboys” – whose jobs are to make vulnerable women fall in love with them then take everything they earn from sex – & the overwhelming numbers of murdered sex workers by male clients, pimps or their partners. It really hit home how much danger these 4.5 million sex workers around the world are in at the hands of the men that solicit, traffick and use them.

A shrine in honour of some of the prostitutes murdered whilst at work in Amsterdam. Next to this is a wall documenting the names and stories of hundreds of other women murdered whilst working in the Dutch sex trade.

My top 3 facts:

1. In the past, red lights were used to obscure the traces of sexually transmitted diseases! Nowadays they are used as the red lighting makes the skin look smoother (and thus more attractive apparently…!)

2. To become a Prostitute in Amsterdam there are only 4 job specifications – you must be at least 21 y/o, hold a valid EU passport or Green Card, pass the ‘intake interview’ and be able to afford the €150 weekly rent of a red window room. Simple.

3. The average visit to a prostitute in the Red Light District lasts around 6-10 minutes… No comment 😅

To end there is a magnificent confessions wall covered in saucy, sexy and damn right shocking secrets from visitors which are as funny as they are uncomfortable but help to end your visit on a high!

10/10 would recommend. Potentially in the top 3 Museums I’ve ever visited… but don’t hold me to that!

Em 🇳🇱🚨🚲♥️