9 August 2011

UCL course: Introduction to Conservation

The Centre for Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies in collaboration with Heritage Without Borders (www.heritagewithoutborders.org) will run the short course 'Introduction to Conservation: Looking at Objects' on September 7 and 8.

For further details, see the Centre's website: http://www.mhm.ucl.ac.uk/training/introduction-to-conservation.php

'Devil Dancing' at the Powell Cotton Museum

A display of Sri Lankan ‘Devil Dancing’ Masks at the Powell Cotton Museum, Quex Park, Birchington, Kent CT7 0BH has led to a forthcoming visit by Sri Lankan dancers, and even the High Commissioner.

The collection of masks at the Museum was bought 100 years ago in 1911 at Stevens Auction House in Covent Garden London by our founder, Major Percy Powell Cotton.  At the time the masks were said to be better than the collection at the British Museum!

They have been used in gallery displays previously but have not been seen by visitors for quite a few years.  They are dramatic and colourful  and this year it was decided they warranted their own display.  They are proving very popular with our visitors and the associated childrens’ activities have made the gallery a busy place.

The Museum had a recent visit from a representative of the Sri Lankan Tourism Office in London, who was certainly very impressed by what he saw.

 As a result, on Sunday 14th August at 2 p.m., the Museum will be welcoming dancers and the Sri Lankan High Commissioner.  The dancers will perform classical and masked Sri Lankan dance and then ceremonially process to the Gallery to formally open the exhibition.  Local mayors and councillors will attend to greet the High Commissioner.  Sri Lankan tea will be served.

It all goes to prove you never know what will happen when you bring things out of a cupboard……

The exhibition will run until the end of October.
Hazel Basford
Archivist, The Powell Cotton Museum

American Folklore Society Ethnographic Thesaurus

The American Folklore Society Ethnographic Thesaurus (www.openfolklore.org/et/) is now available in a beta version on the Open Folklore (www.openfolklore.org/) portal, a collaborative effort of the Society, the Indiana University-Bloomington Libraries, and the Indiana University Digital Library Program.

The post-beta version, the American Folklore Society Ethnographic Thesaurus 2.0, will be available on that same URL on October 1, 2011.

The AFS Ethnographic Thesaurus is a searchable online vocabulary that can be used to improve access to information about folklore, ethnomusicology, cultural anthropology, and related fields. Supported by a generous grant from the Scholarly Communications Program of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and early planning-grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Folklore Society developed the Thesaurus in cooperation with the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.

AFS Ethnographic Thesaurus Editorial Board
(all of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Washington, DC)

Catherine Hiebert Kerst, Folklife Specialist/Archivist
Maggie Kruesi, Cataloger
Michael Taft, Head of the Archive

4 August 2011

Review: Le CERCO, Museon Arlatan at Arles, France

By Alison Petch

Members of MEG may remember the paper given at the 2008 conference by Dominique Serena-Allier and Véronique Dassié. Dominique is the Directeur et Conservateur en Chef du Patrimoine of the Museon Arlatan. She recently invited me to visit while in the region, when my friends and I were kindly guided round the newly completed museum stores by Sophie Peignen, one of the conservators. I thought readers of the blog might like to see some images I took during the visit of the pristine, and for now largely empty, new storage areas.

The Museon is based in the centre of Arles, in the Bouches-du-Rhone department, and includes displays of many of the day to day artefacts from the area surrounding Arles. The museum was founded by the poet Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914) who wanted to collect and display objects that explained the life and material culture of the “Provence rhodanienne”. The museum’s collections number more than 30,000 objects, including furniture, tools, clothing, textiles and archival and library materials.

The museum first opened in 1899 and Dominique was recently successful in attracting many millions of euros funding to develop the main museum site and to create a new storage, conservation and research centre a little outside the Arles town centre - Le CERCO (Le Centre d’Étude, de Restauration et de Conservation des Oeuvres). The main museum closed for renovation in 2009 and should reopen in 2014. The displays, as well as the fabric of the ancient building ( an eighteenth century Jesuit college) will be greatly changed.

Le CERCO was completed recently and work has begun on transferring collections to the new facilities. I was most impressed at the level of investment by the Conseil Général des Bouches-du-Rhône — it is a pity that the British state does not invest so deeply and wisely.

Le CERCO is based in an area with other local government facilities but has its own discrete area with 24-hour security and monitoring. Most circulation areas and all storage and treatment areas have full environmental control and air-conditioning. In addition all circulation areas (but not storage areas) have motion sensitive lighting. One of the few areas that is not air-conditioned is the staff rest room, where a respite from the ravages of air-conditioning on the human frame is more than welcome.

We were shown where new objects are frozen in a large conservation standard freezer, as well as treatment areas where objects can be treated to remove infestation. We also visited the conservation labs and storage areas. The storage areas for large objects (such as large items of furniture) include a fork-lift truck system to make retrieval much easier. We were also shown an area for visiting researchers.

I should like to thank Dominique and Sophie for enabling our visit to the centre and giving us such an excellent tour, and also thank Dominique for her permission to publish this account. Please note that the first image on this page was taken from flickr and the second and third images were taken from the Museon’s online information  about the development.

2 August 2011

Symposium: Museums, Photographs and the Colonial Past

January12-13th 2012
PhotoCLEC Symposium
Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford
(A collaboration between De Montfort University and Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford)

This conference examines the politics, poetics and ethics of the photographic visibility of the colonial past in museums in multicultural societies and the construction of postcolonial identities. It will explore the use of photographs in public narratives of difficult histories and examine different sets of problems and approaches across a number of European countries. It raises questions not only about the patterns of engagement, nostalgia, suppression, disavowal and unspeakability which cluster around representations of the colonial past, but questions about the role of photographs in the public space. What is the work expected of photographs? Is the apparent immediacy of the past in photographs too direct and uncontrollable to be accommodated in the carefully managed spaces of state multiculturalism?  What is the role of the artist’s intervention, digital environments, and community projects?  Are there ’safe spaces’ where the colonial might be addressed? Ultimately what kinds of narratives are museums constructing and for whom? How can the complexities of colonial relations be represented in museums and do photographs help or hinder?

The conference is part of the European-funded PhotoCLEC project, an international collaboration of scholars from the UK, The Netherlands and Norway. (see: http://www.heranet.info/photoclec/index). The conference will include the launch of the project’s web resource.

Keynote Speakers:
Professor Bênoit De L’Estoile (CNRS)
Dr Wayne Modest (Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam)

Other Confirmed Speakers include:
Professor Susan Legêne (VU University, Amsterdam), Professor Sigrid Lien (University of Bergen), Professor Elizabeth Edwards (DMU), Miranda Pennell (Filmmaker, Goldsmiths College, University of London), Dr Chiara de Cesari (University of Cambridge), Dr  Sabine Cornelis (RCMA) and Dr Johan Lagae (Univeristy of Ghent).

Fee: £35                                                  Symposium Dinner: c.£32 t.b.c
Places are limited. Please contact Mandy Stuart (astuart@dmu.ac.uk) to reserve your place.

Research project: Fijian Art

Fijian Art: political power, sacred value, social transformation and collecting since the 18th century, a UK-based research project, sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), began on 1 May 2011. 

The 3-year project, hosted by the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, will examine the extensive collections of Fijian art and associated photographs and archives held in museums in the United Kingdom and overseas. 

The dynamic diversity of Fijian art since the 18th century will be revealed through a series of publications and exhibitions.

Nine museums with significant Fijian holdings are project partners: The British Museum (London), Fiji Museum (Suva, Fiji), Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery (Maidstone), Musée du quai Branly (Paris), National Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh), Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, Massachusetts), Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford), Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC) and World Museum Liverpool (Liverpool).

Project personnel will be pleased to hear from museum curators responsible for Fijian material and whose institution wishes to collaborate with project research.  Among the aims of the project is to enhance existing museum records via expert identification and analysis.

Please visit our website www.fijianart.sru.uea.ac.uk or email fijian.art@uea.ac.uk  for more information.