Follow my journey as a budding museum professional. Sharing all things museum related: @sophiapatelmuseums
8th July 2019
Burgh House is a historic house with over 300 years of history located a few minutes from Hampstead Heath. It was built in 1704 during the reign and of Queen Anne and was used as a private residence for the majority of its life. It is now open to the public as an independent charitable trust for arts, heritage and the community.
Within the Grade 1 listed house is Hampstead Museum, which was founded by local historians Christopher and Diana Wade in 1979. Having launched an appeal for objects from the local community, the museum now has a collection of around 3,000 objects. In 2011 the museum achieved Arts Council Accreditation.
The permanent display explores the history and development of Hampstead from prehistoric times to the present day through objects, artworks, documents and interactive displays.
The House and Museum is open Wednesday – Friday & Sunday: 12pm-5pm.
29th June 2019
For the past four months I’ve been working on an exhibition at Honeywood Museum in Carshalton. The State of Education takes a look at some of the early developments in education from 1833 and what school life might have looked like for the teachers and pupils of what is now the London Borough of Sutton at the time.
1833 was an important year since it was the government’s first direct financial involvement in education, which began with a grant of £20,000. A relatively small sum, this signified the beginning of the State’s involvement in building the education system that we recognise today.
From the research, planning and image/object selection to the writing, editing and installation, the process has been extremely rewarding and I’ve learnt a lot about Victorian education!
If you are around Carshalton pop in and visit The State of Education exhibition. Honeywood Museum is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11am to 5pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 5pm.
3rd June 2019
Brent Museum’s permanent gallery tells the story of Brent from prehistory all the way through to the present day using over 400 objects from the museum’s collection.
16th May 2019
Today I went on tour of Christ’s Hospital, a school that was founded in 1552 by King Edward VI “to take out of the streets all fatherless children & other poor men’s children that were not able to keep them.” It was a place where children were fed, clothed, sheltered and taught.
Originally located in London, Christ’s Hospital moved from the city to Horsham in 1902 and is situated in 1,200 acres of Sussex countryside. The school now has over 820 boarding pupils with an equal number of boys and girls, and takes day pupils.
The Verrio Tour gave me the opportunity to see the school’s magnificent buildings, visit the museum, watch the school band and take a historical tour guided by the pupils themselves. The highlight of the tour was the massive eighty-six foot long painting by Antonio Verrio situated in the Dining Hall, which commemorates the foundation of the Royal Mathematical School in 1673. The painting, known as The Verrio, along with several other paintings of Christ’s Hospital’s greatest servants and benefactors, has long watched over generations of pupils and staff as they dined.
It is a long standing tradition that every lunch time all 900 pupils march into lunch to the accompaniment of the Band, which was first formed in 1868. The uniform is one of the School’s most distinctive feature. It is remarkable that the uniform’s outer long blue coat, belted at the waist, distinctive yellow socks and white neck bands have remained virtually unchanged for over 460 years!
Christ’s Hospital Museum represents and celebrates the 465 year history of one of the oldest boarding schools in England. The museum has over 100,000 objects in their collection relating to the school’s history. Some objects are displayed around the school site and others in the London Metropolitan Archives and Ironmonger’s Hall in London.
Tours are available on Thursdays; by prior arrangement only. For further information and to book a tour email: email@example.com
6th May 2019
The Renaissance Nude at the Royal Academy of Arts.
Michelangelo’s monumental wall painting in the Sistine Chapel, the Last Judgement, was celebrated as a triumph. However the depictions of nudes proved to be controversial and so shortly after his death in 1564 Pope Pius IV ordered draperies to be painted over some of these nude figures.
Until then the nude had flourished in Renaissance Europe. The exhibition explores the developments that elevated the nude to play the pivotal role in art from the 1400 to the 1530s. During this time there was a renewed interest in ancient Greek and Roman art, which brought the human body to the forefront of artistic innovation. Artists began experimenting with naturalistic approaches and branching out from religious subject matter.
The nude was transforming the Christian art and encouraging modern representations of age-old themes, such as the story of Adam and Eve and the crucifixion. They appeared in both sacred and secular contexts, filling interiors of churches and stately palaces.
The Renaissance Nude exhibition displays a variety of media from different regions of Europe: full scale paintings, bronze statuettes, manuscripts and pages from anatomical studies. They contrast idealised beauty with depictions of the ageing body in both intimate private works and public images.
4th May 2019
Some archaeology for you today!
Last summer I travelled to India with my family and stayed in Sindhudurg. One of the attractions to the area is an old fort located on the coast near Nivati village.
Nivati fort was constructed by Shivaji Maharaj to protect his empire from the neighbouring rulers. It was used to look over the Karli creek and Vengurla port and made from red laterite stone. The fort is spread over an area of 4-5 acres covered with dense bushes. It is protected by a 20 feet wide and 10 feet deep moat.
Today the fort is now in ruins but the gates and bastion are still in good condition. Not many tourists visit the site so we were able to experience its untouched beauty.
3rd May 2019
“Writing is so much more than words on the page – it is how we communicate across time and space” says Adrian Edwards, lead curator of Writing: Making Your Mark at the British Library.
Writing: Making your Mark is an inspiring and intellectually stimulating exhibition, which explores the extraordinary history behind one of humankind’s greatest achievements: how we write.
People first created writing 5,000 years ago when they turned speech into symbol. Written communication has transformed how we think and express ideas. Writing: Making your Mark exhibits the origins of writing, the writing systems and styles, the materials and technology used to write and the people who make a living from writing
The story unfolds through more than 100 objects from the British Library’s collection. The exhibition includes medieval manuscripts, stone carved inscriptions, Caxton’s 1476-77 printing of Canterbury Tales, calligraphy pens sets, a 1970 Chinese typewriter, printing blocks and an ancient wax tablet containing a child’s homework.
Lastly, the focus turns towards the future of writing. Digital technology is revolutionising the way we communicate as we replace words with pictures, videos, emojis and voice recordings. The exhibition makes us question what the future holds for writing? How will the choices we make today affect the writing of tomorrow? How will we choose to make our mark?
20th April 2019
‘We Live in an Ocean of Air’ is a virtual reality experience by Marshmallow Laser Feat, a London based collective that create immersive experiences, in collaboration with Natan Sinigaglia and Mileage l’Anson.
“The idea is challenging and intricate, virtual reality to rediscover reality” – Giulia Segreto
18th April 2019
‘Kaleidoscope’ at the Saatchi Gallery. The exhibition features the work of nine international contemporary artists that use a variety of mediums. Kaleidoscope examines the distortion of human perception, inviting us to explore our relationship with our surroundings and consider the way we engage with our environment.
Featured artists include Tillman Kaiser whose mixed media paintings and dynamic sculptural works play with geometry and symmetry whilst Florence Hutchings presents a series of still life paintings of vases and windows inspired by everyday life.
Whitney Bedford’s seascapes act as motifs for connecting the past and present alongside Pierre Carraeu’s emotionally charged photographs of glassy waves and Benedetto Pietromarchi’s mischievous ceramic pelicans. Mia Feur’s sculpture addresses the post-natural landscape and our effect on it, using petroleum waste collected from the shores of Arctic Fjords.
Tom Howse’s paintings of interiors present surreal twists such as the smiling tea cups, contrasting with Peter Linde Busk’s dark, introspective, semi-abstract portraits of mental states, which capture the universal emotions of pride, fear and defeat referencing literary or mythical characters.
Laura Buckley’s immersive piece, Fata Morgana, is a large-scale kaleidoscope both dazzling and inspiring to the visitor. The hexagonal walk-in installation invites the audience to admire the changing patterns, ambient noises and synthetic tones as they walk through its mirrored walls.
1.Florence Hutchings – Fruit and Veg Market, 2017
2.Tom Howse – Botanical Selection, 2017
3.Peter Linde Busk – I’ve Got No Expectations to Pass Through Here Again, 2011
4.Whitney Bedford – In Deep, 2005
16th April 2019
Had a lovely time meeting the Senior Curator at Kensington Palace today!
14th April 2019
Waiting for a tube made more interesting by reading the new information boards about London Underground’s heritage.
8th April 2019
I believe all audiences, from a diverse array of demographics, should feel welcome, stimulated, and able to experience museum’s stories and collections. However, the 16-24 demographic is underrepresented in visitor statistics across museums in the UK and this is especially significant as this demographic represents the future audiences of museums.
Last Saturday I attended my first meeting on the RAF Museum Youth Panel. With the RAF Museum’s younger audience growing and becoming more diverse, the museum wants to make their exhibitions more comprehensive and relevant for younger visitors.
The Youth Panel consists of young people aged 16-24. Our aim is to help contribute to improving the museum’s visitor experience for younger audiences. As a group we help the museum test new ideas, organise and run events for other young people and create our own exhibition.
2nd April 2019
There are several definitions of design, some categorise design to explain how it is different from or similar to other fields and sometimes try to inspire good design that fulfils its purpose. Design can be a work process of creating solutions for people, driving development of an object, building, vehicle, system based on specific customers’ needs.
Sir George Cox, who has a background in aeronautical engineering and was the former Chair of the Design Council, defines design: ‘Design is what links creativity and innovation. It shapes ideas to become practical and attractive propositions for users or customers. Design may be described as creativity deployed to a specific end.’
Design makes ideas tangible, taking thoughts and inspirations and creating something concrete and real. Here is another definition: Design is all around you, everything man-made has been designed, whether consciously or not.’
For me design is innovative, it’s a way of understanding the world and making complex ideas that are difficult to communicate or operate easier to understand. What does design mean to you?
30th March 2019
On Wednesday I attended the first session on a Family History course run by the Surrey History Centre. The six week course is run by a professional genealogist and archivist and covers everything you need to know to enhance your research.
Wednesday’s session was an introduction to family history, taking a look at how to record and store research, use tracking sheets and explore the different types of sources available. Next week I will learn how to use maps, local directories and rate books to find out about the places my ancestors lived and how they earned their living.
Researching our family histories through parish registers, census’, civil registration records, local maps, wills and street and trade directories can help us trace the lives of our ancestors and discover interesting and surprising stories! Take a visit to your local history centre and start creating your family tree.
25th March 2019
One of my favourite galleries is the Mexico gallery (Room 27) in the British Museum. It was designed by the Mexican architect Teodoro Gonázlez de León and opened in 1994. Despite the gallery being over 20 years old and not changing much, the exhibition still remains relevant to today and the design continues to evoke emotions and convey the splendour of the culture’s rich archaeology.
The gallery is organised geographically to show the regional cultures that flourished in Mexico from about 2000 BC to the 16th Century AD when the Europeans made contact. Early Mexican civilisation is explored, as well as the Huaxtec, Aztec and Mixtec cultures and the Maya city-states.
I feel the space allows for contemplation of the empire and civilisation, whilst expressing the inherent drama and power of the artefacts. The visual presentation of the artefacts express a rich and complex culture, which allows visitors, who are previously unaware of the culture, to understand the importance in displaying it.
The blood red walls, black ceiling, dramatic spotlighting on artefacts, geometric shaped plinths and the use of space together create a contemplative atmosphere with the element of dramaturgy.
What is dramaturgy?
Dramaturgy is a concept that generates emotional engagement within the museum exhibition. Exhibitions can be compared to theatrical performances, since they both use forms of display to create a particular atmosphere. The use of colour, space, rhythm, light, shapes, forms and balance are all elements that shape the visitor’s experience and create a performance space for the visitor to be compelled by.
So if you’re ever in the British Museum visit Room 27 and see what you think. If you are interested in learning more about how exhibition design can impact visitors’ engagement and enhance their emotional connection, please do contact me!
23rd March 2019
End Youth Homelessness (EYH) has teamed up with sculptor and artist David Oliveira for their latest campaign #NOWYOUSEEME
EYH is a network of local charities that have come together to tackle youth homelessness. The organisation raises funds to help their members house and support the young people. Centrepoint, one of the members of EYH, provided the following statistics: in 2018, 103,000 16-25 year olds went to their local authority for help because they were homeless or at risk and 52% of them received no documented support.
The campaign aims to make the invisible visible by raising awareness of what happens to those “hidden homeless” who receive no documented support from their local council.
Oliveira has created these “invisible” wire sculptures to highlight the young homeless people in society. They will travel across the UK and be placed in shopping centres and train stations. The campaign launched on 21st March at the Design Museum and the sculptures will be on display there until the end of tomorrow.
16th March 2019
Exciting news!! I will be working on Beazley Designs of the Year exhibition at the Design Museum. Designs of the Year is an annual awards exhibition celebrating design from across the world. The exhibition showcases the best international design from the past 12 months and consists of around 75 exhibits!
As part of a volunteer placement I will be assisting the Curatorial team with the preparation and delivery of the exhibition and working with the exhibition curator and assistant curator to research the nominated projects.
I am very excited to be working on this project with amazing designers and curators!
15th March 2019
This late 19th century mourning hat features in Sutton Heritage’s ‘Object of the Month’ blog I wrote. The mourning hat decorated with a velvet ribbon, chiffon and glass beads is typical of what Victorian women would have worn during mourning. Mourning clothes help create a picture of what life was like when a family member or relative passed away, but together with death records and photographs an even bigger picture can be built into the lives of those in mourning and thus fill gaps in social history.
During the Victorian period it was customary for families to commemorate their dead through elaborate rituals, expensive funerals and monuments for the deceased. Those who could afford it were expected to wear mourning dress when a family member passed away.
Mourning clothes and accessories were an important part of remembering the deceased and displaying the family’s inner feelings. This was very much influenced by Queen Victoria, who wore black for the rest of her life after Prince Albert died from typhoid fever in 1861.
To read the full blog visit whitehallmuseum.wordpress.com. To view the display and learn more about mourning clothes visit Cheam Library.
Images: © Sutton Heritage
1: Late 19th century black mourning hat with a velvet ribbon, chiffon and black glass beads
2: Mrs. Tappley wearing mourning dress after her two daughters died within a year of each other.
3: Master Moore wearing a black armband to signify he is in mourning.
12th March 2019
the Design Museum
11th March 2019
Last week I went on a professional development course at the V&A on writing interpretation plans for exhibitions, galleries and displays. The day was packed full of useful information, which consolidated my understanding of what Interpretation is and the challenges and highlights involved in developing interpretive schemes. Bryony Shepherd, Head of Interpretation at the V&A, led the course and spoke about her experiences working on recent interpretation projects.
What is Interpretation?
Interpretation is a way of conveying ideas and stories to an audience. It is the bridge that connects the audience to the objects. Interpretation is the communication where there is no communication in an exhibition. It is an important discipline, which can be delivered in several ways, not just through text but also through audio, film, images, handling, paper-based activities, AV, interactive and live tours. This delivery needs context, which is where design is important in arranging how the story is presented in the 3D space.
I am passionate about storytelling and creating innovative experiences for the visitor, so this course on Interpretation planning was perfect for me to develop my skills and understanding.
I would highly recommend looking at what V&A professional development courses are on offer. From learning how to curate fashion and dress to understanding how to preserve plastics the courses are interesting, relevant and led by expert staff from the established institution.
8th March 2019
Happy International Women’s Day! #IWD2019 #BalanceforBetter
This time last year I was celebrating #IWD and supporting the campaign to #PressforProgress with my fellow Masters colleagues.
Together we curated an exhibition, ‘Shattering Perceptions: The Women of Archaeology,’ which challenged perceptions about what archaeology involves and who does it by spotlighting the varied contributions women have made and continue to make in archaeology.
This year’s campaign theme is #BalanceforBetter, building a gender-balanced world where balance drives a better working world.
27th February 2019
Yesterday I attended a training day at the Alzheimer’s Society to become a Dementia Friends Champion! As a Champion, I am a trained volunteer who encourages others to learn more about dementia and deliver Information Sessions to anyone who would like to become a Dementia Friend.
I am passionate about spreading awareness of dementia, which is caused by diseases of the brain. I believe there is still a lot of stigma surrounding dementia and people tend to shy away from talking about the subject. Dementia is not a natural part of ageing and so can affect anyone at any time and it is important to understand that it is not just about losing your memory, but can also affect thinking, communicating and doing everyday tasks.
There are over 10,500 Dementia Friends Champions helping to create dementia friendly communities and my aim is to encourage museums to become dementia friendly and help those living with dementia live well.
Why not get involved and become a Dementia Friend and join the 2.5 million!! Head over to their website to find out more: http://www.dementiafriends.org.uk.
25th February 2019
‘I am Ashurbanipal: king of the world, king of Assyria’ exhibition. Amazing interpretation, stunning projections and lighting and beautiful artefacts.
23rd February 2019
Reading for the next couple of months!
What I love about working on exhibitions is being able to learn about different topics. Writing content involves researching the theme of the exhibition by going into archives, meeting with content specialists and reading many books.
For the next Sutton Heritage exhibition at Honeywood Museum I am learning about Victorian education, something I haven’t looked at since primary school! Researching all things from the 1870 Education Act and pupil-teachers to ragged schools and inspectors’ reports. The exhibition will be displayed in the late Spring, I’ll keep you posted!
21st February 2019
Deep breathe in…and out…in…and out.
The temporary exhibition ‘Catch Your Breath’ at Palace Green Library in Durham is one you do not want to miss! The exhibition focuses on the ‘Life of Breath’ research project led by Durham University and the University of Bristol.
The exhibition explores how breathing is not just a bodily function, but allows us to communicate, create music and laugh. The FREE exhibition is on display at Palace Green Library until the 17th March before it travels to London. Don’t miss out! Exhibition review on my blog coming soon.
18th February 2019
Last September I completed my masters research paper after hours of visitor tracking, long nights in the library and endless drafts. The paper explores the relationship between museum fatigue and visitor attention. I love this topic so my next blog will be on museum fatigue! We’ve all been tired on a museum visit, but was is it that makes us feel exhausted? How can exhibition design combat museum fatigue? Make sure to look out for my blog in the coming weeks.
16th February 2019
In 1389 Sir Ralph Lumley converted his family manor house into a castle after returning from wars in Scotland. During a plot to overthrow King Henry IV he was imprisoned and executed, forfeiting his lands to the Earl of Somerset. Sir Ralph Lumley’s grandson Thomas regained ownership of the castle in 1421, followed by John Lumley who made several alterations.
In the 19th century the castle was the home of the Bishop of Durham and was later bought in 1946 by University College to house students during their expansion. During the 1960s the college sold the castle in order to fund the building of ‘Moatside’ halls of residence.
The castle is now owned by the Earl of Scarbrough, who turned the castle into a stunning 73-bedroomed hotel. Today the hotel is managed by No Ordinary Hotels and is the perfect relaxing getaway if you are ever near Durham.
P.S. The castle is believed to be haunted.Legend has it Lily of Lumley, believed to be the first wife of Sir Ralph Lumley, was murdered by two priests when she rejected the Catholic faith. They threw her body into a well in the castle grounds, which she is now believed to come up from during the night and haunt the castle. However, there are no records of any other marriage of Lord Lumley except to Eleanor Neville…so is it a true story or just a tale?
14th February 2019
I’m up in Durham for a few days and one of the first things I did was visit the cathedral. I love it, no matter how many times I’ve seen it it still wows me!
The UNESCO World Heritage Site has been undergoing conservation work for the past two years, so it was great to see the scaffolding finally coming down from the Cathedral Tower.
The scaffolding took seven months to put up due to the complexity and sensitive location. The stonework had to be repaired due to the erosion of the sandstone. Other stones had to be individually replaced because the 1850s ironwork had rusted and expanded causing the stone to crack.
The Cathedral Tower is now open again and tours begin tomorrow.
9th February 2019
I have recently started volunteering at Sutton Heritage as an Exhibitions and Interpretation Assistant. I am helping develop the content and storyline for upcoming exhibitions, writing and editing text, researching and planning object lists and installing exhibitions.
Yesterday I was working at Whitehall Historic House to transfer this wedding bodice onto a new bust. I’ve learnt that no matter how many times you readjust and fiddle with a display there is always something to improve on!
The beautiful bodice is part of the ‘Hatch, Match and Dispatch’ exhibition, which explores the way births, marriages and deaths have been recorded over time and how they link to our personal histories. It’s on display until July so do pop into the museum if you get a chance.
6th February 2019
Whenever I’m in London I always find time to drop into the V&A, on every visit I find something new. This time round I came across a stunning sculptural installation called Breathless commissioned by British artist Cornelia Parker in 2001. And it certainly was!
The installation is made from 54 defunct brass instruments, which have been flattened and hung from wires to create an ornamental piece viewed from both above and below, connecting the two floors.
When it was installed in 2001 the work caused quite a stir. Norman Harvey from the Churchill Society described it as ‘an act of vandalism’ and an ‘absolute scandal.’ Harvey argued that they could have been used by children who urgently needed instruments to take up music. Others also found it ‘painful to see them not being taken care of properly, let alone crushed.’
Parker defended her work and stated the instruments that were beyond repair ‘would have ended up broken up. I should have thought this is a better fate for them.’ Paula Ridley, the chairwoman of the V&A at the time, wrote to the Churchill Society and explained that it was designed to ‘pay tribute to the disappearing tradition of brass bands in Britain.’
This picture does not do it justice, so next time you’re near the V&A why not pop in and see what you think?
4th February 2019
To start off with I want to share an interesting and insightful visit to Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery in India. Last summer, I travelled to India to visit my grandparents who live in Baroda, Gujarat. Despite the heat, I decided to venture to Baroda’s “must see attraction” and it did not disappoint. To read the review head to my website via the link in my bio.