@MarDixon

Passionate about culture. Champion for the next generation of Cultural visitors. Defender of Libraries. Digital, Wearable Tech Enthusiast. Sharing knowledge. Troublemaker and/or advocate, depending on what you need.
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    July 19th, 2017mardixonCulture, International, Personal, Tech

    Since the advent of the world wide web the planet has gone through immense changes, its transformed the way we communicate, read, buy our clothes, pay our bills, watch TV, purchase our food and find our news. No facet of our day to day lives has remained unchanged, this has been made more apparent in the last decade through the increase in portable tablets and smart phones. Not only now do we want information instantly we can have it wherever we are and via multiple sources.

    So how has this change in how people obtain knowledge and entertainment affected Museums? Well initially some might say not much. Many museums still have entrance fees, most still have exhibits and many have the same basic layout that they did since their conception – some since 1879. Does this matter? For some, who can weather the storm and guarantee good footfall and wealthy philanthropists, then no it doesn’t. For others, it matters greatly. Read the rest of this entry »

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    July 16th, 2017mardixonCulture

    On July 14th Natural History Museum in London re-opened Hintze Hall after a temporary closure for 6 months. The closure was not one that came without comments and controversy – it was to remove the beloved Dippy Dinosaur to replace it with the Blue Whale.

    Controversy

    People absolutely adore Dippy – they have fond memories of walking into Hintze Hall for the fist time (of many) and seeing the beautiful and cheeky Dippy the Dinosaur. He has been there since 1979 (before he was Reptile Gallery now Human Biology). To clarify – Dippy has NOT always been in the hall (ask that generation that remembers the elephants…)

    Now I absolutely Love Dippy. I even was involved with the ‘I Love Dippy’ campaign NHM put on a few years ago (seriously). I have supported the idea of Hintze Hall changing even though a part of me was nervous. However, trusting the people who run the museums was easier as they were transparent. Plans were available for public, discussions were public.

    Blue Whale Vs Dippy

    First of all, if you haven’t noticed, I was #TeamWhale since the first announcement althoughmy love of Dippy meant most assumed I was #TeamDippy. Let me explain why:

    Natural History Museum is my favorite museum in the world. Honestly.  And I’ve been to a lot internationally.  It’s never been about the collection and I’ve always been honest to them about it. My love has always been about how I felt seeing the building then experiencing it. The building has an amazing energy, the collection is almost a bonus!

    The museum has a very confusing personality: It’s a family museum, it’s a natural history museum, it’s a geography museum, it’s a dinosaur museum, and of course it’s a research museum.

    That last one is the most important: Natural History Museum is about research and conservation. FIRST. While public facing means they have to be for all, they truly have had an original mission they have with conservation.

    This is why the Blue Whale in the new Hintze Hall made complete sense. Hope, as the Blue Whale displayed is now called, was a Blue Whale beached in Wexford Harbour Ireland in 1891 (ten years after NHM opened). It was purchased by the museum and put on display in 1934 in the Mammal Hall. The Blue Whale is the first species humans globally decided to conserve. It took until 1966 for the decision to be made but by then NHM and others have already started the research.

    Dippy is about an extinct reptiles (the past) while Hope is about conservation (the future) Also need to point out that Dippy was a plaster cast replica – it never actually existed! The Blue Whale has.  And this is what NHM future is about. Yes we need to remember and respect the past but we also need to look to the future for lessons.

    Opening of Hintze Hall

    Being at the opening on the new Hintze Hall is a memory I will never forget. Being one of the first to see the spectacular Hope along with the new displays around both the first and second floor was emotional if I’m honest.

    After seeing Hope hung stunningly along the rafters, please ensure you have a look around the bays along the sides. They are broken up into two sections (following along with the building – Western side conservation and Eastern side Extinction):

    Easter Wonder Bays with American mastodon, Mantellisaurus, Fossil trees, Banded iron formation, and a Imilac meteorite

    Western Wonder Bays with Giraffes, Turbinaris coral, blue marlin, seaweeds and insects.

    ‘Putting our blue whale, Hope, at the centre of the Museum, between living species on the West and extinct species on the East, is a powerful reminder of the fragility of life and the responsibility we have towards our planet. ” Sir Michael Dixon

    I was fortunate to have a one to one chat with Sir Michael Dixon, Director of Natural History Museum. While we stood up on the second floor looking down on the new hall, he explained some of the challenges outside the Team Whale vs Team Dippy (which he didn’t know it was named that and found it humorous). We talked about the conflict of the museums personality, how much thought has gone into the new design and why it matters.

    For the new design, on the second floor they have very large display cabinet with collections that reach way about what any normal eye line would be. Sir Dixon explained this was so people on the first floor will look up and explore upstairs, something they have struggled with the public during before. Also there are several items which are being displayed in a way never attempted before (the Seaweed and Blue Marlin were examples provided).

    Natural History Museum is always worth a trip but no more than ever you should ensure it is on your list of museums to visit. Also a reminder that NHM is right next to the wonderful Science Museum and V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum).

    For those who still want Dippy back, please go see him while he tours around the Uk!

    Each partner will use Dippy’s visit to showcase their local nature and natural history collections, building partnerships between regional cultural, scientific and wildlife organisations. For more details, see their website.

    And do let me know if you can see Hope or Dippy on Tour!  Would love to know your thoughts!

     

    360˚ video of the new #HintzeHall

    Enjoy a 360˚ look at Hope the #BlueWhale and the new #HintzeHall during today's exclusive preview for the winner of our Hintze Hall free prize draw, and the runners-up. We had nearly 17,000 entries to the draw and the lucky winner was Laura Willis. We hope she and her guests, and the runners-up all enjoyed the morning before we opened to the public for the day.

    Posted by Natural History Museum, London on Friday, 14 July 2017

     

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    May 31st, 2017mardixonCulture

    Today we attended the Canaletto & the Art of Venice at Queen’s Gallery. Rachel has provided this guest blog – hope you enjoy!

    Canaletto, a unique artist, captures the beauty of Italian architecture and city scenes from the 18th Century, which we are able to still enjoy and recognise today.

    This morning, Lucy Whitaker, Senior Curator of Paintings at the Royal Collection Trust of the Queens Gallery (part of Buckingham palace) gave a tour of the Canaletto exhibition.

    She informs us that while 18th century’s Venice was no longer the political powerhouse  it used to be after Napoleon invaded, the City of Venice was still in its last great century of glory. This exhibition celebrates Venice at that time and the artist Canaletto forms our idea of Venice as we see it through his eyes.

    Whitaker explains that Canaletto might not have been so successful without the support of Joseph Smith, a British merchant and art collector and dealer who lived in Venice and became an avid collector of his work.

    Because of Smith, Canaletto’s work travelled across Europe and was especially popular with the British aristocracy who were particularly drawn to the city of carnivals, music and costumes.

    As we enter the exhibit, we are greeted with two great paintings of a Regatta on the Grand Canal on Ascension day in Venice. The paintings reveal the grandeur of the Regatta, as gondolas float under the Rialto Bridge.  This day was a great festival, to which many British hurried across Europe to see. A ring would be thrown into the sea from a gilded barge, a symbolism of Venice’s maritime power at that time.

    Because Joseph Smith was close to Canaletto and was his biggest supporter, he commissioned a series of six drawings of Venice in 1723. Smiths collection in the end contained 200 pieces of Canaletto’s work when Smith finally sold his collection for £20,000 to George III.

    Now the pictures are at the Royal Collection gallery infrared images have been done to see the meticulous drawings Canaletto made underneath in the process of producing his paintings.

    The gallery has made the exhibit so it seems as if you are moving through personal Palazzo of Smith. He had earned his fortune from trade and lived in Palazzo Balbi, near the Rialto, which Canaletto later included in one of his Venice paintings. Later in the exhibit there are also paintings of Rome that Canaletto completed from some sketches and his memory, while living in England many years later.

    Unlike British tourists,  Venetians didn’t buy the work of Canaletto as they didn’t like the typical views and city sights that he often depicted. In this time paintings of history and mythology were the most prestigious paintings.

    This exhibition shows however characteristics that link Canaletto with the other artists of his time by revealing his amazing knowledge of oil painting techniques.

    Alongside Canaletto’s stunning works is art work by the female artist Rosalba Carriera. It was unusual to have successful female artists at that time but she was also supported by Smith in the 1720’s. She started by painting Snuff boxes and then moved onto art pastels drawn in chalk, which became very popular. A good luck token, very common in the 18th-century, has been found hidden inside Rosalba Carriera’s pastel A Personification of Winter by Royal Collection Trust’s conservators.

    This is for me, the most beautiful of her paintings at the exhibit and I was drawn to it before knowing it was where she hid her good luck token. Hidden between the pastel’s wooden support and canvas liner, the token was found during conservation work.

    Instead of framing the good luck token, the Museum team decided to keep it on the frame of the Winter picture to preserve it’s good luck.

    A multimedia guide provided to all visitors is the perfect companion (2nd to a personal curator tour!) for interpreting the exhibition. A well written tour that presents interesting interviews and expert opinions, it’s another fine tour production from ATS Heritage.

    Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

    The learning room was also a source of joy with different activities available for all ages.

    The exhibition is on from Friday, 19 May 2017  until Sunday, 12 Nov 2017.

    Rachel Rigby is a freelance travel and events journalist who is always looking for her next adventure. For more information contact her on rachelrigby@hotmail.com.

     

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    May 26th, 2017mardixonCulture

    As Hull is City of Culture for UK, Linda Spurdle, Mark Macleod and I decided a few days there was needed. We arrived on Monday and left Thursday and took in so much culture!

    When we first arrived in the train station the first thing you notice is all the signage of how proud they are to be City of Culture. The next thing I noticed was all the volunteers – they were brightly colour uniforms and are so friendly!

    After dropping our bags off, we went down to see Spurn Lightship and walked around the Old Town. There are so many places to eat, drink, explore. Read the rest of this entry »

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    May 8th, 2017mardixonCulture, International

    Recently I was able to attend #SharingisCaring in Hamburg to run a workshop on using social media and being social about it.  I had a great time and challenge people to create social media content from random items I placed on their table.

    The brilliant thing about the timing of the conference is it fell in line with their Long Night in Museums program. I’ve been to a few Late Museums nights (in Europe and Russia) and what I really love about them is they are open ALL.  NIGHT.  Not just until 10 or 11pm – but 3-4-5 am.  In Hamburg the added bonus was the ticket price of €15 includes public transport – how amazing and inclusive is that?  Read the rest of this entry »

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    April 13th, 2017mardixonCulture, International, Tech

    Lately I noticed something on social media that I didn’t really like seeing.  I had hoped I was wrong but decided to ask others their thoughts:

     

    I felt I should share a few of the responses here.  What is important to remember is I was not talking about all museums or in one area.  It seems to be an international issue and I’m pretty sure it’s not because the social media managers like this either!  Maybe management feels social media managers have everything scheduled so can do 25 other things that really aren’t under their remit.  Social media managers rock and we shouldn’t at all blame them – most I spoke to privately hate it as much as we do!

    However, brands (and museums are a brand) do sometimes forget that numbers aren’t the answer – loyalty also plays a role and can’t always be quantified. Does that mean it doesn’t matter?  Of course not!  And does it mean that museums, especially larger, more popular museums should respond to every one who tags them?  Of course not.  But it does mean they need to at least be shown to make an effort – even just once a day to engage with visitors and non-visitors.  It doesn’t hurt to ask someone who tags you how they are doing….

    I also asked on Facebook and LinkedIn and the responses were an eye opener. What are your thoughts? What can be done to make social media more social and get us back to having conversations instead on constant marketing and pr jammed down our throats?

    And for clarification, I need to add that this is the same on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – so it’s not a platform issue.

    LinkedIn

    Mät King
    It’s a common problem with social media. People and companies tend to spend more time trying to engage with celebrities/bigger brands/more popular museums etc than actually engaging with those who follow or engage with them. This hierarchy is a very odd consequence of class structure/knowing your place and a general insecurity common to many who have been part of an organised education system. It’s very similar to how people will listen to those with no qualifications or , indeed, abilities in a subject because they are famous or are born with a title.

    Facebook

    Look forward to hearing your thoughts!  

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    April 4th, 2017mardixonCulture, International

    I was incredibly fortunate enough to get a look at Sir John Soane’s Museum latest exhibition Marc Quinn: Drawn from Life whilst recently in London.

    Each of the twelve sculptures is created from casts of Quinn and his muse, the dancer Jenny Bastet, in a series of embraces. Their interlinked arms appear to be fighting, loving, holding or supporting – or even all at once – reflecting Quinn’s recurring fascination with the physical ambiguities of human emotion.

    Marc Quinn marries together the architecture beauty of the Soane’s Museum with contemporary art in a very sympathetic way.  I personally loved how each piece seem to have been at the location for years.  As I was there, some people walked right by without even recognizing it was a different piece.  That to me is a great sign of fitting in.

     

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    March 27th, 2017mardixonCulture, International, Personal

    It’s something we’re all too used to – funding cuts & threats in the culture sector.  Whether it’s museums, libraries, art galleries or theatres (and everything in between), culture seems to have been the easy hit for most of the people with the purse strings.

    It’s been happening globally for more years than necessary and recently the new American administration has threaten NEA, PBS and other vital funding streams many of the museums and art galleries in the states rely on to survive. [NB See #ThankyouIMLS #StandUpForMuseums #SaveTheNEA #SaveTheNEH and #ThankyouNEH]

    As many may or may not know @CultureThemes was created purely out of the funding cuts that happened in the UK.  While it was great for many museums (and social media managers) to discuss what this meant, it was vital that the conversations were open for all (eg young people and other ‘groups’ that are hard to reach, etc).  The first hashtag with CultureThemes was ‘WhyILoveMuseums’ and went world trending – why?  Because people do love museums and art galleries but we need to ASK THEM every once in awhile WHY.  This goes for staff also!

    Recently I decided to do the same thing in a subtle way.  (Any sadly the day I asked it my phone broke so apologies for the delay in getting this shared).

    For the Twitter & Instagram responses I was able to do a Storify which you can find at the bottom of this article or link is here.  For those that prefer infographics, there’s a free site for that …

    The over-arching ideas is for museums to share stories from past, present and the future.  Being there for the next generation to learn from is also highlighted.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    February 16th, 2017mardixonCulture, International

    February 15th – the day after Valentine’s Day.  The perfect day to ask the public,  museums and culture venues internationally to share items they would like to see go into #Museum101 (like George Orwell’s 1984 book and Room 101).

    The idea came when I mentioned to Linda Spurdle I was trying to think of a hashtag that would acknowledge the current issues *cough politics cough* but didn’t create a platform that could be turned into something personal. #Museum101 was a perfect solution.

    With every CultureThemes, I try to keep the ‘this is what it is/mean’ statement to a minimum to allow people to make it what they want.

    Who knew that for over 8+ hours #museum101 would be trending?

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    February 10th, 2017mardixonCulture

    It’s been awhile since I did a review and there are two amazing exhibitions I recently saw in London, the first was the David Hockey exhibition and second is Robots at the Science Museum.

    I was fortunate to be able to attend the David Hockney press preview whilst in London.  Normally press previews are very nice events that give you time to explore the art without a lot of people and fuss.  There is also a few talks, usually from the curator, sometimes it’s the press people.  And there is usually tea/coffee and biscuits.

    This press preview was completely different.

    It. Was. PACKED.  And I mean wall to wall with people writing, photographing and filming.  I was able to go through in my normal style, pretty rushed in each room, go back the opposite way and then through again to see what I missed.  The problem: normally I go into a room to find just one or two things I like (it something me and Charlotte have always done to avoid art fatigue) but with this exhibition that was impossible – I *liked* everything!

    Read the rest of this entry »

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