My current challenge is to find some new and realistic food for our little cottage. We have a marvellous new artist working on items, and I can not wait to show you what she has been working on. However cabbages are proving very hard to find, if not outright illusive. Sadly, I do not think this fine example will fit in with the tone we are attempting to create...
Sally Lunn’s was the first museum I checked out during my Open Palaces Programme adventure. The day before the tour started, I decided to stomp my way around Bath locating some of the places that I would be coming to and getting an idea of the location. Plus, I was in Bath! My excitement levels were so high I felt like my little heart was going to bounce straight out of my chest.
Sally Lunn’s is located close to the heart of the town, and within an easy walk from the train station and Roman Baths. The top part is a great little restaurant dedicated to serving a historic themed menu, including something call a Bath Bun, which is a little like a very large dinner roll which has been sliced in half. The Smithsonian mag describes it much better then I as “nearly six-inches in diameter with a soft, domed top, it is like a brioche bun on steroids”. I didn’t get a chance to eat there, but I can say that the smells coming from the kitchen were enticing. I will note, the food was surprisingly affordable and it’s a regret that I didn’t find the time to eat there.
Below the restaurant is a small museum dedicated to the history of Sally Lunn’s. I personally wonder whether there is a better word to call it then a museum, but heritage site doesn’t really do justice to the level of contents. I wouldn’t call it a heritage house either. It is not a traditional museum of ‘things in cabinets and words on walls”, but a fully recreated set of scenes that interpret the space. On one side of the small space is a fully recreated kitchen, with some fantastic looking fake food. Only after you have spent 2 months staring at plastic tomatoes can you fully appreciate realistic fake food. The other side was my favourite, with an explanation of the floor level changes and a plaster archeologist busily excavating a section.
What I really loved was the immersion of history combined with the present. The historic section was great, but having a section explaining how the history was being discovered and the different eras of the building was great. On the wall in the modern section was a series of very symbolic figures showing the different depths that the ground would have been at. It was such a simple and effective method of showing those differences, and for someone who comes from a country where cities have not necessarily been built on top of other cities, it was a really useful way to picture it. I loved that the archeologists finds and record keeping were on display (and that he had a neat little packed lunch).
The museum was free and really is worth a visit if you happen to be in the area.
As a side note, plastic models of people give me the serious willies. I loved that I couldn’t see the faces of either of the figures. But not in a terrifying Blair Witch style. This didn’t seem relevant to the actual review though...
Website for Sally Lunn’s: https://www.sallylunns.co.uk
Dana Bate: The Squishy History of Bath’s Buns
A short break in my home town for a weekend gave me some time to go and have a look at one of the local museums. As a young adult I had visited the Berrima District Museum several times, but I’m pretty certain I haven’t been there for at least 10 years. It’s a great little museum, with good spaces and a nice history of average people rather then a focus on the famous. It’s also located in beautiful Berrima, which will always have a special place in my heart for stone cottages and good honey. Enough about me, let’s find the amazing parts of the current displays!
There has been plenty of funding available in the GLAM sector due to the anniversary of the WW1. Berrima District Museum seized on this chance and have created a really fabulous exhibition called the Southern Highlands 1200. The reasoning behind the title is that the Southern HIghlands had 1200 local people sign up for service. I really like the title, it has a draw to it without instantly referring to WW1, a change from many of the other exhibitions I have seen.
There are a lot of really slick ideas going on inside this exhibition that I thought were really amazing. The panels are succinct and drenched in human stories, which makes for pleasant (if not occasionally sad) reading. Along one side of the exhibition is a wall of remembrance, with a space for each of the 1200 enlisted people. On the opposite wall is the more in-depth stories, focusing on a mixture of stories rather then just those who died. The wall of remembrance has a nifty code: a printed poppy for those who died, an identity disc for people linked to other stories or objects in the exhibition and ‘Discovering Anzacs’ leading to a very well presented interactive on iPads. The symbols were easy to see along the wall and I did notice my companion for the day looking for those links.
The display cases are fantastic. Filled with interesting objects, and generally connected to one persons story, they link nicely together. I do like the trend for removing the tags from cases and placing them on the glass. I think removing the number of things that can distract from the emotion or presence of objects is a great thing, and honestly I don’t need to see a tag under an embroidered postcard to know it’s a postcard. I find myself looking for the information on items that have ‘spoken’ to me or that I need more details on.
There are two interactive that are available, in the shape of a replica hat and electronic media. I did like the replica hat being available to touch and interpret, whoever created that item did a fantastic job. Placing an item into someone’s hands is always a great way to sell an object, so this was a neat way to do that without having to have a museum person on hand to facilitate the experience. The iPads are also a great touch and did not remove focus from the rest of the exhibition. I appreciate that the program worked with a viewers natural curiosity, and I found myself falling down a ‘click hole’, where one topic lead to another seamlessly. The program facilitated people choosing to just explore without asking them to know what they were looking for, a great method of encouraging learning and linking of topics.
Beyond the specific WW1 exhibition there were a few other cabinets/displays that caught my eye. I’m kicking myself for not having taken enough photos of the museum, as I think there is some great museum practice happening. I also found myself wishing that the same level of funding could be found for more then just Australia’s war history. As much as I respect Australia’s war history, I tend to wonder if all these well funded WW1 exhibitions, which will likely stay on display due to the money and quality poured into them, will end up skewing the public perception of important events in our history. Where as each little local museum may have once included at least a small panel, now many will have entire wings dedicated to Australia’s war history.
It’s been a busy few weeks, with more things to do then I can poke a stick at. Most of it includes a lot of relaxing before Uni starts back up for the year. However, I have been attempting to get ahead in my texts before the class starts. One of the books assigned to last years class is Objects - Reluctant witnesses to the past by Chris Caple. It’s a fantastic read so far, and I’m loving finding ideas for evidence that I hadn’t considered before. I’m sure I will have more commentary when I have finished reading the book!
As an additional piece of excitement I have been busily preparing for my trip to England this year, having been accepted into the Open Palaces Programme. Occasionally, as I am working out where to stay and what other places to see, I am struck by how vast the world is and how many museums there are to visit yet.
“There is... there was...a country...that spoke in the language of leaves”
I have a deep love of embroidery and textiles. I love the history and the art behind pieces. I love the history of ‘womens work’ and it’s impacts on the world around us. So I was exceptionally pleased to discover an incredible example of modern embroidery in the Great Hall at Parliament House. During a wander after the Urban Sketchers group meet up and throw down, I discovered it with a friend while we were admiring the tapestries. We may have spent the next 10 minutes photographing and trying to analyse the skills and methods that were used to create the master piece.
Commissioned in 1984, the embroidery took 8 years to complete. The work was a collaboration between Kay Lawrence and the Embroidery Guides of Australia. The artwork is 16 meters long, stretching almost the full length of the Great Hall. To convert the original water colour painting into an embroidery, a countless number of techniques were used. From a distance, the painting looks whole and complete, up close there is a myriad of intricate and amazing details. The Australian Women’s Register describes the work as taking 12,000 hours of work, performed by over 504 women over several states.
It is breath taking in person, and my photos could not even state to capture how amazing this work is. Parliament House has an incredible collection and is wonderful to explore, but if you are interested in textile art this is an absolute must see.
Yesterday, I found myself daydreaming about solutions to personal heritage and community in a world that increasingly becoming filled with small spaces. Personally, I love the concepts behind a lot of new developments in apartment building design: shared spaces on levels for socialising, community gardens, gyms, private cinemas shared by tenants. I wonder if apartment buildings will become as socialable as the street party scene that my parents remember.
I thought that a natural step in this social movement, was to create a new position within an apartment block of a Heritage Officer. Paid from the yearly strata fee, the purpose of the position is to create community through displays and exhibitions about occupants in the building. By linking people to these often hidden or overlooked heritages, apartment designers could create a greater depth of connection and empathy amongst occupants. Occupants could be as involved (or as disconnected) as they chose, with the Heritage Office requiring skills in privacy and sensitivity. The likelyhood is that it would take quite some time to create the traction for people to be willingly involved, so the Heritage Officer would need patience and people skills.
Some examples of displays/exhibitions that could be achieved:
- Wedding dresses: Some displayed in museum style cases, other reproduced for display in corridors or common spaces. Interpretive panels with information about the dress and potentially the wedding day for the person involved.
- A digital resource with favourite recipes from apartments, with a different meal show cased on the website regularly. This could be expanded into multicultural food days or teamed up with a company who could delivere all the ingredients for the show cased meal in a box for those who want to try making it.
- A book with the favourite children’s stories from around the apartment block
- Large interpretative vinyls, tracking the distances that people have come to live in these apartment blocks
- A collection display in the foyer of apartment dwellers favourite tea cup or coffee mug
I have now turned into one of those odd sorts who stay up reading the Hansard report from Parliament House. Recent transcripts were interesting, not only because of Marriage Equality (Yay!), but also some comments by the Honourable Julie Owens MP about the Parramatta Female Factory:
“ The Parramatta Female Factory deserves and needs to be World Heritage listed. The national heritage listing provides protection for part of the site, but the New South Wales state government and UrbanGrowth, its development arm, are intent on developing thousands of units up against the walls of the factory. To join the campaign, I urge people to sign the Parramatta Female Factory Friends petition calling for World Heritage listing so that the community and future generations can enjoy this fantastic piece of history right in the heart of Parramatta. The oldest female convict factory, a Greenway building, right in the heart of Parramatta deserves World Heritage listing.”
Deserves and needs to be World Heritage listed? I’m not sure that holds up entirely. It’s an incredible site but is it of World Heritage standard? I would certainly describe it as nationally significant, which is why it absolutely deserves the National Heritage listing which it already has. And should we be using Heritage listing as a primary method of ‘rescuing’ places?
Sites on the World Heritage List are places of outstanding universal value. Admittedly, for the committee to find a place to potentially of value, it only needs to meet at least one of the selection criteria. Having read back over the available criteria to choose from, I’m not sure it would fit into any of the world heritage list categories. The criteria that marks it as Nationally Significant - women/children’s lives and convict history - is not necessarily of universal significance.
I’m not a huge fan of the emotional push for a building to be listed to ‘rescue’ it. ‘Rescuing’ a building takes a siginicant amount of emotion invested in something other then the evidence of whether a building deserves to be listed. It becomes a case of good-guys vs developers/government. In addition, it means that instead of choosing to list buildings which naturally fit into the selection criteria, the information is sometimes stretched in a bid to contribute towards saving the building. The emotional connection that we have to historic buildings can’t be denied, but not everything should be rescued. Much like museums, there is only so much space and money, and concentration should be placed on the buildings that truely deserve higher recognition.
Museum working, game playing and dog loving geek. Tune in for musings about the GLAM sector, and generally geekiness.