The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

CFP: 3rd International Workshop on Personalized Access to Cultural Heritage

3rd International Workshop on Personalized Access to Cultural Heritage
in conjunction with IUI2011 Conference (Palo Alto, CA | 13-16 February 2011)

November 12, 2010: paper submission deadline
December 12, 2010: notification to authors
December 19, 2010: submission of camera-ready papers

The rapid development of information technologies and the Internet has enabled cultural heritage and public organizations to provide access to their collections not only through physical displays but also online, and attract even wider audiences than those that visit the physical museums. Additionally, various trends on Web 2.0 allow for users not only to be passive consumers, but also active participants.

Personalization capitalizes on a user-centered intelligent interactive information exchange between museum websites or museum guide systems and visitors. The museum monologue turns into a dialog, and personalization enables a new communication strategy based on a continuous process of interaction, collaboration, learning and adaptation between the museum and its visitors. Personalization could improve the interaction and experience of visitors on museum websites and with museum guide systems by supporting visitors' navigation and assisting them in quickly finding an appropriate starting point, and in discovering new relevant information.

This workshop will focus on the specific challenges for personalization in the cultural heritage setting from the point of view of user interaction and visitor experience. It will investigate how the user interface - the contact point of visitors and systems - can become more intelligent by means of personalization. Overall, the workshop will aim at attracting presentations of novel ideas for addressing these challenges and the current state of the art in this field.

Submission form:

Lora Aroyo, VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Fabian Bohnert, Monash University, Australia.
Tsvi Kuflik, The University of Haifa, Israel.
Johan Oomen, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, The Netherlands.

Brown Bags aren't just transcontinental - they're transhemispherical!

Brown Bag 26th October 2010
Attic Review
“Community Engagement: Making Promises to Keep”
Allison Russell – National Motor Museum of Australia

I always find it fascinating to hear about museology and museum practice in different parts of the world. Last week we had Europe – but this week we went right out of the hemisphere! Allison Russell, of the National Motor Museum of Australia, is currently undertaking research in the UK as a Churchill Fellow. Focusing upon the ways in which community links are fostered in the UK, Allison is speculating upon which strategies might be taken back to Australia – and how. And we were lucky enough to hear some of her thoughts so far – and to help her reflect upon those possibilities.

Australia, clearly, is a huge country. South Australia, where Allison and the Motor Museum are located, has an incredibly low population density of less than 4.3 per square mile. This, of course, has considerable implications for any museum sited in such an environment, and particularly the National Motor Museum, located in the Adelaide Hills at some distance from Adelaide itself. Remote locations for museums – and for various communities – mean that developing links between the museum and the public which it serves is a difficult task. Indeed, as Allison points out, community engagement has not in the past been widely practiced. But perhaps things are about to change.
The ICOM definition for museums implies the importance of community engagement though it does not explicitly state it. But in recent years, museums in the UK have increasingly promoted this aspect of their work. And it is this which Allison hopes to discover more about whilst she’s here. Inspired by a past Museums and Histories course here at our own department, she seeks to answer some complex questions, and interrogate how the resulting themes might be applied in an Australian context. Why is community engagement happening? How do you gauge community needs? How are the projects funded and evaluated and who is running them? Indeed it seems that she’s learned a lot being here, and discovered that in British museums alone there is a wide gamut of possibilities. She’s certainly been to a number of places which are heavily involved with community work, and cites Time and Tide, Norwich, IWM Duxford, the National Football Museum, Urbis, Liverpool, Edinburgh, UCL and, happily, Leicester as being among her sources. The diversity of practice and information which she has received from each of them is astonishing, ranging from experimental methods of recording oral histories, supporting bodies, evaluative methods and targets, to accessibility, exclusion, social politics, and social media technologies. Not a lot of information there then!
How will it be possible for her to take this back to Australia, and apply it there? Well, it isn’t as if there is no precedent for community work at all, and Allison showcases some of the astonishing work that History SA, the government body who runs the National Motor Museum has done, and will do in the future. Annual events such as the Bay to Birdwood Run and the Rock and Roll Rondezvous bring in much of their annual audience, and are thus vital to the museum’s existence. But they also run events at more of a... distance, shall we say? Not the least spectacular of these is ‘Off the Beaten Track,’a 2008 touring exhibition which celebrated the centenary of the first motorised drive across the Australian outback in 1908. Taking the same length of time – 52 days – to travel from Adelaide to Darwin as the original expedition, a large orange trailer transported the original 1908 Talbot along the same route, stopping at 23 venues along the way. Strangely, for such an event as this, it is not a story that is widely known in Australia, and the aims of the museum were both to celebrate its centenary, and to interrogate why the expedition was important, and what legacy it left on Australian life. Employing public buildings and sites, museums and schools, the orange trailer took the historic story, and its’ present relevance, to a huge variety of people. They built a comprehensive education pack, personalised the arrival of the trailer for particular community needs, and even reached out beyond geography to the world wide web – you can read the blog of their adventures here. Perhaps one of the most moving stories that Allison tells is that of Newcastle Waters, a school of 11 indigenous pupils and one teacher. How do you make the story of two white European, moneyed men in a car appealing to such children? Certainly the progress of western culture through Australia, and the adoption of many of the technologies which it brings, has had a significant impact upon indigenous life. But it seems that it was less the resulting politics, and more the materiality of the experience which brought history to life for these children. Previously struggling, with nothing on which to hang history, the chance to see an object, to engage materially with it, and to build their own models of the Talbot was an incredibly rewarding experience. It seems that it is not too much to suggest that such apparently small impacts have as much, if not more, importance, than the fact that when it arrived in Darwin, the Talbot made headline news. It’s the little things, the personal things, which matter the most.
How, then, can Allison develop this model, how can she take it further in Australia, and what, in the UK, can we learn from her work? Reinterrogating such a naturalised idea as community engagement in the UK opens up a huge variety of questions and possibilities. The discussion after Allison’s paper turned very much towards considering the individual, rather than the umbrella ‘community’ – communities are, after all, not singular, homogeneous entities, but are multiple, polyvalent, and diverse. Individuals make up communities, and perhaps the next step for both British and Australian museums is to consider not just how they might engage that thing called ‘the community,’but how they might relate longer term with individuals, and make a significant qualitative impact on their lives, rather than be chasing statistics and quantities all the time. They need, too, to reconsider their role – as Richard phrased it, what are the unique elements of museums which allow them to engage with current issues whilst also retaining their own role, and at what point should they recognise and deal with whether they are the appropriate body to pursue a particular task.
It’s certainly worth a thought. I think Australia is lucky to have Allison and her colleagues. Their presentations involve quizzes and prizes, after all! Put it this way, whoever thought that keyrings could become such a sign of status.
Thank you Allison. We hope we gave you some things to think about – you certainly gave us a new perspective on ourselves.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-changes (link roundup)

A few links from the liberal news media on heritage, money, and political and social agendas:
First, a discussion from the Guardian about whether philanthropy can save the arts and culture industry in the UK in the face of the government's cuts. From the horse's mouth, as it were...
Second, an interesting article in yesterday's Telegraph about the National Trust's increased theatricality in interpretation and the significance thereof. The comments section show opinion, as ever, is split.
Lastly, the effects of the swinging axe start to become clear as the Arts Council announces its budget for next year, with funding cuts of up to 50% and nothing for many major organizations.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Brown Bags Are Back - and are Continentally Flavoured!

Brown Bag 20th October 2010

Introducing EUNAMUS”

Andy Sawyer, Sheila Watson and Alexandra Bounia

For some time, now, I’ve been hearing about EUNAMUS, and up until recently it has remained a little mysterious. So I was grateful that this week’s Brown Bag seminar gave Andy, Sheila and Alexandra a chance to explain what it was all about. And explain they did.

The project is enormous. Comprised of multiple ‘work packages’ or projects split across various partners, which along with researchers from our own School includes people in seven other centres across Europe, the project seeks to explore the relationships between national museums, national and European identities, and the critical issues which face Europe today. More detail about the projects and packages can be found on the website – what I want to concentrate on in this review are the ways, historically, in which National Museums have presented histories and identities – both of their audiences, and of themselves.

When considering a national museum, of course, it’s very name suggests that it represents the nation in some way. But the representation of a nation is, of course, fundamentally tied up with the way in which that nation sees itself, or would like to be seen – and of course, these attitudes vary from time and place.

Ireland, for example, Andy points out as being of particular interest. That country, and its museums, must, of course, deal with some very complex political and social issues related to identity which are still manifestly important today. The different groups in Northern Ireland have their histories displayed in very different ways and to different degrees. Where the Unionists have trouble strongly articulating their history, Nationalists are assisted in promoting theirs by virtue of the romance which surrounds their past.

But different attitudes are also expressed towards past events are in different places – in Irish museums, for instance, Vikings are very often presented in a much more positive light than in England, which only goes to show that where you are is heavily implicated in what you see.

The way in which Scottish museums generate a sense of nationhood is also a particularly interesting case, as Sheila points out. Even in collections of early prehistoric archaeology, attempts have been made to retroactively construct a ‘Scottish’ identity, as distinct from a pan-European culture. This essentialist production of ethnicity is a tricky issue, of course, and it has to be said that there is a move away from this in Scotland now, but it remains interesting to note how important it is for groups to view themselves in a particular way, using more recent history as a lens through which to frame the distant past.

This particularity of self perception is also clear in the attitudes of museums towards their own histories – and this part of the Brown Bag, and of the EUNAMUS project as a whole, will, in my opinion, be one of the richest veins for museological historians and critics. Sheila will soon be publishing and disseminating work on the differences between the generative narratives of the British Museum and Royal Academy and those which are expressed today. From the studies of the documents which Sheila has already conducted, the stories are very different from that made public now. The story of the British Museum as a foundation originating in the desire to tell the story of English liberties is not one that gets told all that often – but which, it seems, is right there in its own archive. It’s amazing to me that the narratives of museums’ own histories lie so hidden in plain view. But then, I suppose that, like anything, you form images surrounding a particular thing that suit the current time and context – and which furnish your ability to survive and act in the present world.

Of course, material culture will figure heavily in EUNAMUS too – how Europe is made manifest in its artefacts, how nations are distinct and similar is clearly going to be an issue. And it is not just the past which is under consideration here – we have to ask, as the project will, where museums are going, and how they will foster the Europe of the future. Sheila and Andy will be looking at the ‘distributed national museum’ and the ‘new online museum’ respectively, and the ways in which new forms of life and culture are going to, in the future, determine the way in which Europe, and its museums, look.

It’s a MASSIVE project, like I said. I wish all the participants the best of luck – it’s going to be big, but fascinating. I look forward to hearing more about it in due course – either at more Brown Bags, or at the various conferences and workshops which are going to occur. Thanks to all speakers for sharing!

The homepage for the project is here – explore at your will! I got lost in it for quite a while...


Thursday, October 21, 2010


It's not quite the weekend, and regrettably it's not quite dinner-time either, so I thought I would post something short to introduce myself!

I'm a new PhD student here at Leicester, and my research will explore the European 'cabinet of curiosity' of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I'm particularly interested in the changing nature of its relationship to museums today, and in how and why the language and iconographies of the cabinet are being re-harnessed as effective vehicles for engaging museum audiences in the twenty-first century.

I've worked and volunteered in a number of museums over the last four years and completed my MA at Leicester only a year ago, so it's great to be back!

Many thanks to the current PhD students who have made me feel so welcome, and I look forward to posting again soon.
Professor Martin Stannard, incoming President of the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society writes this appeal:
This amazing organization is 175 years old and still going strong. But there aren't nearly enough members from the city's two universities. As President this year, I'd like to rectify that and to get the universities much more closely involved with the Society and vice-versa: students and staff. The Society does not only offer twelve lectures from distinguished speakers each year for the bargain price of £12.50, it also awards small research grants. So please do help, even if you cannot attend many lectures. To see what's on this year, just type into Google 'Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society' and access the website. [Or click on the handy hyperlink!]

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Appeal to Architects and Ecclesiastical Historians

I have a question, and it is going to sound mad. However, it's been bothing me, and as stupid as it might sound I really have to get it off my chest. It's this

How the heck do church towers stay up?

More specifically, I suppose, I'd be really interested to learn about their construction. They're immense pillars of stone, and it is amazing to me that they should stand at all. They must rest on some kind of foundation, but what?

Please help. Some of you might know. Or be able to direct me to some books on ecclesiastical architecture which will help. I've searched on google for 'church tower' and 'church tower architecture' but have come up with little more information than 'Churches have towers. They are big.'

Sorry for the invasion of silly questions.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A History of the World in 100 Objects

So, it's nearly the end. It's the last week, and I seriously need to catch up with this. Here's this weeks theme, anyway, and a link to the blog.

Go on, give me your top 5 objects of all time (I'm not as demanding as the BBC and the BM!)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Top Ten Endangered Buildings

The Victorian Society have revealed their list of the top ten endangered buildings. I'd like to give a personal shout out to the Mosely School of Art and Bradgate Hose Stables.

I'm glad there are things like this. It gives me hope that people care. Hopefully one day the Eastgates Coffee House will be likewise respected.

Eccentric Museum Objects final poll results

Museobunny is a confirmed vegetarian, so he personally cannot understand the appeal of meat, but he is very happy see that 62 people voted on his poll, picking the most eccentric museum object in the world. The Icelanders who supported their country's entry, the flesh trousers, will be happy to hear that they emerged victorious by an overwhelming majority. Museobunny thinks that this means they should all attend the Curiouser and Curiouser conference, as they seem to be rather curious people!
Speaking of the conference, there now remain only a few weeks to get your abstract in for the conference. See the CFP again here. Museobunny wants you to be there! And remember, you can always catch up on conference news by clicking on 'curiouser and curiouser' in our tag cloud.

Doctoral Fellowships in Digital Curation Available

The two-year Fellowships offer:

· A 20 hour a week position as a Research Fellow in Digital Curation

· An annual stipend of $19,000

· In-state tuition and health coverage

· Extensive opportunities to meet key leaders in the Digital Curation research and practice arenas through workshops and symposia to be held at UNC at Chapel Hill

About DigCCurr II
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)-funded project, “DigCCurr II: Extending an International Digital Curation Curriculum to Doctoral Students and Practitioners” seeks to develop an international, doctoral-level curriculum and educational network in the management and preservation of digital materials across their life cycle. This project will prepare future faculty to perform research and teach in this area, as well as provide summer institutes for cultural heritage information professionals already working in this arena.

Applying for the Fellowship:
To apply for the fellowship, please follow the regular application procedures found on the SILS Ph.D. Admissions page ( Students are encouraged to apply by Dec. 15, 2010 as this ensures consideration of the greatest amount of university funding. However, applications are accepted up to Jan. 15, 2011.

In addition to the required written statement of the student's intended research focus, we ask that a separate essay elaborating on these goals and how they are related to the goals of DigCCurr II be written. Please see the DigCCurr II Web page ( for more details. Please send this essay in an e-mail message to: Dr. Helen Tibbo, professor at: tibbo (at) ils (dot) unc (dot) edu; or Dr. Cal Lee, assistant professor, at: callee (at) email (dot) unc (dot) edu no later than Jan. 15, 2011. Earlier applications are encouraged. Please note that we are only able to accept applications from United States citizens.

For more information on Carolina Digital Curation Doctoral Fellowship opportunities, send e-mail to Drs. Tibbo or Lee.

Interested applicants may also direct correspondence to:

DigCCurr II Fellowships
School of Information and Library Science
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Campus Box 3360 Manning Hall
Chapel Hill NC 27566-3360

Friday, October 15, 2010

Society for Medieval Archaeology Careers Day

Society for Medieval Archaeology Careers Day, 10th November at the University of Leicester.

The day was really born out of the success of the Careers Question Time session at the SMA Post Grad Colloquium in February. The Society decided to organise a day that will specifically discuss careers for archaeology and history students in the heritage sector during this difficult time. During the session in February, students raised concerns about several key issues that are troubling them, namely a lack of job opportunities and poor wages. The Careers Day in Leicester would like to open this discussion out further, and offer practical advice and support to students and recent graduates and the great thing is it is free to all SMA members! This is will be achieved by running three sessions:

Session 1: Careers Question Time

This will follow the same format as the session in February. Like its name sake Question Time, a panel of experts will face questions put to it by the audience members. In this case it is professionals in the heritage sector facing questions from students, and will be chaired by the SMA Student Rep Jill Campbell. Students can either submit questions with the booking form or ask them on the day. Please visit the society website (or see attachment) for a list, plus career biography of all those participating in this session.

Session 2: Personal Development

This section is designed so that students are able to have some one-to-one time with professionals in both the field they are interesting in pursuing, but also to get the opportunity to learn about careers within the discipline that they may never have considered. Academics, finds specialists, museums, historians, county and commercial archaeologists will all be present, alongside representatives from the IfA, English Heritage and BAJR who can discuss bursaries and other such opportunities. The University of Leicester Careers Service will also be present to discuss more practical issues such as writing covering letters, C.V.’s and getting work experience. There will also be stalls present for organisations and booksellers.

Session 3: Key Note Lecture – Carenza Lewis, University of Cambridge

If you would be interested in attending this day, then please visit or the SMA website for more details.

Best wishes,

Jill Campbell
SMA Student Rep

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Department talk and screening

Addressing contemporary issues in museums and galleries: ‘Frames of Refuge’ at The Lightbox

Tuesday 23 November 2010
Museum Studies Lecture Hall
School of Museum Studies

Join us for a conversation with Rib Davis, Special Projects Manager at The Lightbox, Woking, about their ‘Frames of Refuge’ project. Museum of the Year in 2008, winner of the Art Fund Prize for Museums and Galleries, The Lightbox has emerged from over a decade of community activity and engagement. Since opening in 2007, they have addressed a number of contemporary issues through their projects and exhibitions to wide acclaim.

Part of MLA’s national Their Past Your Future 2 programme - looking at how young people can increase their understanding of the impact of war and conflict - ‘Frames of Refuge’ brought together young people with refugees and asylum seekers to create, edit and produce a film and exhibition exploring the lives, and often traumatic, experiences of refugees and asylum seekers who come to the UK. Central to the project was challenging the students’ – and the general public’s - views of refugees and asylum seekers by presenting an alternative to the often misleading and negative perceptions that are present in media reporting on the subject. Significantly, this project represented the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers through their own voices.

As well as talking to Rib, we will be showing the film and there will be a chance to ask questions and find out more about the work of The Lightbox. We look forward to seeing you there.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2011-2012 Lemelson Center Fellowships, Travel to Collections Awards

The Lemelson Center's Fellowship Program and Travel to Collections Awards support projects that present creative approaches to the study of invention and innovation and draw upon the holdings of the Archives Center and curatorial divisions at the National Museum of American History. Projects may include, but are not limited to, historical research and documentation projects resulting in publications, exhibitions, educational initiatives, and multimedia products. Both programs provide access to the Smithsonian's vast artifact and archival collections, as well as to the expertise of the Institution's research staff. The Center offers fellowships and travel grants to pre-doctoral graduate students, post-doctoral scholars, and other professionals who have completed advanced training.

The Archives Center holds more than 20,000 feet of archival materials. The collections are particularly strong in documenting the history of technology, invention, and innovation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Both individuals and companies are documented in subject areas including railroads, pianos, television, radio, plastics, ivory, and sports equipment. One of the largest collections is the Western Union Telegraph Company Records, ca. 1840-1994. Other collections of significance include the Earl S. Tupper Papers, documenting the inventor Tupper, and his invention, Tupperware; the Darby Windsurfing Collection, 1946-1998, documenting the invention of the sailboard; and the Records of Small Beginnings, Inc., a medical supply company that designs, invents, manufactures, and distributes products for premature infants. For a comprehensive list of Archives Center collections, see

The Lemelson Center Fellowship Program annually awards 2 to 3 fellowships to qualified researchers. Fellowship tenure is based on the applicants’ stated needs (and available funding) up to a maximum of ten weeks. Fellows are expected to reside in the Washington, D.C. area, to participate in the Center's activities, and to make a presentation of their work at the museum. Stipends for 2011-2012 are $575/week for pre-doctoral fellows and $870/week for post-doctoral and professional fellows. Applications will be accepted from 1 October 2010 thru 14 January 2011 and notifications will be made by 15 April 2011. Fellows can begin their residence at the museum on or after 1 June 2011. For application procedures and additional information, please see All applicants are required to consult with the fellowship coordinator prior to submitting a proposal – please contact historian Eric S. Hintz, Ph.D. at +1 202-633-3734 or
The Lemelson Center Travel to Collections Program annually awards 4 to 5 short-term travel grants to encourage the use of its invention-related collections. Awards are $150 per day for a maximum of 10 business days and may be used to cover transportation, living, and reproduction expenses. Only applicants who reside or attend school beyond commuting distance of the National Museum of American History are eligible for this program. Awards may not be used to extend other Smithsonian appointments. Only one award can be offered to a visitor within a twelve-month period. Applications will be accepted from 1 October 2010 thru 30 November 2010 and will be announced by mid-December 2010. Recipients must commence their research at the museum within one year of being notified of the award. Recipients are asked to submit a short report following their research and provide the Center with a copy of any publications resulting from their funded research. For application procedures and additional information, please see All applicants are required to consult with the travel award coordinator prior to submitting a proposal – please contact archivist Alison Oswald at +1 202-633-3726 or

For more information, visit:

Application Deadlines:
Travel to Collections Awards: November 30, 2010
Fellowships: January 15, 2011

Eric S. Hintz, Ph.D.
Fellowship Coordinator
Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation
National Museum of American History
Smithsonian Institution
MRC 604, P. O. Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012
PHONE: 202-633-3734
FAX: 202-357-4517

Alison Oswald, M.A.
Travel Award Coordinator
Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation
National Museum of American History
Smithsonian Institution
MRC 601, P. O. Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012
PHONE: 202-633-3726
FAX: 202-786-2453

Monday, October 11, 2010

Floating Somewhere Between Architectural Fiction and the National Express

Well, chaps, I'm off for a week to attend Once Upon a Place, in Lisbon. The program looks great, I have to say. Musing on the relationship between architecture and fiction, on creating imaginary cities, and cities with imagination. Thinking on Walter Benjamin and J.G. Ballard, on gender politics and the buildings of science-fiction.

It's the getting there that's going to be a bit of a travail, but hopefully the coach and a certain budget airline will treat me with kindness. This is the pay off you see, about academic conferences; intellectual nourishment bookended by several hours of expensive and bruise inducing travel. But it's going to be worth it, I'm fairly certain of that. I'm looking forward to this, and I'm really grateful that I'm able to go. Because these things don't happen every day - especially when you're a student. It will be nice to be a delegate and see how they run things. Perhaps I'll even find some interest for Curiouser and Curiouser - who knows?

Friday, October 08, 2010

Eccentric Museum Objects Poll results

Museobunny is thrilled to see how many of you voted on his challenge to find the most eccentric museum object. He is also happy to announce that there will be another poll, as there was a tie!
So, will it be the hippy skeleton from Cheddar, or the fleshy trousers from Iceland? Only you can decide! Vote now!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Links: Food for Thought and Action

First, a bit of museo-activism: A video entry from a blogger who feels strongly about a Women's History Museum in the US. Best of all: he's a man! We look forward to Mike's future tackling of important issues.

Next, I wanted to draw your attention to a blog series on the New York Times website, called Living Rooms. It featured opinion pieces by people interested in domestic history, lifestyles, urban development, eco-friendliness, and more. Two recent pieces I found thought-provoking were Ellen Lupton's "In Praise of the Broken Home" and her "How to Lose a Legacy", both of which deal with family memory and loss and draw out philosophy from personal history. Along more historical lines, Joan Dejean's pieces tackle the development of the living room, the sofa, and the appeal of period rooms. Great reading, all of it.

Finally, a bit of fun. Musician David Bowie has discovered material culture: he is working on a book that, through iconic objects from his career, will illustrate "the Bowie creative process and his impact on modern popular music." Ironically, at least from a materiality perspective, it's a photo book. Ah well...

Monday, October 04, 2010

CFP: Curiouser & Curiouser

Curiouser and Curiouser:

Challenging Convention and Celebrating the Unusual in Museums and Heritage

A THREE-DAY Phd Symposium

School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester
(28TH -29TH -30TH of march 2011)


Definitions of what is acceptable within museums and collections are changing, catalysed by the blurring of boundaries once enforced by such factors as national identity, ethnicity, socio-economic position and public and personal ideologies. Is what was once considered bizarre or strange becoming more mainstream? What exactly is meant by 'curious' or 'eccentric', and need such words have pejorative connotations?

Building upon the success of our last conference, ‘Materiality and Intangibility: Contested Zones’, which took place in December 2009, the PhD community in the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester has set up 'Curiouser and Curiouser' with the intention of exploring these ideas and challenging conventional perceptions of cultural institutions and the roles which they play in contemporary society.

The School of Museum Studies at Leicester is a leading and internationally renowned centre for the subject, and has been training museological practitioners and theorists since 1966. The School works with museums, galleries and related cultural organisations internationally to develop creative practice through cutting-edge teaching and research. Recently, the School was assessed as having the highest proportion of world-leading research in any subject in any UK university (RAE 2008).

‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ sets out to deconstruct notions of normality and eccentricity in museums and heritage institutions. What exactly is normal, and what is idiosyncratic? In an attempt to begin to answer some of these questions, we are inviting submissions for papers or practical workshops on subjects including, but not limited to, the following:

Eccentric: display strategies
education and learning strategies
visitor research and engagement
uses of display space
uses of media and technology in museums
research methods
events/ performances
portrayals of museums in other media
museological theories and paradigms
What is eccentric/idiosyncratic?
What is acceptable, and who decides?

Collections, Collecting and Collectors
Eccentric/idiosyncratic collections/objects
collecting methods
Intangible heritage and its retrieval
Historical interpretations of collecting, and how what is acceptable has changed
The value of collections, what is worth collecting and why?

Spaces and Places
Eccentric/idiosyncratic architecture, both deliberately designed and unusually used environment and surroundings
Physical compared to virtual collections
Displays in unexpected places
Transformations of spaces

Presentation Requirements
‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ is not only about the unusual and the new, the unconventional and cutting-edge in museums and heritage sites. We are also looking for submissions from those who are willing to experiment with original presentation strategies. As a result, preference will be given to presentations or practical workshops delivered in an innovative way. Some suggestions might be:
Practical Demonstration
Object Handling
Interpretive Dance
Art Installation
Poetry/Creative Writing

If an abstract is accepted for the Symposium, applicants will be asked to provide further details on the ways their presentation or workshop will be delivered. At the end of the Symposium, the most enjoyable presentation will be voted on by the delegates and the winner will receive a prize. In addition, a limited number of bursaries will be offered to delegates who do not have support available from their institution of affiliation. Though the bursaries are open to anyone, international applications are particularly encouraged. Further information on how to apply for the bursary will be available soon on ‘the Attic’ website (, the virtual home of the PhD students of the School Studies.

We welcome submissions from researchers working in the fields of museum studies, cultural studies and allied subjects, but we especially encourage responses from PhD students and early career researchers. Submissions will be accepted for presentations (20 minutes plus 10 minutes Q&A) and practical workshops (between 30 and 60 minutes). We hope to publish - in some form, yet to be determined - the best selected papers accepted for and presented at the Symposium. All papers will be eligible for publication.

DEADLINES: 300 words abstracts must be submitted via email or post by the 15th of November 2010 to the addresses detailed provided below. The abstract should contain the following information: a) author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, d) title of abstract, e) body of abstract, (including the intended nature of your presentational form) d) 3-4 keywords.
Successful applicants will be notified by the 22nd of December 2010, and asked to supply further details about the nature of their paper. Booking details for delegates will be sent out in January 2011.

PLEASE CONTACT: Julia Petrov (on behalf of Museobunny)
- via e-mail:
- via post: School of Museum Studies

University of Leicester

Museum Studies Building

19 University Road

Leicester LE1 7RF

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Museum Apps

The New York Times reviews museum apps and comes to the conclusion that they are unsatisfying as they do not add any new content or make this new medium replace or go beyond other media already available in the museum; read it here.

Friday, October 01, 2010

A bit of fun for the weekend, via Dr Barnes: Professor Emeritus Sue Pearce interviewing collectors at the Guildhall, back in the day...

Eccentric Museum Objects

Greetings, all! Museobunny here, hopping in with the first of the Attic events to promote our PhD student symposium next year. The dates (and you heard it here first!) will be March 28-30, 2011, and I will post more information about it in the weeks to come.

But first, a bit of a carrot to get you all interested... On our Facebook group, weasked our followers to nominate the most eccentric museum object they had seen. We have had a great response, and now you, Attic readers, get to vote on the winner! (Museobunny has noticed how you like polls, though he thinks he definitely should have been nominated as a museum hottie! He has also noted that eccentric seems to mean macabre for a lot of the entrants; he shudders.)

Here are the entries, in no particular order:
1. Puffer fish helmet, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (entry by Ceri Jones)
2. Stuffed crocodile, Belgrave Hall, Leicester (entry by Julia Petrov)
3. Robert Morgan, Wheel of Fate, 2009, Collection of the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky (US) (entry by: Adam MacPharlain)
4. Japanese Tea House at the Ashmolean Oxford (entry by Jenny Walklate)
5. Canterbury Tales and Classical Gods at Jewry Wall Leicester (entry by Jenny Walklate)
6. Peas in Milk in the National Space Centre - (entry by Jenny Walklate)

7. Nábrók (also known as nábuxur or finnabrækur) - meaning 'corpse pants'. from the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft. This is a re-creation of a creation from Icelandic folktales. Wearing these pants meant you would never run out of money. Not sure how it works? Read more about it here: (entry by Guðrún D. Whitehead)
8. A Snakkur or Tilberi, from the Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft and Sorcery at Strandir. This re-creation is of a mythical Icelandic create, created by women out of a human rib and communion wine. It steals milk from neighbourhood farms and lives on the blood of its creator. (entry by Guðrún D. Whitehead)
9. From the Museum of Pre-history at Cheddar Gorge. This is a large (4 foot/1.5 meter) spinning de-fleshed skull in a mirrored box. Inexplainably this crazy object is just round the corner from exhibits on pre-historic life at Cheddar Gorge and the excavations. (entry by Miriam Cady)

10. From the museum of Pre-history at Cheddar Gorge. This is the skeleton of the cheddar man, from 9000BP - the oldest skeleton in Britain. It's in a case with astro-turf and fake flowers and Janis Joplin's 'Mercedes Benz' playing softly in the background. (entry by Miriam Cady)

11. Elephant feet umbrella stands, Reunification Palace, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (entry by Jen Binnie)
12. Ceramic Artwork in Decorative Arts Museum Barcelona (entry by Jen Binnie)
13. Cake mould from Matsumoto Castle, Japan (entry by Jen Binnie)
14. Tiger Snuff Box - Leicestershire Regimental Museum, Newarke House (entry from Dr. Amy Barnes)

15. A boot tree – found at RAF Bentwaters in Suffolk after the US Airforce pulled out. Housed at the Cold War Museum, Rendlesham, near Woodbridge, Suffolk (entry by Dr. Amy Barnes)

Museobunny looks forward to your votes in the poll - see the sidebar.