National Trust Collections Online

I said in my previous post that I had been working on something quite big recently and it seems a shame to not do a post about it and here it is; National Trust Collections Online.

National Trust Collections Online allows you to search the majority of our collections

Last Friday the Trust launched a website which allows the public to search ourcollections. Currently we have 735,045 items are online and it contains all the things you might expect to find in our collections such as great work of art at Petworth through to Ellen Terry’s ‘Beetle Wing’ dress which she wore as Lady Macbeth. However there are also the things you might not expect such as blouses from Marks and Spencer! It is certainly well worth looking at and is accessible online here:
Why not have a look and see what our staff have selected as highlights of our collections, which can be seen by view our collections a-z and selecting one of our places!

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Back to Basics

I’ve been incredibly busy the past few weeks, working on the finishing touches on a rather large project which I will almost certainly do a blog entry about next week. As such I haven’t had time to update my blog recently, however getting a reference by IWM’s Social Interpretation Project reminded me to update the blog. It looks like an incredibly interesting project!

So what have I been up to recently, while apart from working on my rather large project. I have also been heavily involved in an inventory project at some of our London Places, mostly 2 Willow Road and Fenton House.

2 Willow Road - © NTPL / Dennis Gilbert

2 Willow Road, one of the places where we are currently working on our inventories.

 Although we use the term inventory project as a catch-all term for what we’re doing, it actually involves lots of different elements of work. A colleague of mine has been working on loans at 2 Willow Road and cataloguing some really interesting objects. We both spent part of last week taking inventory photographs of objects at Fenton House ranging from lots of paintings through some brilliant early keyboard instruments. Of course it isn’t all hard work and finished off on Friday night at a rather eccentric pub in Belgravia where you can’t use mobile phones and has a rather interesting range of objects on the walls including some bayonets over the fireplace.

If this sounds like the sort of thing you might be interested in doing we are also currently looking for four interns to work with us on the project. The information should be appearing on Leicester University Museum Studies Jobs Desk tomorrow. However if you are interested you can also contact me directly here and I will send you all the information you need to apply along with an application form.

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Steve Jobs 1955-2011

I’ve neglected this blog quite badly recently. I seems I’ve never really had 5 minutes to sit down and write something. Although completely removed from anything Museums or Collections. However being a bit of a technology geek, I was going to write a bit about the Apple product launch event earlier in the week.

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

As a technology geek and self admitted apple fan boy I think todays news is perhaps a little more pressing. The new of course that Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chairman of Apple had died. You can read obituraries here and here and even google put rivalries aside to pay tribute to Jobs. It is interesting to think how his products have changed our lives and have change the electronic landscape, to the extend that ipods become bywords for music playing devices. You can have a look at Apples own tribute here.

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The Battle for Quebec

One of our places in Kent is Quebec House which was the childhood home of James Wolfe. Wolfe commanded the British Forces at the siege of Quebec and the Battle of the Plains of Abrahams. You can a short introductionary video about this interesting house below which boasts one of the largest Wolfe related collections.

James Wolfe had joined his fathers regiment at 13th and by Quebec had already served in several campaigns.

With the anniversary of Wolfe’s victory approaching this next week on the 13th September. I thought this would be an ideal apportunity to put a few highlights from the collection and do a post what would be Wolfe’s finest and final victory.

James Wolfe was from a military family, his father was General Edward Wolfe and who had served in numerous campaigns including the War of Spanish Succession, the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion and the War of Jenkins Ear. James himself joined his father regiment of 13 and by the time of Quebec had already fought in the War of Austrian Succesion, the 1745 Jacobite rebellion and the early stages of the 7 years war with France.

A map of Frances Territory in Canada, the battle of Quebec would see the begining of the end for French rule and allow the British to move against Montreal the following year.

Having impressed William Pitt the Elder, he was raised the rank of Brigadier General and sent to fight in Canada, then known as New France. Having aquitted himself admirably at the seige and capture of Louisbourg, Wolfe was selected to lead British efforts against Quebec, the capital of New France and French Canada.

Having arrived at Quebec using the St.Lawrence river, Wolfes forces occupied the land around Quebec and started what would become a 3 months long siege.

The British army under Wolfe’s command would sail up the St.Lawrence and lay siege to the city with the goal of siezing Quebec before Winter set in. Aware of Wolfe’s plan, the French Commander, the Marquis de Montcalm had several weeks to prepare defenses and Wolfe was forced the besiege the city for 3 month.

The Battle on the Plains of Abrahams was the end of almost 3 months siege which had left many of the building in the city rubble.

Following a 3 month bombardment of Quebec and an inconclusive action fought north of Quebec at Beaupont, Wolfe settled on an risky plan to land his troops ambhibiously below cliffs to the South West of Quebec before winter set in.  His troops scaled the cliffs, known as the heights of Abraham. In the morning Montcalm was confronted by the British army on the Plains having scaled the heights he believed unscalable.  The French Army advanced to meet the British who were held from firing until the last moment, their volley causing disruption and casualties in the French lines causing them to retreat. The battle had lasted only 15 minutes.

The Marquis Montcalm, the commander of the French forces at Quebec would also die of his wounds the day following the fight. This print depicts his death in many ways similar to the Death of Wolfe, although the Marquis is shown in more comfort than his British counterpart.

The battle is notable for both leaders dying, Wolfe dying within minutes of winning his most famous victory. The defeated Montcalm would die the next day from his wounds. Wolfe’s victory at Quebec would enable the British to push towards Montreal the following year and secure Canada for the British. Along with the victory in Quebec, there were British victories in india, at Minden in Europe and at Sea ending French hopes of invading the U.K.

The Death of General Wolfe, after the version by Edward Penny. Penny's version is thought to be more accurate than the more famous painting by Benjamin West showing Wolfe's death.

If you are interested in the Seven Years War, Quebec House is well worth a visit and has had installed a new exhibition this year recounting the story of the battle. Why not visit this weekend? Where Quebec House and the Town of Westerham will be holding a Soldier and Scarecrow weekend where re-enactors will be recreating the French and Indian Wars!

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Out and About

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, partly because WordPress was playing up on my laptop and partly because I’ve been out of the office and generally very busy these past few weeks.

I’ve been busy beavering away on setting up collection highlights for our properties for the launch of our Collections Online, which means our Collections will be accessible to the public.

I’ve been working on Collection Highlights like this Meissen porcelain tea pot and cover displaying a ‘Chinoiserie’ style of oriental flowers and gilding created by Johann Gregarious Höroldt, Meissen’s chief painter and director. Höroldt created a wide variety of imaginary designs in a Chinese style for the European market through the mid 18th century. Part of the large collection of Meissen owned by Mrs Greville.

As well as writing collection highlights, I’ve also been out and about keeping my eyes peeled for anything digital media related. I’ve attached a picture of my favourite idea below. It’s from Sainsbury’s and it highlights the fact they have a local facebook page. I think it’s a great idea as I think most people wouldn’t think they would! It’s big, bold and eyecatching and you instantly associate it with Facebook. 

A good idea at Sainsbury's, this sign not only tells me that they have a facebook page but also why I should join it! Something that could potentially be used anywhere, including Museums and Heritage Sites.

What I also like about it is the fact it not only tells you that Sainsbury’s have a facebook page but also why you should add Sainsbury’s on Facebook; to recieve news, deals, recipes and top tips. These are all fairly good reasons and the page currently has around 290 likes, which isn’t bad for a supermarket. I think something which inspire more emotion like a good heritage site or museum should would do a lot better!

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More on QR Codes and Smart Phones

I talked about QR codes a few weeks ago and you can see that entry here. Judging by the amounts of hits the entry got, it would appear I’m not the only person who has been considering QR codes.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’m an avid reader of Nina Simon’s blog Museums 2.0. This week she has blogged about QR codes, and I had a ‘doh!’ moment. You can read Nina’s blog entry here.

In my original entry I pointed that not many people know about QR codes, although it never dawned on me to offer a solution. Which is where Nina’s entry fills in the blanks I missed out! QR codes without context only appeal to a small audience, by putting the code in context they become more appealing to a general audience. It’s not rocket science, which is why I am a little embarrased I never even considered it in my original post!

One of the other things I said was not everyone has a smart phone, on that note you may find this article by the BBC interesting. The general tag line is a third of adults use a smart phone, however there are loads of interesting bits of information in there.

There is a potentially massive audience with smart phones out there. Are QR codes the best way to engage this increasing audience?

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And now for something completely different

Having blogged about objects last week, this week I’m going to do something of a little update as I’ve got two interesting things I want to talk about which I can’t  really link back to collections.

Firstly, I’ve added a new link to another National Trust Blog. It’s the blog for 575 Wandsworth Road and will cover all aspects of the conservation work going on there over the next few months. It’s really well written and well worth checking out, in fact here is the link! 

Secondly and this is a bit of a follow up from a blog I wrote a couple of weeks ago. Ever since I blogged about QR codes I seem to be seeing them everywhere. It might be they are just stuck in my conscious, but they seem to be popping out of everywhere. For example I’ve was reading mashable this morning and saw this article, its about a chap who has put a QR code on his mothers headstone which links to a website where people can read and add memories of her. I had to read it a couple of times, but the more I thought about it the more I thought it was actually a really nice idea.

A QR code in Pizza Express linked to their App.

It hasn’t just been there though, I was sitting in Pizza Express for lunch the other day and all of a sudden I noticed there was a QR code on the vase of flowers. The code itself took you to the Pizza Express App.

And it hasn’t stopped there either, my car was in the garage most of the weekend having the brakes fixed and I was ‘forced’ to watch excessive amounts of Saturday morning TV which consisted of a lot cookery shoes. I sat through the usual footage of someone cooking and talking through a recipe, thinking that the baked papardelle, proscuitto and porcini mushrooms looked really good and fairly simple to make. However where traditionally a program like this might direct viewers to it’s website, all of a sudden a QR code popped up!

A QR code on the TV, directing to a recipe for some rather tasty looking pasta!

You may have guessed I like my food from the above, but hopefully you’re more interested in the different ways QR codes are being used and are creeping out all over the place!

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Diverse Collections

I’ve always been fascinated by airships, I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps it’s that scene from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade where Indianna travels on a Hindenberg that has stuck with me. So when I was casually musing about what to write about this week and took a quick look at historical events that happened on the 6th July as I often do. I was struck by the fact that the first Airship to cross the Atlantic arrived in the United States on the 6th July 1919.

My interest didn’t stop there and went further by doing a quick search across our collections here at the Trust using our collection management system. Having a quick browse through the various airship related objects in the collection, which goes to prove we have so much variety in our collections, I noticed on object in particular which I have added below.

The R34 made the first return west-east trip across the Atlantic by air, arriving in the U.S on the 6th July 1919

It is from our collection at Bateman’s and shows the exact route the British R34 took when making it’s first return trip across the Atlantic in 1919. The R34 would leave the U.K on the 2nd July 1919 and arrive in the U.S.A on 6th July 1919 after a total flight time of 108 hours. The return journey to Norfolk would take from the 10th through to the 13th July and take 75 hours. The airship was not intended for long distance flight and so hammocks were placed in the keel walkway and a metal plates was welded to an engine exhaust pipe to cook hot food.

Another interesting fact about the flight of the R34 is that as the ground crew had no experience of handling large rigid airships, Major EM pritchard jumped by parachute and so became the first person to reach America soil by air from Europe.

R34's less than glamorous fate, wrecked by bad weather!

The R34 would eventually be written off in January 1921 and it’s story would end there.  I think it’s amazing the things you can find in our collections!

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QR Codes and Museums

QR or ‘Quick Response’ Codes have been about since 1994 when Denso-Wave Corporation invented them Japan. That being said the greater use of smart phones with cameras has meant there has been a greater use of these nifty little codes in recent times. In fact I only heard about them in March when a Information Officer friend at Newcastle Libraries told me all about them.

Go on, see where this QR code takes you!

This growth has been especially true in the Museum/Heritage Sector. There are various example of QR code usage in the Heritage Sector including:

  • National Museum of Scotland: Tales of Things – Using QR codes to provide information about object including rare film and images and allowing users to leave memories and comments. Tales of things uses an App format.
  • QRATOR– UCL takes the work around the Tales of Things project further by using QR codes to allow visitors to view curated information and leave their own interpretation. QRATOR links to a database.
  • QR-Pedia: Site used to create QR codes to wikipedia sites, allowing access to wikipedia articles in a mobile-friendly format.

I think the best way to think about QR codes is they are simply a mobile readbale web address, they can create a link between the real world and our increasingly digital world. So why have they become so popular recently, especially when linked to Museum Collections? Well not only because of the aforementioned upsurge in smart phone usage, mobile cameras and increased mobile internet speeds and access.

Using QR codes are cheap, in fact most readers and generating codes are free. Creating the codes can be done in house. Secondly, you could link it to exisiting websites; for example those online collections databases that many Museums have already spent lots of money on. This is particularly true if the site is already mobile friendly.

Of course, all this blurring of the real and digital world also has it’s problems. Not everyone has a smart phone, how many people are aware of QR codes (although they are out there when you look!) and how do we overcome the age all problem of reliable internet access at sites not designed with this in mind (like so many NT sites)?

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the web is what you make of it

I was watching TV last night and saw the new U.K Google Chrome Advert, it was a really good advert and well worth checking out. Apart from highlight alot of googles services, it really made me think. I think in many ways it sums up so much about the ways we are increasingly using the web such as photo sharing/video sharing etc. It also had the fantastic end line of ‘the web is what you make of it’.

Way back at the begining of the year I posted a overview of the ones to watch in digital/social media. One of the main things that was predicted is that online photo sharing would become more popular. Well I think we can say that this definitely probably true. Last week Twitter dived into the photo and video sharing experience with a native picture/video sharing function. You can check out what this will look like here.

Of course just like the google advert says, the web is exactly what you make of it. I’ve never been a huge fan of Twitter, maybe because not many of my friends are on Twitter. However I can see the huge potential these new functions. My interests are in collections, so you post your top ten objects using a #tag to your twitter followers, or perhaps have an object of the month #tag. I think the potential to crowd source lots of interesting photos which is really exciting! You could do with anything hashtagging pictures of peoples own favourite objects through to pictures from events or even favourite landscapes.

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