Category Archives: Collections

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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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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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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Where did the images come from?

I’ve not posted for a while having been on holiday been dragged around potential wedding venues, not always a major chore when the venues include Fountains Abbey and Gibside. I did however manage to get away long enough to check out the new Northern Spirit Exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

It was a good exhibition and has already been reviewed by the Museums Journal so I won’t recover old ground. There were a couple of features that touch upon my special interest of all things social and digital though.

Firstly, and I didn’t take a picture of this as it was against Tyne & Wear Museums photography policy, there was digital access on touch screen devices which provided more information about the objects on show.

A projected image from a photo competition on Flickr

However the major thing I was impressed at was a projector of images just outside the exhibition. The projector was showing images which had been collected via flickr as a competition. There was also a touch screen showing a map allowing people to click on locations and view the images. What was most interesting about the projected images was how long people stood around looking to see if they knew where it was.

I think it was a fantastic example of a linked up approach with use of social media and a real world presense. There was certainly a real sense of dialouge and user interaction, which really impressed me.

People (alas my brother and sister in law) trying out the touch screen interface

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Delight the Celestial Eye

So the week started with the 24th January and as well as being my mothers birthday, scientist have also worked out a formula that suggests yesterday was the most depressing day of the year.  The 24th is of course also the day that Sir Winston Churchill, whose home was Chartwell, passed away. With all these depressing fact I decided I would search our collections here in London and the South East for something which was a little brighter for my blog.

After giving it some thought it was obvious exactly which items from the collection would be excellent in marking not only the life of Sir Winston but also lifting spirits during a cold and depressing January. The one thing that sprung to mind was of course Churchills paintings.

Self Potrait by Sir Winston Churchill c. 1920

A self portrait by Sir Winston Churchill painted around 1920. © National Trust / Charles Thomas

Winston Churchill discovered his love of painting in the Summer months following the disaster of the Dardanelles campaign, in which he had been deeply involved. From this time on, painting was an incredibly important part of Churchills life. 

Monte Carlo and Monaco c.1930

Churchill always found much pleasure painting in the South of France. © National Trust / Charles Thomas

He would even take his brush with him to Flanders in 1915 and paint the surroundings of his Battalion headquarters. Two places which also gave Churchill pleasure was the South of France and Marrakesh in Morocco, loving the brilliant light and glorious colours.  Churchill himself talked both of his love of painting and bright colours.

Marrakesh .c1935 by Sir Winston Churchill

He also painted several painting of Marrakesh in Morocco. © National Trust / Charles Thomas

“I rejoice with the brilliant ones, and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns. When I get to heaven I mean to spend a considerable portions of my first million years in painting, and so get to the bottom of the sibject. But then I shall require a still gayer palette than I get here below. I expect orange and vermilion will be the darkest, dullest colours upon it, and beyond them there will be a whole range of wonderful new colours which will delight the celestial eye”.

Valley in the South of France c.1935 by Winston Churchill
Valley in the South of France c.1935 © National Trust / Charles Thomas

 
An excellent remedy to the cold depression of any January 24th and a delight for any eye.
 
Marrakesh c.1948 by Sir Winston Churchill

Marrakesh c.1948 © National Trust / Charles Thomas

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Ones to Watch in 2011

As ever at the start of the year, various media outlets produce a list of top picks in 2011. Mashable the news website and blog which focuses on all that is new social, mobile and web wise have rather helpfully put together a list of the 95+ predictions for the web in 2011.

They’re all worth a read, however I picked out a couple which I think are the most interesting with regards to museums and heritage and in particular collections.  I’ve also dropped in a few examples and ideas how they could possibly benefit our work in engaging new audiences.

My first pick of the 95 predictions is in the category of predictions for social networks in 2011. I think the most interesting is number 6; that ‘mobile photo sharing will become all the rage’. I think this has loads of potential, especially when you consider the increasing relaxed rules with regards to photography at some of the trusts places.

I instantly thought of a blog entry written by Nina Simon about navigation by recommendation. The question she asked of the visitors at the museum was what they recommended they saw. However the main thing I liked was the pictures of people with their favourite object. I love the pictures of the visitors with their favourite objects, especially the chap in the AC/DC t-shirt with his favourite armoire.

When you think about it, the surge in numbers of people with smart phones (3 of the 4 people who I regularly share an office with currently have an Iphone) mobile photosharing means this sort of activity is far easier to do and is instantly sharable. You could even create a challenge on foursquare or scvngr for people to take pictures of their favourite object. I think it’s a bit more interesting than the traditional ‘collection highlights’.

Which brings me to my next interesting prediction from the 5 predictions for mobile in 2011. The most interesting thing I noted was the prediction of the increased use of the Ipad and the use of tablets.  I can’t really justify buying one myself (yet!) but they do however provide a relatively cheap way for places to engage digitally with audiences.

Major institutions are using them to display specifically designed app’s. The Brooklyn Museum took a simpler approach and updated 25 wikipedia pages with research they had gathered during the production of the seductive subversion exhibition. The information was displayed on an ipad during the exhibition for visitors to access. A simple but effective way of using new technology!

I suppose ipad’s bring me neatly to my last pick from the e-book predictions. The use of tablet devices and smart phones has also saw the rise of the e-book.  Way back shortly after I started this job in July I talked about if e-books could ever replace the real thing. It seems increasingly likely to me that e-books will replace your standard paperback novel, as sad as this will be for many people with new technology there are always opportunities. E-books and Ipads have made it relatively cheap for museums to digitize books/manuscripts  in storage or behind glass cases in a way not generally possible previously.

So those are some of the ones to watch in 2011 and a couple of possible applications. What are you’re ones to watch in 2011?

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