When I say touring exhibitions I mean an exhibition that travels to different venues. Not going on a tour of exhibitions myself!
What makes a touring exhibition good?
For me its a strong theme so you know there is content relevant to your interests. Also the opportunity to see a show that you would normally have to travel a long way to see or simply not be able to get to.
If a touring exhibition has related objects from the host museum’s collection that’s another draw for me. A bit like get an unexpected treat!
A range of souvenirs is always a bonus. Admittedly I tend towards fridge magnets because they don’t take up much space. Having a selection of linked books, prints, cards and other items does make finding something easy.
A themed exhibition
An annual treat for myself and a friend is going to the International Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in Bristol. Wildlife photography fans will know this tours around the country. Having this available in Bristol is much closer and cheaper to get to than in London.
The show is consistently good both in terms of quality of images and addressing issues affecting wildlife. The photos have enough information on shooting them to give a connection with the photographer and an insight into their thinking. The subject range is broad enough to include contentious issues like pollution, deforestation, poaching and local jobs in conflict with wildlife preservation.
And a fine range of souvenirs across the prices range too! Sadly our favourite shot wasn’t available as a fridge magnet. It was there as a framed print at a reasonable price but I managed to resist temptation.
Touring exhibition with local collections
This second example is also from Bristol and again it was easy to get to for us. We saw Grayson Perry: The Vanity of Small Differences because we both wanted to see this work and it was easy for us to get there. Having seen the Rake’s Progress at the John Soanes Museum in the past we were keen to see how it inspired Grayson Perry.
We found the tapestries both impressive and thought provoking. Seeing this subject addressed nearly 200 years after the original was interesting in itself. What added to the exhibition was a copy of prints of the orignal Rake’s Progress on display to refresh the memory or let visitors discover it for the first time. An addition that I really enjoyed was a display of David Hockney prints also inspired by the orignal.
The Hockney sequence added to the exhibition by showing a different modern approach to the subject. It also was a very personal approach unlike the original and unlike Perry’s depiction of the Rake.
From a museum point of view
When there are touring exhibitions where I work the common response is visitors appreciate something different on show. Also an exhibiton no usually associated with our collections is popular. An exmaple of such an exhbiton was Hiroshige from the Ashmolean museum. As described above as host venue some items from RAMM’s collection were included and it meant visitors saw items normally kept in store.
Reaching peak firelock
Firelocks were infantry armed with muskets with flint firing mechanism instead of the more common burning match. This made them much safer around combustible items like powder. This may have been offset by the fondness for clay pipes in the 17th-century though!
I used the Warlord Games plastic firelock figures because I had gathered quite a lot of them. By the time I finished I probably had more firelocks than Charles I and Cromwell combined! I also made some baggage for them to guard.
Assembling and painting the firelocks
The figures are simple castings and fit together easily. Not the the most exciting of figures but they do the job well. I used spare hats from other Warlord Games plastics for this period for variety. For a sergeant for each company I used pieces from the command sprue and a pikeman body. Again from the English Civil War plastics range.
I use plastic figures because they are cheap and I don’t feel obliged to spend ages painting them! So an undercoat of Humbrol dark brown matt enamel was followed by acrylics. I use Citadel base colours and Vallejo Heavy Colours because they cover well. A varnish with Humbrol matt enamel varnish and job done. I based them on Renedra plastic bases and used my own mix of basing gunk.
I painted a red and a blue uniformed unit to represent the Oxford Army of 1643. The idea being to use these for the western battles.
The third unit was painted grey with some orange tawny hat bands to depict a generic Parliamentarian regiment.
Baggage to guard
Firelock guards are recorded as protecting vital stores like powder. So I made an ammunition cart and a water cart. I used 4Ground MDF models assembled with PVA glue, undercoated with Wilko spray undercoat and finished with acrylics.
The MDF models were easy to assemble although some parts are fragile. Breakages are easily fixed with a spot of PVA though! The only shortcoming is detail is only on one side of the parts. For example, where the inside of a wheel is visible the surface is plain. This shouldn’t put you off I think because it’s only visible on close inspection.
New artefacts for old?
Something I’m regularly asked when people find I work in a museum is “how do museums get new objects”?. The answer probably is that it varies. Where there’s a collecting policy the process is transparent but otherwise an enigma inside a mystery.
On visiting the National Army Museum in Stockholm in early September 2017 I saw their exhibition dedicated to explaining this mystery.
How museums get new objects – the exhibition
The Army Museum’s exhibition was in their temporary exhibition space on the ground floor. I liked the focus on objects for visitors to reflect on and practical examples. Also the emphasis on who made decisions.
A key part of the exhibition was an infographic showing the path an object follows to join the collection. Unfortunately this was in a shadow so whilst legible in the museum didn’t photograph well. This was supported by another display explaining who makes the decisions.
This display was very honest about the influence of individuals and groups on collecting policy. It stated that in the museum’s early days former soldiers were making the decisions but now it’s mainly highly educated middle class people.
An object that didn’t get in
An example of new objects was based around items used by an officer in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Most items were conserved ready to go into the collection. One item was not and this was the shipping crate the officer had lived in. Why was it rejected? Because it wasn’t the actual container the officer used but one the shipping company sent. So a good example of an object being rejected because of a lack of direct association with the museum’s purpose and lacking heritage authenticity.
The annual wargames show in Exeter
This year’s show lived up to expectations. Plenty of great looking games spread across history with quite a few non historical games. The Star Wars competition looked spectacular with all the space maps joined together. I was so impressed I forgot to take a photo!
A good variety of traders with plenty of stock meant temptation but I mostly managed to resist. And an impressive bring and buy where I got a couple of bargains.
Helms Deep besieged in Exeter
The Exmouth Imperial Wargames Club who run the show had a good looking siege of Helm’s Deep game. The fortress itself was very impressive with the stone beautifully painted. Talking of painting I was impressed to hear the elves had been painted for the game.
Napoleonics in America
Another game that caught my eye was Graham Cookson’s War of 1812 game. The smoke effect on the rocket team looked most convincing!
As usual the show was a great opportunity to catch up with people. I had my annual chat with Martin Goddard from Peter the Pig who seems to be making the Russian army of the Second World War on a 1:1 basis.
I look forward to next year’s show