6 June 2010

elephants, quilts and the holocaust

I've just finished three days at uni of lectures, seminars and museum and gallery visits for my 'Artefacts as educational resources' module. Thought I'd share some pictures I took.

Our first stop was the Wellcome Collection to see the Medicine Man and Medicine Now exhibitions. Both of which were very interesting, especially the former, and I found them a lot more engaging than I thought I would given that my interest in and understanding of science is limited. Ken Arnold, the one of the curators for both gave us a short talk and answered questions.

Secondly we visited the John Soane museum, which is an unusual cluttered and disorganised mass of seemingly unrelated artefacts displayed throughout John Soane's house. I found the staff very frosty and elitist, but very knowledgeable about the collections. It was an interesting visit, but I'm not sure how much I really got out of it. The house itself was the sole exhibit in my view, not the individual items in the collection.

The following day we went to the Holocaust exhibition at the Imperial War Museum. Needless to say it was one of the most profoundly stirring and emotive exhibitions I have been to. Beforehand we went to a handling session called In their Shoes, which involved having a freelance Holocaust educator building up narratives about the war around shoes, it was an interesting learning experience, but it was very manipulative, I opted out of handling the shoes because I (successfully) predicted how the session would work, ie: you're holding a shoe trying to gather some clues about when and where it was from and then it would be announced that the shoe was from a pile of shoes removed from Jews who were stripped of all of their belongings when entering the death camps. I really felt for the girl who was holding that particular shoe when it was revealed. I'm not really comfortable with those kind of shock tactics, when I think the truth alone is just as horrifying. The exhibition also had manipulative elements to it, but I wasn't offended by that, as it was a really thorough and well-considered exhibition. It's the only exhibition in which I have been moved to tears, I also learnt an awful lot, and I think that as pop culture is drenched in world war II references it's easy to think you know everything about it, but I was suprised and a little ashamed at how ignorant I was about it. I definitely recommend a visit to anyone who hasn't been.

Here are some snaps from outside the IWM:

This was the first thing I saw in the grounds of the IWM after the exhibition, pretty profound I would say given that it was such a harrowing and eye-opening experience.

On the last day we visited the V and A to see the quilts exhibition. I was particularly looking forward to this one, as it had a piece by Grayson Perry in it, and I figured it would be pretty pertinent to my assignment.

Here is the Chihuly chandelier from the atrium:

The exhibition lived up to expectations, it was an interesting slice of history, although I found the contemporary pieces most exciting, definitely worth a visit.

Here is a detail from the perry quilt Right to Life. I loved it, but was angry about it's display. It's about abortion, but was displayed behind a quilt covered in scriptures, which I thought was a bit obvious and tedious, and it meant you couldn't get right up to it, and had to look at it from about two meters away. Apart from that though, no complaints!

Spotted my favourite of the elephants outside the V and A aswell:

and another good one, I love these being in London, I wish they were permanent.

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