In his article for Curator: The Museum Journal, (2013) US academic Steven Lubar argues that although timelines seem like a ‘natural’ approach to museum display, they present an over deterministic narrative structure. He warns that the timeline should be ‘used with care’ (p.169). For Lubar a new approach is needed that retains the usefulness and accessibility of the timeline but which opens it up to more visitor interaction and personalisation. In the article he makes six suggestions for how the timeline format might be expanded upon (p.185):
- use it to highlight key ‘decision points’ and pivotal moments;
- complicate it historically by intersecting with other topic timelines;
- make it ‘lumpy’ by focusing on defined periods;
- use it to connect events across the world, rather than in one place;
- focus it on geography, rather than on time;
- invite visitors to remix it to fit their own stories and personal interests.
Prompted by Lubar’s article, I’ve started to use the content curation platform Scoop.it to compile a collection of museum based timelines. This is to help develop my own thinking about how a timeline architecture and Lubar’s ‘six suggestions’ might be applied to my research into the public art ‘collection’ in Newcastle-Gateshead. Interestingly, as Tate is one of the timeline rejectionists of the 1990s/2000s that Lubar discusses in his article, a lot of these examples actually come from Tate. Here the timeline is fully present again, as artist designed gallery souvenirs, as in-and off-galley interpretation and as exhibition design – the new ‘Walk Through British Art’ display at Tate Britain.
Following my own initial data collection work in Newcastle-Gateshead I’ve been visually grouping individual artworks into a rough chronology using the free visualisation software Easy Timeline. I’ve also been researching other web-based ‘timeline’ applications. Some of these have the capacity to link time and place through image geo-tagging. In visiting other public art ‘collections’ (online or physically), it seems that it is through this frame of place and location that public artworks are more usually interpreted rather than through the lens of ‘art history’. It is the map, rather than the timeline, that is the ubiquitous form of presentation for a public art ‘collection’.
References and links:
Lubar, S. (2013). Timelines in Exhibitions. Curator: The Museum Journal, 56(2), 169–188. doi:10.1111/cura.12018 [Online. Accessed: 25 October 2013].
Note: the title for this post is taken from Nicholas Serota’s (1996 statement) quoted by Lubar in his (2013) article.
As I’m sure any subscribers will have noticed, an update to this PhD blog is well overdue. So if I haven’t been blogging, what have I been up to since my last post – ‘Spring Cleaning with DEVONthink’ – back in April?
Well, two things have kept me busy. Firstly the ‘Hidden Collections’ project, which entered an intensive proposal development phase in April-May. Our project proposal, the ‘Basic Design Summer School 2013’ has now been formally submitted to Tate and is awaiting further feedback from the Tate Research team. An update on the project, an outline of our Image Group proposal and my reflections on learning achieved so far provided the topic for my presentation to the recent ICCHS Postgraduate Research Conference (29 May):
Abstract: How can digital media be used to stimulate public engagement with archival material held by galleries, museums and other cultural institutions? This is the question posed by Hidden Collections, an AHRC funded collaborative research project running from October last year to July 2013. As a member of the Image Group, one of five interdisciplinary research teams involved in Hidden Collections, I worked with our project partner Tate to develop a social media strategy for a new temporary exhibition called ‘Basic Design’, which is on display at Tate Britain until 25 September. Developed by Tate Research the exhibition explores an influential period in British art school education during the late 1950s – early 60s. It draws on collections and archive material held by Tate and the National Art Education Archive. This presentation introduces our brief for the Basic Design project and outlines our project plan and activity to date. I conclude the presentation by reflecting on my own learning from the project, drawing out areas of investigation relevant to my PhD research into the Newcastle-Gateshead ‘public art collection’.
More recently, and to some extent influenced by my involvement in the ‘Basic Design’ Hidden Collections project, I’ve been working on a pilot project developed in association with Gateshead Council’s ‘Angel15’ programme. This is a series of events set up by the council’s public art team to celebrate the 15th ‘birthday’ of The Angel of the North (Antony Gormley, 1998) delivered as part of the region-wide Festival of the North East (June 2013).
While including a special on-site ‘birthday’ event at The Angel (which took place on 16 July), the programme also highlights lesser-known public works within Gateshead. Compared to the bigger and better funded 10th birthday celebrations this is a fairly low-key series of activities, including walks, curator and artist talks, live music and hands-on art workshops designed for a family and general interest audience. As such ‘Angel15’ goes beyond what Gateshead Council normally provides in terms of public art engagement and interpretation activity.
In terms of my PhD research the programme provides a useful opportunity for me to observe public art interpretation and audience engagement in action in Gateshead and offers a platform for me to experiment with social media – in this case Twitter – as a potential interpretative tool for a public art ‘collection’. To this end I have set up a new Twitter account @PublicArtNG (new Followers welcome!) which I am using to post daily tweets about public artworks in Newcastle Gateshead, linking these in with the interpretive themes and activities promoted by the council’s public art team. This project, linked through the hashtag ‘#Angel15’, is on-going through June-July. I’ll be posting a further update on this here early next month.
This post announces the start of a new collaborative research project that I will be working on during the Spring/Summer with Tate Britain. This project is part of the ‘Hidden Collections – From Archive to Asset’ programme, funded through the AHRC’s Digital Transformations theme.
Launched in October last year, the Hidden Collections programme has developed through a series of six interdisciplinary workshops investigating issues within archival digitisation and exploring the potential of digital platforms as routes for public engagement with these ‘hidden collections’.
Looking at digital opportunity in the specific context of archaeological artefacts, theatre performance and visual images, the workshops I’ve attended have been a great opportunity to meet with and hear from arts and humanities scholars from a wide range of disciplines and specialisms. Together we’ve considered the philosophy of the archive, and looked at and discussed a whole range of digital approaches and tools, from 3D scanning, to interactive touchscreens, online databases, crowdsourcing projects and social media.
These discussions were brought together earlier this month in an intensive two-day residential in Nottingham. Here the various project teams began work on planning the live projects that we will be delivering with our external partners. For the Image group, a small interdisciplinary team including myself and four other PhD researchers from Leicester, Birmingham and Cambridge universities, our project partner is Tate Research. Over the next few months we will be working with Helen Griffiths, from the Research Team, to develop and trial a new social media strategy for the Tate Britain exhibition ‘Basic Design’. Developed through Tate Research’s ‘Art School Educated’ project, the exhibition opens at Tate Britain at the end of March and runs through until September.
Interestingly, in relation to my own research on public art in NewcastleGateshead, the ‘Basic Design’ exhibition has a specific link to Newcastle University, through the influence of Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton’s teaching in the Fine Art department here. On a more personal level, the subject of the Art School Educated project, examining the evolution of British art school education, also resonates with my own background as an art student during the 1970s-80s.
The Image group will be visiting Tate Britain in April to visit the exhibition and to finalise our project plan with the Tate team. I will be posting updates on this blog as the project develops.