Monday, 17 December 2012

Musical Boxes

We are making progress with the preliminary stages of VERVE, getting things in place before the project kicks off fully in January. After a recruitment process which, as expected, drew a high calibre and high number of applicants, we now have most of the posts allocated. It will be wonderful to welcome some new faces and fresh ideas to the Museum.

Technicians and electricians continue the task of installing more than 100 metres of new LED lighting, although delivery delays have meant that the Court phase is expected to finish in the new year, rather than before Christmas. 

In preparation for the lighting work in the Upper Gallery, the collections and conservation staff today began the considerable task of moving nearly 500 boxed musical instruments from their home in the large wall cases behind the totem pole. These will be moved to a secure temporary holding area before a new space is prepared for their long-term storage at our main repository in Oxford.  

Maddie and Andrew sort through the music boxes, whilst Acting Deputy
Head of Collections, Faye Belsey keeps a list of the objects and their numbers.

These boxes contain some rare and unusual instruments from all around the world, such as a Sudanese lyre with tortoiseshell sound-box, a decorated lute from Malaysia or an 18th-century hammered dulcimer. It is important that every object is checked and its move noted down, in order to update the location field in our collections database. We must know where every object is at any given time.

Maddie and Andrew check the contents of box 46 - a zither made of a
reed stick with a gourd resonator, from the Fang people of Gabon and
part of General Pitt Rivers' Founding Collection (PRM 1884.113.14)

It is a shame that we do not have the space to exhibit more of these wonderful collections within the Museum itself. However, our online database is becoming increasingly populated with images and information and is a great way to explore some of the countless items you would not ordinarily get to see. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

VERVE in the news!

Word is spreading about the VERVE project! See the article in the Oxford Mail (or click the picture).

Image of Museum staff in the galleries
© Oxford Mail (Newsquest Media Group)

We are starting to build ideas, plans and contacts. We've come up with a project badge (see right) that reveals the project's practical focus on how people around the world need, make and use things. We will use this to badge public events and new digital content - do you like it?

Another immediate task is recruitment and we hope to appoint four staff in new collections, curatorial, education and communications posts, in place for the new year.

We are also cracking on with our re-lighting programme, which will take place between now and March 2013. More than 100 metres of new LED projectors will be fitted around the areas on all three floors where we have scheduled redisplays. These LEDs will allow us to light these sections of the galleries more efficiently and more flexibly than was possible with the old fibre-optics. This work may entail partial, temporary closures of some gallery space, so do check at the information point when you visit.

Man on ladder cleaning area where new light boxes to be installed

Man on ladder installing LED projector box
Our electrician from RT Harris cleans the space before
installing the new LED projector

Friday, 19 October 2012

Introducing VERVE

VERVE is a £1.6 million project that will support vital conservation, refreshment of selected areas of display and much improved case lighting, alongside a wide-ranging programme of free public activities illuminating the ways in which human creativity has driven developments in design and technologies. 

Workshops, special events, educational activities and opportunities for community and volunteer participation will be developed to explore the importance of invention, design and practical craft skills, providing a deeper understanding of the artefacts on display, and incorporating expert commentary from contemporary artisans and makers.

Redisplay work will be carried out on identified cases currently screened off, inaccessible or requiring urgent remedial conservation due to their age. Such work will be carried out sensitively, in keeping with the historical style of the galleries for which the Museum is so well known. 

Images of objects typifying the three redisplay themes
Examples of objects typifying three of the themes of the planned redisplay: 
Performance, Craft technologies, and Archaeology

The VERVE project will begin in November 2012 with the recruitment of a new six-person project team and will run for five years. The Museum will remain open throughout, including 2013 when our sister museum, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, will be closed for reroofing.

VERVE represents the third phase of the Museum’s redevelopment, following the opening of its research centre in 2007 and the redevelopment of its entrance in 2009.  In 2011-12, the Museum welcomed over 376,000 visitors.

We have already secured substantial additional support from a range of generous funders, including DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund, Foyle Foundation, and the Museum’s Friends organization, as well as Oxford University itself. We are now seeking to raise the remaining £300,000 required to deliver this exciting new project.

The Heritage Lottery Fund uses money raised through the National Lottery to sustain and transform a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from, and enjoy. Find out more and see previous projects at