West Hampstead Trip to UCL Art Museum 4th July 2012

On the 4th July Sophie and I – Stefanie van Gemert – welcomed the West Hampstead Women’s Group to the UCL Art Museum, where we had a workshop session on the history of the Dutch East India Company. I hope that the West Hampstead group feels even more inspired now, when working on their beautiful exhibition artworks!

It was a stimulating and fun event with lots of discussion about spices, different languages, beautiful textiles, funny-looking animals and ‘times when people needed compasses to travel’. Thank you, West Hampstead Women, for your enthusiasm and insightful thoughts!

We saw Rembrandt etchings (very different from Rembrandt’s oil paintings at the Wallace Collection) and prints of Jesuit missionaries in China, from the UCL Art Museum collections. Once again, Tabitha Tuckett and Gill Furlong from UCL Special Collections brought in some beautiful objects (rare books and a manuscript from 1674) to look at, hold and touch.

There was one beautiful object the group particularly enjoyed looking at: it was – as one of the ladies said – like ‘touching a holy book’. This was a Pentateuch*: the first section of the Hebrew Bible or the Torah. It was printed in 1666, which according to the Jewish calendar is the year 426!

The Pentateuch‘s binding was made out of Moroccan red leather and green silk, and came in an accompanying black box with gold paint and marbling on it. The title pages were hand painted, and there was gold on the book cover – gilded leather – in a flowery pattern that reminded one of the participants of Kashmir flower decorations. The different materials must have come from far: with the silk perhaps as far away as India or China. This connected the book to the trading and treasures of the Dutch East India Company.

The Pentateuch book was printed in Amsterdam by a printer from the Portuguese-Jewish community in 17th century Amsterdam: David de Castro Tartaz. We learned that Amsterdam at the time was a real migrants’ town, welcoming people who were prosecuted for their religion elsewhere. The new Dutch Republic found itself in an odd position (modern at the time): they had revolted against Spanish rule and Catholicism, and were now officially a Protestant country. However, as they had rebelled against a suppressor themselves in the near past (the Dutch declared independence from Spain in 1581), they did not want to dictate religious practice in the Netherlands. The Dutch allowed other religions, as long as people weren’t publicly practicing (i.e. showing other religions than Protestantism in the open). The printer of this book – David de Castro – whose parents fled from Portugal and had to convert to Catholicism, was allowed to practice his family’s original religion again in Amsterdam. Here are some photos from the day;

* A big thank you to Vanessa Freedman, who is the Subject Librarian Hebrew & Jewish Studies and Dutch at the UCL Library, for her helpful input when I was researching this book.

Trip to UCL Art Museum and Special Collections 27th June

My name is Stefanie; I research and teach at the UCL Dutch Department and I have blogged here before. On 27 June, Sophie and I welcomed a small group of Refugee Ambassadors at the UCL Art Museum. We had a great time looking at seventeenth-century prints and rare books from the UCL Collections that related to the history of the Dutch East India Company. Thank you, Ambassadors, for the fun day! I hope the workshop was an inspiration, and that you can use parts of it when you are working on your tours.

I wanted to tell you a bit more about one of the resources we looked at in close-up: it is an official charter from 1674 in seventeenth-century Dutch, which I found in the Special Collections of UCL’s library.

When Tabitha Tuckett and Gill Furlong from the Special Collections Team presented this object to me, I was afraid to open it. The charter was folded up, into a small bundle of paper, about the size of an envelope. It probably had not been opened for over 200 years, and I could only imagine the worst: the old parchment would break if I would try to unfold it..

It was amazing to see how UCL Special Collections stepped in, and managed to reveal something that had been hidden away for a long time. Two conservators – Jillian Harrold and Angela Warren-Thomas – worked hard to ‘ease’ the charter into its new position. Now it had grown to the size of about 3 A4 letters (!) and we could see that the charter existed of different documents, attached to each other with wax seals.

It took a while for me to get used to the old Dutch hand-writing, so I did not just have to translate the document; I also had to transcribe it*. I won’t translate the whole document for you here, but here are some bullet points:

  • The charter is an official document of the Government of the Dutch Republic: we could see it as an ‘employment contract’, in which the Government (States General) appoints James Douglas and makes him Captain (leader) of a regiment of Dutch soldiers
  • The charter starts with ‘Saluijt’, a greeting that is related to the French word ‘Salut!’
  • This document shows us what seventeenth-century people thought was good leadership: James is told to use his power to keep his army in order ‘by day and by night’, and to make sure that his soldiers would protect Dutch people in both cities and in the country side against ‘enemies of the United Netherlands’
  • It also indicates that the Republic of the Netherlands was involved in war fare with their trades competitors (England and France), and took measures to protect their territory.
  • ‘James Douglas’ does not sound like a Dutch name. I wonder if he was a migrant who fled to Holland (from England? Or France?). During the workshop we learnt that the people (sometimes soldiers) on the boats from the East India Company weren’t always Dutch either.

* Thanks to the trained eye of Prof. Guillaume van Gemert, I managed to decipher even the very scribbly handwriting on the second, upper leaf.

Silk painting with Aaina Women’s Group and West Hampstead Women’s Group

On the 20th June I visited Aaina and West Hampstead Women’s groups to continue working on the group’s silk scrolls. So far the ladies have dyed their long pieces of silk lots of very different and vibrant colours. They have also planned and sketched the drawings they will apply to their silks which are inspired by the themes of ’Travel’ and ‘Journeys’ with the ladies thinking about the long journeys they made in moving to England many years ago. Once they have their drawings on paper the ladies put their paper under their silk and trace over the lines using a special Gutta pen.  The group will then apply silk paints to add lots of exciting colours to their silks. So far the groups have created some incredibly beautiful and very skilled designs and are currently enjoying experimenting with the variety of colours and effects the silk paints can achieve. Here are some pictures of the groups, their designs and the Gutta  and painting process;

Wallace Collection Ambassadors and Refugee Tour Guides meeting 14th June 2012

Yesterday I was joined by the Wallace Collection Ambassadors and Refugee Tour Guides  for their fourth day of training at the Wallace Collection.

Our Wallace Collection Ambassadors are a group of 16 individuals from a range of backgrounds who meet and work regularly with Wallace Collection staff. For the next six months the Wallace Collection Ambassadors will learn about the Museum, it’s works of art, how to care for and display historical artefacts, different forms of display and exhibition interpretation, museum education, public programming and museum and exhibition marketing. In learning about these museological practices the Wallace Collection Ambassadors will become well-trained to work closely with the 60 adults, children and elderly people from Newham Family Learning Services, West Hampstead Women’s Group and Aania Women’s group to advise and assist the project participants in creating display, interpretation and marketing strategies for the intergenerational community exhibition. The Wallace Collection Ambassadors will also be able to guide project participants on how to plan and deliver accompanying school, family and adult activities. Additionally, the Wallace Collection Ambassadors will be trained to work closely with different staff departments in the Wallace Collection to inspire the Museum to explore new and different forms of exhibition interpretation, educational activities and marketing strategies to innovate the museum, making it more appealing to new and broader audiences.

Our Refugee Tour Guides are a group of 10 individuals, again from different backgrounds, who will also work closely with the Wallace Collection’s curators, education staff and guide lecturers for twelve months between February 2012 to February 2013 to learn about the Wallace Collection’s history, works of art, current and future vision. The Refuge Tour Guides will also work closely with the other project participants to learn about the making, themes and artwork displayed in the intergenerational community exhibition. Additionally, the Refugee Tour Guides will be trained by the Wallace Collection’s curators, education staff and guide lecturers in public speaking and will learn how to devise and deliver their own-guided tours of the Museum to the general public. During the display of the intergenerational community exhibition the Refugee Tour Guides will give their own guided tours of the exhibition and will link these tours to the rest of the Wallace Collection. Following the end of the exhibition the Refugee Tour Guides will give general ‘highlights’ tours of the Wallace Collection. These guided tours of the intergenerational community exhibition and of the Wallace Collection will reflect the personal preferences and interpretations of the Refugee Tour Guides as well as their own cultural heritage. The guided tours will therefore facilitate the Museum in offering alternative and culturally diverse interpretations of its collections which will appeal to a wider range of audiences and will hopefully encourage new groups to visit and enjoy the Museum.

During the training day the Wallace Collection Ambassadors and Refugee Tour Guides met with Jody Watson, a trained actress and drama freelancer, to undertake a practical workshop to explore and improve voice projection and techniques on how to present to large groups. The group also underwent training with Stephen Duffy, Curator of Nineteenth Century Paintings and Exhibition Programmes and met with Andrew Shingleton for a tour of the Armouries. Additionally, the group were given a tour of the Museum’s Conservation Department to lean about how we care for works of art at the Wallace Collection.  These training sessions were very informative and the group learnt a lot about the Wallace Collection. Here are some photos from the day;

The day ended with the Wallace Collection Ambassadors meeting to discuss the marketing projects they will be working on over the next six months and were asked to select one from the following three projects to work on, watch this space to find out what they choose!;

Project One- Creating gallery activity trails based on the Wallace Collection’s Dutch Paintings.

These could be paper based or incorporate the use of QR codes and could be downloadable from the Museum’s website. Trails could be for families or for self-guided community groups visiting the Museum or both!

Here are some initial ideas from Darshana to get you thinking;

1)      Dutch paintings often have visually symbolic clues which directly illustrate sayings/ poems of the times. List the poems/ sayings/ moral songs of the times and link them to the symbolic imagery in the Dutch paintings.

2)      Though a number of Dutch paintings were commissioned, a large number of paintings done a century later were in the realm of the people, and were made by artists with a moral to communicate. Dutch paintings give a clue to the socio-political life and times of the people. Chart out the life of the people through the paintings.

2a) A Nobleman:

2b) A Housewife:

2c) Traders:

2d) Children:

2e) The character looking at the viewer/ the artist:

3)   Dutch still life paintings illustrated the wealth of the East India Company trade.  Identify objects in the   paintings and chart the route back to the country where they came from.

This project fits in with the suggestion made in our last meeting that The Wallace Collection should encourage self-guided visits from Community Groups and the Wallace Collection Ambassadors could help to create resources that would enable community groups to explore and enjoy the museum on their own and assist in marketing these resources and visits to different community groups. Thus as well as designing the trails you could also think about how you can market the trails to different community groups.

Project Two- Creating exhibition marketing print and exhibition opening party

The HLF Community exhibition will open on the 12 January 2012. On the 11th January 2013 the Wallace Collection would like to host an opening party for all project participants, their friends and families.

We would like you to plan, organise and design marketing material to promote the exhibition amongst different community groups and to plan an opening party which will help to promote the community exhibition and the museum to all project participants and to different audiences across London.

Forms of exhibition marketing can include website information, social networking, free advertising in local newsletters, newspapers, radio stations and exhibition leaflets.

During our last meeting it was decided that the Wallace Collection should advertise its workshops and facilities in local and community publications, forums, social networking sights and radio stations. To enable this marketing strategy, the Wallace Collection Ambassadors agreed to suggest and to approach appropriate organisations and so in planning and designing marketing material it would be very much appreciated if you help us to distribute our marketing material to those groups who need it the most.

Project Three- Planning and Organising ‘A day in the Life of the 17th Century’ and public events to accompany the Community Exhibition.

The HLF Community exhibition will open on the 12 January 2013. On the 16th February 2013 the Wallace Collection would like to host ‘A Day in the Life of the 17th Century’ to celebrate the refurbishment of the Museum’s East galleries and the accompanying HLF community project and exhibition. Throughout the duration of the exhibition (12th January to the 10th March) the Museum would like to host family and public events relating to the community exhibition and the Wallace Collection’s Dutch paintings to promote the exhibition and the museum to new audiences across London.

We would like you to plan, organise and deliver the museum’s ‘Day in the life of the 17th Century’ and accompanying exhibition public events.  We would also like you to create marketing material to promote the 17th century day and public activities amongst different community groups across London.

Forms of exhibition marketing can include website information, social networking, free advertising in local newsletters, newspapers, radio stations and exhibition leaflets.

During our last meeting it was decided that the Wallace Collection should advertise its workshops and facilities in local and community publications, forums, social networking sights and radio stations. To enable this marketing strategy, the Wallace Collection Ambassadors agreed to suggest and to approach appropriate organisations and so in planning and designing marketing material it would be very much appreciated if you help us to distribute our marketing material to those groups who need it the most.

It was also suggested during out last meeting that The Wallace Collection should act as a venue for concerts and meetings for community groups. To achieve this groups could explore the museum and create musical, dance or other artistic pieces in response to the Wallace Collection’s works of art and perform these pieces in the Museum to their friends, family and contacts. The 17th Century day and exhibition programme of activities could provide the perfect opportunities to launch community concerts and performances at the Wallace Collection.

During our last meeting it was also suggested that the Wallace Collection Ambassadors could plan and deliver a community competition with a prize attached to entice people into the Wallace Collection. One competition could be a photography inspired competition in which groups or individuals could take photographs inspired by Wallace Collection themes and email their photos to the Wallace Collection. The Wallace Collection could fundraise for suitable prizes. The 17th century day could provide the perfect opportunity to run a day-long photography competition if this is something you’d like to work on.

 

Silk and Vase painting with Aaina Women’s Group and West Hampstead Women’s Group

On the morning of Wednesday the 6th June myself and Amber Khokhar visited Aaina Women’s group to continue working on the group’s silk scrolls. So far the ladies have dyed their long pieces of silk lots of very different and vibrant colours. They are now planning on the drawings they will apply to their silks which are inspired by the themes of ’Travel’ and ‘Journeys’ with the ladies thinking about the long journeys they made in moving to England many years ago. Once they have their drawings on paper the ladies put their paper under their silk and trace over the lines using a special Gutta pen.  The group will then apply silk paints to add lots of exciting colours to their silks.  Here are some pictures of their designs and the Gutta process.

During the afternoon myself and Amber visited West Hampstead Women’s group so the the ladies could complete their vases they have been working on for the exhibition. The group have worked really hard and created some really beautiful vases using blue and turquoise glass paints. We were also lucky enough to be joined by some of the lady’s grandchildren who also painted vases which will feature in the Community Exhibition that will be displayed at the Wallace Collection in January 2012.

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Yesterday, I visited Aaina Women’s group to take part in their half term community day in which I helped participating children and ladies to paint tiles for the project’s community exhibition. I think you’ll agree by looking at the following photographs that everyone produced some really fantastic and very skilled tiles. This was a really fun and lovely day and as well as tile painting the ladies celebrated with henna hand painting, Indian head massages, eyebrow threading, manicures, health checks and a delicious lunch of chicken biryani!

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Last vase decorating session with Newham Family Learning Groups 1st June 2012

Last Friday was our last session with Newham Family Learning Groups before the Autumn as they enter exam season and enjoy their summer holidays.  We enjoyed this session by finishing the vases that the ladies have been working on for the past few weeks. The group also brought in some of their favourite dishes and we had an absolute feast with a variety of curry and rise dishes, samosas and sweet treats.  Myself, Alex and Sobia have really really enjoyed working with the Newham groups over the past six months and we will really miss all of the ladies over the summer. However, we will look very much forward to working with them in the Autumn to design and create their exhibition which will be on display at the Wallace Collection during January and February 2012. As always here are some photos from the day;

Silk Painting with Aaina Women’s Group 30th May

Today myself and Amber spent a really fun day with Aaina Women’s Group to start work designing silk scrolls which will feature in their exhibition at the Wallace Collection in January 2013.

The silk scrolls are half a metre wide and six metres long and so they will hang from ceiling to floor in the exhibition space. The silk scrolls will be decorated with motifs relating to the themes of ‘Travel’ and ‘Journeys’.

Today the ladies embanked on their silk scrolls by dip dying them in vibrant silk paints that they mixed together to enable the silk to contrast with the Delft inspired ceramic vases that they have made in previous workshops. The group applied lots of salt to their silk pieces to create interesting colour textures and then left their scrolls out to dry in the sun.

Whilst the silk pieces where drying the ladies sketched out and traced the images that they will apply to their silk scrolls using Gutta and silk paint.

It was a very productive and very beautiful day and although the group was at first daunted by the large scale of their silk scrolls they were really pleased with the dyes they mixed and the resulting fabulously coloured silk scrolls.

Here are some pictures from the day;