10 Minutes With Adam Koszary

Each week I spend 10 minutes with someone from the cultural-sector-meets-digital and ask them about their career, opinions, and what’s on their radar.

This week I spoke with Adam Koszary, who went from writing sheep tweets at the Museum of English Rural Life to setting daily doodle challenges the Royal Academy of Arts.

Adam Koszary, Social Media & Editorial Content at the Royal Academy of Arts

There is no course out there for social media, but there are a lot of free resources to practice your creative skills.


☕ Tea or coffee?

I am currently having builder’s tea (I have a single coffee in the morning, I’m slightly addicted and don’t want to make it worse).

💼 About your career and where you are now: accidental or intentional?

A mixture of both: I wanted to work in a national museum in London, but how I pulled that off was semi accidental.

I came in at the bottom at The Museum of English Rural Life: I started as a Project Officer for a National Heritage Lottery Funded re-display of the museum, which then evolved to Project Manager, and there was a pattern of going from project funding pot to project funding pot. During my time there, my sheep tweets (along with other campaigns like the Absolute Unit, Chicken in Trousers and Museum Ducks) raised The MERL’s and my own personal profile. After that, I wasn’t afraid to apply to jobs in national museums (everyone shouldn’t be afraid to apply to national museums jobs either, don’t worry if you only match two thirds of the job description). 

The accidental part comes from my brief job for Tesla (about 5 months) after I left The MERL: I had to turn the Royal Academy down to start at Tesla, but quickly realised it wasn’t for me. The Royal Academy actually took me back after I re-applied for the job there, which was a massive stroke of luck. 

📚 Describe your current job

I am Social Media and Editorial Content Manager for the Royal Academy of Arts in London. That’s a mixture of day-to-day content and coordinating social media for the organisation, as well as setting up the strategy for our editorial content. I am part of a team which includes a website content manager, a head of content strategy, a part-time digital assistant and a couple vacant posts for video, website and social content. 

🤩 What are you working on right now that you’re particularly enjoying?

The Royal Academy of Arts runs the Summer Exhibition every year, which is a beautiful thing because anyone can submit their artwork for it. The organisers this year and their vision for what they want to do with the Summer Exhibition is very exciting, and might involve commissioning many more outsider voices and bringing in different perspectives, different kinds of artists…

📣 What’s happening in the industry that’s on your radar?

TikTok! Social Media has settled a bit in the sense that everyone basically understands how the main ones work (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), in that it’s a mixture of resources you can apply mixed with your imagination. TikTok is still the “Wild West” for a lot of people. What the Black Country Living Museum have been doing, as well as places like Carnegie Museum of Natural History, is absolutely fantastic. I’m aware it’s not a skillset I have (yet), and that we need new resources for that because it’s a new type of content for us. 

📖 Anything you’d recommend to read/watch/listen to?

It’s not really culture-centric, but I’ve actually really enjoyed The Clone Wars (Star Wars cartoon), and I’m on the last season. In terms of reading, I’m still waiting to receive Dan Hicks’ The Brutish Museum in the post to start reading it.

💡 What advice would you give someone who would like to do what you do?

Always be working on your skills and creating things: there is no course out there for social media, but there are a lot of free resources to practice your graphic skills, photography and video skills, and particularly writing. It always helps for jobs when you can show that you have that kind of creativity, but it’s also not just for your CV, it’s for everything in your life. 

10 Minutes With Larissa Borck

Each week I spend 10 minutes with someone from the cultural-sector-meets-digital and ask them about their career, opinions, and what’s on their radar.

This week I spoke with Larissa Borck.

Larissa Borck, Digital Curator at Sörmlands museum

Network as early and as much as possible during your studies: often in this industry, who you know and which conversations you take part in is much more important than what your studies were.


☕ Tea or coffee?

I’m having a delicious Jasmine tea.

💼 About your career and where you are now: accidental or intentional?

A bit of both: I started studying Cultural Anthropology, and when I read the descriptions of the subjects taught in that programme, I realised I could maybe work in museums with that background.

During my Master’s degree, I focused on digitisation and digital transformation within museums. The biggest impact was having a network to get in touch with people to find jobs and internships. 

📚 Describe your current job

The main field that I am working in is supporting cultural institutions in becoming digitally open and advanced institutions, doing outreach to digital audiences, and catering the needs of their target groups. 

My last job was at the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz): I was building up a lab to on the one hand raise example case studies of what open access can do for cultural heritage institutions, and sharing their data openly; and on the other hand, getting external users, their feedback, and their work into the institutions.

My new job will be at the Sörmlands Museum in Nyköping, a regional museum south of Stockholm, as a digital curator: I will be working on their collections, but also collections data, and putting the digital development of their work and outreach to the forefront of their activity.

🤩 What are you working on right now that you’re particularly enjoying?

A very typical thing for this sector is that people are very enthusiastic about their work and then have a lot of activities related to their jobs that they do on the side (independently from their employer). I am in that situation: I love taking care of my newsletter Dig It with Medhavi Gandhi! I am also looking forward to the university seminar I will be teaching next semester on digitisation of and in museums. 

For my newsletter, I sit down once a month with Medhavi and we talk about the issues in the sector, things that are heavily discussed in the sector, or even trends outside of the sector (but that should be discussed more in the cultural industry). It’s an engaging conversation. 

📣 What’s happening in the industry that’s on your radar?

One thing is always on my radar: I hashtags on Twitter and LinkedIn such as #OpenGLAM, which is about openness in digital data and collections in Galleries, Libraries, Archives & Museums, and how openness can also act for these institutions to become more relevant and resilient in the future. That’s an overarching strand in my career and as such I do my best to be as updated on it as possible.

An important topic right now and will have to become much bigger in the future is how post-colonialism can actually influence and become an important question in digital culture. There is a very important question of digital ethics, and we have to become more aware of what we share in regards to collections that are hosted and preserved in European institutions, and we have to have that conversation with original communities. 

📖 Anything you’d recommend to read/watch/listen to?

I’ve been reading Dan Hicks’ The Brutish Museum, which has been all over the news and even trending on Twitter. Another great book at the moment is Data Feminism by Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein

In terms of what to watch, I’ve seen and enjoyed the Restitution Dialogues by Open Restitution Africa.

💡 What advice would you give someone who would like to do what you do?

Network as early and as much as possible during your studies: often in this industry, who you know and which conversations you take part in is much more important than what your studies were.

10 Minutes With Flo Carr

Each week I spend 10 minutes with someone from the cultural-sector-meets-digital and ask them about their career, opinions, and what’s on their radar.

This week I spoke with Flo Carr, whom I’ve been working with for about a year on the Insights Alliance.

Flo Carr, Associate at Indigo

Never be nervous about trying something new: whether it’s a project, a system, a piece of analysis, do not think that you can’t do something. With the right support, you can do anything. 


☕ Tea or coffee?

Coffee, sadly instant (usually it would not be!).

💼 About your career and where you are now: accidental or intentional?

Probably accidental!

My approach to a career has always been to be happy in my job, and if something comes up and feels right, to trust my instinct. I’ve never really had a long term plan – but I do have some long-long term goals, but to get there I prefer to trust my instincts and be happy with what I’m doing.

Theatre has always been a hobby for me, even before I graduated. I studied Classics at the University of Cambridge, but I was not a very diligent student because I spent all of my time in the amazing student theatre. My first job was working there (ADC Theatre at the University of Cambridge) as a Marketing and Front of House Manager, and then Theatre Manager. It’s an amazing place, and brilliant people have come out of there. It was my dream job!

I then worked for Cambridge Live as their Press & Marketing Manager. It was brilliant, I got to work on the Cambridge Folk Festival, and it’s where I stepped out of the student world to go into a broader range of cultural events and city-wide programmes. 

I then moved to London and became the English National Opera’s CRM Executive: that gave me lots of experience of working in a much bigger company, it was in the opera world, and I specialised in CRM & email strategy and marketing for 3 years, which I really loved.

I moved to the Arcola Theatre, a brilliant off-West End producing theatre, as Head of Communications & Marketing in 2019, but unfortunately with COVID, I ended up furloughed in April 2020. During that time, I started helping Katy Raines at Indigo on the After the Interval national sentiment survey. A year later and I’m now working full-time for Indigo!

📚 Describe your current job

Indigo is a cultural sector consultancy specialising in all things marketing, fundraising and data. We work with a range of cultural clients on audience development strategy, CRM, fundraising, systems, business strategy… In the last year we have also moved more into large scale national cultural audience sentiment tracking with the COVID recovery surveys (After the Interval, Act 2, and now Culture Restart): we have been tracking audience sentiment around COVID, intention to return, and consumption of digital. The Indigo team are fantastic, I love the variety of projects I get to work on and it has been amazing to be able to provide this vital audience data to the sector during COVID.

🤩 What are you working on right now that you’re particularly enjoying?

I’m working on a project called Tramway Revisited: it’s different to anything I’ve worked on before. It’s funded by Innovate UK: the goal is to develop a toolkit of some kind to support venues, producers and audiences to return to live events after COVID.

It has involved so far developing a ‘digital twin’ of Tramway in Glasgow: we’re looking at how we can do different outputs for audiences to explore this virtual space, to understand COVID measures that are in place, how producers can use that to plan shows, how venues can use it to plan their audience management…

We’re also exploring how that might work post-COVID, and whether there are possibilities for widening access, using it to push the idea of a full ‘relaxed’ venue where anyone could understand what the venue would be like ahead of their visit.

Indigo’s bit in that project is all about understanding the audience appetite for this.

📣 What’s happening in the industry that’s on your radar?

At the moment it’s the hybrid between digital and live experiences. I’ve got tickets for Dream Online at the RSC, which I am so excited about. I think a lot of people are really excited to see what this digital disruption time will bring to the industry, and how that’s going to change things in the future. There is a lot of potential for more hybrid experiences in theatre in the future.

📖 Anything you’d recommend to read/watch/listen to?

I’ve been listening to a podcast lately called More or Less on BBC Sounds: they’re 10-minute episodes looking at a statistic or figure from that week and breaking it down, so it’s about helping people to understand data and what it means in different contexts. In just 10 minutes you get a really interesting and entertaining deep dive into it.

I’ve been reading a brilliant book called Culture is Bad for You: Inequality in the Cultural and Creative Industries written by Orian Brook, Dave O’Brien and Mark Taylor: it challenges all the things we tell ourselves in the industry about the power of culture and examines who is currently working in the sector, looking at race, class, gender, who is being excluded from these occupations and what that means about the work being produced and who then goes on to consume that. So it’s about a cycle of exclusion and inequality in culture. 

💡 What advice would you give someone who would like to do what you do?

Never be nervous about trying something new: whether it’s a project, a system, a piece of analysis, do not think that you can’t do something. Have a go and normally you find that you can do it! Especially if you’re willing to ask for advice from the right people, then you can do anything. 

10 Minutes With Alec Ward

Each week I spend 10 minutes with someone from the cultural-sector-meets-digital and ask them about their career, opinions, and what’s on their radar.

This week I spoke with “that museum guy” Alec Ward.

Alec Ward, Museum Development Officer Digital & Communications at Museum of London

Say “yes” to opportunities and worry about doing the thing later (within reason).


☕ Tea or coffee?

I’m actually having a Minestrone Cup-A-Soup in a tea mug – it’s a good way of hiding the fact that you’re having lunch during meetings.

💼 About your career and where you are now: accidental or intentional?

Intentionally accidental!

When I left university, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and recruitment seemed alluring at first. I was fortunate to have some time to volunteer at a (very) small museum (The Museum of the Order of St John) in London. A few months later, a paid museum part-time position came up (Museum Assistant). There was real flexibility in terms of tasks and I was able to explore different parts of working in a museum (collections, exhibitions, etc.). When I started there in 2015, there was no social media presence, so I took care of these and became the “digital guy” in the team. So when anything digital came up, I was the go-to person (I got to help out on a project where we digitised a WW1 scrapbook, which was really cool!).

Then, the job at the London Museum Development as the Museum Development Officer came up. My manager Tom thought I should go for it as I would be very good at it. At the time I hadn’t really thought about supporting museums, I’d always thought about working IN museums as opposed to working WITH museums.

📚 Describe your current job

The role developed over the years and became full-time. Now I manage the team’s communications, the social, the website, and the core of my role is supporting London’s non-national museums with their digital work, and helping particularly small museums on anything from social media to digital strategy.

It’s a varied role with a lot of moving parts: I help with national projects like One by One (a digital literacy and skills project), sector support organisations like Culture24, or the Collections Trust.

I always thought of my dream job as working in a museum, but before I had the experience of working in a small museum, I didn’t really know what you can do in a museum. The idea of “museum work” was “a curator”, but I hadn’t really thought about what that is or what it might entail. Working in a museum gave me the perspective of what museums professionals do, and especially for small museums where you can be the Collections Manager, Volunteer Manager and Social Media Manager.

Small museums and museums professionals need a variety and range of skills to be able to function in their roles, which is why I thoroughly enjoy what I do!

🤩 What are you working on right now that you’re particularly enjoying?

The role is super varied so I can’t even put my finger on something specific!

In March 2020 because of the pandemic, we launched a YouTube channel for the team, because we moved our development programmes online, and we had the opportunity to record some Zoom training sessions. Because I run practical sessions on everything from video editing to making 3D models from photogrammetry, I managed to turn these into small tutorials, which I’m quite proud of and pleased that they are doing well.

📣 What’s happening in the industry that’s on your radar?

Lots! My role requires me to keep in tune with everything going on in the sector, particularly with a digital focus. The Digital Culture Compass is a really exciting tool and all the work that has been done by the National Lottery Heritage Fund too, like the Digital Skills for Heritage programme.

Also, there are some resources being developed, the Digital Culture Network tech champions (Arts Council) is doing some exciting work.

Some organisations in the sector are also doing great work, like Culture24 have got the great Let’s Get Real project which is happening at the moment with a lot of museums, and looking at digital audiences.

Outside of digital, there are lots of things happening around diversity, Black Lives Matter, museums thinking more about their impact on the environment, climate change, global warming, and how to inform the public about it.

📖 Anything you’d recommend to read/watch/listen to?

I have just started reading Digital Transformation by Lindsay Herbert, which I would definitely recommend. It’s about digital transformation within organisations, with thoughts and insights about that space.

I mostly get information through newsletters: Chris Unitt’s Cultural Digital, Katie Moffat’s Digital Snapshot, Maxwell Museums (which is focused on museums & heritage). Outside of the heritage sector, I also receive the MIT Technology Review newsletter.

💡 What advice would you give someone who would like to do what you do?

For somebody who wants to work in digital in museums, my advice would be to look outside of the sector: don’t focus just on what museums are doing, look at heritage as a whole and even outside of that sector as well. There are many companies doing very interesting things in digital and there is a lot we can learn from them.

I live by the maxim “Saying yes to opportunities and worrying about doing those things later (within reason)”: for instance a few years ago, the MA asked me to chair their digital event, and I had never done that before, so naturally I was terrified! But I thought it would be a great opportunity for me, and I worried about the practicalities of doing later. So far it’s worked pretty well for me to live by that saying!

10 Minutes With Georgina Brooke

Each week I spend 10 minutes with someone from the cultural-sector-meets-digital and ask them about their career, opinions, and what’s on their radar.

This week I spoke with my colleague Georgina Brooke.

Georgina Brooke, Content Strategist at One Further

Georgina Brooke headshot

If you want a job in museums, don’t feel like you just have to go through museums themselves.


☕ Tea or coffee?

Breakfast tea with milk, no sugar. My usual 11am drink!

💼 About your career and where you are now: accidental or intentional?

It started off as accidental: I studied classics at Oxford. When I graduated I knew I didn’t want to spend more time in academia, but I didn’t really know what I did want to do. I applied to tons of things, and ended up as a project manager in a multinational digital agency for my first job. 

I was lucky to be asked to move to the Singapore office, and I then moved out of project management into content strategy. Then I came back to London to work with the Government Digital Service on getting their content in order for the new (at that point) gov.uk site. 

I moved back to Oxford in 2014, but I didn’t want to work in agencies anymore. I ended up working at the University of Oxford as a Digital Content Editor.

In 2016 I got my first job in museums at the Ashmolean in Oxford, which entailed redesigning the website from scratch and creating all the content from the ground up. I was then asked to do the same website and content project for the other 4 Oxford University museums, but these were always temporary until I obtained a permanent role at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

In 2020, my partner got a job in Newcastle, so I moved to the North of England and obtained a temporary role at the National Museums of Scotland.

So my career was not entirely planned, and I have been taking things as they come. The last move was definitely accidental! I’ve detailed it in my LinkedIn article Planning a career in the digital sector.

📚 Describe your current job

I’ve only been at One Further since January but it’s great! I’ve been working on strategies for different kinds of content, how to monetise content, how to plan for a digital strategy that outlasts COVID and closure, and plenty of other interesting things.

It has so far been very interesting. We’ve won the 2 pitches that I participated in, and are getting repeat business from the clients I’m working with, which is encouraging and exciting. 

🤩 What are you working on right now that you’re particularly enjoying?

I’m just putting the finishing touches on a report going to Castle Howard that’s looking at their content: getting their website user journeys in order, then thematic storytelling on social, which will, in turn, put them in the best position for monetising content and selling products online.

📣 What’s happening in the industry that’s on your radar?

At the moment, everyone is talking about the usefulness of digital because of the COVID crisis. It’s particularly interesting to see how the performing arts have treated content and haven’t given it for free.

At the start of COVID, performing arts were much less sheepish about asking for money for online content, whereas museums and most other cultural institutions, by and large, give all online content they produce away for free. I think that’s resulted in certain types of online events/content being normalised as free (like online talks and tours), but audiences are still happy to pay for performances because performing arts monetised that type of content from the beginning.

📖 Anything you’d recommend to read/watch/listen to?

I’ve just read The Future of the Museum – 28 dialogues, which contains conversations with culture-facing directors all around the world. I’ve written a book review about it on my LinkedIn profile.

Also lately, I have been listening to Dr Sophie Frost’s podcast People. Change. Museums

💡 What advice would you give someone who would like to do what you do?

If you want a job in museums, don’t feel like you just have to go through museums themselves: starting at the bottom at a graduate entry role in a museum is so hard and competitive!

It’s very difficult to distinguish yourself amongst 650 other candidates (true story!), and when there are so many good candidates, interviewers end up having to make the final decision on really marginal and quite arbitrary criteria, because everyone’s ticked all the boxes but you only have one job…

So don’t be afraid of working in the private sector, because personally I’ve learnt a lot of skills there, and I wouldn’t have had for instance my role at the Ashmolean without my prior agency experience, which gave me great training in digital best practice and management skills. 

Artemisia at the National Gallery

I will show Your Illustrious Lordship what a woman can do.

Artemisia Gentileschi

I first heard of Artemisia Gentileschi during university, while I was studying history of art. The self portrait I was shown was simply breathtaking. I was astonished to hear about her life and to see her talent. So naturally, upon hearing about the exhibition due to open in London at the National Gallery, I was incredibly excited and jumped on tickets when they were released. 

Firstly I would like to applaud the National Gallery for their incredible management of crowds during this pandemic – so far they have been the museum that showed how to do it best. The lines were not too long, the time slots were respected, and people were let in one after the other, even between rooms. This allowed us to not be too crowded, and to enjoy the experience. 

Information

I knew a little bit about Artemisia when I visited the exhibition, and walked out knowing more. I particularly enjoyed seeing the book showing her court testimony (in which she sues the painter Agostino Tassi for having raped her), which showed her character and her resilience. 

Visiting the exhibition made me like her so much more than I did before – looking at her paintings was like having a feminist conversation with her. She represented scenes from the Bible, involving women, particularly strong women. 

One of her main subjects was Judith beheading Holofernes. But I’d like to draw attention on her very first subject, Susanna and the Elders: she painted it at age 16, showing Susan in shock of seeing two old men staring at her while she was bathing. That painting showed Susanna as a victim, replicating the position of women at the time, who only endured things. She came back to that subject at the end of her career, and this time, depicted Susanna as a woman in control, telling the men off for looking at her. From victim, she became powerful. Just like Artemisia herself. 

Her paintings of Judith beheading Holofernes are, I would say, a middle finger given to Tassi, her rapist, a perfect revenge and a perfect way of showing her strength to a man who thought he could take advantage of her. The violence of the act, the splattering blood that also stains Judith’s (Artemisia’s) clothes represent beautifully how she felt at that time: strong, powerful, in control, and not frail or weak. 

Quality of the objects 

One of my first thoughts when seeing the paintings was that they must have been restored recently – I could not believe the brightness of colours, how powerfully vibrant the paintings were. I get very emotional in front of art, and all magnificent paintings made my heart skip a beat. Artemisia was an incredibly talented painter, and an adept of the Italian chiaroscuro, which we know from Caravaggio’s paintings for instance, among others. 

Th paintings were displayed in a way to reproduce the chiaroscuro: illuminated with bright lights, resting on a dark wall, so we can admire their beauty and our eyes can focus on those specific paintings. It was breathtaking. Absolutely gorgeous. I still think about it. 

I was so happy to see the self portrait I remembered at the end of the exhibition, still remembering its beauty and to me, the perfect representation of a self portrait – the painter, hard at work, painting her canvas rather than looking at the viewer.

Design of the exhibition

The way the paintings were shown was the most important aspect of the design for me – and as I said above, I particularly enjoyed the reproduction of the chiaroscuro in the hanging of the paintings. 

The exhibition was designed in a circle and had only one way, which made the crowd control much easier, and presented different kinds of objects in addition to the paintings: the court register, open at the page of Artemisia’s audience at the trial, some coins, but also letters written to her lover (including a raunchy one – thank you for that, National Gallery). 

Everything in that exhibition was about the quality of the piece rather than the quantity, and it was done beautifully. I think I’ll try and go again given how much I enjoyed it. 

The finishing touch 

Take. Me. Back. There are not many women artists in the baroque period, but Artemisia stands out by her talent and the way she depicts her characters. Her evolution as a painter is clear in that display, specifically with the 2 paintings of Susanna and the Elders

I see her paintings and my heart slows down, skips a beat, and then accelerates. At the sight of her art, nothing else exists, just beauty in front of my eyes. 

I hope I convinced you to book your tickets

Tantra: enlightenment to revolution at the British Museum

The rebellious spirit of Tantra, with its potential to disrupt prevailing social, cultural and political establishments, remains ripe for the reimagining.

British Museum, text on a label describing a sculpture of the Tantric goddess Chinnamasta and her attendants at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India.

Following Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, I headed to the British Museum to discover the Tantra: enlightenment to revolution exhibition that just opened, on display until the end of January.

The last time I went to the British Museum for an exhibition was for Troy, which was absolutely amazing (so amazing I still think about it). I also caught the Munch exhibit quickly when I was there for work – and Tantra happened in the same exhibition space.

Upon entering the exhibition, it felt very dark. The lights were dimmed, the walls were black, it was basically like being on the British Museum’s website, but in real life (do not get me wrong: their site is fantastic).

I am no expert in history or art from India – it’s incredibly rich though and I have an amazing memory of an exhibition I saw in Paris a few years ago about the Kamasutra books. I guess I expected the same, or something very similar.

To me, what was memorable about this exhibition was the last room, full of modern and contemporary art related to Tantra. This is where I learnt that the Rolling Stones’ famous logo is inspired by the Tantric goddess Kali! Next time you need a new topic of conversation, just use that.

Information

The exhibition was full of information and knowledge – I always find it very hard to see exhibitions about Indian history and culture due to how rich and intricate it is, and because there are so many elements at play.

To me, Tantra was always a form of energy, of synergy between body and mind – this exhibition puts the feminine power at the core of Tantra, specifically with the goddess Kali (who now you know is represented with an open mouth and visible tongue, though it represents her thirst for blood).

As I said earlier, my favourite part of the exhibition was the presence of Tantra in modern and contemporary art, which made me look at those pieces in a different way. I particularly enjoyed Penny Slinger’s Rose Devi and Chakra Woman, which played on the relationship between ‘the physical and the spiritual’ (in her own words) and which are, to be honest, just beautiful to look at.

Quality of the objects

The British Museum exhibited some beautiful pieces and there was such a huge variation of media – sculptures, illustrations, posters, paintings, etc. One thing the British Museum does know how to do, is exhibiting a sculpture (and lighting it properly) – watching them always makes me tingle a bit.

This particular exhibition perhaps did not present as many opportunities as the Troy exhibition to add in some digital elements – but the digital temple was a very nice touch, using audio and visual effects, showing some mantras.

Design of the exhibition

The exhibition space was a bit tight, however the British Museum was very careful in its crowd management (they apologised for a 10 minute delay, but to be honest I’d prefer waiting than not being able to see anything because of the crowd).

The colour environment went from black to white at the very end (as if somehow emerging from a tunnel) with always a red dominant to echo the power it holds. I thought the last room (again…) was very powerful in the way it presented the pieces, specifically the last one, Housewives with Steak-Knives by Sutapa Biswas, magnificent painting that stares at you as you are leaving the display.

The finishing touch

Tantra was not as big an exhibition as Troy (and was never meant to be), and I think I still had the hype from the latter and was expecting as much. I did enjoy going, and particularly enjoyed the applications of Tantra to modern and contemporary art.

I’d say another highlight was to see the following written on a wall:

If diligent, everyone, even the young or the old or the diseased, gradually obtains success in yoga through practice.

Dattatreya Yoga Shastra (Yoga Treatise of Dattatreya), India, 1200s

That should get me going for my yoga practice.

Kyoto to Catwalk at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Last weekend I was finally able to go visit an exhibition in London. A month ago (or maybe a bit more) I managed to book tickets to the Victoria & Albert Museum, my favourite museum in London, to visit their exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk and for about 90 minutes… I felt I was in Japan.

I visited Japan back in January, for about 3 weeks. To date, it was one of the best trips of my life, and both of us kind of want to go back at some point.

Well, on Saturday, we did. If I had to describe that exhibition in one word, it would be ‘phenomenal’. The exhibition was impressive in terms of information, scenography and design, and quality of the pieces.

I would have thought that visiting an exhibition in times of a pandemic would be different to normal times, but honestly not so much. The only difference was having to wear a mask. The V&A, along with all the museums in the UK (and the world to be honest) made their best efforts to control the crowd and ensure the space wouldn’t be too full – it is a VERY difficult thing to do, because the one thing you can’t control is whether people stall or not (and spoiler: they do – which is annoying, because it means that often you have to skip a piece to try and not be part of the congestion).

Information

The V&A is notorious for presenting major high-quality fashion exhibitions (has anyone seen Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams more than me?), and Kimono was certainly no exception.

I absolutely love to see how objects, things, are made, and I did get that at the exhibition, through a very ingenious animation of how the strips of fabric are assembled to make a kimono. My photos are not very good but that was definitely one of my highlights.

The exhibition was incredibly informative and touched on every aspect of kimonos: what they are, how they’re made, when they are worn, who they are worn by, etc. There was an incredible amount of information on the history of Japan, the different styles for each period, and any question you may have on kimonos.

It starts you off nicely: kimono means, in Japanese, the thing you wear – so does not designate something specific (I love the Japanese language), something I never knew but will definitely stick with me.

Quality of the objects

Exhibiting nice pieces is one of the ways to get an amazing exhibition – and Kimono definitely delivered. I took so many pictures of all the different kinds of kimonos on display – every time I found a favourite, I changed it a second later. Prepare to be amazed by the richness of fabrics, patterns, and colours of the garments – I never wanted to wear one so badly.

But of course it wasn’t only kimonos there – the V&A explained how these were worn and also put on display items that were related to them. I have an announcement: since Saturday, I have a newfound passion for combs. Yes, you read that right – seeing vanity objects such as combs and mirrors, so magnificent, I just wished I could have them with me.

It was also incredible to look at a few paintings where the subjects were Europeans but wore kimonos – something I hadn’t seen before for sure. It’s always interesting to see how even 300+ years ago, some people were so interested in clothing from other cultures that they were wearing them too.

Design of the exhibition

One thing I ALWAYS look at when visiting an exhibition is how it is presented – the scenography, design, colour palette, how objects are exhibited, everything. The Victoria & Albert Museum has not to date disappointed me – and certainly not this time.

The exhibition space is made to appear like a house in Japan, with shoji (doors or room dividers typical of Japanese architecture, with thin paper sheets) dividing the rooms. I particularly enjoyed that, as they allowed the rooms to be separated and the visitor to breathe and feel like they are visiting a Japanese home.

How each section was introduced also caught my attention: the text was displayed on scroll-like panels, again using a Japanese aspect, simple and elegant.

The V&A dedicated the last part of the exhibition to haute couture showcase pieces – I recognised the space that had been used to display Dior’s paper patterns for instance, which displayed kimonos in different colours in a cylinder-shaped room.

The last pieces allowed to see the Japanese inspiration for all haute couture designers and see how to make such a traditional garment a modern piece to wear in an elegant and timeless manner. An absolute delight for the eyes.

The finishing touch

As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed that exhibition and if I could, I would go another time. Sadly it is sold out – but I am delighted to see the success it currently knows.

If you’ve missed it, the V&A has of course published an article, Inside the Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk Exhibition, and also several videos on their YouTube channel, with a total of 5 Curator Tours, bringing a digital version of the exhibition to everyone who wishes to see it.

I of course spent a long time in the shop and as usual got some postcards and the exhibition’s book, also available online. I love mementos and every time I go to an exhibition, I get at least one postcard (ok, 5). I have a massive box (or is it 2?) containing every single postcard I ever got from a museum – because I never send them. I’d rather keep them as souvenirs.

Monthly highlights – September 2020

Every month I do a roundup of the most interesting items and articles I saw about art and digital.

Welcome to the first DigitArt news roundup!

Every month, I will gather news articles, accounts to follow, things to do, anything that I find interesting in the fields of art and technology/digital. You will find information about everything and anything, and this month it includes marketing, the epic curator battles, digital preservation (applied to 3D), artificial intelligence, interactives, and even a Virtual Reality event to attend…

Cultural sector+digital: After the storm, Medium

Ash Mann was a speaker at last Friday’s Leeds Digital Festival event, and talked about the priorities for the cultural sector in relation to digital activity. If you don’t already follow Ash on LinkedIn or Twitter, please add it to your to-do list, which should be as follows:

  1. Read his article
  2. Follow him
  3. Follow his advice

Done!

The impact of #CuratorBattle, York Museums Trust

If you haven’t seen the epic #CuratorBattles on Twitter during the lockdown, you have MISSED OUT. This was honestly one of the best examples of social engagement I have ever seen (along with the MERL’s Twitter feed of course). YMT’s Millie Carroll put together a great infographic showing the impact of the battles on their audience – something to check out. And good news: the battles are back in October…!

Experiences Preserving 3D data at the Digital Repository of Ireland, Digital Preservation Coalition

3D is everywhere nowadays – I’ve had the immense opportunity to work with 3D scanning and 3D printing of objects in a museum environment (AWESOME – something you can see here on the website dedicated to my university project, Treasures of the Kingdom) – and unfortunately, it presents some issues in the context of preservation.

There is a very real concern over how we can ensure that the wealth of 3D data currently being produced will continue to be accessible and available for viewing and interacting with in the future.

Mashal Ahmad & Kathryn Cassidy

How are museums using artificial intelligence, and is AI the future of museums? MuseumNext

Lauren Styx goes over what AI really is and its applications to the world of museums – whether it is with robots in the museum experience, audience engagement (my personal favourite definitely is Google Arts & Culture’s Art Selfie), but also behind the scenes. This article is a good opportunity to brush up on the different forms of AI in museums, definitely check it out.

Museum interactives, Victoria & Albert Museum

I really enjoy reading the V&A’s blog articles – and this month, front-end developer Patrick took the stage to walk us through the installation of the interactive for the Concealed Histories exhibition. As someone who thoroughly enjoys museum interactives and ALWAYS has a play (no matter the age range it is aimed at, and of course Covid permitting) I particularly liked reading about how it came to see the light.

And speaking of the V&A… I signed up to their VR event for the upcoming exhibition Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser (cannot wait for that one).

I think this should be a good preview of the exhibition, a little sneak peek for the curious ones among us.

From rabbit holes to psychedelic mushrooms, flamingoes to hedgehogs, Wonderland is the perfect world to explore in virtual reality. 

V&A blog

Alice in Wonderland is bonkers enough as it is, but now I must say I am curious(er and curiouser?) about the mushrooms, flamingoes and hedgehogs.

Consider signing up if you are interested in VR!

That’s it for this month – thank you for reading.

Who am I?

I’ve been toying with the idea of having a new website for a while now, and after much hesitancy, I was talking to my boss who simply said ‘do it’. So… I did.

If you fancy seeing what my first website was like (in 2015), you should click here. Every time I go back there I think I should revamp it, make it more 2020’s, more actual, use it like I should.

But then again… Maybe it’s time to start something afresh and keep this as a memory of what my first steps in the digital world were? Sure, let’s go with that.

So apart from having built a website back in 2015, I am a Digital Analyst working at One Further. One Further is a digital consultancy working in analytics and user research – and we work with mostly cultural institutions! (If you’re one and need people to do stuff for you, give us a shout).

I am based in London, and moved there after I finished my Master’s degree at the University of St Andrews in 2015 – a Master’s in Museum and Gallery Studies (yes it IS a degree, I say with a smile whenever someone asks me this question in total disbelief).

Funny thing is… I lied above: my first website was actually this one, which I built for the exhibition I curated with 5 other people during these studies.

And before that, I studied History of Art and English at the ICP in Paris.

And apart from that… I am fascinated by art and culture. I love museums (they are my happy place – if I am stressed, that’s where I go), I love theatres and ballets, I love art. There is a sort of peace and quiet in art that I love, something soothing, and there is so much to know.

And when I was studying in Scotland, in between whiskies (for real – I am an aficionado, so if you want to talk about whisky, please tell me which one is your favourite), I started getting interested in technology applied to the arts.

It’s not just digital art – it’s more how technology impacts the arts, specifically museums using digital technology to enhance their activity. I love seeing them innovate with digital displays, VR and AR, but also using technology to further investigate art. Yes, I am one of these people who LOVES looking art painting scans, infrared technology, 3D imaging of objects, etc. I really do.

So that’s me in a nutshell. If you share those interests, let’s connect.