Today my colleague Claire and I went through to Reading to conduct the first of the interviews for the Linksphere Project. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but it was the first time I’ve been to Reading, notwithstanding its renowned Department of Typography and Graphic Communication which is always advertising amazing exhibitions. I simply did not realise that the journey time was only half an hour … and the off-peak ticket only £15 return. Bargain!
Anyway, today we were visiting the Ure Museum of Classical Archaeology, one of the participants in Linksphere, and extremely interesting as it has a relatively small physical museum space, but a rather large online presence. Its database became available on the Internet in 2002, and it has literally thousands of images, available at different resolutions.
Conducting the interview was a really interesting way to encounter a collection for the first time. The museums taking part have completed an online questionnaire that we sent them, so the first clue to what the Ure would be like came from that. Then, of course, we looked at the website and database, and built up a further picture. Then we interviewed the curator.It wasn’t until after our interview that we ventured into the museum itself.
Walking into the physical space really hammered home the commonplace assertion that museums and galleries display roughly 10-30% of their holdings at any one time. The Ure’s physical space was large enough to accommodate a boisterous class of primary schoolchildren, accompanying adults and the Assistant Curator, activity tables and chairs, as well as us two lurkers post-interview. But it was nowhere near the size of the digital collection. Which just goes to show how important digital spaces are for specialist collections like the Ure. Researchers from all over the world regularly use its resources for research from school to post-doctoral level, and the Museum and the curation of the Museum are important parts of teaching.
And that teaching is not just targeted at academics. I really liked the trail for families with children under five, Sophie’s World of Pots. In the snapshot on the left you can see Sophie with one of the Ure’s pots. Claire tweeted the tag-line from the Ure’s outreach leaflet to schools “Where can you find a mummified cat’s head in Reading?” and we were impressed by how many people knew the answer. The leaflet goes on to suggest that young people can “Discover more about Greek mythology and life through images on our many vases. Find out how Odysseus escaped the Cyclops’ cave or study scenes of warriors going into battle.”
The whole Greek world on an urn … or its image on the web.
[Just to reiterate, the opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and do not reflect that of my department, colleagues and collaborators, or the final conclusions of any research in which I am taking part]