Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences and The Museum of Archeology and Anthropology (7, 8)

A new city and another university’ collections.


First two museums we visited in Cambridge were traditionally subject based, predominantly on Geology and the second one on Anthropology and Archeology.
It’s not surprising as they are part of Cambridge University, which has total of 9 museums and collections.
As with the University’s purpose, the aim of these museums is to educate the public.

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The Sedgwick Museum was the most traditional in its presentation, with impressive  antique wood and glass cabinets, but rather static display.
The layout was quite clear and direct, coming from the earliest period of 544 million ears ago from right, to the Pleistocene epoch and exhibition of work by Charles Darwin on the left. Each open ‘room’ divided by the large cabinets was dedicated to different environment such as Costal Plains or Tropical Seas, most significant in its epoch.

The individual open ‘rooms’ had more information scattered around, with main introduction board, individual artefact signs and handbooks by the windows.
It was rather passive reading, and looking through glass experience.

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I appreciated the airy installations on the cabinets, bringing some fresh imagination to the collection, using the imagery found within the cabinets.

It was exciting to see the original and hand painted Geology Map, created by William Smith, and read its impressive story, not just admire it’s impressive size.


Just few steps away and we found ourselves in the Anthropological and Archeological Museum.
After seeing fossils and natural/life’s evidence it was interesting to suddenly appear in space filled with human ‘fossils’ represented predominantly by ceramic objects.
It’s like ceramics are human fossils; used by archeologists to get most information on humans, their activity and history, as geologists get their information from fossils on life and environment of past.

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The collection was very similar to the Pitt Rivers’ (as both are anthropological museums), however the curation couldn’t be different.
I enjoyed it in different way, as exploring themes in more depth, such as ‘childhood in the past’ is more educational and informative, than just explore and compare different objects on their own, like in Pitt Rivers.

It was in the exhibition on childhood, where we discovered that museum descriptions doesn’t have to be dull, but can be rather entertaining. It was in a form of educational criticism and sassiness on descriptions of pottery techniques and examples made or decorated, most likely by a child.
Signs are one of the most influential feature of the museum experience, as absolutely everyone reads at least one, but I believe they are not the most griping and exciting to read, in most cases not even really relevant.

Furthermore, on the last floor, there was another unusual sight – of a glass cabinet with cardboard boxes and unnumbered, unmarked relics placed carefully on a foam tissue.

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It was a visible storage while they prepare a new exhibition on that floor. With the boxes probably hiding more objects safely, it felt like a retail environment where the products are left to speak for themselves, ready to attract, be picked up, explore its purpose, how it’s relevant to the buyer/observer, and be bought.

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A simple map with objects placed on their geographical origin reminded me of different coffee, tea or chocolate stating their unique geographical origin, trying to attract customers (of products or ideas) with their unique properties, customs, resources.

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Field: Future Generations Conference II

More workshop and lectures attended during the Future Generations conference.


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James’ examples.

Masks are a wide medium of expression, from actors wearing them and becoming the new subject, to shamanistic rituals, collages of expression, sculptures, guardians of privacy, etc.
We had some magnificent and captivating masks made by our tutor for the day and tutor in Fine Art James Green who’s mask cross between a sculpture, painting or collage.
We’re invited to create our own masks from a paper, masking tape and charcoal – a bit random coming from the elaborate and colourful masks presented.

 

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Presenting my mask.

 

 

 

Having about an hour or less I just started playing with the paper, creating a tube and trying to make the insert for head in the bottom. This actually gave possibility for the mask to turn around and have multiple faces – with the sides of the tube or hollow ends.
In the time I managed to create quickly 3 different faces for the mask with drawing and cutting out pieces as well as ripping the paper to create a face like features.


Max Ernst

 

Another workshop looked at power of mindful meditation and the scientific health benefits of focus, relaxation and reflection; as well as possibility for our creative work, as in ‘flow’ or complete absorption in what we do.
“Flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion… The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task although flow is also described as a deep focus on nothing but the activity – not even oneself or one’s emotions.”
The lecture explaining what meditation and the flow is and how can it be achieved followed with short observational meditation of some dried leaves and plants, even drawing them but not braking our gaze with the objects. At the end we had a longer mindfulness meditation where we observed our breath as a point of focus.
I felt relaxed and refreshed, and as very casual practitioner of meditation (5 min few times a week), I agree with the positive aspects of this quiet time of reflection and focus.


 

My last lecture was on importance of nature in our, and mostly children’s lives. The lecture looked at examples of how art, design and technology can bring more nature in our lives.

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There were many examples of art and design being cautious of nature and our relationship with it.
However, I enjoyed listening to the second lecturer from Cardiff School of Education, about her play forest project created at the Cyncoed campus where children can explore, play and learn interactively in a forest are, with workshops happening weekly for the local kids.

I would like to get involved, and think how can I use my newly acquired knowledge in ceramics to deliver a informative workshop and play to children; to teach them something new, as well as deepen their relationship with nature and the outdoors.

Session II of Creativity and Cognitive Development in Arts by Sarah Smith

The majority of the session was receiving and reading a three pages extract individually.

We found out Arnheim’s argument that thinking without perceiving first hand is close to impossible. He strongly argues the importance of teaching arts in education, as artistic expression is a different way of reasoning. 


For a homework we were asked to write a 300 words blog post on how the text can relate to our subject.
As a ceramicist I’m probably more aware of the malleable, universal and interactive properties of a clay. These qualities are potentially essential for a creative/perceptual thinking and reasoning; perhaps similar to a language.
Expressing a person’s inner thoughts, or creating a new ones.
An interaction with clay would strengthen individual’s perceptional skills, essential to healthy and productive thinking in other fields of learning.

Also teaching about clay and techniques to control it, such as throwing are close to impossible to teach by written or spoken word. Even demonstration is not enough; direct perceiving and interaction of the individual with the material and technique is essential for her/him to comprehend.

Designing object which would stimulate someones creativity and perceptual playfulness is an interesting topic to explore, and I wonder how a cup, bowl or other pottery could have these stimulating qualities.


University studies in the past required their learners to spend time extending their artistic skills too, in the field of music, painting, craft or sculpture. Perhaps they could feel more the positive impact creative development have on overall human intellect.


I would like to know about more research in that topic and around Arnheim’s arguments.
However this first session of mine has disappointed me greatly, with too much time spending reading the few pages on the one idea, that could be read at home in a more suited atmosphere.
With no more contradicting arguments, research to back it up or any other facts.
It’s like the lecturer wanted to prove the argument; with no stimulating interactions, discussions, not even perceiving new ideas through listening. Rather just reading and watching the lecturer on their phone, laptop and running off.