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Historic House Museum

Spotlight on… Charles Dickens Museum

Spotlight on… Charles Dickens Museum, a Victorian townhouse in Bloomsbury and former family home of Dickens where he penned classics including Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and Pickwick Papers. Typically open to the public it offers an insight into the private life of the author; his study, dining room, family bedrooms and serving quarters as well as a display space for the collection, a courtyard garden and café. The current pandemic and its’ temporary closure has meant that the museum has lost almost all of its income, but visit their website and you can still delve into the collection and go behind the scenes whilst the doors are closed. An interactive tour gives you a 360 degree view of each room in the entire building, and the opportunity to explore privately and have the space to yourself. At the end of April, they launched their Collections Online site giving virtual access to furniture, paintings, photographs, letters, manuscripts, rare editions and Dickens memorabilia such as a 1968 handmade doll of Miss Havisham from Great Expectations and a ceramic and textile pin cushion of Mr Pickwick circa 1900. On Instagram Dickens’ great great great grandchildren have been reading extracts from his novels, including a fitting passage about a smallpox epidemic and quarantine in Bleak House. Their online newsletter also keeps you informed with teasers about their upcoming temporary exhibition due to open once restrictions are lifted, named Technicolour Dickens: The Living Image of Charles Dickens which will feature images of the author throughout his career as well as clothing, personal items, and a selection of original photographs from their collection which have undergone colourisation. Purchases from their aptly titled ‘Old Curiosity Shop’ are still available online, with jigsaw puzzles, tote bags, books and mugs all based around his famous novels for sale – items arguably more sought after than ever during the lockdown!

Image: Study Newangle, Copyright, Charles Dickens Museum

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Gallery Museum

Spotlight on… Camden Art Centre

Spotlight on… Camden Art Centre, an imposing yet welcoming red brick building in north-west London originally constructed as a public library. Open as an art centre for five decades, it combines the original architecture with modern spaces and a serene garden, offering the public free access to exhibitions, courses, talks and events. Although currently closed due to Covid-19, this has not halted their programme as the new exhibition ‘The Botanical Mind: Art, Mysticism and The Cosmic Tree’ has gone ahead with a online offering to accompany the physical one postponed until later in the year. It explores the relationship between plants and humans in various religions, global cultures and civilisations throughout history via drawings, watercolours, photography, film, archaeological artefacts, textiles, ceramics, isomorphology, written texts and multimedia commissions. Collectively it spans everything from moss, to potatoes, flower formation, plant organisms, indigenous groups living alongside plant-life in rainforests, astrology, mandalas, the hallucinatory and stimulant properties of plants and much more. A virtual Family Art Club was launched at the end of May which will run until early July, led by current artist in residence Renata Minoldo and tied into themes related to the exhibition, with new activities released every two weeks on Sundays online. Their Youth Collective initiative which typically offers people aged 15 to 21 a space to engage with and discuss visual arts with their peers is continuing virtually, via weekly artist-led workshops and monthly digital events, with the hope of hosting the annual Youth Collective Curates exhibition onsite later in the year. They have also partnered with Central Saint Martins giving twelve students Instagram takeovers, offering an insight into how the next generation of artists are responding to and indeed continuing their practice during the pandemic, aptly titled ‘15713’ as this number represents the accumulative miles these students are from Camden Art Centre, either working from their homes across the UK or overseas. There is also a bookshop and café on site, and their café partner – Cantine London – fed frontline workers at the Royal London Hospital in March and have launched a delivery service where the public can order and donate a meal to NHS staff. In congruity with the “botanical” theme, their digital offerings are evolving and growing with new content added each week.

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Gallery

Let’s get digital… part 2

In my last post, I looked at what the Nationals and other museums in London are doing to engage audiences during the Covid-19 pandemic, but they’re not the only ones creating new solutions to closed doors – as London gallery innovations bear witness to. Serpentine Galleries are offering digital guides to their current exhibitions, allowing you to explore interactively with additional content, audio, video and curator tours. They are also delivering online Saturday Talks, podcasts and digital commissions as well as offering weekly book recommendations to help keep minds and imaginations going. Gagosian have launched #GagosianSpotlight, a new online artist series, highlighting individual artists, one week at a time, who have had exhibitions affected by the current coronavirus crisis. As well as looking at their practice, it also includes videos, interviews, playlists and other insights into their artists’ inspiration. Sadie Coles have started an #AnswersfromIsolation series posing pertinent questions to their artists including “has the current isolation given you time to do or make something that you might not have”, “tell us about your current projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19”, as well as recipe tips and other insights. Victoria Miro are publishing long reads, hosting online in conversation… with their artists, and have partnered up with nine other contemporary art galleries in Venice to open the ‘virtual’ doors of their storage and allow a rare look behind the scenes; as each week, each gallery will pick an artwork from their store to share on the #VeniceGalleriesView platform. Edel Asanti have launched #ContactlessDeliveries comprising written responses to the global pandemic shared in text or in spoken word films. Each is delivered from a personal perspective and responds to the previous contributor. They have also begun #HomeFires, a series of five minute conversations between the artistic Director and their artists, discussing a recent or ongoing body of work. The Photographers’ Gallery’s #TPGTalks offers a wealth of online podcasts, videos and interviews from photographers, writers and curators drawn from their extensive Talks & Events Programme. The already active digital programme has also collaborated with Fotomuseum Winterhur to launch #ScreenWalks, offering a series of live streamed artist/research led explorations of the cultural sectors online spaces as the physical spaces currently lie redundant due to Covid-19. White Cube have launched an #InTheStudio series where each week a represented artist shares a diary of their activities under lockdown (kicked off by Tracey Emin), and have also started an #InsideWhiteCube post where staff members are introduced and talk about what they are seeing, thinking, reading, watching and listening to during isolation. Lisson Gallery have partnered with Augment, and app whose technology allows people to visualise 3D objects and artworks in augmented reality through their smartphones and tablets. Freelands Foundation have similarly harnessed 3D scanning technology, allowing people to now view their exhibition of four female artists’ works on their website. This is just a selection of what’s out there, and I will endeavour to see what else is going on and what new ideas emerge as the lockdown and social distancing continues.