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Archive for May, 2010

Forgive the recent silence; I have been preoccupied by a tough deadline. I was asked to write about my city museum research for a collection of essays on cities and memory, to be published (in Finnish) by the Finnish Literature Society. Now that I have sent my draft off to the editor, I can turn my attention back to you, dear reader.

One of the topics I discuss in my essay is historically-themed public art. I think it can be a particularly interesting way to interpret city history, and at the same time build meaningful urban spaces. Here are a few examples of particularly successful pieces:

First, there’s the sculpture pictured above, at the beginning of the post. It’s Balancing Act by Stephan Balkenhol, on Axel-Springer-Strasse in Berlin. It poignantly marks the borderland of the Berlin Wall with a larger-than-life figure of a man, perched on a section of the Wall as if it were a tightrope. The effect is iconographic: anyone who knows even a little bit about the history of Berlin immediately gets the message with no need for complicated interpretation. (more…)

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Museum of London via Londonist

The Museum of London just launched an IPhone app that allows users to pull up geo-tagged photos and paintings all over the city, similar to the Sydney Powerhouse Museum project I described a few weeks ago.

There are a few more images of StreetMuseum available at Londonist to give you a sense of how it might work. The launch of StreetMuseum is part of the fanfare for the Museum of London’s new Galleries of Modern London, a £20 million undertaking that opens May 28. Museum of London is considered to be one of the leaders in the city museum field, so I am very interested to check out this new project when I travel to London in July. In the meantime, here’s an early review from the Times.

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The Helsinki City Museum operates a Worker Housing Museum. It opened for the season on May 5, so yesterday I went to check it out with a Finnish friend who lives nearby. It’s in Kallio, a working-class neighborhood just to the north of Helsinki Centre.

The museum is part of a block of four buildings with a central courtyard, built by the City of Helsinki to house city workers. Visitors can step inside nine one-room apartments, each furnished to represent a different time period from 1910 to 1985. Here’s an apartment that housed a widow and her seven children, in 1925:

(more…)

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Wayne & Sally Roddom/Creative Commons

Another essay in City Museums and City Development is written by two curators from the Museum of Sydney, Caroline Butler-Bowdon and Susan Hunt. Their approach to interpreting Sydney is something they call “thinking the present historically.” The museum staff uses the past to inform the present experience of Sydney residents, with particular attention to contemporary social and political issues and to the city’s ethnic diversity. Therefore the goal is not simply to illuminate Sydney’s history, but to make a statement or ask a question that is relevant and useful to today’s Sydneysiders. (more…)

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Here’s something I’ve been seeing a lot of in city museums: street signs in the lobby.

I took this photo at the Museum of London in February:

(more…)

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