We are really excited because we joined the Flickr commons on Wednesday 17th September.
We’re using the commons to reach new audiences and to reveal connections between our content and other stuff inside and outside of traditional digital museum spaces.
We decided to add our content with a very limited amount of contextual information to make as much use as possible of descriptions, comments and tags from the Flickr community. Already after a week and a half, these familiar Flickr tools are accumulating interesting strands of information.
We’ve started with four sets of photographs:
Bedford Lemere: 30 images from our large collection by these famous early-20th century architectural photographers.
Freeze Frame: 12 astonishing 19th century polar images.
Beside the Seaside: 45 images from the late-19th and early-20th centuries showing the development of coastal tourism and industry. These Beside the Seaside images are all geotagged and also complement the exhibition at the NMM, its website and the Flickr Beside the Seaside group pool.
PortCities London: six images from the PortCities London website showing the development of modern London through historic photographs.
We’re also working to ensure the ongoing value and sustainability of Museum digitization, by making our content available in a format where it is potentially exposed to a massive new audience.
We’ve released this selection of images with no know copyright restrictions.
We’ve now opened Beside the Seaside, snapshots of British coastal life, at the Museum. It is based around the British interest in the seaside and is recorded by pictures dating from 1880-1950. The pictures reveal insights of life at the seaside in towns and villages across Britain as well as the habits of people at the time.
Lifeboat crew, Skegness, Lincolnshire
You can view all of the photos from the exhibition on our Beside the Seaside pages.
With the help of Anne from the excellent Nothing to See Here and I Like, we’ve also been hosting a Beside the Seaside group on Flickr. As well as viewing the pool in the usual way, you can view a slideshow on the NMM site. Use the pool to find out how our seaside towns and villages have changed in the last century. Of course, if you have some good seaside snaps you’d like to share you can contribute to the group too.
We think these photos come to life when you can see where they come from, so we’ve plotted them on a google map and geotagged them in the Flickr commons. The images are also arranged by geographical area in the exhibition itself.
I was very pleased to have the opportunity recently, in one of the NMM‘s staff seminars, to share some of my researches into the way that lifesaving is commemorated as a meritorious act – particularly on memorials. The lifesaving movement took off in the late 18th century, having originated amongst medical men who were interested in reviving the apparently drowned. The aim was to save anyone from premature accidental death, regardless of their importance, and to devise suitable inventions – such as the lifeboat – to achieve this end. By the 19th century, naval officers were doing it and clergymen were promoting it, but it took longer for ordinary lifeboat-men to gain public recognition.
The Wreck of the East Indiaman ‘Dutton’ at Plymouth Sound, 26 January 1796 by Thomas Luny
The movement led to the production of all sorts of interesting associated commemoratives, from sculpture and stained glass windows to medals, prints and ceramics. Thomas Luny’s painting of the wreck of the Dutton was commissioned by Admiral Sir Edward Pellew (1757-1833), 1st Viscount Exmouth. If you peer very closely at the stern of the stranded vessel you can see Pellew himself, organising the rescue of the passengers who are being hauled ashore on a line.
Statuette of Grace Darling, c. 1900
At NMM, our lifesaving medals are each small works of art and we hope sometime in the future to research the stories behind them and make this information available online. We have also recently acquired a small wood and ivory statuette of Grace Darling, who rowed out to sea to rescue survivors of the wrecked SS Forfarshire. This statuette, which was made in about 1900, is quite unlike anything already in our collections.
Tomb of Grace Darling, which overlooks the sea at Bamburgh
During a holiday in Northumberland I was able to see the heroine’s tomb, built in the gothic-revival style, overlooking the sea at Bamburgh. I was fortunate to be there on one of the few sunny days this year. I would like to thank friendly people in South Shields, particularly at St Hilda’s Church and the Local Studies Library, for their help during my visit.
In 1925, British filmmaker Claude Friese-Green filmed a road journey he took from Lands End to John O’Groats. Using a very early colour film process, he captured local people from around Britain on screen. The finished result was the Open Road, a travelogue in many short episodes. Friese-Green visited Blackpool Pleasure Beach, filming the rides and stalls, and this is just one of the extracts of historic film we’ve used in Beside the Seaside, a new exhibition which opens at the museum on Wednesday, 17 September 2008.
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside: songs and film clips capture the classic British seaside holiday
The exhibition features a 4-minute audio-visual presentation containing songs and film clips reminiscent of the classic British seaside holiday. The film was great fun to put together. Before we employed a professional company to give the film a creative edit, I did lots of research at the BFI National Archive and the British Library Sound Archive to choose extracts for the film.
The BFI’s Archive Producer, Jan Faull was extremely helpful, and pointed me in the direction of 4 brilliant films, which the BFI are kindly letting us use in the exhibition. As well as the Open Road, the presentation will feature an early clip of Morecambe Seafront, shot in 1901 by Edwardian filmmakers Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon. This fantastic footage shows holidaymakers walking and travelling in horses and carts in all of their finery along the promenade. For that authentic seaside feel, the audio track over the top of the film is that classic tune Oh I do like to be beside the seaside, recorded at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom on the Wurlitzer organ.
There is a transport theme to two of the other BFI films featured in the presentation. Rail travel revolutionised the British seaside holiday, allowing more visitors to access resorts cheaply. Scenes from the Cornish Riviera (1904) was sponsored by the Great Western Railway to publicize the Cornish Riviera Express, a new route which opened that year, taking passengers from London to Penzance. It features shots of Looe and Polperro, which look very much like the Frith & Co. photographs of these villages in the exhibition. Blackpool, a Nation’s Playground (1938) produced by London, Midland and Scottish Railways in conjunction with Blackpool corporation, offers a light-hearted look at this popular resort, encouraging tourists to visit the town by featuring girls in bathing costumes frolicking on the beach.
As soon as I touched my seaweed, sung by Clive Rowe from Taunton, accompanies the footage of the Cornish seaside. This amusing song is part of a common genre of popular seaside songs, reflecting on seaweed’s ‘lucky’ properties and its ability to predict the weather. The song was recorded in 1977 and forms part of the British Library Sound Archives‘s Traditional Music in England Project, an oral history project to record and catalogue folk songs from around the country.
The last two film clips featured in the presentation are from the archives of British Pathé, and look at the post-war seaside holiday. The comic sketch Mum’s Day Out (1946) tells the story of a put-upon cockney husband who is forced to do stay at home and do the washing while his wife goes on a day trip to Southend with her friends. Seaside Day (1954) highlights a day in the life of Margate, showing a Punch and Judy show and crowds flocking to the resort on the Thames steamer, the Royal Sovereign.
Together, these clips reflect the working and leisure life of the British seaside in the first half of the 20th century. They show how for generations of British holidaymakers before the advent of cheap package holidays in the 1960s and 1970s, Britain’s holiday resorts were the place to see and be seen.
This month is the telescope’s 400th birthday. Well, sort of. We know that in September 1608 an optician called Hans Lipperhey announced that he had invented a new device and asked for a patent from the Dutch States-General. Before then it all gets a bit murkier. It’s more than likely that someone (or some people) came up with a similar idea in the decades before, but Lipperhey was certainly one of the first to try and exploit the instrument’s potential.
Portable telescope, dated 1661
The National Maritime Museum has a great collection of telescopes of all sorts (including this rather unusual trumpet-shaped one), so to mark the anniversary we’ve been putting together a display in the Royal Observatory, opening on 15 September, and a web exhibition. We’re really trying to get over two points. Firstly, the invention was important because it was the first time someone had produced an instrument to extend one of the human senses. Thanks to the work of people like Galileo Galilei (who, incidentally, did not invent the telescope) it changed how people did science. Secondly, most of the telescopes ever made were actually for more mundane things than astronomy – for soldiers, sailors and pleasure-seekers, and not just astronomers. But don’t worry, we’re not forgetting that astronomical telescopes changed the way we think about the universe.
So come and have a look at the new display at the Royal Observatory – or the web version – and let us know what you think.