Wednesday 26 March 2014

Twenty Years as a Law Librarian - Communications

Early librarian communication
This is the second in my series of 'Twenty Years as a Law Librarian' blogposts. Although the first was about technology, whilst writing it I found myself constantly thinking about communications. I decided to split the two so I could expand on other areas so that, for example, in the technology piece I could explore the development of  search engines, electronic services, and library catalogues. In this I want to explore different aspects of communications, not just in the obviously technologically reliant areas, but the many other ways we communicate day-to-day.

Monday 24 March 2014

'Constellatio Felix': August the Strong's Festival of the Planets

One of the unexpected highlights of the Royal Palace was the collection of prints drawings and photographs. On the top floor, like the print collection of the British Museum, it has an air of secluded quiet, and requires a visitor to seek out its treasures. The Dresden museum has 500,000 works on paper by over 11,000 artists from eight centuries. Therefore the Kupferstichkabinett (print collection) puts on changing exhibitions, so visitors can have a tiny taste of the material they keep. The exhibition on currently is the 'Constellatio Felix: August the Strong's Festival of the Planets • Thomas Ruff's stellar constellations'.

Constellatio Felix 'fortunate stellar constellation' was the theme of one of the most lavishly ostentatious celebrations of the baroque. Augustus II staged a month long set of events to mark the September 1719 marriage of his son to Frederick Augustus to Archduchess Maria Josepha of Austria. The festivals dedicated to the planets were particularly spectacular, and thankfully for us, Augustus required that the event was fully documented. Images of feasts, dances, parades, meticulously recorded the every detail of day- and night-time extravaganzas. Interspersed throughout the baroque fancies, the curators have placed Ruff's timeless planet pieces; offering balance, colour and serenity to the endless historic, dynastic and political posturing.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Rulers and Rulers: Worlds of the Electors of Saxony

Something tasteful today
Today's objective was to find August, my Elector. It started out promising enough with the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments in the Zwinger Complex. Then the plan was to head over to the Royal Palace to see where he lived. I wanted to see some of Leonhard Danner instruments in the armoury.

My good Elector who could plan an itinerary to the nearest hour would have been disappointed in our finding abilities. Still, as I said, we were struck by the extraordinary mathematical, measuring, surveying, geographical and astronomy instruments. It wasn't just the technological sophistication of these things, it was the decoration of what would ordinarily be quite utilitarian. Swirls and cut-out patterns adorned set squares and protractors.

Friday 21 March 2014

Dresden Thoughts

I'm currently looking up at the sky. Reclining in the welcome silence of the hotel's quiet room with a cup of fruit tea. It's a fabulous place to collect one's thoughts and anticipate the weekend to come. The art historical odyssey of tomorrow and Sunday was merely words on a page today; though at least we know where we're going.

This visit has a purpose. Last year in Paris I came across a very special object in the Musee de la Renaissance. The Elector of Saxony's wire drawing bench is a perfect MA dissertation topic and I started work on it straight away for my summer report. You can take a lot from books and journal articles, but to truly get under the skin of a patron and his works, you have to see his place. His home. His culture. So here I am, banging on the door of the Royal Palace.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Twenty Years as a Law Librarian - Technology

Not a computer pic
It’s not just the internet that has been around for ages. Turns out I have too. I have been mining my LA/CILIP Professional Development Report (1999) for insight into what has changed (or not) in the information profession. In this first piece I focus on technology, but I will be reviewing communication methods, taking a look at changing training requirements, and comparing the state of the profession - then and now.

It was 1998. I’d just come off the standalone Lexis terminal after finding a case for a lawyer. He’d been grateful for my speedy search technique not because he needed it quickly, but because spending longer than 10 seconds on there meant a hefty fee. I was pleased that I’d found an unreported case and it had made me think about doing my job without a networked computer.

I asked the experienced library manager I worked with, 'what was librarianship like when you first qualified?’ Her response was ‘cards, cards and more catalogue cards'. She had been in the profession since the late 1970s and the changes she’d seen fascinated me. I am now in the same position as she was. I have been in (law) librarianship full time since 1995, and chartered in 1999. It is now 2014 and the past twenty years have seen incredible developments.

The basics have not changed. We are still employed to find the right information, at the right time, and at the right price. Our libraries and the way our users access information have changed beyond technological recognition. We may have different job titles and work in areas which may not previously have come under ‘library and information’ but the areas I am looking at remain constant, even if the details change. Technology is all encompassing in our role so I have picked out a few naïve gems from my report.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Great War in Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery

Jules Gervais Courtellemont, 1916 
Cultural review shows entertain and repel me in equal measure. Sometimes the cynical, world weariness of these self satisfied know-it-all critics make me laugh. Few, however, provoke a such a negative reaction that I run along, at the nearest opportunity, to the thing being reviewed. The conversation between Rachel Cooke and the host on BBC4's Front Row (Peter Gabriel; Paco Peña; Helen Oyeyemi; Great War in art; Mark Thomas) was uninformed and utterly disgraceful. After a polite twitter exchange with Ms Cooke, I went down to one of the convenient late night openings.

Friday 7 March 2014

Speaking Space at the Collyer Bristow Gallery

Ruth Claxon 'Nest (Banana Bird)' (2009)
Finally, the moment for which we have all been waiting: Spring is here, everything is coming to life! The sun is casting its light on our seemingly endless murky London buildings. We can finally look up and rediscover and re-engage with what surrounds us - the dazzling commercial glass frontage, the delicate scroll work, the bright golden brickwork. But. Imagine what might happen if those architectural details had also re-emerged from the winter gloom, coming alive, taking sustenance from the sunshine. And spoke...

The latest exhibition downstairs takes this enchanting, if alarming idea, and the seven featured artists respond. The show's notes state that this 'is an exhibition that allows us to imagine buildings as sentient beings. It is human nature to constantly refer back to ourselves: children and adults can quickly begin to anthropomorphise buildings and their surroundings'. It was prompted by conversations with Matthew Houlding and a collection of spatial oddities were brought together.

Thursday 6 March 2014

The Language Of Sculpture: Bernini Canova Rodin

Finally we reach specific sculptors and a review of three in chronological order. Given that we end with Rilke writing a poem in response to Rodin, it seems appropriate to begin with a few poetic observations.

In my experience, occasionally you discover a piece of art which speaks directly to you, and only poetry gives you the freedom to put words into the 'mouth' of the sculpture. This connection between the two art forms for me goes to the heart of understanding both.


Bernini was all about bringing art forms together and breaking boundaries in what is known as bel composto. His church creations are a theatrical installations with a combination of the sculptural, pictorial and architectural. St Teresa is the perfect example. She is in mid transverberation and is sculptural, however the viewer has to step back to see the bel composto, the pictorial effect, essentially a scene from a tableau. Mirrors, lights, and candles all contribute to a theatrical event with viewer as spectator.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Vikings at the British Museum

This afternoon I was lucky enough to be a part of the advance rape and pillage expedition to the new Sainsbury wing of the British Museum. The Viking show which opens 6th March is the first major exhibition on these fascinating people at the British Museum for over 30 years. The press release says that 'it features many new archaeological discoveries and objects never seen before in the UK alongside important Viking Age artifacts from the British Museum’s own collection and elsewhere in Britain and Ireland'. They continue, 'new interpretations place warfare and warrior identity at the centre of what it meant to be a Viking; cultural contact was often violent, and the transportation of looted goods and slaves reflects the role of Vikings as both raiders and traders'.

Ghost Ship

A ghost ship of rivet dots
Pattern of metal unjointed
A warrior's ferocious footprint

Orderly curves follow the lines
Orderly place as flesh turns
To chaos rot and soil red

Metal rusted into orange
Metal blooded but still here
To carve a shape in time

The host ship carried its crew
Pattern of body disappears
A warrior's honorable departing

On the non existent burial boat of a warrior 
Viking Exhibition, British Museum, 2 March 2014