It’s only three days to launch for a new programme of Planetarium shows! From Monday 17 September you can explore the mysteries of the universe and the wonders of the night sky with our mind blowing shows without leaving the comfort and safety of your seat. Our shows explain the latest scientific discoveries for young and old alike and feature current scientific research that helps us learn more about planet Earth and our universe.
For only £3 for Adults and £2 for children (aged 3+) and concessions, far less than a ticket on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceflights, let us take you into space and widen your horizons.
Better still National Museums Liverpool members can now see Planetarium shows for free, just collect a ticket from the ground floor information desk on the day before you jet up to the fifth floor Space and Time gallery. Read more…
The Secret Life of Smithdown Road display uncovered and shared the stories of this fascinating community, past and present. Much of the content of the display was sourced from local residents, shop keepers and members of our Facebook group. The Museum also interviewed and recorded a range of people and made a special film about life on the Road. Read more…
Here at the Walker, we’ve been working on something exciting with the Wirral-based artist, Leo Fitzmaurice…
Leo will create an assembly of portraits at the Gallery as part of a new exhibition, which asks us to look twice at what might, at first, seem familiar. Leo Fitzmaurice: Between You and Me and Everything Else (29 September 2018 to 17 March 2019) will include artworks from the Arts Council Collection and National Museums Liverpool’s own collection.
More than 30 portraits by artists including Frank Auerbach, David Bomberg, Milena Dragicevic, Ken Kiff, Marie-Louise von Motesiczky and Philip Sutton will feature in the exhibition, which takes place in Room 9 at the Gallery. Read more…
September is Scalarama film festival month and National Museums Liverpool is happy to be taking part with a programme of free film screenings across our venues on the waterfront! Here, one of the International Slavery Museum’s Young Ambassadors, Laila Waraich, talks about her experience of working with Scalarama film festival this summer and being a young film programmer:
As one of the International Slavery Museum’s Young Ambassadors, I helped to organise a public screening at the Museum of Jordan Peele’s acclaimed film Get Out in June. The story follows a young Black man in America who goes on a trip to the country to meet his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time. The visit takes a sinister turn when he learns the family has a history of luring Black people to their home for a horrifying purpose. The aim of our screening was to show a film featuring positive or non-stereotypical representation of people of colour and to challenge the frequently negative depictions we all see daily from Hollywood and the wider media. But we also wanted to organise a fun opportunity to see a scary, funny, contemporary film.
The first stage in our planning was a workshop led by Monika Rodriguez and a team from Scalarama Liverpool. During the session, we discussed what our ideal cinema would be like. Although most of our ideas weren’t quite achievable; ranging from a screening on a white sandy beach to watching the film in our pyjamas in bed, it helped me to understand how the environment you watch the film in matters to how much you enjoy it. We all realised there were lots of things we didn’t like about conventional cinemas, from sticky floors to ear-ringingly loud audio, and we decided to cut them from our event. The thing I liked best about designing our own screening was the freedom to create a cinema experience we thought our target audience would enjoy most, and would have the largest chance of passing across our message. However it is also a big responsibility to host a public event that is both enjoyable and impactful. Monika explained to us the importance of an introduction to an audience and how to lead the Q&A session we had planned. It was important for us to have done our research on the film in order to steer the discussion and get our audience talking. Monika reminded us that our cinema-goers would be just as nervous to speak to the room as we were!
Another important decision we made with our audience in mind was the choice of film. We researched lots of options that we felt were both entertaining films but also featured BAME characters in leading roles. It was important that the films contained positive representation and didn’t fall into the common and dangerous trap of lazily stereotyped people of colour that we came across a lot, even in recent Hollywood pictures. Among the options discussed were Belle; Moonlight, 2017’s Best Picture winner; and Loving, about an interracial couple’s famous battle against the law. When looking for films, we were conscious of the need for it to be an entertaining, engaging film that would appeal to the general public, as well as ‘important.’ I found this aspect of film programming very interesting; the programmer has to balance what is likely to be popular with the audience as well as personal preference. This means it is not always the best idea to pick your favourite film or an obscure, vintage, foreign language documentary when planning a screening. Eventually after several rounds of tense group votes, it was either Black Panther, the popular Marvel superhero blockbuster with a mainly black cast, or Get Out. Choosing the winning film was even closer and more difficult, but eventually we decided Get Out featured both clever social comment and exciting action, making it perfect for us.
In the run up to the event we began a Marketing campaign, another aspect of film programming that Monika stressed the importance of for a successful event. Other members of the team did extra research, wrote a promotional blog post for the International Slavery Museum’s website, while I took part in writing web copy to further promote the film. I really enjoyed this because I gained experience of how to market public events from the inside, under the guidance of Education team at the International Slavery Museum. As a group, we also developed ideas for a poster for our event, which we passed on to Toucan Tango, a Liverpool print company, who turned the design ideas into a beautiful poster. It was fun to see our ideas brought to life and made into artwork that was specific to our project, with the detail featuring symbolism of enslavement taken from objects in the Museum’s collection.
On the 16 June, we hosted the screening at the Dr Martin Luther King Jr building at the Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool. After I delivered a short introduction welcoming visitors and providing some background information about the film, the lights went down. The Scalarama workshop was very useful when I was choosing what to say in my introduction, as it helped me to understand how different information the audience does or does not have before watching a film changes their experience of it.
After the film, the whole Young Ambassadors group, as well as Dr Richard Benjamin, the Head of the Museum, sat on a panel for a Q&A style discussion with the audience. At first the discussion centred around our opinions of the characters and talking points about the film, such as an alternative ending, before we moved on to issues of race relations in the UK compared to America, where the film is set. The fact that watching the film created the kind of conversation about race that it aims to do, at our screening, was really positive and exciting. It also helped to convince me that our Marketing of the event was successful, as we ended up with a room of like-minded people having an interesting conversation. As well as the film, there was also a handling table of objects from the Museum’s collection relating to the legacies of enslavement covered in the film and historical representation of people of colour, with Ambassadors on hand to explain the significance of items to the visitors. Finally, we handed out screen-printed copies of the limited edition poster to all the guests as a reminder of the occasion.
Overall, I hope everyone enjoyed the film at our screening as much as we did, even after having seen it before. Hosting a screening is a rewarding experience because you get the opportunity to share something you care about with members of the public. It also taught me how valuable it is to discuss a film with others, as everyone has different opinions and sees the same story from different angles, creating interesting questions that stayed with me well after the screening finished. Becoming a cinema is fun, exciting and not as hard as you would think. Most importantly, people will definitely turn up! If you do have an idea, you can take part in Scarlarama’s September festival.
National Museums Liverpool is taking part in Scalarama film festival this September with a programme of films across our waterfront venues, beginning with a screening of Hidden Figures at the International Slavery Museum, and its Young Ambassadors, on Saturday 1 September.
From the earliest ocean going craft to today’s enormous container ships, navigation has been key to the history of seafaring. The ability to plot your position on a chart relative to where you were going has long been an essential part of safe passage. The science of navigation has improved seafaring, has saved lives, and has helped human beings to map the world with ever greater accuracy. The object pictured here is a Double Reflecting Octant, in its day the most accurate way to plot a ship’s latitude ever invented. This particular Octant dates from around the end of the 18th century and was made right here in Liverpool by Ann Smith, who ran a navigation shop in Pool Lane. Read more…
As a volunteer at the Walker Art Gallery, I have been helping Exhibition Curator, Alex Patterson, to digitise works related to the Whistler and Pennell: Etching the City exhibition, currently on display at the Lady Lever Art Gallery. This exhibition explores the role that James McNeill Whistler and Joseph Pennell played in the Etching Revival (1830-1940) in Britain. It also shows how their contemporaries, such as Sir Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), Charles Méryon (1821-1868), and William Strang (1859-1921), were influenced by their art.
One of the etchings that really caught my interest was Breaking Up of the Agamemnon by Sir Francis Seymour Haden, which was one of three works by him included in the exhibition. It shows a large hulk of a vessel being demolished. The vessel is HMS Agamemnon, the Royal Navy battleship moored at the Naval Arsenal at Deptford on the River Thames, seen against the setting sun. Launched in 1852, the 230-feet long Agamemnon was one of the most intimidating of all wooden warships and the first British steam-powered flagship. The Agamemnon saw action in many battles, including the Crimean War, and was the predecessor of iron-hulled ships, which were introduced in the 1860s.
Breaking Up of the Agamemnon reminded me of another etching, Breaking Up of the Great Eastern, No 2 (1890) by Sir Frank Short (1857-1945), also in the Walker Art Gallery collection. I came across the etching when I was researching scenes of Liverpool Docks. Both ships had illustrious histories, and I felt that the images of their breaking up expressed a deep sense of loss and sorrow.
Haden’s etching of the Agamemnon was a spontaneous response to what he saw on the Thames one day in July 1870, but it became the most important subject of his career, which he continued to work on over the next 16 years.
Early in 1870 the art scholar, artist and etcher Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-1894) asked Haden to etch a plate to be published in the first edition of his new art journal, The Portfolio (1870-1893). The journal, named after a folder in which collectors often kept valuable prints, championed etching as original art, rather than a reproductive medium. This concept played an instrumental role in the British etching revival during the second half of the 19th century. Haden, like the French Impressionists, always tried to work directly from life, and for this purpose, he always carried prepared copper plates wherever he went. He drew directly onto the plate to capture the movement of the light and its reflections in the sky, clouds, and water. The demolition of the Agamemnon may not have been a traditional subject for a study of ambiance, but Haden must have been entranced by its grandeur and spectacle.
In a letter to Hamerton, dated July 3, 1870, Haden wrote of the Agamemnon etching: “. . . I had thought of making the sun set behind the old hulk and the distant cupolas of Greenwich and of using the sinking luminary as typical of the departing glories of both . . . .” This shows that Haden indeed drew the initial sketch for Breaking Up of the Agamemnon, No 1 directly onto the copper plate. The sun is setting between the ship and Greenwich, conveying a poignant majestic reference to the glorious history of the Agamemnon. The rays of the setting sun rippling through the clouds are echoed on the stirring water in the foreground. Named after Agamemnon, the King of Mycenae who led the united Greek army to the Trojan War, the ship proudly displays the figurehead wearing a Roman centurion’s plumed helmet pointing towards the sun. The Agamemnon almost appears as if ready to set sail once again into the distant horizon. Although she is now tethered to a much smaller barge, with her ribs exposed and only one of three masts standing, the Agamemnon still looks magnificent. The image highlights the ship’s immense scale and power, but it also conveys a sense an ending.
Breaking Up of the Agamemnon was a very complex project for Haden. He said he had “never undertook a more perplexing job.” The initial spontaneity of etching was followed by many attempts at adding and deleting small details throughout the composition, resulting in 11 states (versions of the print) being made in total. However, the main image of the ship against a shimmering evening sun remained largely unchanged.
Breaking Up of the Agamemnon, No 1 was an artistic and commercial success. The plate was unfortunately too large to be printed in The Portfolio and instead was later published by Frederick Goulding, and sold through Colnaghi’s, bringing Haden a huge financial reward. The plate was so popular that he produced a second version of the subject Breaking Up of the Agamemnon, No 2 (1886) in mezzotint.
As for the etching Haden promised to Hamerton for the first edition of The Portfolio Hamerton instead selected another of Haden’s prints, entitled A Brig at Anchor (1870), which is also in the Walker Art Gallery collection. He etched it from nature by moonlight on the Thames.
To discover more about the art of etching and to enjoy Haden’s intricate works at first hand don’t miss Whistler and Pennell: Etching the City at the Lady Lever Art Gallery until 7 October and the fascinating video made by Liverpool John Moores University School of Art and Design explaining the process of etching.