Chronometers – timekeeping, longitude & latitude

John Harrison’s Marine Chronometers , http://vimeo.com/67741035

The invention of a marine clock (chronometer) which could be used to accurately measure longitude was arguably the most significant development in maritime navigation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Before their invention ships had great difficulty finding their way from one port to another. Fog, bad weather, and inaccurate charts made navigation, when no land was in sight, both dangerous and time consuming.

Latitude and longitude can be thought of in the same way as the index of a city street map with the latitude being north/south and the longitude being east/west co-ordinates. Once both are known a position can be accurately pinpointed.

While latitude could be found by observing the position of stars longitude proved far more difficult to find. In fact an accurate means of finding an east/west position baffled navigators until 1759 when the clocks made by the Englishman John Harrison were finally acknowledged as being accurate enough to keep time at sea. Continue reading

Australian Photogrpahy – Freeman Brothers Sydney

Unidentified man, from collodion negative, Freeman Brothers Studio, 1871-1880, Powerhouse Museum, H8504-22

Over the last couple of months I have been working on a previously uncatalogued collection of large format, 50.8 cm x 44.5 cm, glass plate negatives donated to thePowerhouse Museum in 1969. The 28 collodion portraits were found in a chest in our stores at Castle Hill and have been identified as all being originally taken by the Freeman Borthers Studio here in Sydney. We are currently conserving and cataloguing the photographs but hope to be posting them onto flickr commons by the end of the year for researchers to use.

The Freeman Brother Studio lays claim to being the longest running studio in Australia. It was established as the ‘Freeman Brothers and Wheeler’ by William Freeman and his brother James in George Street in 1854; it was still running nearly 150 years later. James was the more experienced of the two having worked in Richard Beard’s gallery in Bath before coming to Australia and was certainly instrumental in the success with which they plied their trade in Sydney.[1] Continue reading

Is the Museum Exhibition Model Broken?

Ole Worm’s cabinet of curiosities, from ”Museum Wormianum”, 1655. Original source Smithsonian Museum

Over the last fortnight I’ve been in the midst of a lot of discussion about exhibition development for museums. Primarily the question has been approached from … what are our exhibitions going to be about and how do we get them on the floor?

Both valid and necessary questions when it comes to upgrading the museum’s exhibition space and it’s certainly seen as core function of most museums – if not the primary function. Indeed for many the exhibition provides the main mechanism by which museum professionals believe they broker their mandate with the community at large.

But in the middle of a conversation about how an exhibition’s design and content was to be fed into the ‘Ford-like’ production line to create the labels, design it, and then fabricate and advertise it I had this thought …

PERHAPS THE EXHIBITION MODEL FOR MUSEUM’S ACTUALLY MINIMISED AUDIENCE INTERACTION WITH MUSEUM COLLECTIONS & THE PROBLEM WASN’T THE THEME OR THE DESIGN OF THE EXHIBITION – IS IT POSSIBLE THE ENTIRE MODEL IS OUTDATED? 

Continue reading