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

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19th Century Photography – The Samoan War 1899

U.S. Marines with naval gun, Upolu, Samoa, 1899, published by Kerry and Co

Tradition in Samoa dictated that leadership of the islands was to be invested in a hereditary chief, but in the 1880s these claims to power were anything but certain. Robert Louis Stevenson, who lived in Samoa during this period of turmoil, commented that Europeans, used to a history of kings and queens, tended to leap to the conclusion that the office of high chief is absolute. In fact the office in Samoa was elective and held in many ways on condition of the holder’s behaviour and attendance to his many obligations. This confusion was to have ongoing ramifications in the late nineteenth century as European powers asserted their claims to land and political power across the three major islands of Samoa. 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