Thursday, 22 March 2012

Let's Talk about Beds....

The daily lives of elite people living in country houses between 1650 and 1850 were governed by rigorous codes of social etiquette. What you did, what you wore and who you did it with and what you did it in were subject to scrutiny. The architectural landscape of domestic spaces within country houses was designed to facilitate the rituals of elite social practice. Furniture and objects in silver, porcelain and pottery were designed and used to facilitate these social rituals Beds and bedrooms where people were made, born and died have a particularly rich social history of their own.

The next exhibition at Temple Newsam tells the stories of beds and bedrooms in Britain between 1650 and 1850. However, one exhibition isn't enough to cover such a great subject. There are just too many stories to tell.
So, between June 21st and 22nd we are holding a conference which is explores, the social history, material culture, conservation and interpretation of beds and bedrooms. This has all been done in colloboration with The University of Leeds Museum Studies department. They have a pretty decent blog too.

To find out more and to book yourself a place email:

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Good night, sweet repose, lie on your back, and you won't squash your nose

This simple little ditty was one of many aspects of English culture that my lovely grandmother, from the East End of London, brought with her to Canada, where I grew up. Without fail she would say this to each of her grandchildren, when we were little, whenever we stayed, after a bedtime story.

In fact her advice about lying on your back was crucial in getting the user's view of the tester of the Queen Anne State Bed, which is why I have invited my grandmother here, at least in spirit.

The Princess, in the classic fairy story "The Princess and the Pea" would have seen something similar. Given the discomfort she felt from the pea, and lack of sleep as a result, she probably got fed up with the view! As part of the Bedtime Stories project and exhibition Temple Newsam's learning and access officer, Shelley Dring, has been very busy, diligently devising, delivering and commissioning literacy initiatives, such as the one pictured below.
Storyteller and actor, Chris Cade, is reading from "The Princess and the Pea" to a visiting school group, using the Crimson Bedroom, and the restored Queen Anne State Bed, for the backdrop. Chris is, simply, a wonderful storyteller. I listened in for a while, and from the exchanges between Chris and the children, it was clear that everyone was enjoying the experience. I freely admit that not only did I enjoy it too, I was almost on the point of tears of joy, remembering the time when my children were little, and remembering how much I enjoyed reading to and with them. The joy and satisfaction becomes complete when they have managed to turn the key of literacy, and a vast vista of books becomes accessible to them. It gets even better when they in turn become teachers to their siblings.

The Chris Cade literacy workshop, and activities like it, may not be the beating heart or brains of service delivery, but I think it is a glimpse into its soul.

Posted by Ian Fraser