Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries Tagged as 'Maddie'

Telling Tales

August 30th, 2009 · No Comments

I love museums. I like to put my ipod on and wander around alone, allowing myself to really get the full experience of the art. It feels like I’m connecting to not only the piece of art itself, but to the artist and his or her experiences and emotions.

On Saturday, Amy and I took the tube to Charing Cross to visit The National Gallery. There we proceeded to immediately get lost in the extensive building, but we weren’t complaining. We wandered through room after room that held amazing works by Rembrant, Van Gogh, Monet, Leonardo da Vinci, Cezanne, and Turner, just to name a few of my favorites. I compared this museum to the Met in NYC: both are enormous, well cared for, and very popular. However, I noticed a key difference. This difference is simply that most museums here are free, with a just a suggested donation, unlike the Met which charges 10$ per visitor. I love that England honors the historical and cultural value of artwork by making it accessible to the general public. Not only could I observe famous works of art, but I could also examine the evolution of religious practices, social castes, daily life, and even fashion free of cost.

This is a pretty good segway into discussing the museum I visited today: the Victoria and Albert Museum, commonly referred to as the V & A. As a small group, we left from Euston Station to take the central line directly to South Kensington where the tube conveniently led us straight into the museum.

At first, I really didn’t know what to expect of this experience…I mean, I know very little about fashion and I simply wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to relate to the displays.

Yet, as is often the case, I was pleasantly surprised.

I walked into a room filled with some of the most beautiful sculptures I have ever seen. Though I had never heard of most of the sculptors, I was able to get really close to each of the statues and really examine the detail and expression in each.


With my head phones in and the world tuned out, I strolled around. There was a huge exhibit on the evolution of clothing, another on shoes & accessories, another on fashionable metal-ware (pots, religious idols, masks, etc).

It was really cool to see how our everyday lives have been affected by the trends of the past. We often hear that things are “out of style” or “not in fashion anymore” but have we really stopped to contemplate what that means? Fashion is constantly fluctuating and changing and all of us, (whether you consider yourself fashion forward or not), are players in this game. We ourselves are walking works of art, displaying the genius of designers as they mold trend after trend, mixing past and future to create something entirely new.  And that, at least to me, is fascinating. The thought that I am connected to the past through the evolution of fashion really intrigues me and I would never even have noticed this unless I’d visited the V& A museum!

Another exhibit that I thought was amazing, literally AMAZING, was located in the main lobby of the museum. It was called “Telling Tales; Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design” created by international designers Tord Boontje, Maarten Baas, Jurgen Bey and Studio Job who were all inspired by the classic fairy tales which they then translated into their construction offurniture. I know it sounds almost comical (like really, how can furniture be at all interesting) but I’d never seen anything like it. I posted a link a little further down that gives you a little tour.

Also in this exhibit was a frightening, but brilliant, room that entitled “Heaven and Hell”. I won’t give all of it away because I cannot adequately describe it, but the link below also can give you an idea of what to expect. However, I will say this, the lighting, color, back drops, music, and the positioning of the art are all major contributors to the overall effect of the art and are carefully constructed by the artists/museum staff. Basically, see it in person because you won’t regret it.


This exhibit only lasts until October 18th, and I suggest everyone see it while here. Truly, both the National Gallery and the V&A are exceptional and I really enjoyed having the opportunities to both observe and reflect on my experiences.

Tags: Maddie · Museums · Uncategorized

If you walk a mile in someone else's shoes…

August 24th, 2009 · 2 Comments

…it’ll take you to the most unexpected places. These past two days have been extremely informative and exciting; provocative and shocking; and most of all, eyeopening. This past Sunday, as we all gathered together to take a trip back in time to the founding of Londinium, I found myself thinking about the people who walked this same land thousands of years ago. We tend to think about the older civilizations as fairly one dimensional; as a group of warriors that fight to defend their land. In fact, most of the history classes that I have taken really emphasize the importance of ancient battles, using them as markers in the timeline of the civilization’s evolution. But really, this only leaves us gaps in our knowledge, just like the gaps in the timeline. I guess ultimately, I find myself feeling unfulfilled by this sort of approach to history. What about the people, what about their fears and hopes, what about their humanity? These questions have always run through my head throughout my various history classes, yet since I have been in London, I have been pleasently surprised thus far.

We have walked the streets, learning and interacting with the history that surrounds us. I have really enjoyed seeing where influencial people have lived, walking the street where the Great Fire started…essentially being able to visualize life, to compare it to my own, to recognize their hardships and their successes.

This was especially evident on Sunday when my group headed to the Docklands to visit the museum. We were all stunned into silence as we quietly wandered from room to room which powerfully exposed the ugly truth about slavery in England. We read letters and journal entries illustrating the pain of the enslaved, we saw paintings describing the horrors, we saw the chains that bound them and held them in captivity. Basically, we saw, heard, and touched the brutality of the slave trade in London’s early history and were able to witness that same prejudice manifest itself in today’s society. This very racism was clearly seen in the comments folder that was kept inside the museum. This folder held a variety of comments; some appreciated and loved the museum for its accurate portrayal of the events that have evolved into the current lingering prejudices that plague London, as well as comments that expressed downright contempt for the museum. One I clearly remember saying, “this place is a piece of crap and i ain’t coming back”. Though the grammatical errors make this person’s comment particularly ridiculous, it shocks and angers me to see that people like this still stubbornly refuse to grasp the reality that is present. Here I was finally being able to see some kind of progress as to how we approach learning history, and yet simultaneously here was some ignorant asshole willing to skip over the potentially difficult, but nevertheless REAL, facets of English history! After this experience, my group rallied together to discuss our reactions, all of us mirroring one another’s disgust. I have to say that the comments in that little binder really struck me and I have been thinking about them ever since we left…It’s funny how one person’s bad comment can really impact an experience. With the walking tour that took place today, however, I am feeling a lot better and and again excited that we took the past and made it our present.

Tags: Maddie · Museums · Uncategorized

Whitechapel (Mis)Adventures

August 22nd, 2009 · No Comments

We left the Arran House bright and early at 8am. Together, we boarded the tube and set off for East Aldgate in search of the Whitechapel Market. This proved to be much more of a hassle than we had imagined. As we left the station and entered the streets of Whitechapel, our first perception of the area was the large, pristine East London Mosque, featured below.


From that moment on, we observed many bilingual street signs (in Arabic and English) and small family owned businesses including flower shops, restauraunts, and news agents.


Though there were a plethora of shops, there was a distinct lack of people. We were perplexed by the quiet streets and closed stores and were still unable to locate the elusive Whitechapel Market. Thankfully, a mailman was able to calm our fears…by telling us that it did not exist. He instructed us to walk a few blocks to Commercial Street where we could visit Spitalfields, a predominantly Islamic market. This also proved to be a disaster: it was closed, as we later found out from Professor Qualls, due to the beginning of Ramadan. Below are a few pictures of the deserted market which we imagined, under different circumstances, would otherwise be a vibrant and exciting community.

This is the exterior of the Spitalfield Market!

This is the exterior of the Spitalfield Market!

Here is the interior of the deserted market.

Here is the interior of the deserted market.

After another panicked call to Professor Qualls, he then directed us to Leadenhall Market which we located on the outskirts of London Proper. Originally a market for fish and cheese mongers, it was established in 1321 as a meeting place for vendors. However in 1666, parts of the original building were destroyed by the Great Fire and then later rebuilt in both 1881 and refurbished in 1990.

Leadenhall Market Exterior

This is the entrance into the Leadenhall Markets.

Below is an image that captures the amazing architecture of the market place which is clearly incredibly ornate and a far cry from what we saw in Whitechapel. Not only were there high-end retail stores, but also high-rises and the buildings and streets were noticeably cleaner.

Here is an example of Leadenhall Market's interior!

Here is an example of Leadenhall Market's interior!

Despite the fact that the markets were closed, it was still a very enlightening experience, for we saw two different Londons. The first being a predominantly immigrant community that combined the traditional culture of their homelands with the western ideals of Britain. The second was a more commercialized section of the city and felt more like a mainstream city center. It lacked, however, the intimate nature of Whitechapel. All in all, this experience helped us realize the economic and cultural diversity of London!

Tags: Kelley · Kimberly · Maddie · Markets

Camden Town Adventures!

August 21st, 2009 · No Comments

So for our first independent day in London, Maddie and Andrew tubed  (that’s a word now) to the oh so amazing Camden Town. Before we left, our only perception of Camden was from New Jersey, which is a shithole. Needless to say, we were both more than pleasantly surprised. Three stops down from Goodge St. we disembarked the train and feasted our eyes on the eclectic streets of Camden Town. To quote a friend of Andrew’s, it is “The Venice Beach of London.” He wasn’t kidding. It is a counter-cultural Mecca abundant with youthful vibes and great music. The town seemed to be divided into sections by musical genre. We initially entered into a world of punk rock, black leather corsets, and tattoo parlors. We traveled through a world of hippies, metalheads, new agers, and everything in between. It was a maze of marketplaces, reminiscent of the Middle Eastern shouk where merchants peddle their wares, expecting haggling.

Neither of us think we saw a single person over forty. It is a major hangout for youth, especially those musically oriented. Amongst the record shops and live music cafes, we encountered a diverse mix of people, sounds, and smells ranging from France to Bangladesh to Thailand and back. People from all walks of life are not only welcome, but encouraged to spend time in Camden Town. The people we spoke to were very friendly and eager to discuss their unique perspective as either a resident or frequenter of the area. Both of us agreed that our time in Camden will be never forgotten. Our mutual love of music and interesting people will guarantee that. We highly recommend that EVERYONE IN THE WORLD visits Camden Town.

Visit Camden or this guy will pierce you in your sleep!

Visit Camden or this guy will pierce you in your sleep!

Tags: Andrew B · Maddie