Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

All We are Saying is Give Peace a Chance…

August 24th, 2009 · 2 Comments

It has taken quite a while for me to choose a topic for this blog entry. In no way have I not enjoyed every second of this trip, it is just that I do not want to pick something specific. I just want to write about everything! I really loved the Docklands museum, I thought the interior design of each room, and the way each time period was organized truly helped in understanding. Each room produced an equal amount of fact and fun, both of which made the museum so memorable.

Regardless of my inability to make up my mind, today I became extremely interested with the the numerous parks or squares located throughout Bloomsburry. In particular I developed quite a fascination with the Peace Park. After 9/11 Americas devastation radiated through out the country. We frequently remember how tragic this event was and we continue to annually commemorate its date. However, many of us have forgotten, or rather never understood, the 7/7 events that took place in the heart of London. On July 7, 2005 a series of Muslim men took their own lives on public transportation units in response to the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war. Almost 60 people were killed, and about 700 were injured.

I decided to research this incident simply because of my own ignorance. When we entered the Peace Park today, I was overcome with its beauty. The park is rectangular shaped and in the center, surrounded by flowers, is a statue of  Mohanda Karamchand Ghandi. I am unable to think of a better person to represent what this park stands for. In a way, the beauty itself symbolizes our world, and the statue is what our world needs, together they create serenity.

Nothing could have made my day any better. I felt as though the walking tour aided in helping me fully understand the path we take every day, and to appreciate those that have walked them before us.

DSC00158 DSC00156

Tags: Patsy

Rendered Speechless

August 24th, 2009 · No Comments


Today I was apart of the group that went to the Dockland Museum and finally got to experience what everyone had been raving about yesterday. Like Azul, I had taken the Museum Studies class last semester and put together an exhibit on co-education this summer, so I can no longer look at museums or exhibits without using a critical eye. Hands down, the London, Sugar, & Slavery exhibit was the best I have ever seen. The task and challenge of the curator to take on a subject that is not particularly easy or pleasant was a feat in itself. And the exhibit was absolutely spectacular.

After reading the lists of ships and passengers at the exhibit’s entrance, I was moved by this satirical painting that followed those disturbing lists. The painting was called May Morning by John Collett, 1765, and showed a crowd of people of different ranks and statuses, all white except for one African man in the center of the painting. At first when I looked at the painting, I though it was interesting that, for the 1700s, the African man was the focal point of the picture and was not standing out in any obnoxious way but just blending in. Then I read the description of the painting and found out that it was meant to be a satire. I also noticed that all of the other people had lighter clothes on and were highlighted, while the African man was in the back and dimmed. I found it interesting that this painting could have been viewed in two completely different lights depending on the knowledge known about it beforehand.

P8242340 (sorry it’s blurry, couldn’t use flash).

About halfway through the exhbit I came upon the sight of beautiful china, teacups and saucers and pots. Any other time I would have been delighted at the sight, because I love old teacups and such. But after going through the horrors of the exhibit and seeing the suffering the enslaved Africans had to go through, the sight of these cups full out disgusted me. I knew that people who had no idea of the pain of these people who worked to give them sugar for their tea. I was talking to Audrey, who was viewing the artifacts next to me and she had the same reaction. It is strange how an object that I usually think of as beautiful could be so cruel and disgusting to me.


One of the best points of the exhibit that actually happened in the beginning and resounded in my head while I browsed the exhibit was the words, “This is your history” from the video. I thought it was quite bold, but much needed, of the museum to place those lines simply, but powerfully, at the end of this very moving video. To me, it was like a cold slap in the face, and I believe it was for many other people to, to make them realize that yes this is our history and we have to come to terms with it. Once we accept, learn about it, we can finally move past it, instead of trying to brush this brutal history aside.

This exhibit completely moved me almost to tears. I learned so much from it and was glad to read that a majority of the comment cards were positive about it as well. I hope someday in the near, near future we can all move past pretending the bad parts of our history don’t exist.

Tags: Alli · Museums

Dockland Museum Reactions

August 24th, 2009 · 1 Comment

I would be lying if I said that I was unaffected by the slavery exhibit at the Dockland Museum. I would also be lying if I said that I expected such a reaction. I realize that the types of heinous treatments and horrific events (as depicted in this museum) are all in the past, but imagining how the enslaved Africans must have felt bothered me immensely. In particular, I saw a painting of six Africans enduring six types of torturous punishments (filed teeth and an iron neck brace, for example), each with a gruesome smile. I was disturbed by their expressions and the way that the artist depicted these people. The image, to me, is utterly haunting.

A group of students and I also watched a short video with images and phrases meant to help the viewer better empathize with how the enslaved Africans must have felt. Describing being away from one’s family, having one’s name changed, and being forced to learn a new language and set of customs were included in this portrayal. I could not help but think of Nanzeen, the main character in Brick Lane. Although her situation was entirely different, many of the ways she felt in the novel were the same. Learning to adapt to an English lifestyle after loving her childhood in Bangladesh seemed to have taken an exceedingly negative toll on Nanzeen’s psyche. I was appalled by that; how much worse, then, would I feel if I fully understood the impact that slavery had on the Africans? I was also a bit put-off by a poster showing a picture of Oleaudah Equiano (or Gustavo Vassa), who wrote The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Oleaudah Equiano. He describes his experience in becoming a freed man and moving to London to make a name for himself as both a hairdresser and musician. In the museum’s representation, he is shown as a hero who worked hard to fight against the slave trade. In reality, though, Equiano recounts instances of him actually working as a part of the slave trade. For a period of time, in fact, he was an overseer on a plantation and reports mistreating other slaves. During these events he had already been freed, and thus could have chosen not to act in such a manner. I feel that, although he may have done good things for the African enslaved community, he also stooped to the level of those who formerly oppressed him. I do not think that this should have been overlooked.

Finally, I was moved by a quote from The Negro’s Complaint, written by William Cowper, stating: “Men from England bought and sold me,/Paid my price in palry gold:/But, though theirs they have enroll’d me/Minds are never to be sold.” I can’t pinpoint exactly why I liked the quote, but I did want to share it regardless.

Tags: Amy

"Oh, Virginia, Are You Home?"

August 24th, 2009 · 2 Comments

V Woolf

Yesterday, among the jam-packed day of activities (Passing the Tower of London and following the Roman wall, seeing the Museum of London, and visiting St. Paul’s), I went on a Qualls-guided-tour of the Bloomsbury district. For those of you who don’t know what the Bloomsbury Group is, they were about the hippest, coolest, people in the 20th century. They were artists and writers who threw elaborate cool parties and talked about politics and sometimes even swapped partners (homosexuality was still illegal in England at this time)!

Bloomsbury Plaque

Bloomsbury Plaque

How do I know all this, you ask? Well it’s because I know everything! Actually, I spent my second semester of last year pretty much completely immersed in a course called, Forester’s England, taught by Professor Wendy Moffat. While writer E. M. Forster himself was not a member of the Bloomsbury group, it was through this class that I learned so much about the group, its members, and their importance to the time period and England’s history. With all this in mind, it was probably one of the most exciting things I will do during this London course, to stand where these great, free spirited, free thinking people stood. Knowing all that was on the lone, these artists and writers strove to change the society before them. Being able to see where that was happening was truly amazing.

Virginia Woolf Bust

Virginia Woolf Bust

After our class discussion this morning about English people’s connection to their country’s history, and their “English Pride,” it is even more exciting to think about the Bloomsbury group and just how revolutionary their ideas and way of life were. Even the idea of political change is not something most everyday English people think of, let alone act on! As an artist myself, I know the power of the creative arts as motivation for political change and activism.

Standing where Virginia Woolf once stood, where John Maynard Keynes once discussed his economic theories, where Vanessa Bell once must have visited her sister and painted, I only hope that someday my creative efforts can achieve as much as theirs did.

Below is a slide show of photos from my full day, including the Bloomsbury tour, St. Paul’s, and the Museum of London.

Tags: Megan

A lesson learned?

August 24th, 2009 · 3 Comments

Following another group’s visit to the Docklands, I had the advantage of advice. Based on their stories of their experiences, I knew to pay close attention to the part of the museum that focused on London’s role in the history of slave trade. The advice proved true as that was possibly the most interesting parts of the museum. Interesting only begins to describe the section, however. Nothing could have prepared me for the emotions the exhibit hit on. Opening with a list of numbers of people that were traded as commodities, the exhibit never ceased to be emotionally gripping as it portrayed the cruelty that came out of such trade. The photographs, video clips, personal accounts- everything on display made the reality of this blemish on all our histories keenly felt. The exhibit ended, for me at least, with a feeling of hope. Hope that we have learned that people are to be treated as just that- people. Hope that such mistakes will never be repeated.

Empire Windrush

Empire Windrush

Just a floor below this part of the exhibit, this hope was shaken quite a bit. Mixed in with videos of pretend interviews with the leaders of the dock strikes and boxes of exotic spices to smell, a small posting stands unassuming amongst the rest of the other relatively unimportant/of moderate importance posts. This posting mentions Windrush. As I have just visited Brixton, I knew the name to be an important one. Windrush had been a ship used just after World War II to bring Caribbean migrants over to England (advertised as “the home land” or “the Mother Country”) for the purpose of those migrants to work on the docks. To the world, this transportation of immigrants was advertised as a ‘multiculturalization’ (my word, but I think it works here) of England.

Arrivals off the Windrush

Arrivals off the Windrush

Let me start of by saying that yes, I recognize that this is in no way slavery. These immigrants were asked to come to London through job postings, they made the decision to come over, and were offered jobs, houses, and lives of their own once they arrived. But I cannot shake the feeling that there are striking parallels (or at least common threads) between these two acts. Firstly, referring to England as the Mother Country only harkens back to their days of imperialism. It would be difficult to convince me otherwise. Secondly, asking those from a country that has at any time been a colony to come to your country for the sole purpose of providing cheap labor and enticing them to come with the promise of cheap transportation seems to me like asking them to come and assume the role of someone just one step over what a slave might have been. Then to claim that this is the beginning of a multicultural society is an act that just seems ludicrous to me. Yes, these immigrants settled in community of Brixton which does bring diversity to London but to claim that this was the intent of the invitation to come to the country seems (again, this is a personal feelings) less than honorable. So while Windrush Square is in the process of being built as a community center in Brixton, I wonder if the community should feel such a strong connection to the name. Maybe using the word “should” is a bit vague. But I wonder why the name is used. Is it really honoring the community or placing a reminder of one’s place in society? Maybe I’m reading too much into things. But I’m not convinced that that’s the case. I would argue that if Brixton wanted a community center, it could be named the Brixton Community Center and no one would demand that the name have any more historical value. Again, maybe I’m wrong. I guess the hope is that I am.

Tags: Audrey · Museums

Romans, Writers, and Wharfs… oh my!

August 24th, 2009 · 2 Comments

When I first left Tower Hill Tube station and looked out over the road to the Tower of London, my first thought was “I really wish those cars weren’t driving on the road so I could get a clear picture.”  Then I managed to get over my disappointment, reminding myself that I will be going there eventually and will be able to take pictures in abundance, I looked around and noticed the section of Roman Wall standing less than 100 feet to my left.  I admit, knowing the importance of the Romans and the impact their wall had on the development of today’s London, I feel kind of silly for letting my eyes slide over it to the prettier and more picturesque Tower.  That written, I think that my mistake of dismissing the wall as nothing but an unimportant ruin happens to countless tourists and even the people of London every day! 

The Roman Wall section that my eyes skimmed over in favour of the Tower of London

Roman Wall my eyes skimmed in favor of the Tower of London

What I found most interesting about the Roman Walk was the idea that London is a modern city built on top of several stages of ancient city.  The fact that the basement of a hair salon can house Roman ruins is difficult to fathom.  However, the knowledge that people in the medieval ages recognized the brilliance of Roman engineering and decided to fortify and expand the existing wall is even more incredible. 

Medieval section built on top of Roman Wall - complete with pidgeons!

Medieval section built on top of Roman Wall - complete with pigeons!

  When I started my second of two walks of yesterday, I didn’t know very much about the area or the people who have lived there.  Although it was really neat to see where this writer and that philosopher worked and played, I was much more interested in the buildings and how they related to the history of London.  There was one section of the tour that particularly captured my attention.  When standing in the centre of one of the green spaces, you could look to one side and see original row houses, with the dark brown brick and white window frames, and to the other side you could only see bright red brick houses that seemed to have been completed in the last five to ten years.  The original houses that still stand were only cosmetically damaged during the Blitz; while the red brick homes had been completely annihilated.  What shocked me was that only a small span of grass and trees separated the barely injured and the completely destroyed.   

Original rowhousees that were barely damaged in the Blitz

Original rowhouses that were barely damaged in the Blitz

New red brick rowhouses where old ones were destroyed in the Blitz

New red brick rowhouses where old ones were destroyed in the Blitz

 Today at the Docklands Museum, the City and River: 1800-1840 exhibit really stood out.  I’m not a huge fan of taxes and duties, but there was a section on customs and why the docks had to be formed that made a lot of sense to me.  It explained that there was so much illegal shipping into London through unauthorized channels that something had to be done by the government to try to control it/use it to their advantage to get more money through taxes.  What I found particularly interesting was that the proprietors of the different docks were paranoid of each other to a fault.  They didn’t trust the police to look after their docks and warehouses, so they hired personal security forces to keep out anyone they didn’t want around.  After seeing the different wharfs and how close they were to each other when I went up to Greenwich the other day, I completely understand the paranoia of the businessmen.

Even though I’ve been in London for only four days, I feel like I’m slowly beginning to understand that there is much more the London than I could have possibly imagined.  I’m learning that I need to keep my eyes open because you never know when you’ll turn a corner and find the next nugget of history, culture, art, or architecture.

Tags: Kelley

Looking at People's Feet(and other things no one wants to read about)

August 24th, 2009 · 5 Comments

I shall get to the stuff we’re supposed to get to shortly, I promise. But first:  The first group discussion was today. Both it, and the blog, seem to be the most efficient and fluid means of dealing with a scenario like this; however, that doesn’t mean they aren’t without bumps. Rather than being a free-flowing exchange of ideas, it turned out to be as muddled as the Thames.  Professor Qualls noted early on that those who were not used to speaking up should learn to do so, which i completely agree with, but at the same time this type of open forum(especially with such a large group) is not always condusive to the parry-repulse that I think we may have been striving for. 

Now for something completely different…I went to the Docklands Museum today. As I had come in the second group, I had already been given to preemptive notions of what the museum would hold. I do have to say the section of the museum about the enslavement was interesting, especially the video that played over the exhibit’s walls. The effect as a whole was unsettling, intrusive and disconcerting. But what shocked me was how much those feelings continued to come up in the museum. I have always felt the British a subtle and quiet folk, and yet the museum had many abrassive points where they were quite the opposite.  The transitioning in the museum was really cool and the models and simulated areas were incredibly well done. Sadly my camera died a few minutes before we were to leave, so I wasn’t able to document much visually.  At the very beginning to the museum they brought something up, which seemed almost too simple to be actually said. London was a fort, and the Romans the foreigners.  A people often attempt to harken back to their roots, their origins. But with the British, they really have two: they have either focus on the Romans, who were an opressive force, or the celtic tribes in the area, who were being opressed. This ambiguity seems to be at the heart of the Brits’ inner conflict.  They strive to be civilized, but the civilized people are actually the ones who are doing to the most uncivilized things. I am temped to say that the understated nature of the British stem from this historical insecurity. It could also be why so many people in Britain have trouble with foreigners.  The problem with this statement is that the British also maintain an immense pride for their country. My rebuttle for that is they incredibly outspoken about it. The poems today all seems painful and smugging of London, yet they maintain a sense of ownership of it. I’m trying to remember what Mrs. Fox said exactly, but the British are allowed to be prideful but not proud.

I have been thinking a lot about what differences lie between the English and the Americans. I would not be so bold as to think I am analyzing anywhere beyond the superficial, but the article about time got me to think about how the people of London move. There are most certainly cultural and class distinctions of leg movement– but not of foot movement.(Noted) In all likelyhood I am just not being observant; however, it seems like all Londoner’s foot placement and tempo is the same, relatively speaking.  I thought at first that it was just a human thing, but I found that our group had very little similarity in the way we placed our feet. Now that I’ve said that I’m sure to get a bombardment of corrections, so I’ll cop out by saying that I haven’t done enough research to make a judgement or analysis.

anyway, cheers

Tags: Andrew R

Down the British Rabbit Hole

August 24th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Up until the day we left the US, we could go to our 24 hour grocery markets, convenience stores, and cafes. It never crossed our minds that this would change. We thought that the 24 hour 7 days a week mentality was an attribute of the modern world, not one that would be characteristic of the United States. So yesterday it was startling to find all the stores and restaurants, excluding pubs and Starbucks, closing by 6 pm. Six o’clock on a Sunday evening back home typically would translate to dinner with the family and all preparations for the coming week. This would include trips to the grocery store, gas stations and other last minute errands. Here, though, it seems that Sunday is still more so a day of rest, especially in the sense of shops and restaurants having shorter hours. Back home Sunday is the day of catch-up, which requires shops and restaurants to remain open.


At six o’clock after our walking tour of Bloomsbury, we attempted to go to Tesco’s to purchase some pasta and bread to cook our own dinner. Unfortunately, they were closed and upon further investigation we found the only places to still be open were the pubs and Starbucks. Over our dinner at the Marlborough Arms, we discussed how a chain store like Tesco’s back home would have longer hours on a Sunday. It made us realize that the perception of time is something that is different here. Perception of time is something we have been thinking a lot about since we visited the observatory and Prime Meridian at Greenwich and had to start considering time differences in talking to our families.

Something that wasn’t a consideration other than making sure we got to our classes and appointments on time has become a huge part of our daily lives and now we’re dictated by time and how it is perceived by the British.

On a side note, cookies for whoever understands the reference.

Tags: Kimberly · Mara · Uncategorized

Greenwich Post (a few days late)

August 24th, 2009 · No Comments

Having traveled to Embankment Station, and having ridden on a Thames cruise that left us quoting Titanic as it powered backwards away from a dock, we arrived in the London suburb of Greenwich.  After powering up both a painfully steep gang plank and an equally inclined hill we came upon the famous Greenwich observatory and the international dateline.  The obligatory photograph followed, and we were turned loose on the museums.  The exhibits featured not only the history of the Greenwich observatory, but stretched a few years further back to the beginning of time itself.  If one chose to enter the space museum, one could choose from a variety of interactive exhibits explaining how our universe is created, and of course giving the usual “apocalypse in five million years” speech.  One thing that interested me was the idea that watches weren’t invented until about two hundred years ago, and though hour glasses have been available for much longer, the idea of knowing the exact time was not something that was really needed.  A person simply woke with the sun and talked about things like distances in terms of days, not hours.  The humans of the past were much more in tuned with nature than we are today.  They let the requirements or even the inconveniences of the world control them, rather than trying to control it.  It’s a bit hard for someone like me to imagine a world without an idea of organized time.  My brain can’t really wrap itself around the concept.  However, it was an interesting trip nonetheless, continuing on with a jaunt through the “snogging park” and ending at Greenwich market, which made me wish that I had a limitless bank account.


 The rest of the day was spent in a trip to Camden, but being the foreigners that we are, we didn’t realize that markets here tend to close at a reasonable hour, so the whole town was shut up when we arrived.  We still had an entertaining walk through Camden however.  Our first attempt at dinner failed when the kitchen was closed, and the place we ended up eating left us feeling like we had entered the Temple of Doom, complete with giant carvings and statues, and even a matching soundtrack.  After we made out escape (feeling rather shaken) we returned to our hotel, having had a most informative, and interesting day.

Tags: Campbell

Useful London Links

August 24th, 2009 · No Comments

I’ve been looking around the internet for interesting places to see and things to do in and around London. This post is a compilation of such links.

London’s 10 best pubs

A forum (meaning real people, not webmasters) describing the “coolest places to hang out in London”

Reviews and directions to cheap pubs

Buffalo Rocks London, “Taking place every Wednesday from 8pm, the Buffalo Rocks London event aims to showcase the talents of both signed and unsigned musicians playing acoustic and alternative live music.” Off of Old St. station

(www.viewlondon.co.uk is a great portal for live music in general)

More to come as I find them!

Tags: Andrew B