Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries Tagged as 'Maddie'

Interviews, Questions, and Synthesis

May 11th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Ah here I am again discussing my experiential learning. I really wanted to interview the tour guide (the Man in Black) but unfortunately instead of just answering my questions, he asked me to email him. So email him I did, (though he has yet to email me back) and the questions that I had sought to ask him are as follows:

Question 1. What got you interested in this field?

Question 2. How many tours have you given?

Question 3. How many people on average take these tours?

Question 4. Why do you think so many people are interested in this topic?

Question 5. What is the most surprising thing about working in this field?

Question 6. Do ghost stories possess a greater value than simply being entertaining?

Question 7.  What is your favourite part of giving a ghost tour?

If the Man in Black stops being a ghost hunter for a minute, maybe he will respond and I’ll have another interesting blog post to write. But if not, I apologize for the unanswered questions that are above and if you’d prefer, I can make up some answers that support my paper topic just to add an extra flavour of overall cohesion. In the mean time, I decided that the best idea was to go back to the Adam and Eve pub and interview more people! So I made the trek back out there and yet again experienced another fascinating interview, this time I found a young man named Clive who was more than willing to participate. He actually noticed ME jotting things down in my notebook and asked what research I was doing. I explained the whole historical/anthropological hypothesis that I had spent months developing and researching for our class and how I was tying my broader findings into Norwich’s history in the hopes that it might reveal a lot more about the atmosphere of the city. He was quite supportive actually which was nice…and to my relief he didn’t interrogate me like the dynamic duo that is Maud and Mary. I explained to Clive that I was just going to ask a few questions and it would be best if he answered them honestly and as in depth as he felt comfortable going. The interview looked a little something like this:

Q. So what brings you on this tour?

A. Well I simply believe in ghosts. I love the history that ghost tours and stories reveal. It’s also a beautiful evening.

Q. Yes it is lovely out! So tell me, why do you believe in ghosts?

A. (Vaguely) I can’t really be too sure. I have had experiences with them if you know what I mean…

Q. I actually don’t really know what you mean…I myself am a sceptic. Can you explain?

A. Well like, I can feel them. Right now, there is no one following us on this tour.

Q (long pause)…….WHAT?

A. There is no one on this tour with us. No ghost, I mean.

Q. (Trying to recover) So…have there been ghosts on the other tours you’ve taken? How many other tours have you been on?

A. Yes, I have felt them before. They are just curious and they wander behind us. I have been on about 4 other tours before.

Q. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t completely caught off guard by that statement…I don’t even know what to say. Do you communicate with them?

A. I have psychic abilities. I can just feel them when other’s can’t.

A. (Backing away slowly) Wow. Well thank you so much for answering my questions. You’ve been really helpful! I hope you enjoy the rest of your tour!

Clive was pretty cool, but I really wasn’t expecting the answers that he gave me. Now that I think about it, I’m glad I happen to stumble across people with such varying views on ghost stories. The interesting thing to note here, is that all the people that I interviewed (approximately 10 individuals) have each said that they are interested in the history of Norwich, or the history behind the struggles that supposedly torture souls of the East Anglians past. I’m relieved actually, mostly because this continues to prove my point: that ghost stories are important lenses through which our modern culture can use to adjust and the focus on past social, religious, and political problems. I’ve learned a tremendous amount through this experiential learning component of our final project, mostly about Norwich itself and its community. I discovered just how important Norwich’s history is to its community and how much pride they feel when they learn about it. The ghost walk was exciting, fun and entertaining, providing me with a new way to see Norwich…but it was really my interviews that were the most important component of my experiential learning. Ultimately, I feel like I spent a lot of time interacting with the city that we so often take for granted, and by doing so I learned an exorbitant amount that could not be simply researched. For that, I’m relieved to conclude that my overall experiential portion of this project was a complete success and one that will stick with me long after my project is turned in.

Tags: Maddie

“All Those Who Wish to Walk the Corridor of Death, Queue Over Here”

May 11th, 2010 · No Comments

Originally, I expected this tour to consist of only a very limited number of people. Maybe it would just be myself and my friend Jimmy, whom I had recruited to join me. This was a rather large worry for me for some reason, maybe I didn’t want to be seen as the dork that I am. But once Jimmy and I had made the trek to the Adam and Eve pub, I began to worry that maybe I had actually gotten the date wrong and there was no tour. We went in and asked the bar tender who assured us that it was in fact still on. Jimmy reasonably asked “how will we know who the tour guide is?” The bar tender literally laughed in our faces and said “you’ll just know”.  And he was not wrong. The “Man in Black” was just that, a man in all black with a red tie, skull-topped cane, and top hat. I liked him immediately.  After we’d paid, I realized that A LOT more people had joined us. Final head count: 45 people even. 10 kids (8 girls, 2 boys) and about an equal number of adult men and women. This was turning out much, much better than I expected. I was about to begin conducting another interview when I was cut off by the Man in Black who yelled over everyone (direct quote here) “All those who wish to walk the corridor of death, please queue over here”.  So Jimmy and I gathered around our tour guide who began the tour by telling us that he himself was a ghost who had died in 1875 (totally cheesy, totally awesome). He also set a few records straight, stating that all of the stories are historically true on this walk and that he himself has sifted through the legends and histories. He also advised us to not harass the ghosts if we happen to “feel” them. (OK…what!?) The Man in Black began the tour by discussing the significance of the Adam and Eve pub which was established in 1549. Essentially this pub is haunted by a General who received a mortal wound near the Great Hospital and was rushed back to the pub where he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. As a side note: I won’t ruin the tour in case anyone is interested in taking it so if you want to find out just how our General received such a mortal wound, take the tour! Anyways, supposedly there are numerous stories about strange occurrences within the Adam & Eve. Tappings, tugging on hair, blood dripping from the walls, and unnatural cold spells. We then proceeded to walked past Gerald’s Factory located along the river and our tour guide continued to explain the historical significance of the area. As we were standing there along the water one of the girls pointed out a figure in the bushes which turned out to be a really uncoordinated and conspicuous “ghost” who was attempting to hide from us. This marked the beginning of a serious of unfortunate failures from this particular “ghost”. Deciding that his jig was up, he sort of jumped out at us awkwardly and simply walked away. Obviously this little hiccup in the coordinated act even confused the Man in Black, who at this point started laughing.

We continued on to Tombland where enormous holes were dug to place thousands of bodies. There are seven total in Norwich and six are located right in Tombland. Altogether approximately 22,000 corpses were laid to rest there. Tombland was not named for these massive graves however, and it is simply a coincidence that the tombs were placed there. In the medieval time, Tombland was the most open space available within the area to place the bodies. From there we continued to the Cathedral where a few interesting things happened at once. We learned about the various ghosts that haunt that area, and ghost haunting that continued to happen through as recently as 1952. The most important thing to note here, is that each of these stories describes true historical events that have withstood the test of time. They simultaneously encourage people to preserve and invest interest in their own history. So as I was nerding out and thinking about how well all of all of these things tied into my paper, I heard a TERRYFYING scream. And I mean like an ear-splitting, bone chilling, screech. Jimmy jumped about 50 feet in the air and yelled “WHAT THE FU…” We both had gotten entirely surprised by a new “ghost” that was supposed to represent the “girl in grey” who had been sentenced to death by the Bishop. This particular “ghost” had selected Jimmy and I to scare, and she did so skilfully by screaming right behind us. Everyone else laughed, but I think Jimmy might have had a massive heart attack…So anyways the story behind the girl in grey is another incredibly interesting tale, so I’m going to make another shameless plug here and ask you guys to all take the walk with the Man in Black. After that little episode, the Man in Black continued to take us to several other locations with equally interesting stories, which ironically really brings each of the locations to life. As we began to wrap up the tour, which was about 3 hours long, I felt confident in the knowledge that I had acquired to represent Norwich’s ghost stories. If you want to learn more specifically about the history behind each location, then take the tour (or just read my final essay!).

Tags: Maddie · Uncategorized

Maud & Mary: An Interview

May 11th, 2010 · No Comments

As I have mentioned before, my paper topic is about the importance and anthropological value that lies unnoticed in the often overlooked history of ghost stories. In order to understand how and why ghost stories are relevant to our understanding of history, I first wanted to ask selected people (those about to embark upon the walking tour downtown that I had yet to take) a few questions that would enable me to sift through the “myths” and misconceptions that revolve around the modern ghost stories. So I constructed a very brief questionnaire for my victims, i mean subjects, to answer. My questions are as follows:

  1. Why are you taking this tour?
  2. Why are you interested in this topic?
  3. How many tours have you been on?
  4. Why does do you think people are so interested in the supernatural?
  5. What was the most interesting thing that you have learned while on a ghost tour?

I believed this was long enough to hold their attention, but short enough to not completely bore my subjects. I never expected what would happen next. TO begin, I wanted to start out slowly because I am single-handedly the most awkward human being alive. I chose two older women whom I believed would act a lot like my grandmother…sweet, quiet, and willing to help. Instead, I got Mary and Maud. Both women were grasping enormous pints of ale which led me to believe that they very well could have kicked my ass if I asked the wrong questions.  BUT this was research so I worked up my courage, threw out my cigarette and cautiously approached them. My little speech began something like this: (Read extraordinarily quickly) Hi my name is Madeleine and I’m doing some research about the contemporary and historical significance of ghost stories and I was just wondering if I could ask you a few questions….” Maud and Mary just stared at me for a good 10 seconds after I had awkwardly trailed off which sounds like a short amount of time, but think “1 MISS..I..SSI…PI”.  Then Maud, the larger one, simply said “right” which I took to indicate her consent and I geared up to proceed. Mary however, began asking me questions instead, including, but not limited to things like: Where abouts are you from? Why are you here? Who are you with? Do you like Norwich? Are the boys friendly? Once I answered all her questions, I think they decided that I was indeed trustworthy and told me “to ask the questions, then.”  This is how the conversation went:

Q. So what brings you out here this evening? Why are you taking this tour?

A. (Maud) It’s a lovely evening, we are both on holiday and wanted to do something new every night. (Mary, in agreement) Yes.

Q. Oh yeah? That’s nice, I’m on holiday too. So why are you interested in this ghost tour?

A. (Mary) Simple entertainment. This sort of thing is fun. (Maud, in a feat of uncommon depth) You can learn a lot about the past through these ghosts, can’t you?

Q. (Excitedly) That you can! And that is what my research is all about! So how many other tours have you been on?

A. (Maud) Twice, a couple of years ago. (Mary) Never before, actually.

Q. I only have a few more questions. Why do you think people enjoy these tours?

A. (Maud) Entertainment, belief, interest in the unknown….

Q. All great points! Ok, final question. What was the most interesting thing that you learned on these ghost tours?

A. (Maud…vaguely) I once learned about a guy…(trails off into an unnecessary story that I didn’t even bother to record)

Towards the very end of my interview, they really started to warm up to me and once I’d concluded the interview altogether, Maud wanted to discuss some irrelevant things such as where I could find the nearest medium to communicate with the dead. I attempted to sidestep this subject in the vain hopes to interview more people, but the two women were extremely persistent and they continued to talk to me. This sort of ruined my plans of interviewing other people, so I decided to just settle by returning the following Thursday to take both the tour, and interview others. In the mean time, I had to put up with Maud and Mary would spent a good 45 minutes talking to me before the tour started (they had two more beers in that amount of time, by the way). I decided to bow out when I could feel the more people start to queue up for the tour and I thanked both Maud and Mary for being more than willing participants in my survey. As I was walking back to the city centre, I briefly reflected on the interview. Despite being extraordinarily gregarious, Maud and Mary supplied good answers to my questions and not only that, but their desire to walk the ghost tour that day proved something to me. Ghost stories are important in contemporary culture because they create a link, a bridge from the present to the past that reveals an unparalleled insight into the nature of humanity. Ghost stories depict class segregation, lost love, murder, religious tumult, the corruption of political power…all subjects that we can identify with even now. One doesn’t have to be a believer or a non-believer to understand that something else is going on here, something much deeper than most people (including myself) previously thought. Supernatural folklore ties the past into the present. I mean, why exactly do all legends of ghosts depict pain, suffering, and social unrest? Not to sound potentially pessimistic, but I think that this somehow proves that the only constant throughout history is human suffering. These stories provide glimpses into the painful past of our ancestors, and perhaps attempt to teach us about ourselves and what could potentially be at stake if we become too wrapped up in power (religiously, politically, monetarily). I’m really looking forward to the Norwich ghost tour next week now, I’m excited to see if I can prove my theory by actually taking the walk.

Tags: Maddie · Uncategorized

Norwich Ghost Walks–Such Anticipation!

May 11th, 2010 · No Comments

As a brief interlude before my series of blogs begin: I recognize that I haven’t posted these in a timely fashion, but nevertheless they chronicle my experiences in consecutive order. Enjoy!

Well it’s Thursday, April 8th and I am about to embark on a very interesting tour. A ghost tour in fact, through our beloved Norwich.  To catch everyone up to speed, my paper topic delves into the history and anthropological value that ghost stories have had on the past and how these stories are translated into our modern culture. In my research and experiential learning, I myself was surprised to see how the evolutions of politics, religion, and class distinctions have evolved in such stories throughout the centuries. Therefore, this evening, I’m attempting to find my way to the Adam and Eve pub where my ghost tour begins at 7:30 pm. I have no idea what to expect, though at least I know the mapping of the tour. We begin by meeting at the Adam and Eve pub, (probably Norwich’s oldest pub as we all know) and proceeding up towards Tombland before heading toward The Whiffler Theatre which apparently was the site of many executions at the Castle Gates. We go back through the Cathedral grounds to Bishop’s Bridge and the Cow Tower before returning for “our finale back at the Adam and Eve” pub. The women I spoke to over the phone assured me that it would be a very interesting walk, and “lots of fun”. My initial response to this was one of indignation; “well it better be worth it because I’m paying six quid for this which COULD have been better spent on quite a few cans of vegetable curry.” The website assured me that “on this walk you will hear about cannibalism, wife murder, lots of witches and lollards not to mention the ghosts of plague victims buried in communal graves without name or ceremony (always a good source of spirit behaviour).” Well, I’m always up for hearing about a little cannibalism and hopefully myriad wife murders so I’m thinking that this tour should be very informative and hopefully an entertaining experience.

I myself have never been on a ghost tour, nor do I really believe in ghosts. In fact, the first time that I actually first encountered someone who truly believed in the existence of such spectral badasses was our very own Anya Settle who is convinced that her room here at UEA is haunted. Not to get briefly off topic, but I had a conversation in Starbucks recently about Anya’s ghostly fears, and Andrew Barron just looked at Anya sceptically and said, “Your room is NOT haunted Anya”. Anya hesitated for a moment, and said, “you don’t have to SLEEP there Barron”.  So I guess that puts Barron and I into the “non-believers” category and Anya into the “believers” one…but ultimately it’s not really about truly believing in the existence of ghosts, it’s about what historical value can be discovered from these legends and what hidden cultural significance lies within these oral stories. I’m hoping that this tour will aid in my understanding of Norwich’s history and not simply be some silly tour meant to frighten 6-7 year old girls; I want to extract the deeper essence that brings past societies and ideals back to life. Lastly, if any of you have an interest in watching a brief clip from the tour guide himself without paying the 6 quid, here is a link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1rDNQbo5x8. For now, I’m off to walk the loop around Norwich!

Tags: Maddie · Uncategorized

Have You had the Meze Platter Yet?

September 14th, 2009 · No Comments

As discussed in several different capacities, the pub remains vital to the daily lives of Londoners and, as we will discover in time, the larger United Kingdom. Inns were common along the roads of Roman Britain, as they provided lodging for officials and others. There were also small hut-like establishments – a taberna – from which the word tavern is derived. Pubs have a long history dating back to the Roman occupation of the city. Over the course of the last 2,000 years, London’s taverns and pubs have adapted to fit every shift in London’s history. (As we have learned over the last few weeks, the shifts have occurred constantly and regularly.) This is why there is such a vast variety and selection of pubs and taverns in and around London; we have yet to find a model for the perfect pub. You can find them on almost every street corner, but each differ in some way. Some cater to an older crowd, some to college students, and still others to a wider range of ages.

In this blog, I want to briefly discuss the importance of the two pubs that most of the group has frequented: The Court on Tottenham Court Road and the Marlborough Arms just one block away from the Arran House. We first discovered the Marlborough Arms simply because it was in close proximity to the Arran House. Still reeling from the combination of shock and exhaustion, I had no expectations for the pub culture in general, except that they served alcohol (In addition to the shock of being in London, who was not the least bit shocked that we could legally consume alcohol?). We quickly learned the bar is not the only important part to the pub as a whole. In retrospect, it is one of the lesser significant aspects of the pub. Sure, the drinks have their place, but what of the atmosphere and history? It does not take much effort to recognize pubs as part of London’s social fabric – especially when you consider the sheer number of pubs in just the immediate London area. The pub acts as a place for friends, family, neighbours, coworkers, and complete strangers to come together and enjoy one another’s company in a relaxed and friendly setting. I have often remarked (somewhat incredulously) that more people frequent the pubs after the average workday. This shocks me given my experience in the US, I generally don’t see massive groups of people rushing to the bars on a Tuesday night. Everyone comes together to in an atmosphere that lends itself to laughter and fun. I admire and appreciate the pub culture here, as it allows people to look forward to something throughout the day and also enables another outlet for positive social interaction outside of the one’s occupation. Ultimately, when the alcohol is used appropriately, pubs generate a sense of community and belonging in a healthy and interactive way. These observations have mostly been from my experiences at the Marlborough Arms where the pub-goers are mostly middle to older gentlemen and women.

The Court breaks serves a much different age group, though. The majority of the crowd is generally an amalgamation of college students from the surrounding area. Large groups of friends come to hang out there not only to spend some time with one another but to meet new people as well. Pub life again creates an outlet and space for people to come together to enjoy some drinks and pleasant (though not usually quiet) company.

Now that I realize the significant presence of pubs within the greater social life of many Londoners, I have also discovered that these pubs remain vital at the local level as well. Pubs open for centuries draw in crowds simply based on their legacy. (Consider the Museum Tavern and how quick it will point to Karl Marx’s patronage while writing the Communist Manifesto. This example extends to large numbers of pubs – the only difference is the figure that visited the pub, be it Chaucer, Dickens, Shakespeare, etc. The Marlborough Arms has a rich history. The Court has yet to set its legacy among its neighboring and much more famous pubs. The history also of the beer has an interesting history if anyone is interested check out this site.

It would be interesting to get a sense of what age group George Orwell would have preferred to see at his imagined and idyllic Moon Under Water pub. He certainly prefers “regulars” to “rowdies,” but would he find himself more comfortable with the regulars at The Court or the regulars at the Marlborough Arms (if, let’s say, those were the only pubs in the entire city)? Age plays a not-so-surprising role in determining how well one enjoys the atmosphere of any pub. Simply put, just as the people in a pub help define the image of a pub, the ages of those patrons further defines the inherent nature of a pub. The younger generations of pub-goers will usually enjoy pubs like The Court (except when a Meatloaf music video comes on….or of course, for some people, even more so…). If I were to imagine the group of individuals to comprise the crowd at The Court, George Orwell may be THE last person I’d picture there.

We (Maddie and Brandon) do not know how to find the perfect pub, or if you can even pin down a pub as “perfect.” Each has a different personality, to its immediate advantage or disadvantage. Some prefer a roomful of George Orwells. Others prefer rowdy pubs filled with cheering football fans. Still others can settle down with their familiar drink and “chew the fat,” whether or not Meatloaf plays in the background.

Tags: Brandon · Maddie

Pitmen Painters V. Blood Brothers

September 14th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Overall, I have really enjoyed being able to go to the theatre and compare the different productions that we have seen. But now that we have seen our last performance, I feel prepared and capable to tie in the themes that these productions present into a few of the overarching themes that we have experienced on the walking tours, class discussions, and readings. For time’s sake and space, I mostly would like to focus on The Pitman Painters and Blood Brothers in this particular post. The Pitmen Painters was undoubtedly one of the best straight-play performances that I have ever seen. The depth and layering of the dialogue really portrayed the time period in a realistic, yet humorous way.

This draws me to my next point: the playwright brilliantly conveyed the realistic themes of class struggles and economic differences while still managing to couple the drama with a relatable sense of humor. I felt that this performance creatively discussed the struggle and tension of the time. All of the men enjoyed painting, especially Oliver, and this simple act of painting morphed into a larger, more important symbol: a symbol of unfulfilled desire, and of the vain hope for a better future. As simple and unimportant as painting may seem to us now, it became an unmistakable symbol of class division throughout the play. For example, as much as Oliver wanted to paint, to leave the mines, and be paid for doing something that he loved, he was unable to liberate himself from the burdens of his class position. This internal and external struggle was highlighted by his benefactor, a woman of wealth who desired to collect his paintings. This brings up another distinction: while Oliver would be working tirelessly at painting, this wealthy woman would simply pay a small sum of money to collect his work and though he would leave the mines, Oliver would still be under the rule of another person. I think Oliver recognized that his paintings wouldn’t change his circumstance and in his mind he believed an escape from the mining world would be futile.

As a member of the audience, I can attest for the fact that I was hoping he would leave the mines, work as a painter, and become famous and wealthy enough to bring his friends out of the mines and support them until they were old men.  But this vain hope makes the ending even more jarring and eye-opening. We all hope that Oliver’s life will work out happily ever after, but in reality he was a slave to the constraints and prejudices of his class—much like the immigrants in London are still laboring under today. As a group we have traveled to market after market and it is here that I have noticed a vicious cycle. Certain people are always “the outsider” the “laborers” and it is generally frowned upon for anyone to try and move up the ladder, so to speak. Reaching way back to the beginning of our stay in London, we discussed Great Expectations. This same theme occurs in Pip’s life. People are to stay within their class and not deviate from the norm or else pain and struggle will befall them. Better to remain in one’s class with one’s struggles than to risk the climb to the top- to achieve more.

Overall, the Pitmen Painters offered me a visual and emotional insight into the plight of the lower class. I thoroughly enjoyed this play, and though it was essentially a work of art, a fiction, it was based on the lives of actual people.

Now the Blood Brothers on the other hand, lacked the heavy reality and depth that the Pitmen Painters possessed. Though I generally love musical theatre, this particular performance struck me as vapid…though I did notice a similar theme of class division. I don’t really feel the need to go into detail here simply because there was no real depth to the performance other than the fact that one brother struggled throughout his life and the other didn’t because of his wealth.

 Though the musical was extremely dramatic, it actually lost its sense of any authenticity that may have saved it from becoming complete crap. Now although I am railing on this, it also echoed the Pitmen Painters by emphasizing that class and wealth have a profound effect on the outcome of one’s life. These two plays, though both very different, have really helped me to connect and visualize the theme of class and economic struggle through both thought-provoking dialogue (mostly in Pitmen Painters).

Tags: Maddie · Theatre

The B-B-British Museum

September 14th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Here are two very different quotes/poems about the British Museum (especially the Reading Room)

“If an army of monkeys were strumming on typewriters, they might write all the books in the British Museum”

-Sir Arthur Eddington

At the British Museum

-Richard Aldington


I turn the page and read:
“I dream of silent verses where the rhyme
Glides noiseless as an oar.”
The heavy musty air, the black desks,
The bent heads and the rustling noises
In the great dome
Vanish …
The sun hangs in the cobalt-blue sky,
The boat drifts over the lake shallows,
The fishes skim like umber shades through the undulating weeds,
The oleanders drop their rosy petals on the lawns,
And the swallows dive and swirl and whistle
About the cleft battlements of Can Grande’s castle…


I love the-wait for it- juxtaposition of these two quotes. One describes the beautiful “great dome” of the Reading Room and the other yields a sarcastic, even cynical, view of the very same room. I appreciate both for their differences, but I have to say that the British Museum is exceptional.

The sheer size of the building is enough to be completely overwhelming and the collection itself is staggering. When I first walked in and saw the Reading Room and the white floor and walls, I really felt the weight of the great minds of the past bearing down on me. At the time I had also been doing research on Virginia Woolf and George Eliot, two feminist literary figures in the 19th century. Both had studied in the Reading Room and had come up with some amazing pierces of literature there. For me, it bordered on a spiritual experience simply because I was in the presence of progressive thinkers who had so influenced the literary world.

And so that was my first impression of the British Museum and they didn’t stop there…I also began to formulate some questions about the past, present, and future of our own history.

 Walking through the museum and looking at the relics and artifacts from ancient empires made me wonder what antiquities future generations will keep in museums from our lifetime. When does it become ok for museums to take bodies from, say, sarcophaguses and put them behind glass? When do our tools become tools of the past? I am still pretty astounded by exhibits and the sheer history that is encompassed in a single place. The funny thing about museums (and this one in particular) is that they paradoxically make these ancient civilizations visual, yet somehow less real. I think this is largely due to the fact that the pots, statues, and other relics sit within a huge and beautifully furnished building. They are simply displayed on stands, under lights, and behind glass. I feel more like I am peering through a window into another time rather than getting the sense that these artifacts were used by people as tools for everyday life. Overall, it was hard for me to marry the idea of ancient artifacts behind glass and it has given me something to think about as I continue to visit more museums while I’m in London.
































Cabinet War Rooms


This particular blog will mostly be about how I felt as I walked through the war rooms which were pretty frightening




Oxford v. Bath

Tags: Maddie

John Soane is my Homeboy

September 14th, 2009 · No Comments

In this wonderful blog post, I think I shall convey my experiences at the John Soane Museum. Essentially this museum was founded by Sir John Soane who turned his home into an area in which artists and art lovers alike could come in and appreciate his collection of antiquities.

The overall effect was fairly awesome because this museum has such a variety of artwork, including roman, medieval, neo-classical, and Egyptian works of art. There were some really beautiful statues, pieces of stained glass, paintings, and various other ancient artworks. I also noticed that one of his more famous collections is from ancient Egypt…including a sarcophagus? It’s amazing to me what money can buy if you have enough of it.

Anyways– I just visited the website to get some more background on John Soane himself but there is not an exorbitant amount of detail on his life. They do mention, however, that he was a distinguished architect who designed his own house so that it may become “a museum to which ‘amateurs and students’ should have access”. He left his collection and house to the nation in1837 because after his wife died in 1815 he never remarried and decided to establish the house as a museum.

The museum is architecturally beautiful, filled with illusions and surprises everywhere. I guess my favorite thing about this particular museum was that John Soane had made an effort to share historic art with others, so that no matter one’s circumstance he or she could lay their eyes on ancient relics. This was the one really redeeming quality to this particular museum. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the actual art that was involved but to me, the most important part was that John Soane wanted everyone to benefit from his collection. Maybe by the time I got around to actually visiting it, I was pretty tired of museums in general. Room 26 informed me that they had seen so many museums recently that Jeyla woke up and asked both Anya and Audrey if they were in a museum. Despite the fact that this is a hilarious story and I laugh every time I think about it, I think the moral of what I’m trying to say is that we have visited so many museums that this particular one really didn’t stand out for me, as say, the Tate Modern. Overall, I appreciated the experience but wouldn’t revisit it. On the Brightside for those of you who loved it I think the website as an interactive tour you can take whenever your little heart desires! 🙂

Tags: Maddie · Museums

Ohhh crazy Tate Modern!

September 14th, 2009 · No Comments

I know that the Tate Modern was not a required blog post, however I had to write about it simply because it was one of the craziest museums I have ever been to. I am still debating as to how I feel about the overall experience…I mean, I really can’t decide whether I loved it or hated it.

 It was somewhat shocking at times and other times somewhat bland and even meaningless. But I briefly wanted to reflect upon the evolution of modern art and how it marks a change in culture and politics. I know very little about the modernist artists themselves, but this particular museum inspired me to do a little more research on the background of these artists so that I may be able to understand the meaning of their art a bit better.

What I discovered through some online sources about their biographies, is that many of them were creating their works based on their childhood experiences or the social and political reformation that took place in their native countries. They discussed the meaning of life, of art itself, of emotional and physical struggle. And all of these things were created and presented in a way that was completely unique to each artist’s style.

Not one art exhibit resembled the next (though I think I could recognize “movements” in the content of the pieces so to speak). Yet some were just disturbing and I think we can all agree on which one I’m talking about– so I’m really not going to go into another further detail to describe it.  Mostly I had to ask myself while walking through the museum: Is this art? It’s a really difficult question to ask oneself because “art” is subjective. What may be the most beautiful work to me, maybe another person’s idea of complete crap. But as I wandered through the Tate, I began to think that maybe modern art is simply taking what is abstract and turning it into the concrete, allowing the artists a kind of therapy in their process of creation. I read somewhere that the closest a man can ever get to childbirth is to create a work of art and I can see the truth in this statement, especially because some of my favorite works were done by male artists.  I can see the sweat, tears, blood, and time that went into the evolution of the art and I can see that there is an effort to make other people understand, to feel more than what a pretty picture on a wall may stimulate in the observer. Modern art to me, felt like a battle- a struggle for connection, a raw and untamed effort to make others understand something greater.

I guess overall, now that I have talked my way through the Tate, I have found that it has inspired more thought and reflection than any other museum. And for that, I think I may like modern art more than I first realized.

Tags: Maddie · Museums

Into the Not-So-Wild: A Story by Maddie and Brandon

September 14th, 2009 · No Comments

As a five year old, I preferred the swingset in my backyard to the television (unless the Power Rangers was on…but that is not important). As a seventeen/eighteen year old, I gained a whole new appreciation for the outdoors thanks to Valley Forge Park – the enormous, deer-ridden oasis in the middle of suburban Pennsylvania, home to hikers, bikers, picnics, and monuments (telling the park’s oft-told story when it was home to the Revolutionary Army). I have stayed in that park for hours on end – reading, laying, walking, and just being lazy. The ability to lay out on the grass surrounded by huge trees brought me closer to nature and the elements.

I should take a step back. I am not a hiker, nor do I spend every day longing for the outdoors. I am not about to mimic Christopher McCandless’ journey through Alaska and “Into the Wild”. Sure, I enjoy spending summer afternoons outdoors. Yes, I will absolutely take a trip to the park over a movie. That’s about as far as I go, though. That said, London’s parks immediately appealed to my sense of nature. They were beautiful and awe-inspiring. Only 48 hours prior to this post, I told a whole group of people that I could spend every day in these parks as long as I had a book in one hand and a warm drink in the other.

After closer investigation and reflection, I begin to wonder if these parks are not as idyllic as I had thought.

The parks in London have very different personalities. How can a park have a personality? Consider the sprawling grassy area of Regent’s Park. This area houses limited (if any) space for concert venues – the only area that sticks out is a playground for children. Rarely anyone takes a seat on the well-kept grassy areas (This was shown by the looks of confusion and sounds of incredulity as people passed by as we discussed Mrs. Dalloway and the Blitz.).

This directly contrasts with the immediate impressions of the even larger Hyde Park, which has areas that remain overgrown, raw, and certainly less manicured than other Royal Parks. Perhaps this is a reason this park is used more often for big venues and frequented by large crowds. Regardless, the park gives off a much more functional and natural, for lack of a better word, perspective of nature. Now Maddie will briefly discuss the importance of recreation in the three parks that I have just described.

“The Regent’s Park consists of two circles, which are intended to communicate with each other, but an experienced person is sometimes puzzled to discover how. The houses which nearly surround the outward ring are looked upon as wonders of architectural design and execution. The liberality of the genius employed is manifested in the generous conglomeration of style which is everywhere apparent. The Corinthian and Ionic are continually contrasted with the simple Doric and the street-doric.” -1842

These are the first few comments given by locals who visited Regents Park around the time it was first established in the early 19th century. The area was beautiful even then, filled with flowers and beautiful buildings encompassing the wide-open spaces. Yet, when I think of “parks” I imagine people running, playing frisbee, riding bikes, and enjoying the sunshine. I imagine laughter, games, and little kids. However, from my numerous visits to Regents Park (as well as St.James’s), I really haven’t noticed this kind of innocent, healthy fun like I have in Hyde Park. Therefore, in this part of our blog, I’ll discuss what is acceptable recreation in a these three London parks.

In Regents Park, as Brandon noted before, there was plenty of open space but few people laying the grass (such a crime). Even during our class discussions outside, I noticed many runners but few families taking little kids on picnics, playing tag or simply running around. The runners themselves ran through the beautiful park but seemed too focused on their exercise to really pay attention to the beautiful landscape. Or maybe that is just what Regents Park is to them: a beautiful landscape, a perfect and idyllic area to safely run through, but never stop to take in. Therefore, Brandon and I came to realize that although this park is majestic and lovely, it lacks a purpose. Parks are meant to be more than simply a gorgeous place to jog about, they are meant to be used to relax, catch time for oneself, and rejuvenate and quench the soul’s longing for peace and quiet amidst the busy city life.

St. James’s Park acted very similarly, though arguably more unfriendly than Regents Park. In my own personal experience at St. James’s, I found it to be “stuffy” so to speak. The grass was trimmed perfectly; the walkways clean, the pigeons even kept away. We had to pay to sit in the chairs. I visited the website that describes St. James’s Park and of course the web designers discuss the picnics in the park, the alcohol served in the restaurant in the middle of the park, the outdoor activities that take place, and the free concerts. Yet still no bikes are allowed, ball games are restricted to specific areas of the park, and people may only gather together in at very most groups of 20 to avoid “over-crowding”—this means our humanities group would not be allowed to sit and hold class there and enjoy the surroundings.

The final park that we decided to discuss was Hyde Park which both Brandon and I found to be the most “park-ish” if I may. This means that we both felt it to bring in a wider variety of people, allowing and encouraging more recreational activity. We also noticed more people strolling around the extensive 350 acre landscape instead of just running through. Another plus is that everything about this park is free; you don’t need to pay to sit in chairs or benches and you don’t need to pay to enter. Hyde Park also contains the Serpentine Lake, a spot for swimming, boating, picnicking and fishing and it is open to the public to use often. Also, Hyde Park is host to a variety of free concerts during the summer and encourages people to visit, both locals and tourists.

Overall, recreation is an important part of any park. However some parks are more successful at creating an atmosphere in which a diverse group of people are welcome to sit outside and enjoy nature. Instead most of these parks boarding on feeling rather synthetic and fake (excluding Hyde) and therefore we were interested to see how each of these three parks incorporated and valued recreational activity.

Tags: Brandon · Maddie