Tag Archives: Family Activity

The Admirable Parties

Steampunk is a visual medium which has so much more to offer then cogs and corsets.  The Mad Sea Party is a micro trail with pop-up book style artworks that revel in the modestly scaled, detailed environment.  We are inviting visitors to patiently wade through the exhibition as if scuba diving a reef.”

IMG_1191 IMG_1074 sjmflMany visitors come to the Florence Nightingale Museum hoping to be immersed in a heroic quest anchored in a meaningful environment.  A top FAQ is why is the museum here [at St Thomas’ Hospital]?  The relationship between the exhibition and its location is an important part of the visitor experience.

Delving into the society that shaped Florence Nightingale, the exhibition is studded with bold personalities and tales of great heroism set against a backdrop of mortal peril. It tells the story of Florence’s life with a collection of small and curious objects which cumulatively reveal the person behind the great public hero. The distinctive Kossmann.Dejong exhibition design is laid out in three chapters presented as individual pavilions. They resemble antique aquaria with precious artefacts and domestic specimens side by side in glass boxes. The addition of a collection of spy holes and two exceptionally poignant taxidermy personalities provides a wonderful backdrop for a Steampunk themed project.

One difficulty with Steampunk is the inclusiveness of the genre.  Steampunk casts its net very far, gathering in books, film and cult television. The other major challenge is the epic nature of the imaginary steampunk landscape. The best vehicle for it is the written word; only books can truly conjure the opulence of a complete fantasy universe.  And yet going back to the future and revisiting antiquated visions of futuristic worlds is rewarding.  Creaky cinematic effects and the clunky design of vintage science fiction in time acquires an avant-garde beauty exemplified by the silent films of George Melies. As do the stop motion monsters of Ray Harryhausen films, mocked for many years and now compared favourably to modern special effects.  Outside of literature, Steampunk greatness comes retrospectively.  Orchestrated big budget steampunk productions are so often far less influential than the artists and works adopted by the fans.

Creaky science fiction and uncomplicated war films were the staple viewing of my childhood, along with the odd curio that truly captured my imagination.  One my favourite childhood films is a 1957 Lewis Gilbert adaptation of J.M Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton which puts an Ealing comedy spin on the social satire. The film takes Barrie’s Downton Abbey style cast of aristocrats and servants to a fabulous outsider art paradise. The set design was for me the highlight of the film. The quality I most admire in steampunk is the enthusiasm, which is most evident in the creation of and celebration of an enveloping avant-garde fantasy.


Our event will pay homage to the titan figure, Jules Verne, and we could not miss the opportunity to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Steampunk is a visual medium which has so much more to offer then cogs and corsets. The Mad Sea Party is a micro trail with pop-up book style artworks, that revel in the modestly scaled, detailed environment.  We are inviting visitors to patiently wade through the exhibition as if scuba diving a reef.  The overall aim of the project is to temporarily locate Florence Nightingale in a steampunk inspired landscape; to highlight and linger over some of the least travelled areas in her story.


Twistmas Greetings from the Florence Nightingale Museum

“Ignore what doesn’t make you happy, it’s not worth getting upset about.  For everyone else put your Christmas tree up when you want to, and take it down only when it starts to get embarrassing!”

madseapartyWhat  do we mean by Twistmas Greetings?  Holidays have never been more personalised and immersive. Our selection box of events and activities have been inspired by the growing influence of Halloween and the Day of the Dead festival on British popular culture.  It will take us from Halloween through Christmas and the New Year, reflecting  how at least three winter festivals have become part of a wider trend to celebrate vintage holiday chic.

As a museum staffed by artists and ‘death positive’ enthusiasts we have seized  the opportunity to resist conventional holiday wisdom as we welcome the  gothication of Christmas. We salute the homemade and less commercialised charm of Halloween and uphold the right of every individual to create their own holiday heaven .

As a Victorian themed medical museum and one of the few collections dedicated to the life and legacy of a woman, we examine the role of women and Victorian society’s celebration of Death.  Lucy Coleman Talbot’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ talk will discuss historically and culturally the role women have played in death and dying, tracing the maternal links between early life and end of life care, how women seem to be dominating the emerging ‘death positive’ movement, and the new approaches that women are bringing to the field through various academic and artistic means.

Our own curator Holly Carter- Chappell offers a visually rich step-by-step guide on ‘How to Die Like a Victorian’.   Bill Edwards, curator of the Gordon Museum of Pathology, the largest medical museum in the UK, will explore  ‘Art and Medicine’ looking  at the art inspired, at least in part, by Medicine and Surgery, considering how for centuries Medicine and Art were intimately connected and where this “marriage” broke down and the recent resurgence of this vital relationship.

ball 2The Twistmas  activities running over the weekends from November to the New Year are free with admission and open to all.  The Mad Sea Party designed by Sarah Jane McGregor is a steampunk themed art trail. Laura Worthington presents our  poetry and illustration workshop featuring cautionary tales,  and a ‘Twistmas Wrapping Treats’ activity (starter kit and materials included).  Learn how to create wonderfully retro parcels swathed in yards of streamers concealing layers of indulgent treats.

The Autumn/Winter season is a time of hedonism and ritual, whether it be comforting our bodies with extra food and alcohol to fortify ourselves against the lowering temperatures, or buoying our spirits through long dark days by holing up in rooms lit only by television screens that become beacons of pleasure, or lingering at shop windows enjoying  gloriously illuminated displays.  The darkness of winter becomes  enchanting,  enabling us to express child like delight and optimism.  Many complain that Christmas, Halloween and Easter come earlier each year.  For those that want Christmas to last three days then stop, or Halloween to go away because it is not British, I say Bah Humbug!  Ignore what doesn’t make you happy; it is not worth getting upset about.  For everyone else put your Christmas tree up when you want to and take it down only when it starts to get embarrassing and enjoy your hot cross buns on New Year’s day. One thing I’m sure we nearly all agree on, we all hate Valentine’s Day.

twistmas poster