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American Museum in Britain

Andy Jackson 10 Sep 10 - 06:53 PM
autoharpbob 11 Sep 10 - 10:11 AM
VirginiaTam 11 Sep 10 - 10:27 AM
Vic Smith 11 Sep 10 - 11:07 AM
Andy Jackson 11 Sep 10 - 02:23 PM
Hovering Bob 11 Sep 10 - 02:41 PM
Anne Lister 11 Sep 10 - 02:44 PM
bubblyrat 11 Sep 10 - 03:09 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Sep 10 - 03:18 PM
GUEST,Brian 11 Sep 10 - 10:10 PM
Jim Dixon 12 Sep 10 - 01:28 AM
VirginiaTam 12 Sep 10 - 05:09 AM
VirginiaTam 12 Sep 10 - 05:39 AM
Vic Smith 12 Sep 10 - 11:32 AM
Vic Smith 12 Sep 10 - 11:41 AM
Andy Jackson 12 Sep 10 - 03:56 PM
GUEST,Brian 12 Sep 10 - 04:41 PM
GUEST,Brian 12 Sep 10 - 05:18 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 12 Sep 10 - 09:42 PM
GUEST,Ken Keppeler/Bayou Seco 13 Sep 10 - 01:37 PM
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Subject: American Museum in Britain
From: Andy Jackson
Date: 10 Sep 10 - 06:53 PM

On a recent narrow boat trip we took the chance to visit the
American Museum, near Bath. The main reason for the visit was
the special Quilts Event, but obviously we visited the main
museum as well. Very impressive and well planned. But and this
is a major but, no music! Not a mention of the wealth of
Americam musical history. Appalachian, Cajun, Blues, Gospel,
Jazz,the list goes on, but not in this museum. There is a room
with an early piano and a harp,but still no reference to
Traditional music. Elsewhere there is a photo of Elvis,
captioned " you don't need to know anything about music in my
business", obviously the museum has taken his lead! To be fair
there was also a photo of Louis Armstrong. When I asked at the
sales desk I was told they ..."once had a book of cowboy
songs". My several enquiries all met with a bemused response
as if they had never even heard of music let alone Americam
music.
I have since looked up the web site and they do indeed run
monthly American music events with top names, many known to
Folk audiences over here already. So why the complete lack of
any exhibited pride in the rich musical heritage. I have been
told that it does exist in the archives and can be viewed on
request, but surely it should be on public display.
Any comments from the other side of the pond?


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: autoharpbob
Date: 11 Sep 10 - 10:11 AM

This is an interesting place - as I understand it, it it actually part of America? It is American, soil, deeded by Churchill, I believe? Anyhow, Bryan Bowers was due to play there last year, but they couldn't get his work permit sorted, so I didn't get to see him. Shame - looks like I have to go to America!


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 11 Sep 10 - 10:27 AM

not having been to many museums in the US (they cost money and some quite dear) I can't really make a comment.

Seems it should be easy enough put listening posts here and there.


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: Vic Smith
Date: 11 Sep 10 - 11:07 AM

I visited the American Museum first with Shirley Collins to help her present her show, "America Over The Water". We didn't have a lot of time that day as we had a lot of travelling to the next day's gig, but I vowed I would return... and I did the next time that I was in that area and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
In fairness to the shop and to the musical presentations programme, the staff have no folk music background, but I found them to be very open to suggestions, though it was explained to me that their resources are quite limited. I believe they took up my suggestion that they book Bayou Seco and I know that they consult Kate Lissauer about presentations.


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: Andy Jackson
Date: 11 Sep 10 - 02:23 PM

I agree totally that what they do they do very well, and they have a good line up of concert guests. My point was the complete lack of reference to American Music anywhere in the displays. The truth is that unless you have an interest in someting specific yourself, you cannot expect to notice if it is not there. But surely MUSIC, even that dreadful,(imho)line-dancing not to be mentioned at all I found most disturbing.


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: Hovering Bob
Date: 11 Sep 10 - 02:41 PM

As a member of Dorset Triumph Folk Dancers I had the honour and pleasure of performing at Claverton Manor on several occasiions. The displays are impressive and I learned a lot. I even gained an appreciation of the very American art form of quilting!
Memories include seeing a column of smoke rising from the opposite hillside (I was a musician so I had an opportunity of looking around) while the dancers did their thing. We called the emergency sercvices and were able to hear the sirens as they investigated.


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: Anne Lister
Date: 11 Sep 10 - 02:44 PM

Our only involvement with the museum is that Steve was booked a few years back to play Benjamin Franklin (to whom he bears an uncanny resemblance) for Franklin's birthday. Spent the day making and flying kites and then helping to cut up an enormous birthday cake for the large numbers of people who came and joined in. Must admit that the music (or lack of it) was hardly a consideration.

In fairness, if you go to St Fagans here in Cardiff or the Victoria and Albert in London you're not going to find out a lot about music either. In fact, I can't think of a museum I've visited anywhere that DOES mention it. Classical music is sometimes playing in the background in some museums (notably the Museum of London)and the V&A does, of course, have a fine collection of instruments but traditional music? Not usually.


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: bubblyrat
Date: 11 Sep 10 - 03:09 PM

I have been there three or four times,and have always found it to be atmospheric,interesting, and enlightening.However, I have unfailingly ( or even unfrailingly) come away with the impression that the early frontier pioneers were, or must have been, deaf / mutes, who accomplished the conquest of "The West " in total silence,such is the lack of ...well, sound !! Spooky !!But good news for those who don't like banjos, I guess !


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Sep 10 - 03:18 PM

They do have a fair bit of music just not integrated into the exhibits - see here, on the museum's website.


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: GUEST,Brian
Date: 11 Sep 10 - 10:10 PM

While Claverton Manor is a substantial building, it is nowhere near big enough to give a complete overview of American life in a single era, let alone America throughout the period of colonial settlement.
(Which is the main focus of the American Museum in Britain.)

As has already been said, the museum has limited resources (both financial and available space) and is reliant on volunteer guides. To have an exhibition of American music would require the removal of other exhibits. The quilts maybe?

As Anne said, you will find out little about music in St Fagans, or the V & A. I would take that further. How much emphasisis there on nautical music in the National Maritime Museum? Music is not the focus of any museum, unless it is a museum of music. The American museum in Britain is not, and does not claim to be the museum of American Music in Britain, but is certainly is not without music.

"So why the complete lack of any exhibited pride in the rich musical heritage. I have been told that it does exist in the archives and can be viewed on request, but surely it should be on public display."

Just how would the music archive be put on display? Would a display of music score and tapes have any great significance? Miskin Man missed the music books that are already on display. (To be fair, you
would need to know exactly what you were looking for to find one of them.) They could of course play music in the museum. This has been tried in the folk arts section (currently closed for redevelopement).
Guess what? Not everyone approved.

That leaves the current live music events. This was started by Laura Brown the Education Officer because she wanted to bring American music into the museum. You know, that stuff that doesn't exist there - music. Why is there not more? Limited resources! They are reliant on funding for the current programme. If that dries up then ther will be no music.

Of course, those who think there should be a greater knowledge base of American music at the museum are free to volunteer, and make that their speciality. So if anyone asks, there is just the right unpaid
volunteer available to help.

Alternatively, they could finance the music programme so that American music is played at the museum everyday. Then somebody will disapprove, and complain that their favoured part of American life is missing.

No music at the American museum? Actually, there is more than at the majority of museums.

I have used the library at the museum on a couple of occasions. I have always found them to be extremely helpful and generous with their resources. Access is only a phone call away, to arrange a mutually suitable time.


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 12 Sep 10 - 01:28 AM

How many museums can you think of ANYWHERE that have a significant amount of music-related exhibits?

Well, I can think of a few:

The Experience Music Project in Seattle. (I just noticed they added "Science Fiction Museum" to their title. They didn't have that when I was there a few years ago. It was 100% about music.)

I once saw a very good traveling exhibit about Woody Guthrie at the Tacoma Art Museum, in Tacoma, WA.

And I saw another traveling exhibit about Bob Dylan at the Weisman museum in Minneapolis.

The Schubert Club in Saint Paul has a permanent collection of historical instruments, mainly keyboards. This is a very small museum.

So my impression is, there are a few museums that specialize in music; and a few more that occasionally have temporary or traveling exhibits about music, but the majority of museums have practically nothing about music.


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 12 Sep 10 - 05:09 AM

Guest Brian

Please do not take offence if musicians and scholars on this folk and blues music forum discuss what appears to be a lack at this one particular museum. Others have been mentioned in other threads, such as the V&A for closing the musical instruments exhibit ad C# House countless times for concerns too many to relate.

People on this forum also look at promoting traditional music, not merely complaining of the lack. The original poster opened the topic and provided an opportunity for US, UK and any other members and guests on this forum to think about what might be done t fill the gap.

Hopefully from this thread people may join the Friends of the museum, get in touch with organisations and people who can donate or loan relic instruments, music scores, archive recordings and photographs for a temporary exhibit.

Kind regards,
Tamara, a Virginian living and singing in the UK.


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 12 Sep 10 - 05:39 AM

Just had a look at the museum website, would be great if someone could create music and information sound bytes for each of the period rooms which could be installed on audio guides and donated to the museum. Even better if compilation CDs of the same ilk as Friends of Old Time Music, Anthology Of American Folk Music and The Ultimate Encyclopaedia of American Blues Classics were available in the gift shop.

Shame... we have so many knowledgeable, talented, technically savvy people here on Mudcat. Would be lovely to get some support for adding a complimentary music element to this museum.

American music timeline

AMERICAN MUSIC RECORDINGS ARCHIVE


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: Vic Smith
Date: 12 Sep 10 - 11:32 AM

Two museums that I have been to in recent years that cater brilliantly for musical instruments - and mainly instruments associated with traditional music:-

THE HORNIMAN MUSICAL INSTRUMENT COLLECTION in South London
see http://www.horniman.ac.uk/collections/musical.php
I was particularly surprised and delighted to see a beautiful kora made by Alhaji Bai Konte the father of my great friend from the Gambia Jali Sherrifo Konteh

and

THE BRUSSELS MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS MUSEUM
see http://www.mim.be/en
Apart from the building itself being really stunning, there is a really extensive collection of instruments in the galleries on several floors as well as special exhibitions and an impressive, varied programme of talks and concerts.
They give you headphones as you go in and as you stand in front of an exhibit, you can hear a good recorded example of that instrument being played. The kora that they had there was a rather inferior looking one made in Guinea Bissau, but as I stood in front of it, I was exhilarated to hear the playing of.....Alhaji Bai Konte!


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: Vic Smith
Date: 12 Sep 10 - 11:41 AM

The Kora in the Brussels Musical Museum

In the above photo album there are a number of other photos from that museum plus the building itself. There are also a number of "photos of photos" as the special exhibition at the time was of photos that Alan Lomax had taken on his song & music collecting in Italy in the 1950s.


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: Andy Jackson
Date: 12 Sep 10 - 03:56 PM

Is it safe to come out yet?
All I wanted to say was how sad that such a fine and obviously important museum made no mention of American music.
The fact that other museums don't include music is irrelevant, along the lines of "two wrongs don't make a right" In fact I have queried the lack of music information at St Fagans(Wales)and other similar venues on several occasions. Perhaps my trouble is my overiding belief in the importance of musical heritage. The effect of harsh treatment of slaves and convicts especially but also general racism has produced whole genres of music specific to America. As such I am still amazed that so little information is on open display in said museum.

I'm going back behind the sofa now!


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: GUEST,Brian
Date: 12 Sep 10 - 04:41 PM

Virginia Tam. Just to clarify three point.

1. No offence was taken. Stating the case for the museum and its work is equally as valid as criticising it. Clarifying the fact that the original post is incorrect in stating there is NO music in the museum is not taking offence.

2. I know the original poster well, and have done for a number of years. It was me who informed him of the music in the museum archive.

3. I am fully aware of Mudcat and its discussions on traditional and other music. I have read the forum frequently for a few years, but rarely feel inclined to post these days. (I have also been an EFDSS member for nearly 40 years so am as aware as any about its recent history).

"Just had a look at the museum website, would be great if someone could create music and information sound bytes for each of the period rooms which could be installed on audio guides and donated to the museum."

Surely it would be better to visit the museum, talk to them about their plans, gain an informed perspective, then discuss ideas, rather than try to donate/impose impersonal audio guides on them. They have real people as guides in each room. Such ideas may be well meant, but would be a total waste of money if they conflict with the museums own plans. As I have already said, live music has been introduced into the museum in recent years. I know there are further plans and a lot more to come.


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: GUEST,Brian
Date: 12 Sep 10 - 05:18 PM

Come out from behind the sofa, Andy. I don't bite that hard. I fully agree that a greater emphasis on music at the museum would be brilliant. But it does have to be considered in relationship to the original remit of the museum and the resources they have available to extend into other areas (music being just one). Of course a gallery dedicated to the many and varied genres of American music would be superb, but with the present level of available resources, it is likely that it would be at the expense of existing exhibits. It would please some (me included) and displease others. As I have already said, playing American folk music in the folk arts gallery has been tried, and wasn't entirely popular. Seems they're damned if they do and damned if they don't.

The American Museum is addressing the subject of music (some other museums do not). We would all like there to be much more, but at least they are moving in the right direction albeit slowly. It is better praise their efforts so far and encourage further developement than to wrongly state they pay no attention to American music.

P.S. Jeff Warner at the museum (again) in August was superb. Can we keep him, and put him in the music room please.


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 12 Sep 10 - 09:42 PM

How peculiar....America has No similar Brit museum.

But... then again we have never yet been vanquished (my count beginning with the Romans is five times for the Brits and nine times for the Irish....Scotland once.)

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

I am bored with the UK .... however, an autobiography by the "German Greenspan" of the 30's/40's has me rivoted by a rosy at rest.


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Subject: RE: American Museum in Britain
From: GUEST,Ken Keppeler/Bayou Seco
Date: 13 Sep 10 - 01:37 PM

It's a fine museum and, thanks to Vic, we have now played there two times. It's not only a very nice museum but a great place to hang out on a nice day and they do have parking.


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