IN THE NEWS (2019)
All MPP staff are life-long learners. We actively follow the professional journals and also spend significant time reading widely on contemporary culture, the arts and history. We believe that museums are vehicles of social dialogue and we are all committed to achieving a better understanding of the ongoing discussions in the cultures and cities in which we work, and how emerging trends are being reflected in those communities.

With this in mind, we often see, hear or read something we think may be of interest to our colleagues around the world. In the News allow us to share our thoughts, and sometimes those of our international colleagues, to extend these discussions which make museum and gallery work so engaging. We hope you find regularly something of interest in these posts. Let us know.

Team MPP

Dec. 2019
London Never Disappoints
Over the decades I have made perhaps 50 visits to London, England and it never disappoints me. There are always new things to see, to do, to experience. I was in London for a few days doing what I love to do, looking at museums. I found many things to recommend in London but the three greatest finds were these:

At the Tate Modern
As usual, I wandered in and out of the galleries enjoying the entire experience, and in so doing, managed to stumble across an absolute showstopper entitled “The British Library”. This amazing piece of installation art consisted of over 6,300 books by Yinka Shonibae CBE, a British artist born in London but raised in Lagos, Nigeria.

The individual books are bound in African wax print fabric, the artist’s signature material. The history of this fabric reveals a complex relationship between colonialism, cultural appropriation, and national identity. Printed in gold on the spines of 2,700 of the books are the names of first or second-generation immigrants to Britain. There are also books with the names of those who have opposed immigration. Other books are unmarked, suggesting that the story of immigration in Britain is still being written. Supporting research material, in the form of a database, lets you research any name contained in the exhibit to determine who they were and what they did. It was an amazing testament to the power of art to stun with its beauty, and move by its content. See it, even if only on the Tate website.

At the Design Museum
I visited the Design Museum with the intention of seeing Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition but I forgot it was the weekend and every ticket for the day was sold out. However, my perceived loss was really my gain as I was able to visit the ‘Making Memory’ exhibit featuring seven landmark structures of celebrated British-Ghanaian architect, Sir David Adjaye. Each project was explored through the use of wooden scale models, supported by films, rare artifacts contextualizing design fittings, and outstanding text which not only informed the reader about his designs but his thought process. Every project was totally different, in complete harmony with its surroundings, and a brilliant interpretation of the spiritual core of the client brief he was asked to fulfill. Projects included the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C and the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London. There are good links to blogs and interviews with Mr. Adjaye on the Museum's website. 

At the Victoria & Albert Museum
I visited the V&A to see two displays, Maqdala 1868 and the redisplay of the Victorian Cast Courts. Magdala 1868 is a single case of material looted by British troops from the fortress of Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II. The display, created by the Museum, was advised by a local group of Ethiopian and Rastafarian community members who provided their thoughts on the objects. Magnificent objects, particularly the textiles. The other was the redisplay of the Victorian Cast Courts, two of the oldest, as well as, most popular galleries in the V&A.  The work was done brilliantly by Stephen Greenberg of Metaphor, a colleague of almost 20 years. The redisplay opened up new views and vistas, restoring the original decorative scheme and architectural features.

But the show stopper for this visit was the Sackler Courtyard. The work of the London-based architect Amanda Levete, the Courtyard with its new Sackler Gallery (the underground temporary exhibition hall) is a game-changer. The temporary exhibition gallery is a "batcave of a space", 10.5 metres high, and unimpeded by columns. Led by fashion and textiles curator Oriole Cullen and set designer Nathalie Crinière, the Dior exhibition took a lot of design inspiration from the theatrics of the hugely successful McQueen exhibition (2015) but the space (volume) allowed an exhibit design expression on a scale I have seen no where else.

The Dior exhibition was a smashing success for me as the show was not just about the dresses but about the creators and their creative processes. My wife loved the dresses and the history while I got a greater understanding of the art and the creative process for these textile masterpieces from the context. The crowds were terrible but the show was absolutely worth it. The courtyard and gallery will be a radical and hugely positive enhancement to an already truly great museum.

Robert Barnett, Chairman

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Aug. 2019
National Museum of Beirut
The National Museum is an archaeological gem! Originally opened in 1943, the Museum showcases an impressive overview of Lebanon’s history and the civilizations that impacted this cultural crossroads from the prehistoric to the Mamluk period. Closed in 1975 due to the Lebanese Civil War, the building’s ground and first floors reopened in 1999 with the basement reopened in 2016. The basement is now home to a spectacular collection of funerary art. Arranged chronologically, the 500-piece collection begins with a human tooth dating back 250,000 years, and finishes with Ottoman stone carvings from the 19th century.

Visitors can borrow one of the Museum’s complimentary iPads so that QR labels can be scanned on significant pieces in the collection to receive a written or auditory commentary about each. There’s also of the option of downloading the Museum’s app via Google Play or the Apple Store to access more information about the Museum’s history, collections, floorplans, and photographs.

Linda Pearcey, Senior Consultant

Jul. 2019
Learning from Pompeii – how to assemble:
During our brief visit to Pompeii this summer, my wife and I were pleasantly welcomed by the organic-looking modern pavilions located at the east end of the site. Built in 2008-2009, the open-web steel and glass enclosures housing a very engaging “visible storage” approach to exhibit displays are strategically positioned in the public open area just prior to the ticketing booths and admission point, helping “surround” and gather visitors while at the same time providing a very solid buffer to the neighbouring properties.

But the most striking aspect of this mustering space isn’t the very successful architectural replication of the light-and-shadow play that the site trees produce, and through which the two semi-circular structures are interwoven to almost visually disappear whilst at the same time maintaining a very solid presence; nor is it the transparency of the building giving way to the uninhibited curiosity of the visitors to approach and engage with the exhibits within… No, the most successful feature of the space is the permeable approach to group-gathering: whether outside in the circular plaza, or inside either one of the two structures, groups can easily be gathered for an impromptu discussion surrounded by attention-grabbing exhibitry of the most shocking nature possible – the plaster forms of the bodies found within the lava. This exposure and proximity to ultra-sensitive content, working concurrently as first-contact and parting-image, permanently imprints the magnitude and severity of the cataclysm suffered by this site, leaving a lasting impression not easily shaken on the visitor, regardless of age or background.

Nick Borcescu, Facilities Planning & Exhibit Design

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Jun. 2019
Oh, Hectic and Glorious Spring!
A Writer’s Report from Stage to Library to Exhibition

Process Theatre’s Scripted Toronto International Festival of New Works was held in May where Stratford’s Deborah Ann Smith directed my radio play
“The Triage Conference”. It was thrilling to see the cast and crew transform what could have a simple dramatic reading into a truly dynamic work of performance art.

In honour of the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, the Toronto Public Library is hosting
Retro Futures, a nostalgic exploration of worlds of tomorrow that might have been – featuring artwork and rare books from the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy.

As part of their programming, I was invited to the Library to talk about the 1964 film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic novel
The First Men in the Moon. It was incredible fun to unleash my inner SF-nerd and talk about this amazing movie that is part NASA pseudo-documentary, part Victorian comedy of manners and part Dynamation spectacular! Retro Futures will be running until July 28 at the Toronto Dominion Gallery at the Toronto Reference Library. For more information, check out:

For those you know who might be curious about what
Dynamation is, take a look at:

Hugh Spencer, Interpretive Planning

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Jan. 2019
Amazing Stories of Many Kinds:
Humans are essentially a meaning-seeking species – which is part of the reason that so much of the public experience in museums and exhibits is based on story-telling. Everyone uses narratives to organize, preserve and interpret their personal and collective memories.

Museum Planning Partners is a leader in the field of Interpretive Planning: the crafting and scripting of exhibition and public program experiences. But our creative narratives don’t just happen in museums; Hugh Spencer, our senior Interpretive Planner, is also a published novelist, short-story writer, and playwright with a growing body of critically acclaimed works. Most recently his novella
“Ammonite City” is being serialized in the winter and spring issues of the art and photography magazine Latent Image and this May a radio play version of his short story “The Triage Conference” will be performed at the Scripted Toronto New Writing Festival at Theatre Passe Muraille, in Toronto, Canada.

Hugh Spencer, Interpretive Planning

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Dec. 2018
New project announcement: Qalipu First Nations
Museum Planning Partners is pleased to announce its collaboration with the Qalipu First Nation in the refreshment of the K’Taqmkuk Mi’kmaw Museum in St. George’s, Newfoundland, Canada. Owned and operated by the St. George’s Indian Band, the Museum is the only official Mi’kmaw cultural and historic museum in Newfoundland. The Museum’s building has been an iconic focal point in the community of St. George’s and the surrounding area since the 19th century, having served as a courthouse, jail, police station, post office, medical clinic, and public health facility. Today, the building is a reflection of the community’s rich history.

MPP is proud to be working with Tract Consulting who is Project Lead. MPP is responsible for providing Interpretive Planning services and, with Tract, is creating new visitor experiences that will appeal to the local community, Band members, and tourists alike.

Linda Pearcey, Senior Consultant

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Nov. 2018
Hear Ye! Hear Ye!
We are pleased as punch to announce that Nick Borcescu, MPP's Exhibit Designer & Masterplanner, has been recognized by membership in the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals (CAHP - ACECP) based on the merits of his Canadian and international work over the past two decades.

CAHP – ACECP is a professional organization that serves qualified heritage professionals in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. CAHP – ACECP establishes standards of practice, shares knowledge about heritage conservation, and supports the involvement of heritage professionals whenever places of heritage value are being identified, preserved, restored and rehabilitated. As part of its mandate, the organization fosters and promotes public and legislative support for heritage conservation.

Team MPP

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