Five Things I'm Doing This June
Despite lockdown starting to ease this month, we are still very much heading into the unknown. It's easy to hope art galleries and museums will open their doors later on in June, but how different will the experience be? After long queues outside will you have to queue to see a certain painting or object? Will there be a one-way designated route through rooms? And more importantly will many places which were previously free start to charge? It certainly will be interesting to see how life will change in the upcoming months, and I do hope there is still much enjoyment to be had when everything does reopen.
But for now I assume many of you are still stuck at home, and I hope my five suggestions for what to do in June bring a bit of solace over the next few weeks.
Exhibitions at the British Museum
The British Museum will most definitely be one of the places I'm heading to as soon as it opens its doors, and let's keep are fingers crossed that some of the exhibitions that were planned for 2020 are still going ahead later in the year! For an almost as good as an experience as being there, I highly recommend watching Pompeii Live and Vikings Live, two online tours of the greatest exhibitions the Museum has put together in recent years. Make sure to set plenty of time aside, as both videos are well over an hour but they do offer a complete experience.
What I'm Reading
I normally rattle through books like there's no tomorrow, and lockdown has been no different. A few of my favourites I've really enjoyed in the past few weeks have been 'A Diary of a Nobody' by George and Weedon Grossmith. I feel a bit wary recommending this as you have to have quite a dry sense of humour to find it funny, but I've been in fits of giggles reading it. It first appeared in Punch magazine in 1888-9 and was published as a (very short) book a few years later. It does exactly as it says on this tin, it's a diary of a very normal, mundane person, which nothing much happens to.
Failing Angels by Tracy Chevalier is another book which I haven't been able to put down. Pretty much set in Highgate Cemetery, it's the story of two families bought reluctantly together, with each chapter being written by different characters.
I also treated myself to a fancy new hardback - London's Underground: The Story of the Tube by Oliver Green. It's a mix of beautiful photographs with plenty of text, a great gift for anyone whose a bit of a tube geek like me.
Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton was another treat I bought for myself last week. The 75th edition (another fancy hardback) comes with loads of beautiful illustrations, and totally worth paying a little bit extra for!
When I finally take my head out of a book to go on my daily walk, I turn to audiobooks and podcasts. A few reccomendations which have been keeping me company include Waldy and Bendy Adventures in Art. Waldemar Januszczak is one of my favourite art historians (some of his programmes are on youtube) and he's joined by Bendor ‘Bendy’ Grosvenor. They chat all things art - from Artemisia Gentileschi and the National Gallery exhibition we should have all been going to right now, to why they aren't particular keen on Tate Modern, there was an interesting interview with Tracey Emin, as well as discussion what art they would have on their wall at home.
You're Dead to Me from BBC Radio 4 is another great listen for those with an interest in history. Greg Jenner is joined by a historian and a comedian and they all chat about a particular subject, be it Stonehenge, the history of chocolate or certain figures throughout history. The most interesting one I've listened to so far was on Harriet Tubman, an incredible woman born into slavery. She managed to escape but put her life in danger time and time again to help others escape as well. But she didn't stop there, during the American Civil War she acted as an armed scout and spy, and in her later years campaigned for women's suffrage.
I've used this website for years, but it's been getting plenty of use during lockdown. They have a huge selection of online courses, and many of them are free. I'm currently making my way through The Tudors as well as a course on the history of Rome. Both are very interesting with a mix of reading, videos and even a few little quizzes to make sure you've been paying attention!
Ok ok, I sometimes need a break from all things London, and for those times I head to Italy. I was lucky enough to visit Florence and Rome just before lockdown, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my planned holiday there in October will go ahead. But for now I'll visit Italy online.
I was lucky enough to call Florence home for just under two years, so of course I love the history of the city as well as all the art there, and it's been great to see so many ways to learn more about it online during the past few months.
The British Institute in Florence holds free online lectures once a week (donations welcome), as well as week long online art history seminars (via zoom). I've already done two, one on art history in Florence and the second on Florence art elsewhere - from the National Gallery here in London, New York, Berlin, Madrid and Boston. Next week Jeremy will focus on Medieval Florence and I've already signed up! I actually did the three month long art history course there a few years ago and absolutely loved it, so I can vouch for how good the lecture series will be! It costs £75 for the week, and they run three times a day throughout the week, more information here.
How has lockdown been for you? What have you been doing to keep busy if you haven't been at work?
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Stay safe, Heard in London