I watched the third episode of the BBC’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum the other night. I find putting together a thesis plan to be one of the hardest things about my PhD, so it was fascinating to see how the film-makers structured their narrative of the museum. This particular episode was focused on the National Waterways Museum and concentrated on the difficulties brought about by its troubled financial situation.
There’s no shortage of museums programmes around on the BBC at the moment. Major collaborative projects like ‘A History of the World’ focus on collections, but there are a number of programmes that look more closely at museums themselves. The Museum of Everything (2006), a radio 4 comedy was closely followed by BBC2 documentary series The Museum, looking at the BM (2007). Since then English Heritage (‘English Heritage’ 2009) and the Natural History Museum (‘The Museum of Life’ 2010) have been the subject of documemtary series, with the BM also being featured in a series of 15 minute films (The People of the British Museum, 2010).
Somehow, to my shame, I have only seen a whole set of episodes of The Museum, which the BM were kind enough to give me a copy of when I interned there a couple of years ago. I’m really curious to see what you made of any of these programmes, or failing that museums in fiction.
A quick search through IMDB pulls up museums from genres beyond documentary: everything from the Night at the Museum franchise to the enigmatic Museum Mystery (1937). Russian Ark (2002) concerns a figure’s self-discovery on a noctural journey through the Hermitage Collection, in Saint Petersburg. At the other end of the scale, the cast of Sesame Street also find themselves confined in a museum overnight, in the TV movie Don’t Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983). Cameos from familiar faces are also represented: from Her Majesty the Queen Arriving at South Kensington on the Occasion of the Laying of the Foundation Stone of the Victoria & Albert Museum (1899) right down to A Night at the Museum with McFly (2006).
The Museum of London, as you are no doubt aware, features in the Ant’n’Dec film, Alien Autopsy (2006). It features the Museum of London as the setting for the lead characters’ film preview. I can’t find a free version of the script anywhere online (apparently no-one wanted to transcribe it) so you’ll have to make do with some screenshots and what I can remember of the plot:
Ray Santilli and Gary Shoefield (played by ant and dec) explaining that they needed a venue for the preview of their alien autopsy movie, a venue with appropriate cache…
The Natural HIstory Museum looking grand
‘no they were busy, so we went to the Museum of London…’ (paraphrasing from sketchy memory here)
Shot of the Museum of London looking less grand
which (as far as I remember) this guy’s not heard of
characters agree it’s not so well known
Still, the film did provide a couple of shots of folks flocking to the museum, sadly for the preview of the alien autopsy footage, not for the love of history (this time).
I’ve got to say that I never imagined I’d be encountering aliens and ant’n’dec on my PhD about city museums. But I guess it will make this blog a little more google-able at least…
There’s plenty to be said about museums in the popular consciousness, and it’s something I’d like to look at again. I’ll probably be looking at Relic: Guardians of the Museum in my next post, but if you’ve got any suggestions then stick them in the comments box, I’d love to hear them.