Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Power of the Pen

The inclusive audio descriptions I wrote about last week can be listened to by visitors to Bristol’s City Museum and Art Gallery on DiscoveryPens. These brilliant little devices play recorded content when touched to sound spots in some of the permanent galleries. We also provide them in temporary exhibitions.


Thanks to a generous grant from the Clothworkers Foundation, we were able to buy 100 DiscoveryPens which are made by London based company Mantra Lingua.


The picture below shows me using a DiscoveryPen in the French Art Gallery. Follow the links to see a piece about us on the Clothworkers’ website and learn more about Mantra Lingua:


PS with Disc pen_MG_6009

Picture this

Today we are recording more inclusive audio descriptions of pictures in the French Art Gallery. These are descriptions that have enough visual information for people like me, who can’t see the pictures, whilst also being of interest to people who can see them. Here’s an example:

My name is Jenny Gaschke. I am one of the fine art curators here at the museum. I’m looking at Still Life with Oysters, it’s oil on canvas, painted by the artist Eugène Boudin in about 1850

In this painting, we are looking at carefully arranged objects on a table: the table is laden with fruit, nuts, glassware, a wicker basket and oysters on a platter. The colours in this accomplished still life are muted, yet there is the sharp note of the cut lemons in the right foreground and the warmth of the pears behind. But it is the oysters in the centre left, which dominate the composition. Their succulent cream and white flesh and freshly-opened shells are painted in a way that almost makes us feel, get a tactile sense of their wet surfaces. In the background the composition is closed off by wall panelling, calmly focussing all our attention on to the simple things in front of us at eye level. It is important to remember that oysters were an everyday staple in coastal communities during the nineteenth century and did not carry the connotation of luxury we give to them today.

Eugène Boudin probably painted this still life just a few years after he gave up his stationery business and went to Paris to train as an artist. He was influenced by the new sense of naturalism in contemporary French painting, such as the art of the so-called Barbizon school. The composition and subject matter demonstrate that he had studied seventeenth century Dutch still-life painting as well. Specifically, the way in which the fruit knife extends over the edge of the table towards us is a typical visual device he took from his Dutch models – blurring the boundary between painted and real world. But he is doing this only to a certain degree: Boudin has chosen a very low, one might think artificial viewpoint in order to bring the table-edge right to our eye level and create a sense of intimacy. We are not standing over the table and we are not sitting down, but viewing it from low down, as if we were the height of a small child.

Follow this link to see the picture now, then let me know what you think of the description:


First post

Hello. Welcom to my blog. As the title says, this is my first post, but I will be adding new ones on at least a weekly basis, so please come back often.


I will mainly be writing about my work and ideas relating to access to museums and heritage sites, but you never know, I might just throw something else unexpected in from time to time.