The Burning of the Houses of Parliament by J.M.W. Turner
On October 16th, 1834, the UK Houses of Parliament were engulfed by flame. The fire began when two underfloor stoves that were being used to burn the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s stockpile of old tally sticks, wooden sticks with notches in them to indicate value that were used to keep the national accounts until the late 1780s, ignited panelling in the Lords Chamber. The fire quickly got out of control, destroying many buildings, including the House of Commons. The devastation was witnessed by painters Turner (see above) and Constable.
In an inventive and educational turn, ParliamentBurnsLive is using twitter to livetweet the accounts of what happened in real time. You can follow the events of the Burning of Parliament through the account @ParliamentBurns, or by following the hashtag #ParliamentBurns.
Last week I received an invitation to the season two launch party for History Television Canada’s show Museum Secrets. Although my course schedule prevents me from attending the event, I was interested in writing about the new season of the show.
Museum Secrets takes viewers around the world by focusing on a different museum collection in each hour long episode. The first season of six episodes included visits to the Vatican Museum, The Louvre, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, as well as Toronto’s own Royal Ontario Museum. Each episode uses interviews with knowledgeable staff members as well as cutting edge technology to uncover the stories behind museum objects. The second season kicks off this Thursday, January 12th at 10 PM EST with “Inside the State Hermitage Museum”.
Founded by Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg, Russia, the museum contains 3 million works of art and artefacts of world culture and is visited by 2.5 million people each year. Among other secrets, this episode will re-examine the murder of Rasputin, look at the curators who risked their lives during WWII to protect museum treasures from the Nazis, and even discuss Catherine the Great’s sex life. The remaining seven episodes will air as follows:
- January 19th – “Inside the American Museum of Natural History”
- January 26th – “Inside the National Archaeological Museum of Athens”
- February 2nd – “Inside the Imperial War Museum”
- February 9th – “Inside the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City”
- March 1st – “Inside the Pergamon and Neues Museums, Berlin”
- March 8th – “Inside the Kunsthisorisches Museum, Vienna”
- March 15th – “Inside the Tokapi Palace Museum, Istanbul”
I watched the first season of Museum Secrets online here, and loved getting a behind-the-scenes look at some of the world’s foremost museums. I also found the combination of museum photography, investigation into popular legends, and information about lesser-known artefacts very engaging. Evidently I was not alone because the series has been nominated for two History Makers Awards. which recognize the best in history, current affairs, and non-fiction programming across TV and digital platforms.
One of these nominations, for Best Interactive Production, recognizes “originality and excellence in the use of the online medium for factual storytelling”, so it is not surprising that Museum Secrets has a comprehensive official website containing more information about the series. www.museumsecrets.tv includes trailers and sneak-peeks of upcoming episodes as well as an object navigator feature that lets viewers take a closer look at the museum objects discussed on the show. Additionally it is linked to the official websites for each featured museum.
There is a distinct lack of history-related programming in North America, so it is important that we endeavor to support the interesting historical programming that we do have, such as Museum Secrets. The second season of Museum Secrets airs Thursdays at 10 PM EST on History Television Canada. Production stills can be viewed on the Museum Secrets flickr account here.