Archives For Books & People

Article: Rebecca Carlsson
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In today’s uncertain times, museums can act as an anchor in the storm.

To those who aren’t as passionate about the power of museums as readers of this blog, it can often seem that such institutions are merely places where forgotten objects go to enjoy their final years.

But despite this, there’s a strong case to be made that the museum is more relevant today than it has ever been. From addressing key social issues to transforming how we see the future, the humble museum has the power to reflect and shape our society. Here are five reasons why we need museums now more than ever.

Learning from the past

First and foremost, museums and galleries provide an insight into the history of humankind. And while no museum can claim to provide a complete picture, the lessons we can learn from past events, wonders and tragedies are priceless.

This is especially true in times of turmoil. Today, it’s impossible to ignore the escalating tensions between nations, between political parties and between different cultural groups. Instead of finding common ground, it seems that issues of class, race, gender and environmentalism are becoming ever more polarised.

To help the public re-establish this common ground and learn to build bridges rather than breed division, many believe that museums have a role to play in giving us perspective – be it through intellectual exercises or merely holding up mistakes of the past as evidence of where such behaviour will lead us once more. This is what the museum has the power to showcase.

On 31 March 2017, the Musée de l’Homme in Paris launched a major temporary exhibition “Us and Them – From Prejudice to Racism”, organized under the patronage of UNESCO. It showcases an original immersive scenography which aims to shed new light on racist behaviour and prejudices through time. In the face of hatred and ignorance, knowledge and understanding are often the best weapons.

Bringing communities together

Museums have the power to create unity on both a social and political level, but also on a local one. Local museums are able to provide a sense of community and place by celebrating a collective heritage, offering a great way to get to know the history of a particular area.

There are endless examples of local museums in the UK. One such institution is the Hove Museum and Art Gallery, located in Hove near Brighton. Housed in an Italianate Victorian villa near the seafront, this local abode was once home to a wealthy widow before housing German prisoners of war during World War II. The home is filled with a variety of local historical treasures, including dolls, rocking horses, prints, paintings and sculptures. From prehistoric times to the pioneering 20th-century filmmaking that occurred in the area, this museum offers a comprehensive history of Hove.

As technology and digitalisation see us becoming more and more globalised, institutions such as these offer a welcome reminder of the achievements and discoveries located closer to home, bringing communities together.

Museums can also bring people together in a more literal way, through public events, workshops and lectures. The British Museum, for example, works with community organisations and charities to explore, research and respond to projects. Meanwhile, some museums like the Museum of Street Culture in Dallas, Texas create exhibitions designed to support vulnerable local people. The Museum of Street Culture recently launched a project designed to engage the public in dialogue with people experiencing homelessness, challenging stigma and increasing awareness.

Exhibits like this couldn’t come at a better time, with recent reports confirming that the levels of homelessness are actually five times higher than previously thought.

Digitalisation, innovation and interaction

Thanks to the rise in technology over the last two decades, what it means to be a museum is being questioned and challenged. Modern tech is transforming museums from spaces of looking and learning to spaces of interaction, participation and engagement.

This is evident in major institutions around the world, including the Detroit Institute of Arts. The museum’s Lumin AR Tour uses augmented reality to improve both the educational and the practical aspects of the museum experience. The tour, introduced in 2017, can be implemented on a handheld device available inside the building.

When the device is pointed at certain sculptures, artefacts or paintings, more information about them is made available. Pop-up snippets, detailed descriptions and additional photography are just a few examples of what the devices offer, increasing the average time visitors spend engaging with items inside the collection.

One of the most interesting and popular options is the ability to ‘x-ray’ an ancient mummy, allowing visitors the chance to experience the interior as well as the exterior of this fascinating find.

Similarly, the ArtLens Interactive Studio at the Cleveland Museum of Art contains a variety of screen-based activities that require physical movement and interaction from the viewer in order to operate.

Just some of the activities visitors can expect to enjoy include: virtual painting and virtual collaging (using items found throughout the gallery’s collection); researching and learning about various featured artists and mediums using portable devices; front camera self-portraiture; virtual pottery; and matching shapes to items in the gallery. Examples such as these show the changing faces of museums, as curators begin to think outside the box and develop more immersive, social and collaborative ways of learning for visitors.

Advances in technology have also made museums more accessible than ever. For those who might struggle to attend an institution in person, museums and galleries are increasingly sharing their collections online. Virtual reality, digital guides, downloads, apps and digital trails are all becoming increasingly available to anyone and everyone.

We need museums because their future is so full of possibility and opportunity – and more people than ever can access them.

Educating future generations

Speaking of the future, museums and other cultural institutions will always have a role to play in the education of future generations. From creating exhibitions targeted towards children to teaching children in a quasi-classroom environment, institutions around the world are doing their bit to pass down knowledge.

Back in 1990, Semper described a museum as “an educational country fair” – and this is more true today than ever. In the United States alone, around 80% of museums provide educational programmes for children, and spend more than $2 billion per year on educational activities, according to the American Alliance of Museums.

What’s more, traditional museum spaces are also offering interactive exhibitions and opportunities for children. The Tate in London offers a dedicated website for children about art – Tate Kids – which allows children to play games and quizzes, watch videos about art and be inspired to make their own creations at home. They can also share their creation with other children around the world via the site’s online gallery.

Museums are just as important to the future as the future is to museums. Not only can our museums bring history to life, but they can also shine a light on both our present and our future – a light which can be hard to find elsewhere.

Adapted from

Top 15 Museums to Visit Before You Die


By Cheow Sue-Ann & Goh Ruoxue


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A woman refused to take her father, who has Parkinson’s disease, for his medical appointments.

She ignored doctors’ advice to feed her elderly parents soft and healthy food and instead denied them access to proper nutrition, forcing them to eat bread for most meals. She also deprived them of money and warned them not to seek help.

Ms Shannen Ang, centre manager and senior counsellor at Sage Counselling Centre, gave these details of an elderly abuse case, a problem that has seen rising numbers in recent years. Latest figures from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) show the number of such cases has more than doubled in two years. In 2016, 55 cases of elderly abuse were reported to MSF. In 2017, they rose to 77 cases, then shot up to 126 cases last year.

Apart from physical abuse, victims could also face neglect as well as emotional, psychological and sexual abuse, said MSF. Its spokesman told The New Paper: “The injuries arising from these types of abuse vary in nature and severity. Typically, injuries may involve bruises, cane marks, abrasions, hip fractures and bedsores due to neglect in care.”

MSF noted that there has been no known fatality resulting from abuse of the elderly, which is defined as anyone aged at least 65. The abusers are often caregivers. About 80 per cent of the victims know their abusers, who could be their children, step-children or spouse, said MSF. Experts told TNP that abuse sometimes occurs in the heat of the moment when caregivers are overwhelmed, frustrated or stressed out. On average, about 12 per cent of the cases investigated by MSF will also have a concurrent police investigation, said the spokesman.

“Typically, the police may be involved in cases where there are concerns over a criminal offence being committed against the victim, such as sexual or serious physical abuse,” she added.

MSF figures show that sexual abuse of the elderly is rare, with no reported case in 2016 and one each in 2017 and 2018. Ms Shailey Hingorani, head of advocacy and research at Aware, said: “Regardless of the age of the parties involved, sexual violence is more often perpetrated by someone known to the survivor than by a stranger.”

Ms Ang told TNP that the elderly couple in her anecdote would be considered to have been emotionally abused and neglected. They were so terrified of their daughter that they had to discreetly contact her.

“It is sad to see elderly people in such abuse cases being so helpless, yet they can rely only on their children.”

MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling told TNP: “It is sad to hear about the rise in such cases, especially when it comes to the elderly who are vulnerable, not just because of their age but also their physical condition.

“It is even sadder when it is their family members, whom they love and trust, who abuse them.”

Many cases of elderly abuses remain unreported. Dr Ng Wai Chong, chief of clinical affairs of Tsao Foundation, said: “Some elders may not be aware that they are being abused, such as in cases of financial abuse.

“In another instance, victims may not want to speak up and report abuse for fear of loss of face. Even when it is discovered, the victim may not want decisive intervention, such as segregation from the abuser.”

MSF said the rise in the number of cases could also be attributed to increased awareness about the issue.

“While there has been an increase in elder abuse cases, the absolute number continues to be relatively low,” its spokesman said. “The increase in elder abuse cases handled by MSF does not necessarily indicate a growing occurrence of abuse, and may in part reflect the community’s growing ability to identify cases of abuse and refer them for help.”

Still, the consequences of elder abuse are dire, experts said. Ms Evonne Lek, a family therapist, told TNP: “At their end of life, having to face such abuse at the hands of their children can lead to a steep psychological decline, and they may feel that life is not worth living.”

Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser said: “(A rise in elder abuse cases) would undermine the family as an institution for mutual support and for inculcating respect and honour for elders in the family.”


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Talking Point: Elderly Abuse


In George Orwell‘s 1984Winston Smith wrestles with oppression in Oceania, a place where the Party scrutinizes human actions with ever-watchful Big Brother. Defying a ban on individuality, Winston dares to express his thoughts in a diary and pursues a relationship with Julia. These criminal deeds bring Winston into the eye of the opposition, who then must reform the nonconformist. George Orwell’s 1984introduced the watchwords for life without freedom: BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.


In 1984, Orwell creates a technologically advanced world in which fear is used as a tool for manipulating and controlling individuals who do not conform to the prevailing political orthodoxy. In his attempt to educate the reader about the consequences of certain political philosophies and the defects of human nature, Orwell creates a dystopia, a fictional setting in which life is extremely bad from deprivation, oppression, or terror. Orwell’s dystopia is a place where humans have no control over their own lives, where nearly every positive feeling is squelched, and where people live in misery, fear, and repression.

Orwell wrote 1984 just after World War II ended, wanting it to serve as a warning to his readers. He wanted to be certain that the kind of future presented in the novel should never come to pass, even though the practices that contribute to the development of such a state were abundantly present in Orwell’s time. He lived during a time in which tyranny was a reality in Spain, Germany, the Soviet Union, and other countries, where the government kept an iron fist (or curtain) around its citizens, where there was little, if any freedom, and where hunger, forced labour, and mass execution were common.

Orwell espoused democratic socialism, a political belief that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. Orwell used his writing to express his powerful political feelings, and that fact is readily apparent in the society he creates in 1984. Although fictional, the society created mirrors the political weather of the societies that existed all around him. Orwell’s Oceania is a terrifying society reminiscent of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union — complete repression of the human spirit, absolute governmental control of daily life, constant hunger, and the systematic “vaporization” of individuals who do not, or will not, comply with the government’s values.

Orwell despised the politics of the leaders he saw a rise to power in the countries around him, and he despised what the politicians did to the people of those countries. Big Brother is certainly a fusing of both Stalin and Hitler, both real and terrifying leaders, though both on opposite sides of the philosophical spectrum. By combining traits from both the Soviet Union’s and Germany’s totalitarian states, Orwell created Big Brother that was so easily recognizable, having heavy black moustaches and charismatic speaking styles synonymous to both Hitler and Stalin. He makes sure that the reader of 1984 does not mistake his intention — to show clearly how totalitarianism negatively affects the human spirit and how it is impossible to remain freethinking under such circumstances.

During his time in Spain, the group with which Orwell was associated was accused of being a pro-Fascist organization, a falsehood that was readily believed by many, including the left-wing press in England. As a reflection on this experience, in 1984, Orwell creates a media service that is nothing more than a propaganda machine, mirroring what Orwell, as a writer, experienced during his time in Spain.

Similarly while working with the BBC during World War II when certain kinds of restrictions limiting what news could be disseminated were common, Orwell became disturbed by what he perceived to be the falseness of his work. It is noteworthy that Winston Smith, the main character in 1984, works in the media and is responsible for creating what is, essentially, deceptive propaganda. In fact, it is Winston’s position in the media that gives the reader the most insight into the duplicity of the society in which he lives and therefore, the society that Orwell most condemns.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm

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Adapted from

10 Reasons Why the Book 1984 Still Matters

George Orwell


By Kevin Michael August 5, 2016

Consider the Lobster is a brilliant essay by David Foster WallaceDownload

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Food etiquette can range from good to bad to downright ugly! Your dining habits depend on which part of the world you live in and the way you eat among others is determined by your culture and traditions.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint any one truly “weird” food habit – as what is good for one may be bad for others — it takes a bit of studying and open-mindedness to understand the world and the different rules of etiquette in various locales.

As they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do – whatever part of the planet you are on, it is important to blend into other cultures’ habits and ways, not only to avoid looking like a tourist, but to benefit from the overall experience!

Sometimes you need to accept that people have what you would consider weird food etiquette and habits because it’s all normal to them! Rather than criticizing or making faces — eat the way they eat and appreciate their culture and traditions.

Here are 20 things that you might find weird about the way others dine…

#1 Forget the coffee in Italy

If you have the habit of having a cappuccino after your meal, then forget it in Italy. Italians love to enjoy their food with wine. Continue Reading…


Quit social media | Dr. Cal Newport | TEDxTysons


The average age for UK children to own their own phone is seven, surveys suggest Katie Forster @katieforster Friday 14 April 2017 17:57

Children in the UK own their own phone by age seven on average, research suggests ( Getty Images )

Children refusing to put down their phones is a common flashpoint in many homes, with a third of British children aged 12 to 15 admitting they do not have a good balance between screen time and other activities.

But in the US, the problem has become so severe for some families that children as young as 13 are being treated for digital technology addiction.

One ‘smartphone rehab’ centre near Seattle has started offering residential “intensive recovery programs” for teenagers who have trouble controlling their use of electronic devices.

The Restart Life Centre says parents have been asking it to offer courses of treatment to their children for more than eight years.

Hilarie Cash, the Centre’s founder, told Sky News smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices can be so stimulating and entertaining that they “override all those natural instincts that children actually have for movement and exploration and social interaction”.

It is important for families to “talk about tech and how much is good, how much is ok and when does it start to interfere with family relationships, with responsibilities, with sleep, and many other things,“ she added.

A recent survey of 1,500 parents found that, on average, UK children own their first mobile phone by the age of seven, followed by a tablet aged eight and a smartphone aged 10.

And a report published last year by Ofcom found that 64 per cent of children aged 12 to 15 and 65 per cent of parents of children in that age group said the teenagers’ “screen time” was under control.

‘Toilet paper for smartphones’ installed in airport lavatories

Richard Graham is a consultant psychiatrist at the private London mental health hospital the Nightingale Hospital, where he runs a specialist technology addiction clinic.

He told Metro what parents should look out for to know if their child is at risk of smartphone addiction: “Is their device use disturbing activities?” he said.

“Is it stopping them from going to school, or engaging in other activities such as having dinner with the family? When someone seems absolutely not able to stop, they’re losing control”.

Teenagers are ‘replacing drugs with smartphones’, researchers suggest

Dr Graham said parents should lead by example and limit their own use of mobile devices and plan designated tech-free family time.

Outdoor activities can be particularly beneficial to children who struggle to disconnect, he added.

“There’s something about those outdoor, immersive experiences that really help tech-addicted children. Even just going swimming, going to a football match, or going to the cinema can have a positive effect.”

Child psychotherapist Julie Lynn Evans, who has worked with hospitals, schools and families for 25 years, said her workload has significantly increased since the use of smartphones became widespread among young people.

“It’s a simplistic view, but I think it is the ubiquity of broadband and smartphones that has changed the pace and the power and the drama of mental illness in young people,” she told The Telegraph.

A ComRes poll of more than 1,000 parents of children aged under 18, published in September 2015, found 47 per cent of parents said they thought their children spent too much time in front of screens, with 43 per cent saying this amounts to emotional dependency.