Virtual Historic Site Impressions: The Tower of London

March 3, 2022

Thank you to all of those who responded to the second poll I released. The one that had the most votes was the Tower of London in London, England. A little while back I saw a couple of documentaries about the Tower of London on Netflix and the Tower’s history has fascinated me ever since. I decided to include the Tower of London as one of the options for the poll since it has fascinated millions of visitors and I thought that there may be interest among all of you readers. Enjoy this impression of my virtual visit!

           I took a couple of tours including the 360-degree tour of the Tower hosted by the Historic Royal Palaces YouTube channel. The Historic Royal Palaces tour was guided by Dan Snow behind the camera and Chief Yeoman Warder Alan Kingshott. I appreciated that during the tour there are arrows at the top left corner to see more of this 360-degree tour especially when it may be a person’s only way to visit the Tower of London. It is great to have this experience of learning about the castle that not only held prisoners, but also guarded royal possessions, protected the royal family during times of war and rebellion, and was used as a luxurious palace.

         William the Conqueror, in the 1070s, began to build a massive stone fortress in London to defend and proclaim his power.  The Tower of London took about 20 years to build and William the Conqueror did not live to see it completed. Since it’s completion the Tower has been adapted and developed by other kings; for instance, Henry III (1216-1272) and Edward I (1272-1307) expanded the fortress by adding huge defensive walls with a series of smaller towers and enlarging the moat. In addition to using the Tower as protection, a defense and a palace, arms and armor were made, tested, and stored there until the 1800s. The Tower controlled the supply of the nation’s money; the coins were made at the Tower Mint from Edward I’s reign until 1810. Kings and queens locked away their jewels and other valuables at the Tower. Today, the Crown Jewels are protected by a garrison of soldiers.

         The soldiers who guard the Tower are known as Yeoman Warders and are recognized as symbols of the Tower around the world have been there for centuries. They were originally part of the Yeomen of the Guard, who were the monarch’s personal bodyguard who traveled with the monarch. Henry VIII (1507-1547) decreed that some of the Yeomen would stay and guard the Tower permanently. Nowadays the Yeomen Warders guard the visitors but they still carry out ceremonial duties including the Ceremony of the Keys, which is the unlocking and locking of the Tower every day that began in the mid-1300s during the reign of Edward III; the King went to the Tower unannounced one night in December 1340 and walked straight in unchallenged, and after imprisoning the Constable of the Tower for neglecting his duty Edward III decreed that the castle should be locked at sunset and unlocked at sunrise. The Yeomen Warders wear their red state “dress uniforms” for important occasions at the Tower and special events including the Gun Salutes (firing the huge cannon on the Wharf). Yeomen Warders live on the premises of the Tower.

        When it was used as a royal residence, medieval kings and queens lived in luxurious apartments at the Tower. They worshipped in the Chapel Royal, kept a menagerie of exotic animals (which lasted until the 19th century), and welcomed foreign rulers at magnificent ceremonial occasions. Although it has long since vanished, there was once a splendid royal palace to the south of the White Tower. Henry VIII modernized the rooms inside in preparation for the coronation of his new bride, Anne Boleyn in 1533. She and the King feasted the night before Anne processed in triumph through the City of London to Westminster Abbey. Three years later Anne was back at the Tower, this time accused of adultery and treason. She was held in the same luxurious lodgings before being executed by sword on Tower Green.

         For over 800 years, men and women have arrived at the Tower. Some stayed for only a few days, others many years. During the Tudor age, the Tower became the most important state prison in the country. Anyone thought to be a threat to national security including the future Queen Elizabeth I, Lady Jane Grey, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Guy Fawkes were sent to the Tower. The last time individuals were sent to Tower was during World War II when German spies were brought here and shot. Not everyone who went to the Tower came to serve time in prison.

         The Tower has been a visitor attraction since the 18th century, but the number of tourists increased dramatically in the 1800s. Visitors were fascinated by the stories of England’s turbulent and sometimes gruesome history. Stories of ghosts haunt the Tower. Anne Boleyn is said to stalk the site of her execution on Tower Green. Arbella Stuart, the cousin of Elizabeth I who starved while under arrest for marrying without royal permission, is said to frequent the Queen’s House still. One of the most famous legends of the Tower surrounds the ravens.  The story goes that should the ravens leave the Tower, both it and the kingdom will fall. Seven ravens live at the Tower today and are cared for by a dedicated Yeoman Warder known as the Ravenmaster. It continues to be a popular visitor attraction today.

        To learn more about the Tower of London, I included a list of sources below.

Thank you for reading! If you would like to support my book project, check out my Buy Lindsey a Coffee page to learn more.

Links:

360 degree Tour of Tower of London: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeLQVare-3k

https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/history-and-stories/the-story-of-the-tower-of-london/#gs.p7qji9

https://joyofmuseums.com/museums/united-kingdom-museums/london-museums/tower-of-london/

Secrets of Great British Castles: The Tower of London episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdgjsSQ3McM&t=38s

https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/history-and-stories/the-ceremony-of-the-keys/#gs.p7v0pf

https://www.hrp.org.uk/discover-the-palaces/#gs.nvvop9

https://kidadl.com/online-events/video-tour-tower-of-london

https://www.londononline.co.uk/towerguide/

https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/#gs.nvx23z

Virtual Historic Site Impressions: Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

December 16, 2021

Thank you to all of those who responded to the poll I released a few weeks ago. The site with the most votes was the Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland. I plan to write about the other sites in the future and I released another poll to ask all of you which one you want to read about next. In the meantime, I will share with you all my experience visiting this Scottish castle.

    Edinburgh Castle is one of the oldest fortified places in Europe and was used as a royal residence, military garrison, prison, and a fortress. Parts of it remain in military use while the rest of it is now a popular world-wide visitor attraction.

    When I made a virtual visit to the Edinburgh Castle, I was surprised to discover that it was more than one large castle; there were also a chapel, a whiskey shop, tea rooms, et. cetera.  Before I even entered the castle, I was already impressed with the architecture and the details that were on and inside. I decided to do a general walk around the castle with no specific plan and share some of the highlights from my visit.

         I made my virtual walk around the area and noticed a small chapel known as St. Margaret’s Chapel. St. Margaret Chapel was named for Queen Margaret who was later made a saint. When Queen Margaret died in 1093, the chapel was built in her honor by her son, King David I. It is Edinburgh’s oldest building. St Margaret’s Chapel still hosts weddings and christenings today. Close to the chapel is the Portcullis Gate.

St. Margaret’s Chapel (oldest building in the castle)

     Portcullis Gate was built almost 450 years ago in the wake of the devastating Lang Siege that took place in 1571 when supporters of Queen Mary held the castle against the rule of the regent the Earl of Lennox (who supported the then infant King James VI). The Gate was erected by the Regent Morton in 1574.  The building contains a long-vaulted trance, once furnished with two outer double doors, a portcullis and an inner double door that once sat alongside the iron gate to ward off intruders. The top floor, Argyle Tower, was added in the 1880s.

Portcullis Gate

        During my visit, I came across The Redcoat Café which offers a variety of things to eat and drink including but not limited to soups, roasts, toasted deli sandwiches, beer, wine, spirits, hot beverages, and soft drinks. I also went by the Tea Rooms located at the top of the castle in the Crown Square; they offer traditional afternoon tea as well as light lunch (soup, salad, sandwiches), cakes, hot cocoa, coffee, spirits, wine, beer, and ale. Next to St. Margaret’s Chapel is the Whisky Shop where visitors can purchase whisky that was created in collaboration with the award-winning Edinburgh Gin distillery. They have a huge range of whiskies including their exclusive Edinburgh Castle 10-year-old single malt, and sweet and savory treats including traditional shortbread, whisky fudge, and cakes.  In addition to exploring the castle on my own, I also visited Edinburgh Castle’s website to learn more about it.

The Redcoat Café

        Edinburgh Castle was built upon a rock for a military strategic advantage during the Iron Age, and their defenses evolved over hundreds of years. For instance, Mons Meg, one of the greatest medieval cannons ever made, was given to King James II in 1457. The Half Moon Battery, which was built in the aftermath of the Lang Siege of 1573, was armed for 200 years by bronze guns known as the Seven Sisters. Six more guns defend the Argyle Battery, with its open outlook to the north.

          In addition to serving as a military fort, Edinburgh Castle was also a royal residence. The Great Hall, that was completed in 1511 for King James IV, hosted grand banquets and state events. But the king had little time to enjoy his new addition. James IV died at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, fighting English forces sent by his brother-in-law, King Henry VIII of England. According to their website, they pointed out that above the door to the Royal Palace are the gilded initials MAH – for Mary Queen of Scots and her second husband Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley. Mary gave birth to James VI in the Royal Palace in 1566 who would become king of Scotland at 13 months old and united the crowns of Scotland and England in 1603. After the ‘Union of the Crowns’ of 1603, Edinburgh Castle was rarely visited by the reigning monarch, but from the 1650s it grew into a significant military base. Defenses were rebuilt and enhanced in response to the Jacobite Risings of 1689–1746. New gun batteries such as Dury’s Battery were constructed and new barracks such as the Queen Anne Building were added to house the many soldiers and officers. To learn more about Edinburgh Castle, I included a list of resources below.            

       Their website includes a number of resources to help people plan their visit, COVID restrictions, the history of the castle, et. cetera. I appreciate that they have a list of suggested itineraries based on interest and the amount of time one has to visit Edinburgh Castle. I would like to someday visit the castle in person as well, and in the meantime, I will make numerous virtual trips to keep exploring the many places within the castle.

The second poll to choose the next historic site is active. To decide which historic site you want to learn more about, click on the link here: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-1xi

I’m on Buy Me a Coffee. If you like my work, you can buy me a coffee and share your thoughts.  More information about additional benefits for supporting my work can be found here: https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/buy-me-a-coffee-page/

Links:

Edinburgh Castle website: https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/

Edinburgh Castle Virtual Tour with Us blog post: https://blog.edinburghcastle.scot/virtual-tour-with-us/

Virtual Edinburgh Castle: https://www.google.com/maps/@55.9485358,-3.1984482,3a,75y,272.57h,110.04t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sK8bujNmtCtGOcDq8H1KZng!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

https://canmore.org.uk/site/52093/edinburgh-castle-portcullis-gate-and-argyle-tower

http://www.edinburgh-history.co.uk/lang-siege.html

Virtual Museum Impressions: Salvador Dali’s Dali Theatre Museum

June 10, 2021

Over the past year, I made a number of virtual visits to museums and because I enjoyed seeing how museums outside of the United States set up their virtual spaces, I wanted to make more trips to them. I chose to visit the Salvador Dali Museums in Spain not only because I found out one of my followers works there but I also appreciate visiting art museums and wanted to learn more about Salvador Dali. Dali, who was born on May 11, 1904, in Figueres, is a Surrealist artist whose repertoire included painting, graphic arts, film, sculpture, design and photography. He created the Dali Foundation which is responsible for managing the Theatre-Museum in Figueres, the Gala-Dalí Castle in Púbol, and the Salvador Dalí House in Portlligat. I decided to visit the Theatre-Museum first and in this post, I will share some highlights from my virtual experience. I know that I would not be able to see everything all at once so I will be revisiting this museum a number of times after my initial trip.

I virtually visited the Dali Theatre Museum (Teatre-Museu Dali/Teatro-Museo Dali) located in Figueres, Spain towards the end of May. According to their website, the Dali Theatre Museum was inaugurated in 1974. In the beginning of the 1960s, the mayor of Figueres at the time, Ramon Guardiola, asked Dali to donate a work for the Museu de l l’Empordà; in response, Dali not only donated a work, but he donated an entire museum. Dali wished to have this project located at the former Municipal Theatre of Figures that was destroyed in a fire at the end of the Spanish Civil War. Today, the museum has approximately 1,500 pieces on display which allow visitors to see Dali’s artistic journey through the broad spectrum of his works from his first artistic experiences, surrealism, nuclear mysticism, his passion for science, to the works of the last part of his life. I shared some highlights from my virtual visit to the Dali Theatre-Museum.

Main Entrance

One of the interesting things I learned in my visit is the museum not only holds Salvador Dali’s works but also another artist’s works, his friend Antoni Pitxot (1934-2015). Salvador Dali himself appointed Pitxot to be the director of the Dali Theatre-Museum which he held until his death. Dali set aside space for Pitxot’s works on the second floor of the museum as a permanent exhibition. In addition to the Pitxot exhibit, it also holds one piece that was not created by Salvador Dali. When I entered the museum, there was a collage fan that according to the caption was designed by French model and actress Amanda Lear under Dali’s guidance. I liked that the museum encourages visitors to design their own collages. The caption read: Why not try making your own collage at home. It doesn’t have to be on a fan!

Fan Collage in the Dali Theatre-Museum

         As I continued to walk through the museum, I noticed a car in the middle of the courtyard, so I decided to take a closer look of the space and the car. It was a Cadillac, known as the Rainy Taxi, that was placed inside of the museum by a crane before the building was completed. The museum included a challenge I enjoyed participating in within the virtual space for visitors to go inside the car. According to the captions, in order to get inside the car to discover what is in it one would have to click onto the spot next to the door and see if it opens then once it does try to go inside; once the challenge is completed, one is encouraged to share pictures, tag the museum, and use the hashtag #CadillacDaliChallenge on Instagram. I did the challenge and my Instagram post with more pictures from the challenge can be found in the list below.

Courtyard
Rainy Taxi

Then I continued to the Cupola to see more of the impressive architecture and the large painting that is the first piece that drew my eye within the space. Salvador Dali painted this oil painting called “Labyrinth” which was created for the ballet of the same name based on the Greek myth of Theseus and Ariadne. The ballet was first performed in 1941 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. I was not only impressed with the size of the painting, but I was also impressed with the imagery Dali captured. Within the painting, there is a giant person that has a tree on its chest with an entryway underneath it seems to lead to the labyrinth which is not seen completely but tall trees and cliffs are seen; surrounding all of it is a body of water. The imagery made me wonder what could be beyond the entrance, and what is there that I could not see. I thought the painting really represented the surrealism he was known for, and when I think of settings for ballet, I do not immediately think of surrealist art which is why I was surprised it was a part of a ballet. Dali also designed the sets and costumes for the ballet in addition to creating this painting.

What I also learned and caught me by surprise was not only Dali created this museum, but he is also buried inside of his museum. I noticed a white slab in the middle of the floor, and it was until I revisited the Cupola that I learned underneath it lies Salvador Dali’s tomb. In his last wishes, he wanted to be buried inside of his museum and his wishes were met after he died on January 23, 1989. As far as I can remember, I do not believe I have visited a museum before in which an artist or even a museum founder is buried within the museum. It seems to me that Dali’s last wishes show his dedication to his museum, his art, and the community he was born into by becoming a physical part of a place visitors can view his works. I decided to find more information about the tomb.  While I was looking, I came across a post from a few years ago when his remains were exhumed as part of a request by Pilar Abel Martínez to take a DNA sample as part of the legal proceedings to prove she is Dali’s daughter; I included a link to this post in the list below.

Salvador Dali’s Labyrinth and his tomb

        The next room I went into is called the Mae West Room, which is a three-dimensional representation of American actress Mae West’s face converted into a living room space. I did not realize when I first went into the room that it was a face until the further I was in the room the more I recognized the living room furniture as parts of the face; then I saw the whole face when I was looking down from a small set of stairs in the room. According to the museum, this representation was based on a work he made in 1934 which was a gouache on newspaper collage called “Mae West’s Faced Used as an Apartment”; the gouache on newspaper collage is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mae West Room
Mae West Face

One of the last places I visited within the museum was within Loggia where I saw the dark room with a display of Babaouo, a film project Dali worked on in the early 1930s. He wrote a screenplay for the film in 1932 and he built in the museum a wooden box with seven panes of glass he painted in the interior, placed one behind the other and was lit from the back. I thought it was interesting that the characters in Babaouo were also in another film project called Destino which was a collaboration between Salvador Dali and Walt Disney. They began the short film project in 1946 after Dali signed a contract with Disney on January 14th; Dali installed himself in the Disney Studios in Burbank, California, where he set about drafting the screenplay and creating a series of drawings and oil paintings. While it was a 6-to-8-minute short film, only 15 seconds was completed at the time. Destino was completed in 2003 on the basis of Dali’s original sketches.

Babaouo

        I hope to visit this museum in person one day and learn more about Salvador Dali and his works. If you have visited this museum before, virtually and/or in-person, please share your experiences in the comments. I will be visiting this museum again and I will also be planning my visits to the other museums the Dali Foundation manages. To see more pictures from the visit, check out the website’s Instagram: lbmfmuseumeducation.

I’m on Buy Me a Coffee. If you like my work, you can buy me a coffee and share your thoughts.  More information about additional benefits for supporting my work can be found here: https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/buy-me-a-coffee-page/

Links:

Dali Museums

Virtual Dali Theatre-Museum

Rainy Taxi Installation Story

The exhumation of Salvador Dali’s remains

Dali Theatre Museum: Destino

Virtual Museum Impressions: Charles Dickens Museum

April 15, 2021

Most recently I decided to take another virtual trip outside of the United States to visit the Charles Dickens Museum in London, England. Charles Dickens, who was the author of books such as Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and the novella A Christmas Carol, moved into this house at 48 Doughty Street with his wife Catherine a few months before Queen Victoria began her reign in 1837. They raised the first three of their ten children within this house, and hosted many of the period’s leading figures with dinners and parties. Dickens wrote Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby inside this house, and where he first achieved international fame as one of the world’s greatest storytellers.

        The Dickens’ home became a museum in which hosts events and exhibitions, a garden café and shop, an international center for research on Charles Dickens, and a MA program on Charles Dickens research through the University of Buckingham. Inside the house itself, there are five floors with objects that were owned by the Dickens family. Off of the entryway there is a gift shop where it leads to the café, the Water Closet (bathroom), and the special exhibition room.

         As I went through the virtual tour, I was surprised by the layout of the house since it was different from other historic house museums I previously visited both virtually and in person. For instance, the servants quarters where they cook the meals were below the first floor where the dining room was, and the servants’ sleeping quarters were on the top floor. The Charles Dickens Museum considered the main floor with the dining room and parlor to be the second floor while where the servants cooked and stored food and wine is the first floor, at least according to the virtual experience.

        Also, at the time of writing this post I noticed that in almost each room there were only two links to explain the room and one object (sometimes there is a link to learn more about the object). One object in the Entrance Hall is the large, 8-day chiming clock that is still in good working order once was displayed in the hallway of Charles Dickens’ home Gad Hill Place in the 1860s. The link led to the collections page for the clock that includes a picture of the clock with information such as its object number, when it is created, and an object note that shared a letter Dickens wrote to the clockmaker who made the clock, Sir John Bennett of Cheapside, London, regarding problems with the clock following a cleaning. I would have loved to learn more about other objects in the Entrance Hall such as the objects in the glass case and the letters in the frames displayed on the walls.

       In the study, the highlighted object in the room is the desk and chair that was originally used in his study at Gad’s Hill Place. According to the information provided by the Dickens Museum’s collections, the desk and chair were acquired by Charles Dickens in 1859, and they remained in the Dickens family after he died in 1870. Both of them were on loan to various heritage institutions, including the Charles Dickens Museum, from 1967 to 1987. They were eventually purchased by the Charles Dickens Museum in 2015 with support from the National Monuments Trust and the Dickens Fellowship after years of being on loan at various places over the years. Dickens would have written portions of his novels, such as Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities, and the unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood, on this desk.

      Not only in the interactive tour I was able to explore the house but I was also able to visit inside the gift shop and café, the small garden outside of the café, the exhibition room, and a couple of additional floors that included a meeting room where it seemed like one could do research in.

      I really appreciate that this interactive tour is available online, and I hope to visit there in person someday. I especially would like to see it in person so I could learn more about other items that the interactive tour did not share their history and their relevance to Charles Dickens’ life and/or works. To check out the Charles Dickens Museum, I posted links, including the interactive tour, below.

I’m on Buy Me a Coffee. If you like my work, you can buy me a coffee and share your thoughts. https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/buy-me-a-coffee-page/

Links:

Desk and Chair

Mahogany Clock and Shelf

Interactive Tour

About the Charles Dickens Museum

Charles Dickens Museum Online Collection

Charles Dickens Museum Collections Database

Virtual Museum Impressions: Versailles

February 11, 2021

        In a previous weekend, I went on a virtual trip to France with my husband and friends to celebrate a friend’s birthday. One of the places we visited was the palace of Versailles. I decided to write about my virtual experience since I have not written about museums outside of the United States before. I would love to visit museums outside of the United States someday when it is safer to travel instead of travelling during a pandemic.

There is so much to see in Versailles that my group decided to experience at least a part of the palace. During the trip, I participated in an activity called “Spot the 7 Differences” in which individuals look at four paintings that each one has a duplicate painting posted next to the original painting, and we looked at both paintings to see what the seven differences between the two paintings are.

We also visited the virtual exhibition section, and decided to visit the exhibit “A Place at the Royal Table” which was produced with the participation of thirteen royal residences from the Network of European Royal Residences. The curators of this exhibit were Élisabeth Caude and Géraldine Bidault. Inside the exhibit, it features 17th and 18th century still life paintings as well as photographs of dining rooms and artifacts to describe royal dining. I liked that in most of the exhibit it zoomed in to a specific part of a photo or painting to describe specific details within the whole painting or photo. For instance, there is a photograph of small glasses and a carafe (or decanter) that were placed on royal tables and these specific ones were designed simply which means they could be packed in a luxury compartment during a journey; there is also an up-close look at symbols painted on the glass, and according to the exhibit label:

They are decorated with heraldic symbols: coats of arms surrounded with badges of office indicating the status of Marshal at the Court of the Republic of Poland. This coloured, polished and gilded glassware, displayed at the Palace of Wilanów, comes from Huta Kryształowa, a big glassworks which produced chandeliers and crystal tableware in the 18th century.

There are more than 25 items within the exhibition and four sections within the exhibition. The four sections in the exhibition are Food, Dinner is served, The table is set, and Tableware.

The next place we visited inside Versailles was The King’s Chamber. According to Versailles’ website, the King’s Chamber is the most important and symbolic room in the Royal Apartment and was used at several times of the day including the king’s “getting up” and “going to bed” ceremonies, when he dined in private, and when he received certain courtiers or ambassadors. Louis XIV died in this Chamber on September 1, 1715 after reigning over France for 72 years. I was impressed with the amount of grandeur within the Chamber, and the bold colors were eye catching and almost overwhelming which is the point of the Chamber.

After the initial visit, I decided to go back to see what else Versailles has to offer in the in-person visit and in the virtual realm. Versailles’ website provides an interactive map of the site that is not only helpful for individuals visiting and learning more about the palace in-person at one’s own pace, but it also provides virtual visitors an idea of what the layout of the site is. The interactive map has five sections to explore: Overview, The Palace, Gardens, Park, and the Trianon Palaces and Marie Antoinette’s Estate. Each section provides information on where to purchase tickets, accessibility, bathrooms, where the entrances are located, and the history of the palaces and estates.

I recommend checking out Versailles for yourselves to see what they have to offer. Someday I hope to visit there in person so I can write about that experience.

Have you been to Versailles either in person or virtually? What are your impressions?

I’m on Buy Me a Coffee. If you like my work, you can buy me a coffee and share your thoughts. ☕ https://buymeacoffee.com/lbmfmusedblog

Links:

Virtual Exhibitions: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/resources/virtual-exhibitions#louis-xiv,-the-construction-of-a-political-image

Interactive Map: http://bienvenue.chateauversailles.fr/en/accueil#

http://en.chateauversailles.fr/discover

https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/tour-of-the-king-s-chamber-palace-of-versailles-google-arts-culture/tQEGZI6I8meAWA?hl=en