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Obres de Molly Oldfield


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A beautiful hard-cover book that was ultimately a little bit disappointing.

The author visits a number of museums, primarily in the UK, US and Brazil to view objects that are rarely or never publicly exhibited for various reasons. She openly admits in the introduction that she's chosen her favourites and writes 2-6 pages about each of the items, their histories, and why they aren't part of a museum's exhibits.

This could have been a spectacular book, but it missed the mark for a number of reasons:

if you're writing a book about treasures that are so precious they'll likely never see the light of day for most of the public, wouldn't you make large color photographs of each object a feature of the book's layout?? None of these items get the attention they deserve; if there's a photo at all (and some of them don't even have that) it's never bigger than a 1x2 inch or 3x5cm thumbnail in the outer margin of the text. I can't begin to speculate on what possibly logic the author and editors could have been employing when making this design choice but it seems an utter waste to me. I want to see these secret objects in full-page color, and the thumbnails just left me aggravated.

Weak writing: The narrative was very laid-back and on the plus side would be accessible to younger readers if they had any interest in art or historical artefacts, but the flow was awkward and there were often whip-lash inducing segues to information that had little or no relevance to the subject.

Poor editing: A few missing words throughout the book that left sentences non-sensical and a couple of outright errors, including worte instead of write, and using the wrong state abbreviation in the second chapter header (MA - which is Massachusetts, instead of MD for Maryland, where the facility is located).

I'm not sorry I have the book; there is quite a bit of interesting, new-to-me information here and in spite of its lack of photography, it's still a beautiful tome. It's just not as good as it could have been.
… (més)
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murderbydeath | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Oct 10, 2016 |
This book takes us behind the scenes of the world’s museums to view items that are usually only seen by curators and academics.

Some of these items are not on display simply because they are too big, others because they are too delicate. From glass models of jellyfish to spacesuits from the Apollo program, this museum collection is extremely varied. The book is also educational, at least it was for me - I didn’t know that puffins lost their colourful beaks in winter and just had a small pointed one or that Vladimir Nabakov was curator of Lepidoptera at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. One question I would have liked answered is why after it was refurbished did the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh not re-hang the skeleton of the blue whale, after all there are other animals hanging on the ceiling where it once was. Actually I would have also liked the author to have asked any of the curators from the museum in Edinburgh why they did away with the fish pond, but that is just because I would like to know.
… (més)
KarenDuff | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Jun 1, 2016 |
Museums know that visitors want information about the items they see on display. But they realize that what visitors want most is to see the items themselves. Museum exhibits thus concentrate on displaying their collections, providing only minimal information about the items on display. Museum’s make up for their general lack of exhibit information with books that provide more detailed information about the items on display. There is, however, one large gap in this system: museums generally own more items than they have room to display, with many of those items being too fragile to display even if the museum would like to do so. These items seldom appear in displays or in museum books.

I purchased Molly Oldfield’s book - a book purporting to present especially interesting items that museums normally cannot display, along with information about those items – because it seemed like the perfect way to bridge at least some part of that gap. I did so despite some rather negative reviews about the book, assuming the book would nevertheless contain sufficiently interesting information to make it a worthwhile purchase. I should have known better than to ignore the reviews.

Whereas recent books of this nature present wonderful full-page photographs of the items being discussed, along with good descriptions of the items, their place in history, and their importance, Ms. Oldfield chose for some inexplicable reason to do none of that. Most of her entries waste a full page on a title and a silly paper cutout representing the item being discussed (in the case of the entry for a piece of Newton’s apple tree, the cutout consists of a falling apple shape). Her entries then continue with a pithy half- or full-page quote, a rather simple discussion relating to the item (usually at least. In the case of the 4½-page entry for a particular Mexican seed, Ms. Oldfield only mentions the seed on the title page and in a 24-word sidebar. She does not give any explanation as to why she selected this seed for her entry, why it is important, etc.), several childish watercolors that could perhaps charitably be said to at least tangentially relate to the item at issue, a few equally tangential 1x2” photographs of related people or places, and – worst of all her crimes - usually at most a 1x2” inch photograph of the item itself relegated to a sidebar.

I have other quibbles with Ms. Oldfield’s book. She includes entries for items that have disappeared from museum collections and can no longer be found. She includes entries on items that many see on the street on a daily basis (such as post boxes). And she includes black and white photos, with captions that glowingly describe the item’s wondrous colors (as if 1x2” photos aren’t bad enough and she was seeking some way to make her book even worse). I don’t think I have ever come across a book that was so disappointing, that could have been so much more than what it is if someone has only given it a modicum of thought or care (merely replacing the useless 7x10” title pages with 7x10” photos of the items being discussed would have vastly improved her book, perhaps even making it a worthwhile purchase).

If you love museums, and wish you could get a glimpse into their private collections, avoid this book. Spend your money instead on one of the recent museum books that does this type of book right: Neil MacGregor’s “A History of the World in 100 Objects” or his “Shakespeare’s Restless World”, Richard Kurin’s “The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects”, Katarina Harrison Lindbergh’s and Dick Harrison’s "101 föremål ur Sveriges historia" (101 Items from Swedish History), or even DK Publishing’s “History of the World in 1,000 Objects” (which presents many more objects than the other books but gives much less detailed descriptions of them). Any of these books are marvelous and provide an example of what Ms. Oldfield’s book could so easily have been.
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tnilsson | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Aug 16, 2015 |
This is a book about museums. It appears to be aimed at a family audience and would probably appeal to young adults. The author is a researcher for British television program 'QI' and the book reads like a research tome for that program. It is a somewhat beautiful thing with a patina of fascination about it. The content is a little patchy but more frequently absorbing than not. The emphasis tends not to be on the secrecy, as suggested by the title, but more on the museum and context of the objects mentioned. Where the work scores most highly is on originality.… (més)
freelancer_frank | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | May 6, 2013 |


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