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#askthecurators Dodo Roadshow Special


On Saturday we had a very special visitor to our What’s in Store: The Curator’s Choice exhibition. As part of their roadshow from Land’s End to John O’Groats, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History brought their world famous dodo to Tullie House.

IMG_6130TF and Oxford team IMG_6132We took the opportunity to get a a few of our questions answered by the dodo’s minders, Paul, the Museum’s Director, Phil, Collections Assistant and Michelle, from the Front of House team.


Where and when did dodos live?
Dodos lived in Mauritius which is a small island east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, famous for it’s white, sandy beaches. Dodos were discovered in 1598 by Dutch sailors.

Why did dodos become extinct?
It is a common misconception that dodos were hunted to extinction. They were hunted but when the Dutch discovered Mauritius they settled and introduced pigs to the island. The pigs competed with the dodo for their food (fruit) and also dodos nested on the ground and the pigs ate their eggs. The dodo was extinct by 1662 – less than 70 years after it was discovered!

Andrew Pickett with real dodo foot 1What did dodos eat?
Dodos are thought to have predominantly eaten fruit.

Do you think we’ll ever find dodos living somewhere else we haven’t looked yet?
No – they are gone for ever.

Cast of dodo head and skin 3

Are there lots of dodos in museums?
There are quite a few casts and models but only a handful of specimens were brought to Europe. Museums in Cambridge and London have fossils, but Oxford University NHM has one of the few specimens that arrived in Europe. Another real skull is in a museum in Copenhagen.

How do we know about dodos?
Dodos were easy to catch being flightless. If one was caught it would scream and others would come running making them an easy catch. We now know, from DNA analysis, that dodos were members of the pigeon family.

A huge thank you to our guests and their star exhibit. They also asked some questions about our 1840 Portinscale red kites – you can see the answers on their blog


Highlights of 2014 – The Steampunk Circus

Every May there is a national programme of activities in museums, art galleries and heritage organisations called Museums at Night. Here at Tullie House we love to get involved and take the opportunity to try something different to attract those who wouldn’t ordinarily visit, and give those who do visit a new and exciting experience.

In 2013, Museums at Night fell during the changeover period in our large temporary exhibition space, and so ‘The Art Gallery Takeover’ was born. We transformed the space into a creative nightclub to show that the fun at Tullie House isn’t just for kids.
We had a great night and our most successful Museums at Night event up to that point. So when it came to thinking about Museums at Night 2014, the Art Gallery Takeover was an idea we wanted to run with once again. One problem … the weekend of events fell a couple of weeks too early and rather than being a huge empty space, the Art Gallery was home to our brilliant ‘Mechanical Circus’ exhibition.

Not to be put off by the presence of 5 circus tents, housing over 150 automata and historical science equipment, we worked with our exhibition partners, Museum Boerhaave and Cabaret Mechanical Circus to create activities and events which were mindful of the collections. Surrounded by cogs, gears and Victoriana there was only one way to go, and before we knew it ‘The Steampunk Circus’ was coming to Carlisle for one night only!

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Image credit, D + H Photographers

The Steampunk Circus spoke to a niche audience and was an ambitious idea, and like most museums, we do not have a huge budget for events. However, we as museums do have, creative, dedicated staff with the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to create great events. So our family learning team manned craft tables heping people to ‘steampunk up’ their outfits.

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Our Visitor Services Manager and Family Learning Officer teamed up to act as our Tiffin and Kettle Masters and oversee the tense and thrilling sport of Teaduelling!

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Our Secondary Learning Officer teamed up with one of our freelance practitioners to deliver a lesson in Fancy Dress Life Drawing, which had been so popular in 2013, this time with a Steampunk Twist. They encouraged people to dress up and strike a pose, or for those less fond of the limelight try their hand at drawing – with some brilliant results!

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Image credit, D + H Photographers

There were so many other people involved who helped to make the night really special, not least our friends at Warwick Tower for bringing by some of their amazing stock, DJ Oldboy for providing the soundtrack, Astral Circus for entertaining and astounding and Chris Cook, our magician for the night.

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Image credit, D + H Photographers

Image credit, D + H Photographers


A great night was had by all – starting to look forward to the next one all ready!

Keep an eye out at for events coming up here at Tullie and other museums and heritage venues on the weekend of the 14-16 May 2015!

Weekend of Film – Watching Film discussion

Photo credit, Tracey Walker

Photo credit, Tracey Walker

On Saturday 15 November, as part of our Weekend of Film, we welcomed Andrew Elliot (Penrith Lonsdale Cinema), Jill Jones and Jane Sedgwick (Brampton Film Club) to discuss the world of independent cinema screening, the current film landscape, audience numbers and the future of cinema.
Making money from films is a tricky business, as both Brampton and Penrith know well. As well as charging for individual tickets, Brampton have an annual membership scheme which contributes to overall running costs, free tickets and subsidise trips out. They offer refreshments at screenings like tea and coffee, and ask for voluntary contributions. Andrew was surprised about this – he revealed that people buying food and drink is where cinemas make their money, as most venues only receive 10-20% of ticket sales with rest going to the film production and distribution companies.
We asked Andrew about the change in how films are screened, from projection reels to hard drives and now downloading from the internet. Andrew revealed that he trained as projectionist at the start of his career and actually managed to set a film on fire in his early days! He’s found that sound quality has dramatically improved with the move to digital but admits that he misses the unpredictability of watching a projected film – from the jumps and scratches on the picture to the missing bits where the projectionist hasn’t joined the reels together properly.

We discussed how the digital revolution has impacted on audience numbers and how people watch film. We all agreed that it’s great that viewers can watch incredible work cheaply and conveniently but this was no match for experiencing a film at the cinema. This is especially true at the moment, when film companies are bringing back spectacle to encourage people to part with their cash, through 3D and huge action experiences like the Marvel films and the recent Godzilla re-boot. Jane and Jill emphasised the social benefits of watching films together – sharing the experience, emotions and ups and downs of the production then discussing it afterwards.

Live event cinema seems to be the way forward for independent cinemas, particularly through schemes like the National Theatre Live and the new series of the New York Met Opera. These events are particularly popular at Penrith where audiences have an appetite for cultural experiences that are difficult to access in the North!

Andrew, Jane and Jill all expressed concerns about the future of independent cinema in light of uncertain audience numbers and the expense of screening films. The key message from both organisations was for people to support their local independent and get involved – donate, volunteer, spread the word and sustain your support, not just in times of crisis but as often as you can.

The Weekend of Film

Photo credit Tracey Walker

Photo credit Tracey Walker

This weekend we hosted a fantastic new event here at Tullie House, over 400 people came along to our Weekend of Film events. We had 14 film screenings and lots of other activities going on around the museum, here’s a run down of some of the highlights.

The weekend got off to a great start with a screening of LEAVE TO REMAIN with a Q&A with the film’s producer Kate Cook and one of the cast members of the film, Ebrahim Esmail. Leave to Remain explores the hidden world of the UK asylum seeker, with an affecting and sometimes hard to bear script that was written following workshops with teenage asylum seekers, like Ebrahim. Kate answered questions from the audience about how the film was made and the difficulties of getting independent films shown in cinemas. The audience also posed some questions to Ebrahim, a young Iraqi Kurd who was forced to leave Iraq at the age of 15. Whilst filming Leave to Remain Ebrahim was going through the process of getting his own indefinate leave to remain. Thank you so much to Kate and Ebrahim for coming along and making it a very special start to the weekend!

The Weekend of Film got into full swing on Saturday, with screenings in our Lecture Theatre all day, and once the galleries had closed for the day we set up our Border Gallery cinema!

This made a brilliant venue for 5 screenings over the weekend!

Photo credit, Tracey Walker

Saturday night’s headline screening was the brilliantly funny DOWNHILL, a very British comedy following 4 middle aged men on the Coast to Coast walk through Cumbria and Yorkshire – before the screening Sycamore Sykes provided a great soundtrack in the Film Lounge. We were joined after the film by the director, writer and one of the cast members for a Q&A. Our audience loved the film and had lots of great questions for the guys, including asking about the possibility of a sequel, so watch this space for future screenings of DOWNHILL 2 – although if it happens they may be heading for sunnier shores than ours! 🙂

On Sunday the screenings continued, and we were also joined by animator Robin Webb who shared some of the secrets of stop motion animation with our visitors. Getting them to create characters out of clay and animate them, creating some great clips!

vlcsnap-2014-11-19-19h47m07s215On Sunday night the weekend was brought to an end with a brilliant event to celebrate a simultaneous screening of the hotly anticipated, sell out NORTHERN SOUL! Whilst I was busy with the serious business of conducting A QUIZ CALLED WANDA, our very first film quiz, my colleagues were rushing round, transforming our restaurant into SCREEN 3!

Then the music started and we welcomed more than 130 Northern Soul fans to our Film Lounge for two screenings of the film, followed by a Q&A with the star of the film, Elliot James Langridge – who stayed on afterwards to pose for some pictures with his newest fans!

Photo credit, Tracey Walker

We host the Weekend of Film, and our Monday Alternative film nights, to bring Carlisle audiences the best of independent, foreign language and documentary films – offering them an alternative to mainstream cinema. Its great to be involved in events like this, and we’re so proud that our film events have been recognised by the BFI Film Audience Network, who supported the event through the Film Hub North.

Now we’re looking forward to next year – to make the event even bigger and better!

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