Copyright Literacy at the Museum ShowOff

On Tuesday 19th March we took part in a ‘Museum Show Off’ event at the Phoenix pub just behind Oxford Circus. I first found out about these events when I went to watch a friend, Claire Madge (@TinctureofMuse) perform in January about her work on autism and museums. I was really excited by the format and the fact it was rather like doing stand up comedy but about cultural heritage. Performers get 9 minutes and they can talk about anything they want, provided it’s related to museums, galleries, archives or libraries. The compere for the evening was the Suffrage historian Naomi Paxton. The event was packed out in January with London’s trendy folks working in our museums and galleries. After seeing the Museum Bums (@museumbums) perform in their matching t-shirts, and funny stats about (yes seriously!) the number of bums (nude on statues) in Britain’s museums I was inspired to take part. I mentioned it to Chris, who as ever with my hare-brained ideas, said ‘yes why not’ (Ed – erm, there was some initial trepidation, but with the word “showoff” in the title Morrison found it impossible to resist)
Anyway, our act was based around our work on how copyright makes people in the cultural heritage sector feel, and why being scared about it isn’t helpful. We’ve presented a number of times at conferences and as this sometimes appears to make people laugh (either with us or at us, we’re not sure) we thought we’d try out a more traditional stand up format. They seemed to laugh, our paper aeroplane activity generated a lot of chaos and some great research data, and we managed to do a plug for Copyright the Card Game, The Publishing Trap and Icepops. And I even managed to tell a joke!
Overall it was a great event and we were delighted to meet the 5 other people showing off about cultural heritage, including:
Ellie Groom (@ElinorGroom)– A television curator who took an irreverent look at TV in museums and museums on TV, the top 5 sins of telly producers, and the unique power of broadcast to engage museumgoers.
Adrian Steel from RIBA (@heritage_adrian)– Playing Your Architectural Cards Right: post-war British Architecture… familiar family home or Festival Hall, car park or carbuncle, it is all around us, and yet its value is often under appreciated and misunderstood, its stories untold. Adrian asked how can we play our cards right to save and share the magnificent heritage collections documenting the building of modern Britain, before the concrete is crushed?
Paul Duncan McGarrity (– Paul is a stand up comedian archaeologist and he was talking about castles and how to successfully attack them.
Nkechi Noel () – Presented “Sweet Mother” a creative prose which offered a glimpse of the aspirations, hopes and dreams of Commonwealth citizens who embarked on a new life in the “Motherland”.
Andrea Solomon – From Brexit to the Pride parade, via an Uber with some elderly French ladies, volunteering at a museum can put you in all sorts of unexpected situations. V&A volunteer Andrea Solomon told how she’s not getting paid enough to deal with this sh*t…and why she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Finally Sacha Coward ()– Can You [expletive removed] A Mermaid?: Adventures in queer folklore! Sacha think mermaids are awesome and wanted the audience to think they’re awesome too. But he also wanted to gross us out with obscure maritime history as well.
Museum Show Off is a fantastic way of people talking about the amazing world of museums, galleries, libraries and archives. Thanks to Rachel Souhami () who produces the show and steadied my nerves at the start of the evening. Thanks to Maria, Emily, Claire and Kathryn for their support in coming along – and Maria for taking the photos! I really urge anyone who has had a sneaking desire to be a performer to give it a go. It was a fantastic confidence builder, and makes teaching masters students at City seem like a doddle. We also met some great people and I certainly conquered a few fears about performing in a pub and trying to make people laugh!


  1. Wow, what a fabulous idea, and having seen you both present I’m sure you were brilliant. It reminds me of the joy of living in the big city and all the opportunities that presents.


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