Recent links of note:


“Protesters, influencers and AI: what museums need to think about today”
Martha Lufkin, The Art Newspaper

The unholy trinity of pressing legal problems for museums today is made up of artificial intelligence, celebrity “influencers,” and protests in or near publicly run institutions. The Smithsonian has introduced twenty robotic docents, which raises questions about visitors’ privacy and whether the visitors’ inquiries can be used to, say, suggest gift shop purchases. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art pays Twitter celebrities for selfies and other promotional posts, and the Federal Trade Commission has doubled down on its requirement that these social media marketers disclose that they are paid for their endorsements. And with the recent rise of the museum as a venue for political demonstration, government-funded institutions like the Smithsonian have to rethink whether, or what sort of, speech is protected by the First Amendment and what “reasonable restrictions” they can place on demonstrators. Martha Lufkin reports on an annual conference in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Smithsonian and American Law Institute Continuing Legal Education, at which these issues were discussed.

“Operation Columba”
Jon Day, London Review of Books

Pigeons are the unsung heroes of the Second World War, Jon Day says. Their unparalleled homing instincts have been well known and employed for centuries, and during the war British soldiers often used pigeons to carry messages in emergencies. But the British military never grasped their full potential, despite many experiments with using the birds more aggressively, for example in gathering intelligence. Day reviews Secret Pigeon Service, Gordon Corera’s history of Operation Columba, in which “a raggle-taggle band” of pigeon enthusiasts attempted to collect information from people in occupied territory. Though many of the missions were successful, they were not repeated. Soon, the Germans caught on to the scheme, and strategy on both sides shifted to counterintelligence and pulling the feathers over one another’s eyes.

“Tchaikovsky: Polestar of the music of the future”
Simon Morrison, Times Literary Supplement

Today, we hear Tchaikovsky’s music much differently than his contemporaries did. While we hear The Nutcracker as Christmas music, his Russian listeners in the late 1800s saw and heard a political ballet des nations and allusions to the Russian Orthodox funeral service, impressionist tone painting, the whistle of a teakettle, and more. And Nutcracker is only one familiar example of his highly innovative neoclassicism, his talent for weaving together forms and sounds to make them new and unmistakably Tchaikovksyan. But Simon Morrison believes the Surrealists, who idolized Tchaikovsky as a composer of the sublime and the transcendent “sounds of the soul,” went too far when they cast him as a revolutionary. He was also the imperial composer, a man marked by “conservatism as a person and an artist,” who used musical forms, songs, and sounds in order to revive, not to supplant, them.

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