Katy Barrett is an art curator, cultural historian and museum blogger

How the wild things are

The British Library’s audio-visual tour of the animal kingdom doubles as a weird and wonderful history of natural history

2 Jun 2023
Sir Joseph Whitworth (detail; before 1908), Thomas Benjamin Kennington. The Whitworth, University of Manchester

The Whitworth Art Gallery’s 130-year mission to make itself useful

Founded in memory of the engineer Sir Joseph Whitworth, the museum has always supported the marriage of art and industry

16 Jan 2020
Lapidary and ‘figured’ stones, corals, fossils, semi-precious stones and minerals (c. 1630–40), Vincenzo Leonardi

Pelicans, fossils and fingered lemons – recreating the paper museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo

An exhibition of drawings from the 17th-century collection makes the case for a visual approach to learning – whether in science, history or art

4 Jul 2019
Gibbs toothpaste poster print (c. 1970), Michael English. British Dental Association Museum

The Wellcome sinks its teeth into the history of dentistry

A fascinating display takes us from the patron saint of toothaches to public health campaigns in the 1940s

18 Jul 2018
Installation view of Mark Dion's 'The Library for the Birds of London' (2018) at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2018, Photo: © Jeff Spicer/PA Wire

‘There are no spectators, only participants’

Mark Dion’s playful installations at the Whitechapel Gallery turn viewers into voyeurs

22 Feb 2018
Odalisque in Grisaille (c. 1824–34), Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and workshop. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource / Scala, Florence

The artists who gave up colour

Artists throughout the ages have painted in black and white or monochrome. What is the appeal of art without colour?

8 Nov 2017
The Primitive World (1857), Adolphe François Pannemaker. Courtesy of TASCHEN

Dinosaurs, dioramas, and the strange world of natural history

Paleoart and dioramas are designed to depict prehistory and the natural world – but what they really reveal are our own hopes and fears

7 Sep 2017

The golden age of propaganda

Calendars have often conveyed political messages, particularly in the reign of Louis XIV and during the French Revolution

1 Jun 2017
Tim Etchells and Vlatka Horvat in What Can Be Seen at the Millennium Gallery. Image © Museums Sheffield

‘This human act of paying attention’

Tim Etchells and Vlatka Horvat delved into the storerooms of Sheffield’s museums and discovered the joy of curating (also, a platypus)

22 Mar 2017
Rendering of the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which will be located in LA’s Exposition Park

What exactly is a museum of narrative art, George Lucas?

What will the Star Wars-creator’s new museum in LA add to what the city’s collecting institutions already offer?

13 Feb 2017
The Gilbert Collection is back on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Gilbert Collection is one of the most exquisite collections ever given to Britain

The Gilberts wanted these astonishing treasures to be shared and enjoyed. Now, the V&A has given them the showcase they deserve

6 Dec 2016

Utopian dreams: Imagining what utopia might mean today

A year-long collaborative project at Somerset House celebrates the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s famous work

3 Aug 2016

How Rainham Hall, a house with a history but no original contents, has come to life

At Rainham Hall, the National Trust has risen to the challenge of animating and interpreting an 18th-century sea captain’s house

23 Jun 2016
Flowers in a Glass Vase (1614), Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder.

Say it with flowers – and butterflies, ladybirds, cockroaches…

Two exhibitions in London celebrate the beautiful, subtle botanical paintings of 17th-century Holland

11 May 2016
Installation image of the Victoria and Albert Museum's Europe 1600 - 1815 Galleries. Photo: David Grandorge

Triumphant new European galleries open at the Victoria and Albert Museum

The museum’s take on ‘Europe 1600–1815’ is nuanced, witty and revelatory

14 Dec 2015

Touring the coast in central London: ‘One and All’ at Somerset House

A contemporary art show in the capital marks 50 years of the National Trust’s work on the coast

9 Nov 2015

Museums should embrace event art’s mass appeal

James Turrell’s light show at Houghton Hall is the perfect example of how event art can be truly illuminating

19 Oct 2015

Wrapped in wire at the Wellcome Collection

See everyday objects enshrined in copper wire, and contribute to Alice Anderson’s latest work yourself

30 Jul 2015

Review: Woman in Gold asks questions about the value of art

Helen Mirren stars as Maria Altmann, an émigré Austrian Jew battling to have a painting returned to her after its theft by the Nazis

3 Jun 2015

Rethinking Reynolds at the Wallace Collection

Reynolds may have fallen out of fashion, but a recent conference suggests there’s more to his works than meets the eye

22 May 2015

In praise of the Waddesdon Bequest

This exceptional collection goes back on display at the British Museum in June

15 May 2015

Yale art institutions come together in the Critique of Reason

Enlightenment and Romantic artists had more in common than you think

8 May 2015