Museum website says 'homo-erotic' is top 10 search

By Sean Coughlan
Education correspondent

Image caption,
Elevated thoughts? The Victoria and Albert Museum search data suggests a range of intentions

What are people thinking about when they visit museums? Maybe it isn't always intellectual inspiration.

A team launching a project at the Victoria and Albert Museum have revealed the type of searches made on the London museum's website.

And in the top 10 this summer, along with design-related searches such as "floral patterns", was "homo-erotic".

The museum has a gay history project this month as part of the Being Human humanities festival.

Being Human is the UK's national festival of the humanities, run by the University of London's School of Advanced Study, with 300 events staged around the country in November.

Image source, Holly Revell
Image caption,
Performance artist Bird la Bird is part of the museum project

At the launch at the Hunterian Museum in London, V&A assistant curator Zorian Clayton explained that the project would examine the hidden histories of the museum's collection and its intersections with gay and lesbian culture.

He revealed the level of potential interest from people searching the art and design museum's website.

Along with "ships", "flowers" and "cinema", "homo-erotic" was one of the most popular searches. There were also searches for "sepulchral monuments".

The Being Human festival aims to look at the human condition from different perspectives and to promote work in the humanities.

Image caption,
The Victoria and Albert Museum specialises in art and design

Among the work being promoted is Being Human/Being Animal, in which historians from King's College London and the Royal College of Surgeons will look at how studies of human and animal health have overlapped.

Understanding the spread of diseases and problems such as vitamin deficiencies has been part of both human medicine and animal welfare.

This will include the story of Ming, a panda in London Zoo - and claimed as one of the first "animal celebrities" - whose health problems in the 1940s became a matter of public debate.

The National Archives is running a project on civil rights protests by black Britons in the early 1970s, focusing on the disputes around the Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill, which became a flashpoint for tension between the black community and police.

The University of Buckingham is promoting its "digital Dickens" project, which is bringing academic crowdsourcing and the digitising of texts to its study of the 19th Century author.

"By working together, thinkers from different disciplines can extend our insights into what it means to be human," said Barry Smith, director of the Institute of Philosophy at the School of Advanced Study.