Do we go to museums to see wonders? Perhaps things we couldn’t see anywhere else in the world; animals that are now extinct like dinosaurs or dodos, or creatures that we may never get a chance to stand alongside like whales or naked mole rats? I would say that we probably do, but that this is a bit of a ridiculous desire considering we don’t know how interesting the everyday animals in our lives are.
It’s always a wonderful experience when a museum makes you catch your breath in wonder. It is, after all, only in the museum world that I will come face to face with a polar bear upon stepping over the threshold. The feeling here is bitter sweet. I’m of course incredibly sad that such animals have died or been killed, but I am also fascinated by the skills of the taxidermist to create natural beauty and a seemingly everlasting life from death. Access to such incredible animals in museums also provides an excellent opportunity to learn, and I happy to say that on an otherwise sleepy Sunday in Tring, the museum was buzzing.
‘Is it more stuff in jars’, was the question from my boyfriend, who I was very definitely dragging along on this birthday treat to myself. And yes, yes the Spirit Specimen Tour at the Natural History Museum in London is a behind the scenes peek of their ‘stuff in jars’ store which holds around 22 million animal specimens.
Swimming through the air, mouth gaping, back arched as it dives; the newly displayed Blue Whale in the Hintz Hall of the Natural History Museum is spectacular. I was upset to hear that Dippy the Diplodocus was going to be replaced. He had been the guardian of the Hintz Hall for each of my visits, so it was hard to imagine how anything could take his place.
If you’ve somehow managed to miss hearing about archaeology occurring as part of the creation of the Elizabeth Line, you must have been avoiding the news for years. This brilliant temporary exhibition highlights the key archaeological sites as well as some of the interesting finds related to the Crossrail project. Opening with a film alongside a wall painted with Crossrail facts, you’re instantly aware of the years of planning, effort and archaeology that have gone into the Cross-rail tunnel.
I have no idea what I really expected from the Foundling Museum. I think it was something along the lines of an Oliver Twist Style workhouse, with a dinner hall of big wooden benches lined with tin bowls (obviously for gruel) and spoons. Maybe there would be a rendition of food glorious food. It’s weird what your brain makes up isn’t it. Basically, my brain was really wrong, it’s nothing like this illusion at all.
It’s taken me a month to get to this gem of a temporary exhibition but gosh darn it, it was worth the wait! Imagine if a museum asked visitors what they wanted to display . . . if they just put out a theme and then said ‘go on then, bring us stuff’. I mean that would be chaos, that would be insane, that would be A FLIPPING BRILLIANT IDEA WELLCOME COLLECTION – YOU UTTER LEGENDS.
Today was the Pride Parade in London which marks 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality. The city looked like a Lush shop had exploded; rainbow flags and glitter galore. As I sat on the tube I overheard a parent explaining to her two little girls why there was a man dressed in a PVC policeman outfit holding hands with a girl kitted out as Wonder Woman. ‘It’s for a Pride March’, she said, ‘people get dressed up and celebrate that people can love who they want’. I sat feeling pretty lucky that I’m in a country where I can overhear that on public transport.
I’m am ashamed to say that I judged a museum by its title. The Museum of English Rural Life (abbreviated to MERL) just doesn’t sound too exciting unless you have an unhealthy attraction to farm yards. I grew up in the countryside and my first word was ‘tractor’, you’d think I’d be the target audience; but I just wasn’t sold . . . it’s nice when your wrongly negative assumptions are blown away.
When you are in a foreign country and get a chance to visit a museum that gets very few overseas visitors you obviously take it. This is what I did with the Baoji Bronzeware Museum anyway.