The incoherent blathering and deranged rantings of the self-styled Guru Bob...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I may be some time...

Sweet Thang always complains that I take up time reading the explanatory label on anything - whether it is a panel in a park, on the side of a building or in a museum. The fact is that she is absolutely right, but I do try to claim a professional interest - after all I do work in the museum field and it is what we call 'interpretation' how do you make what can seem an almost random selection of facts interesting to the general public.

At the moment I am sitting in a train departing Newcastle - that is Newcastle in northern England, not the Newcastle to the north of Sydney - and in the last week I have read more labels and panels then at any time before in my life. This is a work trip that came out of left field, basicvally go and attend a meeting in Oxford about an exhibition  we are going to have in a couple of years and while you are in the UK have a good look around, meet colleagues and do stuff...

So far I have spent three days in London, three days in Oxford, three days in Edinburgh and am on my way to Cambridge and then Dublin. So there have been lots and lots of museums, many photographs, a few really good meetings and lots and lots of labels to read.

Here are some of the facts that I have learnt:
- when you walk into the British Library and turn left from the Foyer they have an amazing array of books, medieval manuscripts, maps, sheet music, letters and journals on display in their Treasures Gallery. However the one which amqazed me the most wasn't some gloriously illuminated medieval book, it was a faitrly nondescript plain paper book, covered with diufficulty to read handwriting - it was Scott's journal from the ill-fated Antarctic expedition open on the page where he describes another member of the party, dying of starvation and cold leaving the tent with the words ' I may be some time.."

- on a fence next to Russell Square in London's Bloomsbury, a gogeous leafy park, there is a small plaque mentioning that near this spot a bomb destroyedf a double decker bus on what they call over here 7/7. Looking around you can easily imagine the disruption and devastation that would cause in this place on a busy day. Bloomsbury is full of blue plaques on buildings - it got quite distracting - here lived some of the most influential thinkers, artists and writers ever.

Of courese there has been a lot more and my main mlearning was that you don't try and do the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and trhe John   Soanes Museum all in one day - your brain will probably explode...

I will post some pictures soonish.


  1. That is so COOL!, can't wait to hear more.

  2. The sense of history - just the astonishing depth of it - is what I found amazing over there. Obvious of course, but when you're immersed in it, it's reinforced all over again.

    I was over there about 2 yrs ago, also checked out the Natural History Museum and the Imperial War Museum when I was there (weird combo I realise, but (a) I was there en route to an evolution conference in Belgium and (b) the IWM had a brilliant Ian Fleming/James Bond exhibition on) - both worth a look.

  3. Pictures good. And Doc Yobbo is right. It's not just the museums and the rest - even the goddam countryside is saturated with history and prehistory. Dog-walkers discover Roman coins. A country jaunt takes you over Celtic fortifications...

    ...actually, I found it kind of claustrophobic.

  4. Claustrophobic is kinda right actually. It is saturation, compared to growing up in Australia or NZ where that sort of depth of history is much more diluted out.

    That said, we still do museums well. Took the kids (both under 4) to the Powerhouse in Sydney, that's still an impressive experience whenever you get there.

  5. Barnes - we had a meeting yesterday with the Librarian in the Wren Library at Trinity College in Cambridge - one of the most gorgeous buildings I have ever been in, They had these covered cases in the middle of the room - I pulled back the cover of the first one - inside was a letter by someone called Isaac Newton to another 'natural philosophe' named Hooke describing this thing he had discovered called 'gravity'... the next one had a notebook of poems by Tennyson and the final one was a writtend description of the watching the first nuclear bomb at Los Alamos. Oh that's right there was also a 1st folio of plays by some fellow called William Shakespeare and a hand written manuscript of a book about a bear called 'Winnie the Pooh'...

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