liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] liv
[personal profile] ceb asked me, and lots of our mutual friends, What's your favourite museum? It's a really interesting question, because a museum is not the kind of thing most people have a stock favourite, and I've been finding other people's answers really informative.

So anyway, I will consider art galleries separately, because I have a prompt for later on to talk about art. Aside from great art collections well displayed, what I most like in a museum is that it should show me how things work. If I wanted purely factual information, I'd probably rather get it from just reading a book. And I can like collections of physical objects, but they have to be exceptionally curated, just objects with captions ends up feeling like I'm leafing through a catalogue. I mean, I had a soft spot for the old Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford, for precisely the way it was hardly like a museum at all, more like wandering around in the attic of an eccentric hoarder relative. And the new Pitt Rivers is amazing, because it's basically a museum about the kind of awful anthropology museum it used to be, a collection of artefacts, including human remains and sacred objects, that nineteenth century colonialists felt completely entitled to pilfer from anywhere in the world.

But more generally what I like in (non-art) museums is that they have working equipment and explain technology. Needs to be real or realistic replica machines; I don't go to museums to press buttons and watch dated CGI. I especially like the kinds of museums that are built right in the factories or other working places they are about. The north of England is a very good place for museums like that, and we went to some on our honeymoon, near some of the first factories built in the entire world. I also love reconstructed habitations, and I have very fond memories of visiting Sovereign Hill gold mining town near Ballarat in Australia, which demonstrates both how the mining technology worked and how people lived during that era.

If I have to pick just one favourite in this genre, I will go for Verdant works in Dundee. It really does show you clearly how the jute industry worked, including working replica machines (originally used for training engineers IIRC from a visit 10 years ago) which allow you to follow every stage of the process from fibre to fabric. And it explains how people lived in Dundee and the political and economic implications of the jute trade and its decline. I learned there about how a young Churchill was sent to talk down the uppity women's suffragists in a town that had almost total female employment (and almost zero male employment). It's run by enthusiasts, mostly retired people who worked in the jute industry during their working lives, and they're dedicated to detail at the level of scouring Europe for exactly the right kind of early tungsten bulbs so that the illumination would be period-appropriate. I still have my spool of jute thread and my little corner of jute sacking that I watched being made on the machines there, it smells gorgeous, but it's mainly something I just love as a souvenir of my time in Dundee.

So, many thanks for asking an excellent question, [personal profile] ceb!

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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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