Random Observation/Comment #161: I’ve always enjoyed walking unfamiliar museums alone. My first sweep through the exhibits would become very boring for someone else because I have a terrible habit of reading the descriptions for what I consider “freakin’ sweet.” After carefully reading the description, I take a picture of it from different angles and try to imagine myself in the previous time period. Even science museums offer many new facts and interesting methods of demonstrating our evolution of understanding. The subsequent times returning to the museum, however, is much better with friends. On the other hand, art exhibitions should be a much more social gathering. I’ve had days where I go to the MET by myself and just sit in the Roman section with the beautifully lit white room meticulously detailed with marble pillars and columns, but for the most part, I enjoy discussing art pieces with other people. The open-ended interpretation of the art from today and 5000 years ago beckons a few short lines sharing how each piece talks to you. It’s really quite fascinating.
While I was in London, I visited the British Museum, Natural History Museum, and Science Museum. Each of them was special in their own way, but I did feel an urge to get some fresh air after 3 hours of going through the aforementioned routines. The pictures were plentiful and I really appreciated the overall layout of their sections. Even though most of these museums did not have a particular preferred ordering or logical explanation for their layout, all the exhibits within their own room were, at least, relevant.
I entered the British museum from a side entrance, so it really gave a terribly simple first impression. I wondered to myself how I was going to spend the next three hours in this place to stay on schedule for a relatively productive day. To my pleasant surprise, a blinding white cylinder with a very modern feel to its interior design greeted me after walking up the stairs. Now that I think about it, I’m glad I entered the side entrance first because that wow-factor added to the experience. It’s like, starting with the bad news first and then finding out the good news was that the bad news was a lie. The glass ceiling and open space not only made me amazed at its architecture, but also made me feel happy. It was inexplicably welcoming.
Centuries of art surrounded this connecting room and I couldn’t help but notice that it gave that cleansing effect. Traveling from one side of philosophy to the other side of ancient roman sculptures, I had to pass through this white room. It included a dining area and noticeably had the most people conversing about art and meeting for the day ahead. The air was so vibrant in contrast to the silent scrutiny to detail behind the glass cases. I truly loved the design, and the history itself was designated impressive-sized wings as well. It’s interesting how I saw the entrance last. Overall, it’s a sight worth seeing (plus, it’s free).
The second day, I visited the Natural History museum near Hyde Park. It’s attached to the “museum section” of London near the Science museum and Royal Albert Hall. This museum should probably be renamed the Tribute to Charles Darwin Museum because that’s exactly what it represented. From the outside, the central architecture is most impressive. I had a field day just walking to the top and taking pictures of the curves and bends in the stone steps. I saw a few architecture students sketching these designs and making masterpieces with simple shading techniques.
The positioning of the windows at the top was perfect and surprisingly lit up the entire main hall. The four sections of the museum also connected to this major area so the journey through this stone magnificence was required. It was a different feeling from the white marble in the British museum. The old brown stone gave it that historical tone. Just walking in and seeing the dinosaur bone reminded me of the entrance to the Natural history museum in NYC. It was, to say the least, quite impressive.
I arrived quite early so the room was mostly empty when I took my pictures. Later in the day, the tourists and elementary school tours arrived for their little adventures. In fact, I got a free ticket to the Charles Darwin special exhibit because this high school teacher had extra tickets to distribute.
The content of the museum would be shadowed by the museum in NYC, but it was still entertaining to walk around. I took many pictures, but it was less interesting that I expected. Perhaps my comfort museums in nature and science just don’t push my buttons the same way. It’s like my brother says, “I like pain because it makes me feel alive.” It seems I tend towards discomfort because it gives me a wider perspective of colorful unknowns I’ve never learned about. This probably explains why I have a long list of hobbies, yet for none of them would I consider myself an expert (there’s definitely a grammar problem there). Overall, I loved the dinosaurs and the design, but it did not surprise me. I think I may have grown out of the “ooooo, a manatee!” phase in my life.
The final museum (visited on my second day) was the Science museum. This one was the most interesting in content, but not exactly my favorite. It was nice to walk around reading the small little nuggets of information that conveyed that overall theme of the museum, but it just didn’t impress me. I didn’t feel like I learned anything new after coming here. I basically just saw some stuff in a case and nodded my head at a slightly faster pace than usual, thinking, “it’s nice that they got a hold of that.” The exhibits were very well presented and clearly separated into different sections with another impressive open space in the center, but there must have been something missing. As I read most of the material, it didn’t make me day dream. Yes, there were really interesting timelines showing the evolution of human thinking, but I basically knew it. The science impressed me, but my heart wasn’t inside the descriptions. I guess after all that time of looking at artifacts and living the history, I so dearly wanted to live in the past. Instead, I needed to shift the gears in my mind to appreciate the present and realize technological evolution. Perhaps, I overanalyzed the situation.
I was actually quite surprised with my choice that the British museum was the one that was the most enjoyable of the three. I know many people would disagree and look at me with puzzlement how a scientist and engineer can like ancient history more than his passion and roots, but I had to go with my mood. I looked at artifacts with amazement, and it made me more curious. My alternative mindset in the science and history museums was filled with such unwarranted scrutiny and judgment. I couldn’t stop myself, and after some time, I had to rush it. I probably would have enjoyed the science and history museum with people, but as a solo-traveler, I preferred the British museum. On the other hand, the Science and Natural History museums are both in the same area so it helped me burn more time. In addition, these museums are much more interesting for photographers. I think I took more pictures that day than any other.
All three museums represent evolution: civilizations, art, technology, and natural. They have their own style or representation and you’ll definitely learn something new. I’m glad I saw all three because it would be very difficult to solidify an opinion without a taste from each plate.
~See Lemons Museum Hunting
interesting blog !
I am doing thesis on a museum in India. So interesting to know your opinions about museums.