Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Museums galore

Oxford not-so-fun fact/rambling story:
I live in on-site college housing, and every morning (9am on the dot), my "scout" comes to empty my trash. She has a key to all the rooms, so she gives a quick rat-a-tat-tat on the door before unlocking the old, noisy doorknobs. The walls are thin: I can hear the entire progression down my hallway (as well as the hallways above and below me). If you don't want to be disturbed, you can place your trash can rubbish bin outside your door, but you can do this for a max of 3 days in a row. I think the every.single.day thing is a bit excessive, and figured the 3-day-max thing was to ensure nothing illegal was going on inside your room. Turns out, however [note: here's the aforementioned fact], the housekeepers are called Scouts at Oxford because they "scout" out your room to make sure no suicide attempts have been made. Yeah, you read that right. Apparently the dreary England conditions + ridiculous workload drive a fair number of people over the edge.

I don't share this info to make light of the subject by any means (the name's origin is probs just an urban myth anyway), but rather as a basis for my excuse of not having "new" material to blog lately. I've been swamped.

Luckily for you, however, I found the draft of a blog sitting around that I've decided to put to use. I wrote it agggges ago [or so it seems], after visiting several London museums. My intention was to add to the post my experiences at several Oxford museums, but...well, did I say I've been swamped? There's definitely still a lot remaining on my places-to-see list...

So howsabout we take a little jog back to the days when leisurely trips to museums, like, happened. Ready, go:

Museums seem to be a big part of my life this year, from Madrid, to DC, to London, and now Oxford. And I haven't paid for a single one of 'em yet!

While in London [two months ago], I visited the following, [and recommend all four!] --

The Grant Museum of Zoology
This museum is part of University College London–where one of my super cool friends [shout out!] is studying for a year on a Fulbright scholarship–and is...pretty unique. It is housed in a library-like venue, with shelves of animal skeletons and jarred specimens all around the room. The range of animals represented stretched from elephants, to dodo birds, to sea sponges. I wish I had more pictures for you, but here are some of my faves:
Yes, that is a jar of moles. No, I don't know why.

This was situated underneath a shelf of preserved brains from 20-odd species

...baby beluga in the deep blue...jar.

This was my ANTI-favorite. Ew. If you value your mental state, do NOT look up youtube videos of surninam toads. (Actually, this one is kind of funny)

The Hunterian Museum
This is another museum for science- (and specimen-) lovers. This space houses an incredibly impressive (yet nowhere near comprehensive) collection of work from John Hunter, the father [/founder?] of scientific [/modern?] surgery. Shelf upon shelf upon shelf is filled with glass jars of preserves from various dissections/vivisections that the amazingly prolific scientist performed. Pictures weren't allowed, but some readers might not want to see the foot of a man with elephantiasis or the skeletal ribcage of a woman who regularly used a corset, anyway.

The British Museum
Now this is your typical, big city, big name museum. It was HUGE, with tons of impressive pieces inside.

Whether ancient, beautiful, incredible, or all of the above, I found myself repeatedly thinking, "Dang." whilst walking through the exhibits. I was a bit tired, and on time constraints, neither of which I recommend for anyone who plans to visit in the future.
A view of the rightly named Great Court, the largest covered square in Europe

My favorite part [but not really] were the fake cypress knees in the "Southeast" section of the "North American Landscape" exhibit in front of the museum:

The Wellcome Collection
Another neat science museum, albeit quite a bit larger than Grant or Hunterian. It also had a lot more artistic interpretations incorporated into the various exhibits than did the others, and was definitely more interactive. From electron scan microscope images, to examples of days-of-yore prosthetics, I found it to be interesting and enjoyable. The only picture I took was of a copy of a page from one of the 60-something volumes that contain the 3-billion-base sequence of the human genome. (A big bookshelf had 2-3 big honkin' books for each of the 23 human chromosomes, and the letters of the DNA bases filled the pages.)

Amazing, if you ask me.

Maybe at some point in my life I'll post about Oxford's Museum of the History of Science, the Ashmolean, or the Pitt Rivers (Ox's big three). Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends (and foes). London bound for Turkey dinner on Thursday, then homeward bound in two short weeks! Yeehaw!

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