Friday, 29 July 2011

Welcome back

The National Museum of Scotland re-opened today after a three year, £47M refurbishment. At 9.15am they pulled back the tarpaulin from a big animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex, which mucked about for a little while, aided by a few explorers in pith helmets. There was quite a crowd. Then there was a bit of drumming and some marching. I'd left by then.

Not because I didn't want to go in, but because I had to open up the shop. I'm a professional. My partner went to a preview night on Wednesday and was impressed, so I'm looking forward to getting in and having a proper look round. I've missed it while it was closed - it's always been one of my favourite places. The cavernous main hall, with its fish ponds and pillars was always amazingly relaxing considering it was often very busy.

There has been a gradual move in museums away from piling everything they have into cabinets and putting a huge list of numbered labels somewhere near the bottom. Nowadays the idea is to have far fewer objects and use the story of the item to flesh out a historical or scientific theme. As an educational approach it's far more engaging, and for those that miss the 'more is more' technique there has been a simultaneous trend towards open storage policies. Meaning you can have access to what's kept in the collections behind the scenes, to varying extent from museum to museum of course. Some have huge racking systems that can be pulled out, allowing a visitor to view rows of stuffed starlings, lines of antique china plates, or trays of Roman coins. And so on.

For an old fashioned, everything on the wall, cabinet of curiosities museum, try Oxford University's Pitt-Rivers Museum. It's a great place, that has deliberately kept its traditional style. Meantime - get yourself to Chambers Street to see the T. rex skeleton.

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