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 The best museums are not always the biggest

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nordmann
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PostSubject: The best museums are not always the biggest   Wed 16 Apr 2014, 11:02

Stella Mitchell "I don't like things that show how we killed each other but I do like things that show how we coped with privations" runs a private museum near Ludlow in Shropshire that must rank as one of the most interesting in the world. Every item she has collected has been selected on the simple but essential basis that it once meant something to its owner and, as a result, everything on display therefore imparts meaningfulness to the observer. The museum's name and ethos owe much to A E Housman's poem ...

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

Secret Britain: The Land of Lost Content museum



Any others you might recommend?
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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Wed 16 Apr 2014, 11:54

Not a museum and it may now be shut down, Great Yarmouth was home to what has been described as the worst waxworks in the world.

Postscript, it has gone;
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-25588697
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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Wed 16 Apr 2014, 12:16

What a lovely poem. That sums up history for me - more than all the science/carbon dating/DNA stuff in the world, I'm afraid.

Will check out that museum next time I go to Ludlow (wonderful place).
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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Fri 18 Apr 2014, 23:25

Yes, I loved Ludlow when we were there.  Not necessarily for very sensible reasons - finding a shoe shop where the staff still got their shoes down from the boxes stacked up to the ceiling was one. I suppose that's a non really unreasonably nostalgic reaction though.

The other day our newspaper had an article about London and one of the places mentioned was Soane's Museum - the collection in his own home which he lived in was a private obsession of architect John Soanes, really, and absolutely chocker-block full of bits and pieces.  Claustrophically full, really, thought I don't recall any problems with it.  We went with Tim Whittle and his wife and it did get too hot and stuffy, so we didn't see it all as fully as we would have liked.  It had art, things he had collected from overseas countries, and all sorts of sundry pieces.  Apparently he left it with the instructions it was remain as it was, but I think they have had or are going to change it to cater for tourist numbers.

I have mentioned before the pencil museum in the Lake District before, I am sure.  Those sort of one-item museums with all the history and stories attached to them appeal to me, and this one was really well done.

But as regards small museums I have to mention the one in my own little town, which was described on tripadvisor recently by a New Yorker as By far the best small museum I've ever visited. Excellent exhibits with fantastic dioramas, photos, objects and narrative which describe the history of settlement, work and family life. Wonderful way to learn about the hardy pioneers who settled the Catlins and their descendants who now live in this beautiful part of NZ. The exhibit quality is equivalent to the Smithsonian in Washington DC and the Museum of Natural History in NY.


One day I will take an hour or two and try to see our museum through the eyes of a tourist. We get lots of good comments, and I am always just slightly bemused about why. Comparisons with the Smithsonian seem a little excessive to me.
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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Wed 14 May 2014, 14:38

Nearly forgot this one - discovered by accident one time when off my usual beaten track in London.

To call the Horniman Museum's collection eclectic would be like calling Barack Obama slightly tanned or Tony Blair a bit of a fibber. Based on one man's own collection and then augmented willy nilly over the years pursuant to his own diverse interests the resulting collection covers everything from archaeology to anthropology with dollops of contemporary curiosity items and the downright "wtf". I loved it. Admission is free though now and again there are specifically themed exhibitions with a small cover charge. You can get there by tube though the nearest station Forest Hill is about 10 minutes walk away. The surrounding gardens are open too.


Stuffed miniature dogs in a glass bell jar (go figure)
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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Wed 14 May 2014, 14:47

Well, you don't need to go figure actually. Here's how the taxidermist cheated as revealed by x-ray



The bones of the puppies were not used and the hide instead shrunk to conform to a wire frame, the padding over this then being manipulated to give the animals adult contours. These were very popular on Victorian mantlepieces, I hear.
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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Wed 14 May 2014, 16:00

Two stuffed puppies?  - Pah! that's nothing....

Potter's Museum, originally in Bramber, West Sussex, was a similarly odd collection ... to say the least. In the 19th century Walter Potter made his living as a taxidermist, and his museum in his home village of Bramber was mostly a showcase for his art. The best known items were a series of tableaux, all made of stuffed animals with suitably modelled props and settings:

The Guinea-Pig's Cricket Match;

The Rats' Den, being raided by the local police rats;

The Kittens Tea Party, complete with stuffed kittens playing croquet and passing the cucumber sandwiches;

The Cat's Wedding, featuring 20 kittens wearing little morning suits or brocade dresses, with a feline vicar in white surplice;

The Death and Burial of Cock-Robin, comprising 98 species of British birds;

And, A Village School .... featuring 48 stuffed baby rabbits busy writing on tiny slates:



There were also other bizarre exhibits ... I remember a two-headed lamb and a three-legged duck, plus an eclectic mix of fossils, ethnic items from throughout the Empire, and local archaeological remains etc.

I loved it and it was always a favourite visit when I was young ... and it was cheap too, just sixpence (6d) a head if I remember, and children free.

But in these 'more enlightened times' it was not thought suitable and so it closed in the 1970s. It moved briefly to Arundel and then to Cornwall but eventually all the exhibits were sold off at auction in 2003. Apparently Damien Hirst offered £1million for the entire collection, but for some rather dodgy reason the auctioneers, Bonhams, rejected his bid, (and the actual auction only raised about half Hirst's offer), and so the collection has now sadly been broken up and dispersed.


Last edited by Meles meles on Wed 14 May 2014, 16:15; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Wed 14 May 2014, 16:13

The guinea pig cricket match is one of the items featured on this site;

http://ridiculouslyinteresting.com/browse-the-collection/
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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Wed 14 May 2014, 16:23

Thanks for the link Trike ... that takes me back.

I remember these two rabbits (they're part of the School-room tableau) the one trying to copy off the other. Critics of Mr Potter said that he wasn't actually very good as a taxidermist and that many of his ordinary works were not very anatomically correct ... but he certainly had an eye for human nature when he created his tableaux.

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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Thu 15 May 2014, 12:15

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Thu 15 May 2014, 14:21

The annual British Museum and Heritage awards were announced yesterday (V&A in London got the main prize). It was nice to see that Horniman's "Walrus on the Move" won an award for the best museum marketing campaign.

A clip for those who might have missed it:


The Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth and the Mary Rose Trust both also picked up awards, which is nice to see. The former definitely merits inclusion in the list of smaller museums worth a visit, though be warned - the admission is pricey:


Mary Rose Museum

A link to the Guardian's report of all the 2014 awards can be found here.
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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Fri 16 May 2014, 11:41

Commencing last night and continuing until Saturday, there are a number of museums holding night time events across the UK;

http://www.culture24.org.uk/places-to-go/museums-at-night
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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Fri 16 May 2014, 18:34

If you are close enough or in the area long enough, the "all attractions 1-year unlimited" ticket is the best value for the Portsmouth group. Just wish it had covered Gosport submarine museum & the Coastal Forces museum as well when I took the Monsters down there!
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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Sat 24 May 2014, 19:12

Ugh! Those taxidermy things give me the creeps.  The last time I was in Walsall I finally got round to seeing the Leather Museum.  It's not very big but it's interesting. The leather trade was important in Walsall at one time.  Of course, being vegetarian I avoid buying anything leather if I can.
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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Sun 25 May 2014, 00:43

LadyinRetirement wrote:
Ugh! Those taxidermy things give me the creeps.  The last time I was in Walsall I finally got round to seeing the Leather Museum.  It's not very big but it's interesting. The leather trade was important in Walsall at one time.  Of course, being vegetarian I avoid buying anything leather if I can.
Not sure how logical that is - surely if the animals are going to be slaughtered for meat anyway, using the hides is the ecologically responsible thing to do?
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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Thu 29 May 2014, 10:48

There was an interesting little programme on BBC4 last night about artist Stanley Spencer and his wartime paintings of the Clyde shipyards.

There is a small museum of Spencer's work in his birthplace at Cookham in Berkshire;

http://stanleyspencer.org.uk/
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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Wed 29 Oct 2014, 13:39

An honourable mention for the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Free admission (!) and containing far more than its "anthropological and archaeological" remit might initially suggest.

Click on the red symbols in the diagrams on the linked page above to enjoy a panoramic tour of the place.

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PostSubject: Re: The best museums are not always the biggest   Wed 29 Oct 2014, 15:51

Wow! Thank you for this site - and a place I really must visit. After an afternoon of virtual exploring when I should be doing many other things am greatly enthused with this place - and sod the paper work piling up yet to do.
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