Thursday, May 03, 2007

London - Part 2

Yesterday, coincidently the day HRM's latest portrait was published in Vanity Fair, I wandered around the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum.

In the NPG, I wandered through the collections along with a bunch of art class school kids who seemed to have taken over the building. There was a fashion exhibition which featured floor to ceiling prints of shots taken for fashion mags; it was all Kate Moss, Kate Moss and more Kate Moss. It also included a disturbing vampiric Justin Timberlake shot. My favourite part of the NPG though was a small room housing a collection called Blair at War which documented the PM's life in the office during the lead-up to the second Iraq war in March 2003.

The British Museum was amazing. Such an awesome collection documenting a history of exploration and conquest. The Rosetta Stone was bigger than I'd expected, and the Elgin marbles were just as amazing as I'd anticipated. The ability of the artisans to display a rank & file procession in shallow relief was incredible. So too were the figures from the frieze. The figures, which sat in the triangluar section under the roof, were completed both front and back, even though they would never be seen from behind once in place. My guess is that they were on display on the ground before being raised into place. The egyptian stuff was pretty interesting too, though for me the stuff on the ground floor (sphinxes and other large stone sculptures) more than the mummies on the upper floors. The Assyrian gate guards were awe-inspiring, towering and majestic.

With so many people at the BM, it's easy to get distracted. Audio tours are definitely the way to go if you have the time & are prepared to wait a bit to see the big ticket item you came to see. The treasure hunt approach to the BM's highlights tour gives you a much better exposure to the collection than you'd otherwise get if you'd spent the same amount of time wandering by yourself. I found I got a lot more out of my time there because the voice just over my shoulder, so to speak, told me more about what I was looking at than the written description panels could deliver. I'd never have thought to go around the back of the Partheon frieze statues if the audio guide hadn't told me to. The bottom line on the BM is that the collection is way too big for just one visit. It's exhausting even after a few hours, so you need to take breaks and spread it out; make the time. As you'd expect, the BM's bookstore had books on just about everything in case you caught the bug & wanted to learn more. My bags got considerably heavier after the visit there.

The visit to the BM and the number of school groups there with really little kids got me wondering about timing in education. What's the best age to expose kids to such a collection, and have them really get something out of it? Do they risk alienating kids from history if they go in too young and it's all just a bunch of old stuff? On the other hand, might some future historians & archeologists take a different path if they were to miss out on the inspiring experience at the right age?


Posted by Dean @ 5/03/2007 10:10:00 pm

...Survey says...


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