Having recently taken a trip to Cambridge it was music to my ears (or the more visual equivalent, a painting to my eyes perhaps?) to discover that the museums of Cambridge were taking a trip to London. To Two Temple Place to be exact, for a quirky exhibition called Discoveries.
Usually I loathe the word ‘quirky’ but after wracking my brains I was unable to find another word to convey the kind of odd exhibition that brings together such a vast array of objects. Everything from archaeology to anthropology to fossils to art was on display.
Quirky it may be; but it was fantastic (and such a breath of fresh air compared to the other exhibition I’d seen that day…) Come and see what I discovered…
“Museums present objects,” reads the introductory label. “Objects,” it continues, “Prompt questions.” The question I kept asking was what’s this? What’s this? I sounded like my skeletal namesake from The Nightmare Before Christmas upon discovering Christmas Town.
This little fella caught my eye immediately (apologies for the shaky photography, I must have been over excited). What’s this? I wondered. What on earth could it be? Why is he wearing sunglasses? He’s from the Polar Museum, and those aren’t sunglasses, they’re snow goggles. Doesn’t he just make you feel a bit happier?
Some of the objects had remarkable stories, like this cracked egg from the Sedgwick Museum.
This egg, once thought lost forever, was discovered by Liz Wetton, a volunteer at the museum in 2009. Liz found the egg by chance. She knew it belonged to famed Natural Scientist Charles Darwin after spotting his name in faded ink on the note. Oh, and about that crack, “The great man put it in too small a box and hence its unhappy state,” read the label. This egg is 1 of 16, where the other 15 are is anyone’s guess. You can see some other Darwin-themed stuff from the Sedgwick here.
Nearby was this fossilised treasure I just had to share.
I have a couple of ammonites at home, but nothing that looks like this beast! It’s huge! (Also, if you look closely, you can see the museum’s label). This monster was discovered on the Isle of Wight.
Although the Oxford University Museum of Natural History is famous for its Dodo, the Cambridge Museums have one too. The bones of this specimen were found in the ‘Mare aux Songes’ (translation: Sea of Dreams) which is the most poetic was to describe a swamp I’ve ever encountered.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to move on to my favourite pieces in this exhibition. Before I show them to you, cast your mind back a few months. Can you remember my new favourite museum?
These come from there.
They are still quite something.
This is Hermes. It’s a lovely statue, and beautifully lit as well. The label for this piece really made me chuckle, as it declared that Hermes was the ‘rival to classical pin-up boy Antinous’. Long-term readers will of course know that I have a bit of a thing for Hadrian’s lover. I also love that it used the term ‘pin up.’
You could admire Hermes from all angles, which revealed all sorts of stunning details.
With this side view, you can see the remains of an infant’s hand.
Although the image is still blurry, you can still see a wealth of detail about the cast. There were more casts upstairs. These ones were just as playful in their own way. The Apollo one plays with the myth of the Python; was it really a monstrous serpent the god defeated or was it a tiny lizard? With Aphrodite, we were encouraged to think about what it means to portray a divinity as a sex object.
If you’re ever in Cambridge, I urge you to visit the Museum of Classical Archaeology.
There was science on display too:
One of the things I enjoyed most about this exhibition was its inherent sense of playfulness. These are things that shouldn’t really work together to form a coherent exhibition, but they did. The labels could have been high academic curator-ese (we are dealing with Cambridge here, remember) but the notes were fun and accessible.
I would have to say, this is the best exhibition I’ve been to for a long while. I even did a quick Twitter review.
Discoveries at Two Temple Place is FREE and goes on until 27th April