Wednesday 7 October 2015

Poetic Pairing: October 2015

Happy Holiday 1999 Agnes Martin

Peace, Tranquility and Solitude

Peace, Tranquility and Solitude
Are the things we all need most
Sit all alone and meditate
Relaxing by the coast.

Allow those sounds to agitate 
And fill your empty head
Help your inner self to meditate
To natures sounds instead.

The sound of wind and water 
Waves crashing on the land
Listen to the tides which turn 
And flow along the sand.

Sitting by the coast
Breath in the cool sea breeze
It helps relax the mind and soul
And you body is all at ease.

David Boyce

Natural History Museum: Spirit Collection Tour

As a Londoner I have stood in awe under the plaster cast of Dippy in the Natural History Museum's ornate entrance hall, cowered in fear clinging to my grandfather's hand when they installed the lifelike moving T. Rex and explored the insect rooms with classmates clutching crumpled worksheets and wholesome pack lunches. All in all I thought I knew the museum pretty well and had relegated it to a place of childhood learning and amusement.

Yesterday I went on the gallery's behind the scenes Spirit Collection tour and I was shown how much more there is to the museum.

Myself and a group of eight colleagues met our charming and very knowledgeable guide by that museum institution, the gift shop, and headed away from the busy hub of the gallery via the swish Darwin centre into the back stage area. 

While we walked she set the scene by reminding us that the natural history museum is not just a reliquary for dinosaur bones and the Victorian's taxidermied animal specimens but it is also an active research institution leading and participating in research into the natural world.

The first stop on the tour was a glimpse into one of the museum's labs where some of the gallery's scientists were busy working in the sort of organised chaos common in lab environments.

Then we moved on to look at the skin crawling 'flesh-eating beetle room' complete with a live feed of the bugs themselves slowly breaking down the body of a python.

Don't worry they weren't anything like the ones from The Mummy...

From here we moved into what was essentially a huge library stack except instead of endless art journals or exhibition catalogues the shelves were filled with animals in jars of alcohol to protect and preserve the specimens. This section included fascinating items like these mice which, through a process which quite eludes me, have been dyed so that the skeletons are red and the organs are transparent. Freaky!

Many of the museum's specimens, particularly the fish and large mammal and reptile specimens, are too large to fit into this section and the next room we journeyed to was designed to store them. It had long metal tanks in the centre where specimens were stored together and the wall was lined with huge glass tanks filled with weird and wonderful creatures. While we were there some of the gallery's very own white coat wearing scientists (or some well paid actors) were moving a sharks head into a new jar.

The star of this space had to be the museum's giant squid. It was caught by accident near the Falkland Islands and gifted to the museum and since it has arrived it has helped scientist to understand more about the elusive species. Oh and she is named Archie.

We learnt a lot about Archie and the other occupants of this room but I don't want to give away all of the surprises.

To book tickets to see all of this for yourself click here it's only a tenner a ticket and I think you will agree totally worth it.