The aim of my journey was to see the Lindisfarne Gospels, Europe’s oldest surviving bound book on loan from the British Library, in London, which has been incorporated into an exhibition celebrating the journey of St Cuthbert to his final resting place in Durham Cathedral
These Gospels have a unique place in the art and culture of the North East and the Christian heritage of Britain - St Cuthbert (c 634 – 687 AD) wrote the Gospels on the island of Lindisfarne.
|Showing positioning of Durham|
While on my way to Durham in the north east of England via London I went to see two tiny museums with a wealth of knowledge crammed into cabinets, hung high from ceilings, floors covered, drawers stacked with more artefacts or specimens ...
These two museums are part of a suite of museums and collections owned by University College London – as the third university to open after Oxford and Cambridge – its early custodians pioneered work in many nascent disciplines ... zoology, geology and archaeology amongst others.
The Grant Museum of Zoology now houses around 30,000 zoological experiments covering the whole range of the animal kingdom – including rare and extinct species such as the dodo, quagga – whose skeleton is one of only seven in the world.
|One of the many thousands of slides -|
a tiny squid
The collection includes wet and dry specimens as well as many fossils ... I went specifically to see the Micrarium ... a place for tiny, tiny things! Many thousands of these slides are archived away ... and they are just not of insects ... but tiny mammals, specimen slices etc ...
|The location of the Nile river |
The museum is a typical avid Victorian scientist’s collection ... jam-packed, dusty ... be prepared for gruesome slices, exquisite works of art ... an alcove, the Micrarium, of light boxes with over 2,000 slides lining walls from floor to ceiling ...
Then round the corner to the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology where I could wander in Ancient Egypt from the Sudan, straddling the confluence of the Blue and White Nile, following its northerly flow in the Nile valley to its mouth at the east Mediterranean.
|Glass display cabinets at|
the Petrie Museum
Here we will find the artefacts we expect to see ... Sudanese and Egyptian art, hieroglyphic panels, sculpture, pottery, beads ... but arranged alongside mud toys, rat traps, everyday garments, socks and sandals and more ...
Then off passing the Lego tube map at Kings Cross (Lego info post here) to catch the train up to the north east of England ...
|1610 map of Durham - the Castle to the|
north, Palace Green surrounded by
Medieval buildings and to the
south high above the Wear river the
Cathedral and ancillary buildings can
be made out.
I certainly did not do Durham or its UNESCO World Heritage designation due justice with my visit – but I knew that before I left the south coast ...
.... I particularly wanted to see the exhibition focusing on the story of one of the world’s most important Anglo-Saxon manuscripts – the Lindisfarne Gospels.
The City has put on a whole festival of events, as well as bringing together other Anglo-Saxon treasure, significant medieval manuscripts ...
I was able to take a tour of the Castle, visited the Cathedral, saw the Chronicles and all the other exhibited works, and then spent time with one of the Museum outreach managers looking through a facsimile edition of the Gospels ... complete with thumbed pages, ‘worm holes’, torn edges ... replicated this century to the standard of the original Gospels.
|Lindisfarne Gospels - the book, with its cover as|
it might have looked, which was lost at some stage
The Wolfson Room had activities for the children and us! ... digitally displaying the Chronicles, discovering how the manuscript was created ... a variety of props, including cow puppets (the dun cow led the monks carrying the coffin of St Cuthbert to Dunholme (Durham), quills, vellum sheets, wax tablets ....
The UNESCO World Heritage Site – the first in Britain, designated in 1986, is doing justice to that award ... the Palace Green was the economic centre of Durham for centuries – bounded by the Castle (1072), dominating the southern end is the Cathedral (1093 – 1133) ... while now the Palace Green Library houses the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition.
Durham was built atop a plateau, the Palace Green, on the incised meander of the River Wear that surrounds three sides to form Durham’s peninsula – ideally situated to survive thirteen hundreds years of marauding raiders and thus now able to put on the various exhibits for this splendid festival.
Sadly I had to leave after only one day – certainly a major challenge, but as so often happens life intervenes – and back to London I went.
|The "quadriga" (four-horse sculpture) that sits|
atop Wellington Arch and its museum
Off to Hyde Park Corner and the Quadriga Gallery housed within the Wellington Arch for the 3rd of five exhibitions covering the story of the 1913 Monuments Act – landmark moment for England’s heritage.
It’s a tiny space within one half of the arch, but allows views across London from the viewing platforms ... while the other side of the arch functions as a ventilation shaft for the London Underground ...
My final visit was to the new Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square to see an art exhibition with a difference, “Vermeer and Music” ... while not wholly on Vermeer some emphasis has been placed on the musical culture of the Netherlands in the ‘Golden Age’ of Dutch culture.
The Academy of Ancient Music are playing short concerts on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays in a salon attached to the exhibition rooms ...
... 17th century instruments, together with Songbooks from the era, are on display with the works of art ... five Vermeer paintings, together with other artists reflecting the Dutch period of music making at all levels of society.
With all that culture, information, history and guide books weighing on both my brain and my back I returned to Eastbourne – to further absorb an incredible journey.
|Detail from a painting by|
Jan Verkolje (c 1674)
The one thing that has become apparent to me in the 21st century and was most definitely on show here at all five sites ... is how the digital age is opening the door to new revelations – acknowledged by how important contact with original materials is to our researchers today.
I came back refreshed and inspired ... yes tired too ... but not exhausted as so often happens ... my eyes had been opened to so much and I will revisit the Grant and Petrie Museums, and go back north at some stage for a week or so to spend time in and around Durham, Lindisfarne ...
... now to write up more posts for the blog on each of the experiences ...
Such a wonderful trip ... too short – but ... so worthwhile ...
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