Sunday, 18 August 2013

Time travel anyone? Zoology, Ancient Egypt, Lindisfarne Gospels in Durham, John Betjeman at the Quadriga, Dutch Art and Music at the National Gallery ....


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.

 
A Quagga mare at London Zoo
in 1870
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
in Africa
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 ...


Durham Castle

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 Cathedral - taken from across the river
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 ...

 
National Gallery in Trafalgar Square,
to the west (left) is the new wing
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 ...

 
The poster advertising
the exhibition
... 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 ...


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

48 comments:

jabblog said...

There's never enough time to have a good look - even a week in one exhibition would not be long enough. I'm glad you're inspired rather than over-tired.

Lynn said...

What a wonderful trip! Durham castle is so striking looking from across the water.

I had to drag my nieces into the National Gallery off Trafalgar Square. It's a wonderful place - I enjoyed it anyway. :) I'm glad you did, too.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I didn't get to visit Durham when I lived there, but I will if I go back. And sometimes those smaller museums hold the most interesting items.

Jo said...

Durham is Matt's part of the world, I have never been there either. Your travels wore me out just reading about them. I am impressed you did all this, sounds like a wonderful, and very interesting, trip.

I was taken to the National once as a school kid but remember very little about it.

Murees Dupé said...

It must have been so wonderful to experience and see all of this first hand. I am sure it was amazing.

L.G. Smith said...

The envy, it hurts. You know I have a thing for old books. I would have loved to have seen that one in person. What a great whirlwind trip you had!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Fascinating! All those exquisitely old and rare things -- the castle -- and I saw those ads for Vermeer and Music all over the underground tunnels when we were there last week.

Bob Scotney said...

We live within easy reach of Durham, But I'm ashamed to say we have spent very little time there. We have visit the cathedral and the castle but not for some time. Great piece, Hilary - I look forward to your breakdown of what must have been a fascinating trip.

Milo James Fowler said...

Sounds/looks like you had a great trip. Someday, I'll get back there... Haven't been to England and Europe since '05.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Janice - so true .. I'd love to go round an exhibition with an expert .. but everything was so fascinating to see ..

@ Lynn - the Durham area is full of heritage and beautiful sites ...

Oh dear - youngsters ... but I'm glad you were able to visit the National Gallery at least and then enjoy your visit ...

@ Alex - that's good to know .. and I hope you'll be able to come back over for a visit ...

... the don't the smaller exhibitions hold wonderful items for us to see ...

@ Jo - is Matt from that part of the world. It is beautiful I was there a few decades ago and have always wanted to revisit .. I now have to go back sometime!

@ Murees - all the exhibitions were quite extraordinary ...

@ Luanna - I'm sorry .. one advantage of living in Britain having the heritage to visit ...

Whirlwind trip is the right word .. I feel almost like a tourist!!

@ Dianne - yes the ads are all over the tube aren't they .. I expect you had a fantastic visit to Cardiff and Paris as well though ..

@ Bob - I do hope you can get across to see this exhibition - you won't regret it!

Those posts will follow .. and will I hope be interesting to you and everyone else ..

@ Milo - I do hope you can return to us sometime soon .. as you know Britain has some brilliant places and scenery to see ..

Cheers to you all - I hope some of you will be enticed to visit the exhibition .. Hilary

Empty Nest Insider said...

It seems like you accomplished a lot in a short period of time Hilary! Thanks for sharing all of these amazing sites!

Julie

Rhonda said...

What a wonderful adventure! When we were in London we stayed a Kings Cross, but when we left we hired a car. We did visit Durham Cathedral, but I am sorry we missed the Zoology museum. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

Rhonda @Laugh-quotes

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I love visiting museums, especially the ones with unique items.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Seldom do we leave enough time when visiting places. The number of times we have spent rushing around a town trying to visit everything in one day!! Sounds to me like you did pretty well though and managed to enjoy it as well.

Have a good week, Diane

A Lady's Life said...

Wow! England has so much to offer in terms of tourism
I would love to visit Nottingham
They say to come with a shovel and dig for your own 18th C artifacts which still lie under the ground there. lol
I hope they find who killed the Princess of Whales and don't shy away to bring the culprit to light.
I blame Charles because he was her husband and should have stood by her and loved her.
Now with William and his little heir, there is no need of Charles anymore.

Julia Hones said...

Hilary, I would love to see pictures of the inside of the castle. You kindled my curiosity...
And the Micrarium... what a fascinating universe to explore.

Old Kitty said...

When at the Grant Museum, did you happen to see a lizard "adopted by Melanie Grant"? LOL!! She left my work place a few months ago and we adopted this for her! LOL! She wanted the jar of moles...

What a great trip to see the Gospels and via Lego too! Beautiful! :-) Take care
x

Sherry Ellis said...

I think I'd really enjoy the National Gallery. Thanks for sharing all of the pictures and information. (By the way, I like your new profile picture!)

D.G. Hudson said...

I'd love to see some of those museums. Thanks for sharing, Hilary! You must plan your trips efficiently to accomplish so much.

Stephen Tremp said...

We'll see of we can bring a species back to life someday. Lots of controversary here/ But I say go ahead and give it a try on a few species and lets see what happens.

Janie Junebug said...

How I wish I could see all those places and exhibits.

Love,
Janie

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Oh how I long to visit all these sites with you, Hilary. So grateful for your blog.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Julie - I did whizz around, but four of the exhibitions were fairly compact - so not too much walking, just manipulating viewing space .. I did feel a little like a tourist though!

@ Rhonda - I'm glad you got up to Durham .. but there's so much to see - and should your travels send you in this direction - the Grant Museum will be there ... or thereabouts in new premises.

@ Diane - photographically you'd have loved these sights ...

@ Diane - as sightseers there's never enough time is there - I'll definitely be back to the Grant and Petrie museums .. they were fascinating ...

@ A Lady's Life - yes England has lots on offer and treasure can still be found in the countryside ..

@ Julia - I'll put some photos up of the castle and its interior .. I did take some .. not sure how good they'll turn out to be!

The Micrarium is brilliant .. let alone the rest of the exhibits - all delightful or delightfully gross to see!

@ Old Kitty - what a great present - I may well have seen Melanie's lizard ... but can't remember!!! Fantastically clever idea though .. and a great way to fund raise ... I think everybody will want those moles!!! They were pretty gross looking though!

Yes - I saw lots .. and coming across the Lego map was fun - someone started looking to find their way on it!

@ Sherry - I must make another visit to the National .. I'm starting to enjoy art exhbitions - and thanks re my profile ..

@ DG - three of the exhibitions didn't take too much time and I can go back to the two that have lots to see ... the Vermeer was hung with selective paintings and music instruments - wonderful to see ...

... while the Durham trip really deserves another trip, which with the Lindisfarne Gospels in situ won't happen, sadly ... but I can and see the area again at some stage.

I look at what's possible in the time frame .. and do as much as I feel capable of - compared to some travellers it is very little!

@ Stephen - having access to the DNA from extinct species does open new doors ..

@ Janie - lots to see in little old England!

@ Joylene - it would be a pleasure to have you with me as we go visiting .. one day perhaps ..

Cheers to you all - have a great week .. Hilary

Amanda said...

Another interesting and informative post, Hilary. Thank you.

J.L. Murphey said...

Being a history buff, I love museums! That's one thing I miss living in the south after NYC and DC the lack of museums. Would I want to travel back in time? No, not especially.

Karen Lange said...

How interesting! I'd love to tag along on one of your adventures! :) I am glad you were refreshed and inspired. That's always a good thing!

cleemckenziebooks said...

I love finding those museums. They're packed with wonderful stuff. I'm researching the Regent's Park Zoo of the 1800's right now, so this was a great post to find.

Michael Di Gesu said...

HI, Hilary,

What a WONDERFUL action-packed trip! I am amazed at how much you saw in such a short period of time!

SO much art, literature, and culture. Some day I hope to return to England and spend a few months absorbing all your culture. Truly historic.

America, as lovely as she is, doesn't have centuries upon centuries of culture, nothing like Europe.

Thanks for sharing all these treasures with us!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Amanda - not as interesting as your knowledge of Hitchin - that must be fascinating to have unearthed so much old history as well as recording your own.

@ JL - yes I rather wish I'd realised how interesting museums are earlier in life! It was one of the things that brought me back to England from South Africa .. the desire for culture - little did I know how much I love it!

I don't think I'd want to travel back in time either .. especially to live in earlier times ..

@ Karen - well you're welcome to join me anytime!! Yes I was surprised at how untired I was - if that's a word!

@ Lee - well that's great if I've sent you off to look at other places - the Grant Museum would be a good place to 'visit' over the net ...

Interesting research - I imagine ...

@ Michael - yes well two of the exhibitions I can revisit on a regular basis - which will be very interesting ...

I'd love to get north again to the Lindisfarne Gospel exhibitions and festivals - but will just have to visit Durham on a separate occasion .. and see the landscape too ..

We do have lots of wonderful sites here, as well as artefacts, museums, places to visit etc and just over the water is Europe, we are lucky ..

Delighted you enjoyed this brief overview ..

Cheers to you all - thanks and am so glad you're appreciating these visits and report backs .. Hilary

Gattina said...

Even in this short visit you were able to see a maximum ! How interesting. The Durham Cathedral looks very impressive ! I have always loved the ancient Egypt and history. It's so sad that this beautiful country with so many priceless treasures is in such a terrible situation now.

Val Poore said...

Great post, Hilary. I never knew Durham was so interesting. I've only been through it once, but I do remember being impressed by its position. You say you were refreshed after the day. I think I'd have been exhausted!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Gattina .. thanks it was so interesting seeing so many different museums and I loved going back north to Durham.

@ Val .. thanks .. all parts of England have so much history - it always amazes me at what I keep finding .. Durham situation is extraordinary isn't it .. on the raised peninsula protected by the hairpin bend of the river ..

Cheers to you both .. Hilary

Elise Fallson said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful and exciting trip! I've been to London but never to Durham... but your post makes me want to visit even more. Looking forward to your more detailed posts of each.... (:

Tina said...

Sounds absolutely fantastic! I'm actually quite jealous. I think I would have spent hours looking at those slides...
Tina @ Life is Good

Robyn Campbell said...

Oh Hil, what a lovely trip! It was too short but very worthwhile. I'M SO JEALOUS. If I ever get to go to England, I'll definitely head to Durham. Those museums are such a treat! I'm so thankful you were refreshed. A renewing.

I cannot wait to read more about each one in your upcoming posts.

I'm sorry I didn't get by Sunday. I had a horrible earache since. That's why I was a no show. It stopped hurting today, but right now I feel it coming back. :(

Love you Hil!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Elise - when it's sunny and dry .. it is lovely! It was fun .. but a holiday in the Pyrenees with some French cheese, baguettes and a hammock sounds rather good too - your family time away!

@ Tina - all the museums and historic buildings were quite extraordinary .. and the slides - well you'd need hours!

@ Robyn - sorry about the earache and hope that improves; nothing worse than that or a really bad headache ..

Durham is particularly special .. and I hope to go back next year ..

Posts - being thought about!

Cheers to you three and all of you have a very happy rest of the week .. Hilary

Sandra Tyler said...

what a wonderful insightful trip! I too would have been particularly interested in the insects, the "tiny, tiny" things...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sandra .. thanks for coming by - and yes .. those tiny, tiny things .. my next post tells a little more ..

Cheers Hilary

Sara said...

Ok...you've been very busy and it sounds like it's all been interesting and fun.

I envy you seeing the Vermeer paintings. I love the details in these paintings. To me, they are stories waiting to be told and I often feel as if I could just step inside one of the painting.

I'm pleased you had a wonderful trip.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sara .. so good to see you .. and the Vermeer paintings and the interpretation of the paint .. makes interesting reading - I hope it is set out in the guide ...

You're right .. if I could play music I'd be much more involved, I just get frustrated as I can't play .. or feel music .. yes I can hear and enjoy it - but it's so ephemeral...

It was a fun trip .. cheers Hilary

Tammy Theriault said...

creepy makes the eyes wander right to them though! i love your new profile pic!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Tammy - many thanks .. we can't avoid the creepy crawlies at times .. and glad you were able to have a quick look!

Cheers Hilary

Amanda Trought said...

Hilary, you sound like you had a lovely time, It must have been great to spend time soaking up all the information and sites, and then go back for a longer visit later.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Amanda .. I think I saw enough of the Gospels exhibition .. though perhaps another walk through would have been a good idea, now I think about it, before it is no longer possible - but as I'm back down south that's unlikely!

But I can at least visit the World Heritage site again .. and see more of the history that abounds up there ...

Cheers Hilary

juliet said...

The Lindisfarne Gospels are what caught my eye here; what a beautiful cover, and how clever to be able to recreate what was lost. Thank you Hilary, it's fun travelling with you.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Juliet - the Gospels are an extraordinary book, which is just wonderful to see in its original form - we're just so lucky.

I'll be posting more on my trip in the next week or two .. there's lots to tell!

Cheers and hope you had a happy time away with the family and friends .. Hilary

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

What a fabulous adventure! I would truly have loved to be in any one of those museums. But I'd prefer seeing them ALL. Thanks for sharing.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susan .. as you say all the museums are so interesting and I was very pleased I went up to Durham to see the Gospels ... and I need to explore Durham and its surrounds some more ..

There is just so much to see .. cheers Hilary