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167762.  Thu Apr 19, 2007 7:34 am Reply with quote

The British Museum is run on the principle of universal access - in contrast to most museums around the world, for instance, you can simply walk in there, no matter who you are, with no appointment, and ask for a one-to-one encounter with some priceless drawing by Michelangelo, and the staff will go and fetch it for you.

However, in the early days, the idea of public access was rather more rigidly defined. In 1759, would-be visitors had to apply for a ticket from the hall porter, “and even then they were admitted only with the approval of the principal librarian. An early visit to the Museum was a hurried affair, with groups of 15 rushed around by a member of staff, forbidden from stopping and ‘gazing at objects.’”

I do like the idea that ‘gazing at objects’ is unacceptable behaviour in a museum!

A visitor of 1817 complained of never being allowed to stop and look at things, and further that “Our conductor pushed on without minding questions, or unable to answer them, but treating the company to double entendres and witticisms on various subjects in natural history, in a style of vulgarity and impudence.”

So now we know the true origins of QI ...

It was gradually accepted that the public was entitled to see the museum's contents - not least since the place was maintained at public expense. Not everyone was convinced; the principal librarian noted in 1835 (when the universal admission policy was already in force): “People of a higher grade would hardly wish to come to the Museum at the same time with sailors from the dock-yards and girls whom they might bring with them.”

Incidentally, this book mentions that during the Blitz the Museum suffered several direct hits, which “destroyed large parts of the building and several objects that had been kept there as a so-called ‘suicide exhibition.’” I can’t google up any other reference to this phrase, but it sounds interesting.
S: ‘The Museum’ by Rupert Smith (BBC Books, 2007).

167767.  Thu Apr 19, 2007 7:39 am Reply with quote

That's beautiful, and ties in to the fact that one of the things you weren't allowed to do in the Secret Museum of Erotica in Naples was to laugh.

167855.  Thu Apr 19, 2007 11:06 am Reply with quote

You are, however, encouraged across the herbacious border in Amsterdam's Hemp Museum. Apparently.

Molly Cule
171130.  Tue May 01, 2007 5:45 am Reply with quote

Who are the smallest members of staff at the NHM?

Hundreds of flesh eating beetles who are used to strip animal carcasses down to bare bones. The Dermestes maculatus, carrion beetles are better at preserving bone and collagen than chemical cleaning methods.

They live and work in a climate-controlled "bug room" called a dermestarium. They can be kept at 25C, but with high humidity to stop them from eating their own eggs.

In the past, chemical agents such as hydrogen peroxide and carbon tetrachloride were used but these destroy bones and make their molecular information unreadable.

By letting the beetles do the work, the bones and collagen are not changed in any way, allowing scientists to gather information about an animal's age, distribution and feeding patterns.

The beetles are kept under tight security to stop them eating the rest of the museum, they dont much like stuffed animals preferring flesh and roadkill but they will still have a good chomp if you let them.

s - my friend at the NHmuseum and online articles.

173562.  Fri May 11, 2007 8:47 am Reply with quote

Near Saumur, France, there is The Mushroom Museum, where visitors pay to “watch mushrooms grow.”

S: The Vegetarian, Summer 2007


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