Thursday, 31 July 2014

Teignmouth Museum: Wish you were here!

I genuinely didn't know where to start with this blog post about
Teignmouth Museum in Devon.

That's because it has an amazing collection,
packed full of objects
telling such varied stories
about the history of a relatively small seaside town.

I've mentioned Teignmouth before.
Click here to read the story of this prison window and the french sailors
who disappeared with a trading schooner during the Napoleonic wars.

So what to write about the museum this time?
Well during our visit to Teignmouth, we had amazing weather,
proper seaside weather,
so we did what people have done for over a hundred years when they go to the seaside...

We went on the pier,
and played on the amusement machines.

We should have needed an old penny to play The Clock,
but very kindly, the museum lets you play them for free.

The only snag is,

they don't pay any winnings.

If you haven't played the machines before,
it's OK, as these Victorian slot machines give very clear instructions.

Some machines are designed to appeal to a very specific audience,

the 'Grip Test',

testing the grip of men from a variety of different professions,
 from bankers to farmers.
I used two hands and didn't even make it to a banker.
Our resident engineer did manage to prove himself, as having the average engineer's grip!

 These machines are on loan from the current owners of the Teignmouth Pier,
which has been in the Brenner family for the last 60 years.

The pier, which opened in 1867, still had a few vintage machines until recently,
when earlier this year, storms hit the South coast, damaged the pier,
and 90% of their machines were lost, some through the floor.

We watched, and put on, a Punch & Judy show.
I say "we", I watched, eleven year olds performed.
The cocodile ate everybody, including Mr Punch.

We swam in the sea.
Yes, even me, a fair-weather swimmer,
not just the fool-hardy kids.

We had ice-creams.
The 'penny lick'.
 You can't tell from this photo, but that glass cup was smaller than an egg-cup!
They really do mean, "small ball of ice cream".

We went to the carnival on the Den
Today's programme cost £1.50.

We bought souvenirs.

We didn't pinch cutlery from local hotels.
Hopefully this was donated.

Teignmouth was developed as a resort in the mid 18th century
and seaside fun hasn't changed much,
the promenade, red sand, the Ness and the pier (a later addition in the 19th century).

'Sunny South Devon',
 and it was!

Teignmouth Museum is a great local museum with so many local stories.
It is housed in the Teign Heritage Centre,
open Tuesdays to Saturdays.
Details on their website.

It's not all fun and games on the beach.
Teignmouth has stories of war, travel, claims to fame,
Brunel and the Great Western Railway
and the longest timber bridge in England.
More to come.

Wish you were here!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Fan museum: Useful & beautiful

 On one of the hottest days of the year,
I went with a friend to The Fan Museum in Greenwich.
We couldn't use them unfortunately,
only look,
and learn more about fans.

There was a lot to look at.

Painted fans,
the only known fan leaf by Gaugin, 1887,

and by Sickert, 1889, painted on fine kid leather.

We saw how fans were made.

Historically some questionnable materials were used...

...and turtle shell.

Shells were also used to make fans,

mother of pearl and abalone.

There are fans from around the world.
Mozambique (in the centre),


Those countries can get pretty hot.
"Wonder if today London might be hotter than them?"

Here the great debate about 'form' and 'function',
'useful or beautiful',

Beautiful? No.
Useful? Yes.
"If only these weren't behind glass."

The galleries, particularly that yellow and grey paintwork.

"Award-winning ladies toilets".
They are very proud of them.

Magazines, well extracts from magazines, are displayed on the back of the toilet doors.
Something to read on the loo.
'The Fan'  "...and is just plain-old needed when it's 30 degrees in London."

has over 4,000 fans in its collection.

They can't all be on display at the same time,
so to give us many opportunities to see all these fans, 
the fan exhibition in the gallery upstairs is changed several times a year.

Currently, the exhibition is,
Seduced! Fans and the Art of Advertising.
On until 28th Sept 2014.
Coming soon in my next blog post.

The fans above should all be around whenever you happen to visit in the future
as they are part of their permanent collection.
As for the Gold certificate for their Ladies' loos,
visit in 2015 to find out if they have retained that prestigious award.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Taxidermy Tales

There's nothing like taxidermy, and sometimes models of animals,
for creating opportunities to talk with visitors in museums.
I know I love to chat, and talk to visitors, helping them to engage with objects in museums,
but sometimes all you need is a stuffed animal and they're off,
sharing their own experiences with these animals outside the museum.

Taxidermy in the Horniman Museum seems to bring out the storyteller
in the Great British public.

Like the couple, "not from London"
who had Grass snakes mating in their garden.
"They were there for hours. Entwined.
They were still there when we came back from the shops."

Then there was the woman who put her coat on to go out,
 put her hand in her pocket and pulled out a live mouse.

Then there was the lady, and you couldn't tell by looking at her,
who had had enough, she was pee'd off (I use that word advisedly)
with the badgers digging up her garden.

So when they began burrowing into the foundations of her house,
she took matters into her own hands, it was time to act.
She knew exactly what to do.
She wee'd in the hole they were digging.
"At night of course. They never came back!"

Then there's my favourite story, in a previous blog-post.
About the teenager who wasn't terribly complimentary about her brother's girlfriend.

On further reflection, it may have been a compliment.
It depends what you think of Pekinese.

Why not visit the Horniman Museum and see if the stuffed animals in the
Natural History Gallery.
It may inspire you to tell a tale or two.

Details on their website here.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Medicine Now

We took advantage of a strike day to take friends to the Wellcome Collection,
in particular the Medicine Now gallery.
Medicine Now explores ideas about science from the perspective of
scientists, doctors and patients.
My perspective on medicine could only come from a patient perspective,
but I had in my care, four budding scientists.

It's a gallery with a hands-on trolley...

...and staff to set you tasks.
Like building a skeleton.
How well do you know your bones?

"Meet Fiona & Steve"
Yep, they look anatomically correct.

It's not all science.

Some exhibits are art, responses to the human body, like
Palindrome by William Cobbing 2003. 
It takes a while for the penny to drop,
to work out why it doesn't quite look right.
"Oh yeah!"

 Next, internal organs,
getting them in the right places.
It was the liver that surprised me.

"I never knew the liver was so huge",
you can't tell from this photo.
"You can actually remove 90% of the liver and it will still function."

"Imagine losing your big toe.
Do you think you could balance?"

We practise lifting our big toes off the ground and trying to balance.
It's not easy. We need our big toes, they're important.
"Even in ancient Egypt they made prosthetic big toes."
"Out of what?"
"Leather and paper mainly, apparently they were comfortable."

Then we were introduced to a shrunken head.
A replica!

We still weren't that keen to touch it,
especially after hearing how they're made.

"Made for ceremonial purposes, the skull is removed, the head shrinks and it would stink."
"When finished with, they are discarded."

If you can't bear the sight of internal organs,
look away now.

At 70 years old, she donated her body, sliced for research and teaching.
I am intrigued as to what happened to her neck.

All her fluids have been replaced with plastic,
so unlike the shrunken head, I hope she doesn't smell.
Now you can see how big the liver is.

The Wellcome Collection encourage you to get involved.

Pick a word or two from the front of the card,
draw or write about them,
then add the card to the feedback wall.
I promise you, 'Unicorn' was on the front of the card.

I'm going to truly try and follow this advice from an insightful ten year old.
Top advice for a healthy life.

Even at a distance, if you don't get the chance to visit,
you can still get involved, via social media.

Curious Conversations is a participatory project.
Each week the Wellcome Collection poses a new question on Twitter and facebook.
Inspired by the answers they receive, Rob Bidder creates a new drawing.

Such a great way of getting involved. #CuriousConversations
There are some inspiring answers.

A good day out, back to school tomorrow
with a little more insight into the human body.

The Wellcome Collection's opening hours vary,
check out their website here.
Free admission.

The Wellcome Collection have just been in touch to explain the 'unicorn'.
If you'd like to read why 'unicorn' is on the front of the cards above and is the most popular word picked by visitors.
Click on & read this "The Power of Unicorns"
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