The Natural History of the Victoria & Albert Museum(s) (London, Day Two)

After the Tower of London, we took the tube down to South Kensington, home to numerous by-donation museums. We settled on visiting the Natural History and Victoria & Albert museums this trip.

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A female MP was shot and stabbed outside her home yesterday. She was the first female and first MP to be assassinated in over thirty years. It was by a white man, so of course he was a “loner” with “mental health issues” and not a right-wing “terrorist.” Not much was made of the fact that he killed a woman, either, though in an interview with someone who once knew him, the interviewee said the man had issues with women not treating him as he thought he deserved.

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The Natural History Museum.

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Darwin.

The Natural History Museum is broken up into four zones. We went through the blue, green, and red zones; mammal and marine life, bugs & other creepy crawlies, and geology.

I didn’t take pictures of the dinosaur museum, because it was by far the most distractingly popular and the lighting was too dark for my camera. Don’t go to this part of the museum on a weekend during 12-3pm, as entrance signs will warn you.

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A life-sized model of a blue whale, the largest mammal to ever live on earth.

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Deinotherium. Basically a small elephant with sabre tusks that lived a long, long time ago.

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Fur seals!

The mammal exhibit was fun, though the videos and infographics sometimes were incredibly dated. Any child would love to spend some time in this section of the museum, and I particularly enjoyed learning about whales and Giant Deer.

I had mixed feelings about the expansive collection of taxidermied animals, which I didn’t snap any pictures of. I can’t say I particularly loved looking at dead stuffed animals, but I do think it is educational to get a look of animals that many of us will likely never see in our lifetimes, myself simply because I have little interest in interrupting wildlife in order to study them up close.

Many of the larger animals have quite a faded look, because the museum no longer taxidermies newly dead animals. So the panda, the leopard, the tiger… all are fading in colour. I don’t think it is such a huge issue, despite adding to the dated feel of some of the museum exhibits, because the displays still prove educational. (Besides, it’s not like a person can’t look up an animal online and then compare it to the life-size version in front of them. Also, hooray for free museum Wi-Fi!)

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An exhibit designed to freak you out.

The creepy-crawlies exhibit was very informative. My biggest takeaway was that bugs, arachnids, crabs, and whatever family millipedes and centipedes belong to, are all really messed up. I was also reminded about how much I hate looking at giant moths.

After that, we headed to the red zones. Tectonic plates, cool minerals, volcanoes, earthquakes, and all that fun stuff!

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Take an escalator ride through and artistic model of inside Earth!

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Fred has an undersea vent!

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Seeing this made us think of Tristan, our friend who we’re meeting up with for an hour during our train layover in Lyon. The picture is an illustrative example of reinforced concrete; internal steel rods create a stronger framework for the concrete exterior of the train station building.

Our favourite ‘zone’ overall was probably the geological red zone. After finishing that up, we walked over to the Victoria & Albert, where we had a snack in the beautiful dining hall before exploring the museum. I had a scone, and F had a limoncello sponge cake. Behind use were tiles with various Ancient Greek women depicted on them. Most had miserable lives, though one was known more for being a famous poet than any kind of heavenly or royal misfortune.

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I had been looking forward to seeing Undressed, the V&A’s current fashion exhibition. Tickets were £10, and I shouldn’t have been surprised, but for some reason I hadn’t budgeted to see it. I peered into the visible portion of the gallery and then made do with flipping through the exhibition’s companion book.

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I also looked around the history of English fashion exhibit, which I saw back in 2013 but was happy to peruse again.

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Beautiful!!

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Afterward, we wandered the Japan exhibit and the several European exhibits available to us.

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I would like this doorframe for my future house.

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“Natural History” by Pliny the Elder, written in about 77 AD. This is a copy made by Piccolomini, secretary to the Pope in about 1460.

Overall, F and I loved the V&A. Unsurprising, since I haven’t met a single person who didn’t care for it. For the most part it made me excited to see what other museums in Europe offered–particularly when we entered a cast room and I quickly tried to steer F away so he could experience looking at Michelangelo’s David and the Gates of Paradise in Florence, where both of the originals actually reside.

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And there ended our attraction-heavy day! We later met up with my very good friend Christy and her friend Catherine for burgers at Honest Burger. It was deeelicious.

Cheers,

Miriam

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