Romping (relatively speaking) around Gothenburg last week, Shelf Appeal had a few hours of magical museological meandering in The Natural History Museum, Gothenburg.
It sits on it’s own cliff-like mound in an area of Gothenburg called Slottsskogen, in a sort of ‘here I am’ position overlooking the city. The park surrounding it was originally for the recreation of the poor and the idea of building a museum there was apparently not to everyone’s taste. But in 1923 they did the dirty philanthropic deed.
It didn’t disappoint, the Goteborg’s naturhistoriska museum. I’d been recommended the museum after inquiring after old-fashioned museums to visit, preferably full of cases of stuff. Well, cases of stuff, beautifully wrought in wood, line this museum. Along with a good few animals let lose to stroke and a room of antique dioramas. The cases and drawers held stuffed animals, insects, reptiles and quite a number of molluscs, too. They also have the world’s only mounted Blue Whale, a grand old thing, with visible rusty screws holding it together.
This beautifully laid out set of shells were in a wonderful wooden cabinet with a mirror set on the other side. No labels, just shells all the way. This should, in theory, have rubbed my hairy old museum interpretation nerves the wrong way. This museum just laid bare its wonders out for visitors to coo over. With only the odd iPad here and there nodding at modern interpretation.
I know museums are always doing themselves up, looking for that elusive next generation of museum goers. But I do like a museum that does what it says on the tin. Or at least what it said on the tin in 1923.
I recently visited the Natural History Museum at Tring for the first time. A wonderful place that took me back in many ways to the Kensington NHM before it was brought into the modern age: A beautifully lit menagerie of Victorian animals stuffed and mounted in wood and glass cases. The museums in Cambridge have a similar way of giving you the feeling you’ve been cast back into time yourself. The building itself feels like an artifact.
I’d love to hear what other recommendations you’ve had so i can add them to my own list.