Thursday, 25 August 2011

Dinosaurs, dodos and dreaming spires.

Oxford,  I have wanted to take my boys there for sometime, however it is a long way from us and a nightmare by train.  So yesterday we combined a birthday day out for Gran'pa with a trip to Oxford, splitting the driving between us to make it easier.

In the years when I was at Polytechnic there and then later worked for Oxford University Press I visited most of the museums and galleries (I studied art history and practically lived in the Ashmolean Dutch genre gallery).  
Yet in all that time I never managed to go to the Pitt Rivers or Natural Sciences museum.  So finally....

For a two truly wonderful posts about Oxford Museums please read these:  Gretel's trip around the Ashmolean and Rima's exploration of the Pitt Rivers.  I cannot write as eloquently or illustrate as fully as these two what a fabulous place they both are.

What I will show you though is the Oxford Museum of Natural History, or small child heaven, as it would be well named.  You are greeted by The Misters Dinosaur, Dinosaur and then all the little dinosaurs.  My boys ran delighted from one to another, the head of the triceratops elicited oohs and the T-rex generated ahhs.

The sensible curators have sensory sections, where the signs read "Please Touch", manna from heaven for fiddly fingers and wonderful for mamma (I hate places that don't allow children to touch anything).  The boys totally understood that they were welcome to handle some exhibits and leave others.  It was made clear to them that things were fragile and precious and that this was not just an arbitrary adult instruction.

After the joy that is the downstairs zoological history tour, you can climb up the stairs to the wonderful mezzanines above.  Here are housed that other mecca for children (boys and this Mum particularly) Insects.

There was a cornucopia of creepy crawlies, all sizes, shapes and colours.  They have magnifiers in the cases to enlarge the tiny members of this family.  Interspersed with the specimens are the living versions: cockroaches, a magnificent spider, stick and leaf insects and glorious beetles.  

As with the London Natural History Museum, the building itself is a thing of engineering elegance.  The roof vault arches above you, decorated with Victorian design and the pride in craftsmen ship.  I love the Victorian treatment of public building spaces,  They built cathedrals to industry and science.  This building is no different

When two very tired boys were asked what the best bit of the day was:
 " The dinosaurs, no the shields and spears, actually the bees..................ALL OF IT!"


  1. I am definitely going back now, I'd forgotten how wonderful it is!

  2. Oh wow, I want to go there...looks like some great studies for art as well.