Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Something old, something new...

This week I am rather proud of myself.  On Monday, I finally got around to visiting the Horniman Museum.  I’ve been meaning to visit it since before I moved to North London in 2005, yet it was The Body Adorned exhibition that finally lured me down to Forest Hill.
The Horniman has to be seen to be believed.  With its collection of model, stuffed and pickled animals, along with an eclectic mix of artefacts from around the world including masks, marionettes and mummies, it’s an eccentric Victorians treasure trove that I suspect even Ripley would be proud of.
Despite its ageing collection, the Horniman embraces the new.  The surroundings are clean and modern; the aquarium, although much smaller, rivals the one sat next to the Thames in the city centre.  The anthropological approach of The Body Adorned exhibition studies the attire of man throughout the ages and around the world – as well as that of the contemporary Londoner.
After a good couple of hours mooching around the museum and a wander around the gardens (cut short by some decidedly autumnal weather), I couldn’t help but admire the Horniman’s blend of old and new.  But then, I guess it shouldn’t really surprise me.  If London is good at anything, it is mixing up the past with the present.  Take architecture.  Today, the Shard, Gherkin and Eye sit alongside Big Ben, St Pauls and Monument like peas in a pod.  The Tate Modern and National Gallery are loved equally by Londoners and visitors alike.  The V&A showcases fashion and design of yesterday, today and often tomorrow within its four walls.  Who can help but love it?
And, in a city of politicians and students, business and medicine, London isn’t short of ideas and new thinking – and never has been.  The capital’s museums are shrines to the brains of our past, a legacy of the philosophy and science of our predecessors.  In fact, the mind boggles at the thought of what has grown out of London – and how it continues to blossom.
So, next time you find yourself in a stuffy museum or at a bizarre exhibition, take a moment to remember how far we have come – and how amazing the Londoners of yesteryear really were.  They have made our city what it is today – and are the foundations of what we will make it tomorrow.

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