A new city and another university’ collections.
First two museums we visited in Cambridge were traditionally subject based, predominantly on Geology and the second one on Anthropology and Archeology.
It’s not surprising as they are part of Cambridge University, which has total of 9 museums and collections.
As with the University’s purpose, the aim of these museums is to educate the public.
The Sedgwick Museum was the most traditional in its presentation, with impressive antique wood and glass cabinets, but rather static display.
The layout was quite clear and direct, coming from the earliest period of 544 million ears ago from right, to the Pleistocene epoch and exhibition of work by Charles Darwin on the left. Each open ‘room’ divided by the large cabinets was dedicated to different environment such as Costal Plains or Tropical Seas, most significant in its epoch.
The individual open ‘rooms’ had more information scattered around, with main introduction board, individual artefact signs and handbooks by the windows.
It was rather passive reading, and looking through glass experience.
I appreciated the airy installations on the cabinets, bringing some fresh imagination to the collection, using the imagery found within the cabinets.
It was exciting to see the original and hand painted Geology Map, created by William Smith, and read its impressive story, not just admire it’s impressive size.
Just few steps away and we found ourselves in the Anthropological and Archeological Museum.
After seeing fossils and natural/life’s evidence it was interesting to suddenly appear in space filled with human ‘fossils’ represented predominantly by ceramic objects.
It’s like ceramics are human fossils; used by archeologists to get most information on humans, their activity and history, as geologists get their information from fossils on life and environment of past.
The collection was very similar to the Pitt Rivers’ (as both are anthropological museums), however the curation couldn’t be different.
I enjoyed it in different way, as exploring themes in more depth, such as ‘childhood in the past’ is more educational and informative, than just explore and compare different objects on their own, like in Pitt Rivers.
It was in the exhibition on childhood, where we discovered that museum descriptions doesn’t have to be dull, but can be rather entertaining. It was in a form of educational criticism and sassiness on descriptions of pottery techniques and examples made or decorated, most likely by a child.
Signs are one of the most influential feature of the museum experience, as absolutely everyone reads at least one, but I believe they are not the most griping and exciting to read, in most cases not even really relevant.
Furthermore, on the last floor, there was another unusual sight – of a glass cabinet with cardboard boxes and unnumbered, unmarked relics placed carefully on a foam tissue.
It was a visible storage while they prepare a new exhibition on that floor. With the boxes probably hiding more objects safely, it felt like a retail environment where the products are left to speak for themselves, ready to attract, be picked up, explore its purpose, how it’s relevant to the buyer/observer, and be bought.
A simple map with objects placed on their geographical origin reminded me of different coffee, tea or chocolate stating their unique geographical origin, trying to attract customers (of products or ideas) with their unique properties, customs, resources.