Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Museum Visit: Museum of Natural Science

For my birthday two weeks ago, I took myself to the Museum of Natural Science because they have some unique special exhibits this summer, and I couldn't pass them up.

Exhibit 1: The Magna Carta
This was a letdown. It’s hard to make a 13th century Latin manuscript interesting, even if it is one of the founding documents of Western civilization.  I fully appreciate the Magna Carta’s importance. It was (and is) a big deal.

But a creased document in Latin is not that enthralling an exhibit.  The curators have tried. They have filled the exhibit with stuff about life and times in Medieval England.  How did people live, what was chain mail, what was the Magna Carta written on (vellum) and how did they make the ink (oak gall).  There are interactive displays that invite you to link chain mail, make rubbings and lift a lance. There’s even a bit on the Bayeux Tapestry (the subject of which predates the Magna Carta by quite a lot, but whatever) My issue is that the exhibit is geared towards 10 year olds.  Something I wish I’d known before I bought a membership to the museum to see it.  

Trivia Question: Which King of England signed the Magna Carta?
Answer: Trick question! John affixed his seal to the document, but no king (or queen) has ever signed it.

For me the best part was actually outside the exhibit, where the Association for Renaissance Martial Arts was giving demonstrations.  I had a good discussion with them about modern fencing, vs actual fighting, types of swords, benefits of particular blades, Japanese steel, etc.  I’m such a romantic.

Exhibit #2: Bulgari
This is the 4th major jewelry exhibit I’ve been to at the Natural Science Museum. I’m not complaining, but It seems like an odd match. What does jewelry design have to do with Natural Science?  Shouldn't this be at the Museum of Fine Arts?  (Which, incidentally, has significantly cheaper entrance fees?)

Wow.  Bulgari does not do subtle. If you want pearls to go with your twin set, go to Tiffany’s.  If you want white diamonds set in platinum (so appropriate, so tasteful, so dull) go to Cartier or Harry Winston. Bulgari is about color.  It is easy to see why Bulgari is a favorite of fashion and movie editors, it’s big, it’s bold, and it photographs beautifully.  

These are watches - the watch face is in the snake's mouth
The exhibit is set up as a timeline, taking the viewer through Bulgari’s history. From the beginning (when they sold silverware), the switch to jewelry and the company’s association with the movie industry: Italian (50’s) and American (60’s). There are diamonds, of course, but they are used to frame and set off the colored stones. Bulgari’s designers of the 70’s and 80’s had an amazing sense of color. There are some gorgeous enameled sautoirs and collars, with colors that carry across the room.  

The display was thoughtfully set up, so that many of the jewels can be seen from front and back.  Real fine jewelry is just as finished on the reverse, and this stuff is beautifully made. There are also a few “interactive” displays, with a motion sensor that triggers the display when you approach the case.  I loved the one that looks like a drawing of a swan, then as you get close, you can hear wind and the feathers blow away, revealing a swan-shaped brooch.

There’s also a special room set up for Elizabeth Taylor’s Bulgari jewelry, again using an interactive approach, with a photo “album” and pictures that appear on the wall as you turn the pages.  

One of Taylor's jewels
All in all, not a bad way to spend a birthday.

No comments:

Post a Comment