Saturday, September 20, 2008

England, part 3: There's the dodo! -- and other scenes from museums

Squid in a jar!

The weather was pretty awful -- rainy and cold -- but that made it a perfect day for checking out some of Oxford's fantastic museums.

First: the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. This is a Victorian neo-Gothic museum -- opened in 1860 -- stuffed with dinosaur skeletons, insect specimens, cephalopods in jars, and all kinds of other relics of the natural world that are interesting to look at. It was the site of the famous (if largely apocryphal) debate about evolution between T.H. Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce, and there's a statue of Darwin and a display about evolutionary theory. Also, the museum houses the Oxford Dodo -- the "most complete remains of a single dodo" extant today, along with a model of what a living dodo likely looked like.

The Oxford Dodo.

Excitable small British child in the Museum of Natural History: "Where's the dodo? Where's the dodo? Where's the dodo? THERE'S the dodo!"

Then I moved on to the Museum of the History of Science, which is apparently "the world's oldest surviving purpose-built museum building" and was "the world's first museum open to the general public" when it opened in 1683 to showcase the collection of Elias Ashmole. (There is now a New Ashmolean, a different museum, which I didn't get to this trip.)

The focus in the History of Science museum is on esoteric and wonderful antique scientific devices of all kinds: clockwork models of the solar system, early cameras and microscopes, the second-oldest grandfather clock in England, etc. Also, a chalkboard which Albert Einstein wrote on when he gave a lecture at Oxford in 1931, which someone had the presence of mind to take down & cover with glass before it could be wiped clean.

Einstein's blackboard

More museum photos.

Next: The conference, and random Oxford photos.

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