On Saturday, 19th May 2007 an intrepid band of Museum Studies PhD students met at 10am on a sunny morning in Leicester to spend a day exploring its cultural and historical highlights.
Anna W, Ceri and Amy At first we weren't so keen. Anna W suggested going shopping. But when Ceri and I found out that - despite living in Leicester for eighteen months she had never visited New Walk Museum - we felt it was the perfect opportunity to induct her into Leicester's art and ethnographic collections.
The imposing facade of New Walk Museum & Art GalleryAs she was the newbie, we let Anna W choose a route around the galleries. Unsurprisingly she headed straight to the dinosaurs, but was disappointed at the state of the carpet (terribly mucky) and the lack of authentic dinosaur fossil in the articulated skeletons on display. Never mind, perhaps the geology gallery - with its gert big lumps of rock - would prove to be more inspiring. Unfortunately no. Despite winning an award in the mid-nineties, the gallery was tired and shabby. Feeling a little depressed, we headed for the museum's collection of Egyptian artefacts, including a couple of mummies. This was far more exciting; atmospheric and engaging. Ceri and I were particularly drawn to a child's stripy sandal sock, while the three of us had a deep and philosophical discussion about the status of cats in Egyptian religion and - in particular - whether the cat mummies on display died peacefully, or whether someone had bumped them off, a line of conversation which I found bit distressing. Unfortunately, the biodiversity display with its myriad of ancient, stuffed creatures (and broken interactives) didn't make me feel much better.
Next was the art collections. Much more my cup of tea. We had a bit of a debate over the aesthetics of abstract art (for the benefit of the Archaeologist and Medieval Historian in the company) and then headed upstairs to look at the Museum's fairly new World Cultures exhibition. Disappointing in terms of display design, but we found a lot to look and marvel at...
...like this reconstruction of a 'celebrated' Victorian murder in ceramic form.
Next up was my most favourite collection of things at the New Walk Museum, the German Expressionists Gallery. Anna agreed that this was more her kind of thing, though I'm not convinced Ceri felt the same. A big debate ensued mid-gallery about which German art movement the White Stripes had referenced on an album. None of us could remember. (It was De Stilj by the way. And it was Dutch!) And then Pippa - the newest addition to our PhD community - arrived.
Having done New Walk, next on our itinerary was the City Gallery on Granby Street.
Having never visited the City Gallery before, I was quite excited about the prospect. But, although the video installation on show was quite interesting, I didn't think much of the portraits in the gallery upstairs, and - I think - we were all quite surprised, and a little disappointed by the lack of floor space. But, we did our bit by each completing a visitor's questionnaire. Ceri - audience research supremo - commented that she thought it was rubbish 'though (the questionnaire, not the City Gallery.)
By now it was midday, and - having already walked our legs off - we were feeling a little peckish. Lunch was had at a streetside cafe (see, Leicester can do 'continental chic'), and despite grey skies and violent gusts of wind, we were determined to sit outside. Pippa revealed a talent for organising seating arrangements, and making tables appear seemingly by magic. And, at that moment, our final museum crawler, Anna Ch arrived.
Something amused Ceri
To be continued...