Natural History Museum

Re: Natural History Museum

Postby GrahamH » Mon May 10, 2010 2:03 am

The delightful array of cabinets of curiosities that greets the entrant.

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Just fabulous. Where would you find it?

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I suspect the flooring, complete with heating grills concealing a pair of large water pipes, is an adaptation of the late 1880s or early 1900s. But what a beguiling atmosphere it generates.

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Looking from the back of the room over the insect displays towards the front, we get out first wide perspective on the ground floor exhibition hall. The massive weight of the upper floor is supported on the parallel rows of cast iron columns to the sides, and four intermediary columns in the middle of the hall which hold the weight of the wide span floor above.

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If there is a single disappointing aspect to this room, it is the lighting, which is grim and a bit depressing (more so than seen here). Compared with the warmth of Jacqueline O’Brien’s perspective from 1994, we have a colder environment today with the new florescent strip lighting.

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Changing the pungent yellow on the walls may actually improve matters, as the contrast is too great. A more subtle colour would yield a more mellow environment all round.

The displays are, as ever, a fascination. Beuatifully maintained by the Museum.

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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby GrahamH » Mon May 10, 2010 2:08 am

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Cockroach anyone?

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Oh hello.

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Don’t look behiiiind you...

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DEADLY!

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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby GrahamH » Mon May 10, 2010 2:14 am

Annnnd so we come to ‘it’.

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The infamous Portland stone cantilevered staircase to the rear of the building has been beautifully restored and the stairhall redecorated. What a handsome space it is, with its Venetian window that overlooks the rear of Government Buildings.

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We have relatively few public interiors in Dublin from the 1850s. Here we can see nice vestiges of Regency detailing.

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Aside from the occasional "there's the stairs that COLLAPSED!", most people clambered up its steps unawares of its recent history.

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Typically frothy Victorian cast-iron balustrade with mahogany handrail. Very nice indeed.

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The fine ceiling, with beautifully chosen colours.

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Do we really need to make a feature of smoke detectors through?

The wonderfully robust doorcase providing access to the first floor exhibition hall.

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As can be seen to the left, this is another compromised space that still requires resolution as part of the museum masterplan.

It is especially true of its equivalent door immediately beneath on the ground floor. This is the main entrance from the ground floor hall into the stairhall.

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As the eagle-eyed will have noticed earlier, the balustrade has had to be extended on the first floor to make it compliant. A chrome rail with tailor-made moulded feet was made to fit around the original handrail to minimise the impact on the historic fabric.

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A shame the same cannot be said of the visual impact. A slender bronze-coloured rail, as used all over the building around exhibits, would have worked so much better. There is no need to declare a contemporary intervention from the rooftops in a situation like this.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby GrahamH » Mon May 10, 2010 2:21 am

Nothing prepares you for the breathtaking grandeur, scale and mind-numbing clutter of the main exhibition hall, a drama heightened by the contrast with the cramped institutional atmosphere of the floor below. It is simply spectacular.

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It has been noted that architects of the Board of Works were distinctly more reluctant to visually celebrate the use of iron in their buildings than some of their private sector counterparts, perhaps due to a more conservative outlook. This is clearly seen in the Natural History Museum, where the ground floor cast-iron Tuscan columns could just as well be painted stone, while in the main exhibition hall the majority of iron supports are encased in timber panelling. A pleasingly robust aesthetic nonetheless.

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Alas, there are no clear shots to be had of the hall, with both of the upper galleries sadly closed off for now, but there is ample things to see, read, clamber over and pull out of with sticky fingers.

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His pal the doormouse waited around too long.

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The wonderfully varied, including very old, signage merely adds to the charm of the place.

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Comfy.

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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby GrahamH » Mon May 10, 2010 2:31 am

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Why good afternoon sir.

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The poor aul rocks are sitting forgotton under the windows in beautifully designed cases. Someone take an interest, please! Could you create any more of a forlorn scene if you tried? (yes okay, the sash cord may have been institutionally 'arranged')

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The Museum’s geology room was demolished in the 1960s to create the huge slab (lavatory) office block for TDs beside Leinster House and has yet to be replaced. One suspects we shall be waiting a while longer.

Back to the cute stuff. All together now...

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ahhhhhhh

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One feels for the unfortunate individual came across those chappies lying flat on their backs.


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The Natural History Museum is one of those rare, if indeed otherwise nonexistent, places where adults and children unite in complete fascination. It is wonderful to see kids fully engaged and completely happy in a public environment – such a rare sight these days. There wasn’t a disgruntled child to be seen in the entire building. Though a disgruntled photographer perhaps, given I have never in my life had to make so many retakes, with virtually every shot like this...

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...starting out like this.

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Great fun though. Truly, this is an institution of which Dublin can be absolutely proud. Indeed, this attraction is without question the foremost memory most visitors will have of being in Dublin. It is that critical to the success of the city in attracting international tourism – I cannot believe how we never heard a peep of encouragement from the various tourist authorities the whole time it was closed for works. Well actually, I can.

At last a unique relic of Dublin is back open to its citizens, who in their own way take more from it, and from their sense of inheritance and ownership over it, than any visitor could. A classic weekend destination with the grandparents is usually the best introduction to its treasures. Long may it continue.

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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby Global Citizen » Mon May 10, 2010 10:41 am

What a wonderful study. Beautifully described and photographed.
Well done Graham. You have surpassed yourself yet again.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby KerryBog2 » Tue May 11, 2010 12:26 pm

Global Citizen wrote:What a wonderful study. Beautifully described and photographed.
Well done Graham. You have surpassed yourself yet again.


+1.
Thank you!
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby reddy » Tue May 11, 2010 12:38 pm

Global Citizen wrote:What a wonderful study. Beautifully described and photographed.
Well done Graham. You have surpassed yourself yet again.


+2 Great Stuff again.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby tommyt » Tue May 11, 2010 1:01 pm

+3
As always Graham your reportage is much appreciated.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby Paul Clerkin » Tue May 11, 2010 2:42 pm

+4 fantastic - one of the great spots in Dublin
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby reddy » Tue May 11, 2010 2:51 pm

I wonder has GrahamH done enough of these reports to warrant his own sub forum?! A collection of reports on buildings around the city might be very handy.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby gunter » Tue May 11, 2010 3:07 pm

+ 5 or is that 6

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Outstanding :)
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby publicrealm » Tue May 11, 2010 10:22 pm

Global Citizen wrote:What a wonderful study. Beautifully described and photographed.
Well done Graham. You have surpassed yourself yet again.


Great pics and well observed - a valuable record really - should persuade many to visit?

Obviously you didn't show the 'adult' section of the museum - and very sensitive of you - given this is a family forum.

Nevertheless, I have included a (comparatively) poor image from that section (the lesser spotted flasher [sporting a typically shoddy Mac]).:D
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby GrahamH » Tue May 11, 2010 10:54 pm

Heheh - didn't see him at all! I have to go back now and learn stuff! If there is an understated aspect to the museum, it is its educational value. The wealth of in-depth information on offer is a whole other dimension of the place - somewhere you can visit time and time again and find something new.

Just on the entrance ramp, I see there's a second step above the initial one, so that certainly changes matters. No doubt different options were carefully considered, but a graded path surface flowing into a slender timber ramp mounted on the lower step might have resolved matters less obtrusively. Indeed, even the existing ensemble in timber would make for a softer intervention.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby gunter » Tue May 18, 2010 6:28 pm

Re: recent revelations on the behavioural habits of the Fruit Bat

publicrealm wrote:. . . . the 'adult' section of the museum - (the lesser spotted flasher [sporting a typically shoddy Mac]).
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Fair play publicrealm, you had the scoop on this lad
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby GrahamH » Tue May 18, 2010 10:10 pm

:)

Two letters below to The Irish Times (and Indo) over the past few days. Truly, you wonder with some people...


New life in the 'Dead Zoo'?
Monday, May 17, 2010

Madam, – Following the much heralded re-opening of the Natural History Museum, my wife and I took our two small children along for an outing. The great Irish deer (not elk, we are told) remains as impressive as ever; but I’m sorry to report, the rest of the museum was something of a let-down.

The years of apparent refurbishment are little in evidence. Old Victorian cases, crammed (or stuffed) with endless specimens and dioramas of animal life predominate. Yellowing cards, apparently as old as the specimens themselves, are what seem to pass for explanations of what is on exhibit – with Latin names often to the fore. Is this really the best way to showcase the natural history of this island?

I saw few if any attempts at contextualising the specimens, or using thematic or environmental approaches, or timelines, or indeed anything that might educate us in a more holistic way about Ireland’s rich fauna.

As for the usage of modern interactive technologies that are so apparent in leading museums around the world – there was not a sign. However, I must confess my observations were limited only to the ground floor exhibits, perhaps the exhibits of worldwide animals on the upper floors might have made at least a nod to 21st-century educational and museum standards? Perhaps. But there is no lift to the upper floors (despite the years of renovation) so, as a wheelchair-user, I will never know. – Yours, etc,

JAMES MacCARTHY- MORROGH,

Shankill, Co Dublin.


New life in the 'Dead Zoo'?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Madam, – James MacCarthy-Morrogh (May 17th), having visited the reopened Natural History Museum, bemoans the absence of “modern interactive technologies” and other characteristics of leading museums worldwide. He has, perhaps, missed the point.

As a visitor since my childhood, and a visitor with my children, to me it is the very fact that it is not a modern museum that makes it attractive. It is an institution dedicated to a bygone age where museums were stocked by the mass slaughter of wild animals and where the wielder of the gun got almost as much recognition as the beast slain. It is full of decaying exhibits displayed with a style set in the 19th century and influenced by the 18th. It is a monument to taxidermy and pickling, butterfly pinning and crab splaying. It is so old-fashioned it is the most modern of institutions, an ironically self-referential museum dedicated to how museums used to be, made interesting if seen as a fully interactive, three-dimensional model of a Victorian museum in which visitors can imagine what it was like to explore natural history 100, and more, years ago. It is, therefore, a museum dedicated to the history of natural history museums. What more could we hope for? – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL SINNOTT,

Bangor Road, Dublin 12


Thanks Michael!

On another note, here is the report of December 2007 on the collapse of the cantilevered staircase in the Natural History Museum by Price & Myers consulting engineers. As widely expected, it was the legacy of splicing in new pieces of stone to make good surface wear on the steps of the subject flight that caused it to collapse. Small wonder then that a very necessary flurry of inspections took place on all so-called 'cantilevered' staircases in State ownership in the immediate aftermath of the incident, given this was the repair treatment applied to many of these staircases since the 1960s, when little was known about the mechanics of their loadings.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby publicrealm » Tue May 18, 2010 10:41 pm

[quote="GrahamH"]

Fully agree - an excellent letter- sums up the uniqueness and importance of the place much better than I could.

Wrong place for interactive displays - all you need to do is visit and look at the sheer excitement and joy on the faces of the children.

I do think there is room for some more written information - several specimens are completely unidentified (the marvellous muskrat for example has no nametag at all).

I also think there should be a means of access to the first floor for those who need it - actually didn't realise there was none (how did they get the heavier exhibits upthere?
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby GrahamH » Tue May 18, 2010 10:51 pm

Heheh - this great report by Philip Bromwell explains all, publicrealm :)

http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/0415/9news_av.html?2526249,null,230
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby publicrealm » Tue May 18, 2010 11:21 pm

gunter wrote:Re: recent revelations on the behavioural habits of the Fruit Bat



Fair play publicrealm, you had the scoop on this lad


Oh a lively lad is the fruity bat - though I suspect this specimen is of the fairer sex..
(am I allowed to say that? apologies in advance to any offended colleagues..):D
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby rumpelstiltskin » Wed May 19, 2010 1:20 am

All the interactive display nonsense should be kept away from this museum. I do think, however, there's room for that in a museum of science which this country badly needs, and I don't mean a museum just for children. If Ireland wants to improve the quality of its third level science education and its scientific reputation, there should be some sort of science facility to promote it. It's not difficult to create a good science museum like the one in London, including exhibits honouring great Irish scientists like Boyle, Kelvin, Walton and the like. Considering that a recent list of the 100 greatest Irish people didn't include a single scientist or mathematician, I think it's sorely needed.
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