Hunterian Museum

February 28, 2009 at 1:28 am | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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The Hunterian Museum near Lincoln’s Field (Temple/Holborn Tube) charts the history of surgery and surgical practices in the UK. The Museum is located within the Royal College of Surgeons and as a result you’ll need to pick up a visitor badge at the entrance before going up the stairs. An audio guide is available but not necessary – especially if you’re running short on time.

John Hunter was one of the UK’s leading surgeons in England (1728-1793), eventually the collection was sold to the government and the Royal College of Surgeons and later became a public museum. Unfortunately much of the collection was destroyed during World War II. The museum was refurbished in 2005 and it certainly looks good.

The museum spans two floors with an open shaft bisecting them, the information panels run along the outer edge and a multitude of specimen jars lining the inner side overlooking (or looking up) the floors.

The specimen jars include animal and human body parts, organs and bones – some are healthy but many are not. If you’re squeamish (for example there are foetuses) then this might be a little disquieting or not a suitable museum. However, there were a few people with children walking around. Interestingly, there were also a number of artists or students sketching the contents of these jars.

The information panels cover John Hunter’s life, diagnosis and development, surgery in the war, surgical practices (such as the cleanliness of the operating theatre), training and the future. Personal stories and video content is also available but again those who are squeamish might have some problems. A fun or challenging activity depending on how you look at it is a sample surgery robot where you can move the arms remotely while trying to move blocks from one space to another. Personally my depth perception must be quite poor as I wasn’t successful – luckily Tay who was with me was a lot better!

We only had an hour and we were pushing to see everything in that time. If you want to look at each specimen and also the audio guide you’ll need more time. If you’re interested in medicine or a slightly different museum come to the Hunterian.

Wellcome Collection

February 28, 2009 at 12:38 am | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Opposite Euston station is the Wellcome Collection it’s a free gallery and library focusing on medicine with the occasional special exhibit.

The main galleries are Medicine Now and Medicine Man with a third having temporary exhibits. Medicine Now predictably looks at some of the contemporary issues in medicine with displays on obesity, malaria and the human genome. This gallery is well presented with listening chairs – when you sit down you’ll hear a blurb about one of the themes, the sound doesn’t travel so it doesn’t bother other patrons. The entire are is well lit and bright with some interesting displays. One of the more fun activities is a biometric picture where you can enter some details like heart rate and height for a geometric picture of ‘you’. Quite cool.

In Medicine Man you’ll walk through a wood panelled gallery featuring artifacts Henry Wellcome collected during the 19th century. There are a variety of items such as drawings, prints, paintings, replacement limbs and many random and interesting bits and pieces such as Japanese sex aids and Napoleon’s toothbrush. In the wood panels are tastefully hidden information boards that provide more information on each item, its use and how it came into the collection.

The Wellcome Collection is an excellent museum, its often open late and is free. I would advise checking its upcoming events for temporary exhibits that interest you and planning your visit accordingly.

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

February 27, 2009 at 1:16 pm | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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Located near Euston and within the University College London is the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. It’s free to enter and open Tuesday to Saturday. When you reach the entrance you’ll need to press a buzzer and wait for someone to come down and let you in.

The museum houses a wide collection of pieces from across Ancient Egypt. As you enter you’ll walk through a row of cases with wall fragments and stones covered in hieroglyphs. The complexity and intricacy of the work is fascinating and I’m sure it would be horrific for a scribe to make a mistake! Also on this main floor are a number of display cases featuring daily life objects from early fabrics to cosmetics.

The lower floor predominantly houses a variety of ceramics and sculptures. There’s a sign advising that due to the darkness of the museum it would be wise to use one of the complimentary flashlights. Not only were there no flashlights available but it wasn’t particularly dark. Unless we missed an entire wing!

There is some information associated with each section but not a great deal for specific items; possibly this was less necessary when the museum was predominantly used by knowledgeable historians.

The museum is reasonably small and easy to navigate. I think that for the most part only those with a love of history and Egypt will get much out of it. Although having said that we did see several families with small children walking around and they seemed interested in the bits and pieces.

Pollocks Toy Museum

February 27, 2009 at 1:10 pm | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Random, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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Located in a side street near Goodge Street tube is the small and quaint Pollocks Toy Museum. The outside of the museum and toy shop looks a little run down but the staff seemed cheery. Although that could be because we were paying £5 (adult) to enter the museum.

Pollocks Toy Museum Pollocks Toy Museum (3)

The museum is located above the shop and via some occasionally cramped stairwells. Many of the exhibits and all of the rooms offer a synopsis of the content.

Generally the displays are most suited for those of a certain age and interest in older toys. The bulk is focused on dolls and dollhouses with a few sections on games and other assorted turn of the century children’s toys. Rather incongruously we noticed in one case a Kellogg’s Rice Bubbles Box with a Phantom Menace Game on the back.

While some of the pieces were interesting it wasn’t something I’d recommend unless you particularly like dolls. Nonetheless there was a stream of people coming in, mainly families with small children and retirees.

Personally, I think the museum would benefit by giving up some shelf space to some more recent toys from the 60s to the present, which would help to diversify the age of visitors.

Avenue Q

February 11, 2009 at 12:49 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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On Monday I went to my first performance of Avenue Q at the Noel Coward Theatre in London’s West End. I’d heard rave reviews and by the end of the performance I was not disappointed.

We had good seats centrally located on row K (tickets purchased via Get into London Theatre) and could clearly see the screens that dropped down periodically throughout the performance.

While it took a few minutes to get into the musical and the unique nature of the puppet/actor-puppeteer performance by the time we reached “It sucks to be me” everything had fallen into place. The plot follows Princeton as he struggles to find his purpose in life and love with Kate Monster. However, at the climax of the first act he’s broken up with his love and fallen into despair at finding said purpose. This dramatic high-point provides an excellent bookend for the Act and its earlier comedic points.

After intermission we’re back with more comedic songs about love and life, as to be expected by the end of the musical resolutions abound for Princeton, Kate and all the other characters. I won’t spoil it!

All of the songs are funny, endearing and/or identifiable (from “What do you do with a B.A in English?” to “There is Life Outside of your Apartment” and “The Internet is for Porn”). The content of the lyrics and performance in general is adult themed (like “You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love)”) so if you think that may offend you then “Avenue Q” probably isn’t your type of musical.

My only complaint is that some of the lyrics weren’t that clear – although this was in the minority and I put it down to the audio system or my mp3 impaired hearing! 

The actors and puppets provide excellent performances with the puppets and handlers all having their own unique mannerisms. The actors are often having to work with multiple puppets at once or within moments of each other thus switching quickly between personalities and rapidly moving around the set. As a result it’s quite physical and there’s a constant sense of energy and drive pushing the performance onwards. The 2 hour performance goes by in a flash!

“Avenue Q” is set in NYC and there are very few changes from the American version; certainly it didn’t seem to affect the audience’s reaction. Overall all of us loved the musical and the other people in the crowd definitely agreed as well! After such a great performance I’ve even developed a crush on actor Daniel Boys!

London’s “Avenue Q” will be closing on 28 March 2009. Make sure you see it before then!

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