Tate Britain (Lates)

August 5, 2009 at 10:42 pm | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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May of you will know that I enjoy going to the odd late night opening and the Tate Britain was no different. Although it is regrettable that it’s taken so long to write about one of their late night events.

The Tate Britain was the Tate until that upstart Modern turned up. The gallery houses an impressive collection of art from 1500s onwards! It is presented in the same way as the National Portrait and Art galleries. So if staid frames and artworks along painted walls is your thing then you’ll feel right at home. It certainly worked for me and without knowing more I felt like I had become more cultured – just from the experience.

Now, that was the artwork – which you can see on any visit but what about the Lates?

For those new to the concept, basically, various museums in London will have extended hours one night a month that’s just for adults. So there’ll be entertainment, drinks and food.

For Tate Britain they had Courvoisier in attendance providing discounted cocktails (in an attempt to broaden the appeal of cognac – according to our server). However, you could only drink in a very small space, relative to the entire gallery area, as a result we found ourselves pacing around trying to finish our beverages and move on. This is similar to the Victoria and Albert’s Lates. I respect that they don’t want accidental spillage but perhaps they could widen the drinking area or have a few other ‘safe zones’ throughout. I realise I sound like an alcoholic but if I wanted to just look at the art I’d come on a normal day but I chose to attend for a Lates experience.

Rant over.

Tate Britain (4)

Besides the bar area the main hub of the gallery was given over to a couple audio visual displays. Generally necessitating those who wanted to watch them all to sit on the floor. The Tate also held a variety of walks and talks but we weren’t able to make any of these.

Lastly there was musical entertainment in the form of the Shellac Sisters – a group of gramophone playing retro ladies. What we could hear of it echoing down the corridors seemed novel but every time we were actually in sight in seemed to be break time.

Overall I liked the artwork on display and found it satisfying. While the option to go Late is appealing I didn’t find the extra offerings compelling enough to recommend a late night visit. A regular day time trip should be fine.

The Grant Museum of Zoology

August 5, 2009 at 9:59 pm | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Over at UCL (University College London), near Euston tube, in amongst all of the academic departments you’ll find the free Grant Museum of Zoology and its collection of animal specimens.

It’s well signposted so should be fairly easy to find on the campus however it is in a teaching building so you you’ll need to advise security when you enter in order to get buzzed through the barriers.

As the name suggests this smallish museum looks at the animal kingdom. Upon entering you’ll see rows of display cabinets and every other piece of available space seemingly filled with different specimens. While not dark and musty it is still atmospheric, a cross between modern student and Victorian collector.

The first part details the development of the collection and the influence of its subsequent curators. The second section (and bulk of the floorspace) is devoted to each of the classes with multiple examples (generally skeletons, some in jars) in the cabinets.

The overview panels in each area provide just enough information to enlighten without boring a general reader. Each specimen will have a name tag and a number will provide more in-depth information.

Besides the general museum goer you may come across students and artists drawing some of the specimens.

For those with an interest in zoology and don’t want to go to the natural history museum then this is an excellent option .

The Petrie museum is also located nearby within the UCL campus.

The Polish Institute & Sikorski Museum

August 5, 2009 at 9:51 pm | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Opposite Hyde Park, on embassy row, if you look carefully you might see the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum.  A small museum spread out over several floors detailing some of experiences of Polish expatriate forces during World War Two.

There are limited information sign next to the collected items however you won’t need them as a guide will take you around, answering your questions and highlighting the importance of the pieces. This could pose a problem if a number of people come through during the two hours it is open. This happened to me in the final room when the usher brought a few Poles in for the guide (there’s only one). Luckily we were almost done. Also, as to be expected the guide spoke Polish and English. A tour takes about 30-45mins.

Probably not the thing to focus on but I am a geek after all but they have an enigma machine!

It doesn’t matter that I didn’t go ‘whoa’, ‘whooo’, or ‘whaooo’ over any of the pieces because the experience of the guide as he slowly moved around the museum and raspily extolled the value of the items made up for it and created a sense of ambiance and the importance that these pieces have for the museum.

It’s interesting, particularly if you are fascinated with the history of the period – or the armed forces. This could be out of the scope for the museum but I would have liked to see some content about the experience of Polish civilians, general background history for the unitiated and an overview of the culture.

Ok that’s a lot of requests, which is probably why they only focus on the one area.

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