I’m a bit of a self-confessed geek when it comes to museums and natural history, so put the two together and you’ve probably won me over already. It will probably come as little surprise then that my favourite part of the National Museum of Scotland/the Royal Museum/Whatever-they-called-it-when-I-was-little (my local museum) were the animal displays. And so I was obviously really excited to go see the updated version when the NMS refurbishment was complete.
Confused, bewildered and slightly disappointed would pretty much sum up my first response. Whilst I understand what they’re trying to do (grouping animals by an attribute – locomotion, extreme environment, ‘families’, etc.) it seems distinctly un-biological. I realise that I am, by education, a biologist and that it’s not designed for people like me, but still surely risking kids thinking that camels are found with polar bears, T-rexes with elephants is something that should have been considered and avoided? However, who am I to comment – as an (off duty) member of museum staff (presumably not speaking for the museum) condescendingly informed me via Twitter ‘it was designed by several experts in their field’. That’s me told then. I’ll take me ill-educated opinion elsewhere.
Several months have now passed since I formed this opinion and so whilst I was in visiting the amazing Fascinating Mummies exhibition I decided to go for another look. And has my opinion changed? Erm… no. I can still see what they were trying to do, but I am still not convinced. Don’t get me wrong, it is a spectacularly presented collection of incredible specimens, but – and I think this possibly best represents my concern – I will not be convinced by a display that appears to be showing a tiger pouncing on (what I am pretty sure is) a red deer stag. Unless there’s some magical world in which these species coexist that I am not aware of.
It won’t stop me going or telling other people that they should go (you should go), but it will forever seem slightly odd.