Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Emperors, Murder and Brains

It's been a busy few days.

On Friday I drove up to London, to visit relations, and to go to the theatre on Saturday. It wasn't a fun drive, lots of rain, sleet and spray, so I was very glad to arrive.

On Saturday, we woke to find it was snowing. Which is not usual, here, at the end of March. And which made the prospect of going Out rather less appealing. But we did.

My cousin J and I went into London - we started off with a trip to the British Library, so see their exhibition about the Mughal Empire, which was fascinating. Being the British Library, the majority of the exhibits were books and other documents, although they did have a rather splendid armoured horse, and a very fancy crown  (which they borrowed from the Queen, who apparently has enough to spare one for a bit).

The exhibition showed how the culture of the Mughal Empire influenced and was influenced by western european visitors, and gave the opportunity to see some lovely pieces of art, and illuminated manuscripts which are not normally on display. Towards the end of the exhibition there were some early photographs, too, taken after the Indian 'Mutiny' of 1857 and showing deserted and looted palaces.

It was well worth seeing, and seemed to be very popular.

While we were at the Library, we also saw their mini exhibition 'Murder in the Library: and A-Z of Crime Fiction', which was entertaining, even if they had to stretch a little for one or two of the letters of the alphabet.

I learned that Baroness Orczy wrote crime fiction (as well as the Scarlet Pimpernel) - stories featuring a plucky female detective, written in around 1910.

We then went on, to visit the Hunterian Museum, which is part of the Royal College of Surgeons.It grew from an original collection begun by John Hunter, and bought by the government in 1799. It's full of bottled body-parts (animal and human) including half of the brain of Charles Babbage, and other medical curiosities. Interestingly, although it seems that many of the specimens were bought, or (in the case of the earlier ones in particular) acquired from 'resurrection men') others were acquired with the donor's full knowledge and consent - a sort of 'celebrity body parts...'

As well ass the human remains, there are various fossils, and zoological specimens, including delicate examples of dissected insects, some of them 200 years old. (This is all the more remarkable when you learn that the museum suffered significant bomb damage during WWII: firebombs and 1000s or specimens pickled in alcohol are not a good combination)

While we were there, there was a 'Promenade performance' by first year drama/design students from the Rose Bruford college of performing arts. The students were moving around among the visitors wearing costumes, and giving a performance both inspired by the collection. It was .. odd.

All of this took us well into the afternoon, so we decided to finish up with a nice cup of tea, and a visit to Foyles, before we went to the theatre. (Yes, of course I ended up buying several books. Was there really any question?)

It carried on snowing the whole time, but wasn't settling ion the roads or pavements, so other than the cold it didn't really effect us.

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