September 14th, 2009 · No Comments
After spending a month in London and visiting a plethora of museums, they all are beginning to blur together in my mind. I have an easier time remembering specific pieces included in the museums that I loved rather than the overall museum itself, but I’ll try to relay my general sentiments of my final two destinations, the Sir John Soane and the Victoria and Albert Museums.
I felt that the Sir John Soane Museum was fascinating, but was distracted by how much was packed into such a small space. I wasn’t able to fully enjoy what I was looking at simply because I got a bit claustrophobic. On the flip side, though, it certainly was impressive how much was packed into the equivalent of three townhouses. One of my favorite aspects was the collection of clocks included in the house, because it reminded me of our trip to Greenwich and the importance of early timepieces. His particular collection stuck me because it really showed how clocks were once a symbol of status, specifically that which was made for Christopher Wren by Queen Anne.
Although the Sir John Soane Museum had interesting artifacts and art, I much preferred the Victoria and Albert Museum. My favorite section was the sculptures portion on the ground floor, and I spent a great deal of time exploring there. I enjoyed reading the captions to each, for example, a plaque under a bust of Albert Einstein stated that he was a culmination of “the humane, the humorous, and the profound.” Another statue, a monument to one Emily Georgiana, moved me in saying “I who dreamed wildly and madly/am happy to die.” The writing on that statue seemed simultaneously inspiring and sad, and I’ve thought of that quote often since reading it for the first time. My favorite actual work was a bronze piece created to hang above a fireplace depicting a nude man and woman entwined while being watched by a shocked and disgusted crowd. Made by Charles Sargeant, “Scandal” was interesting to me because it showed not only a couple in love (as many works do) but also the rarely shown negative reaction of the surrounding community. Lovers in art are so often isolated, so seeing a different perspective within the work was certainly interesting.
To summarize my previous blog entries regarding museums, I was unaffected by the British Museum, disliked the Tate Modern, moderately enjoyed the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum, and loved both the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert museum.
Having traveled to Embankment Station, and having ridden on a Thames cruise that left us quoting Titanic as it powered backwards away from a dock, we arrived in the London suburb of Greenwich. After powering up both a painfully steep gang plank and an equally inclined hill we came upon the famous Greenwich observatory and the international dateline. The obligatory photograph followed, and we were turned loose on the museums. The exhibits featured not only the history of the Greenwich observatory, but stretched a few years further back to the beginning of time itself. If one chose to enter the space museum, one could choose from a variety of interactive exhibits explaining how our universe is created, and of course giving the usual “apocalypse in five million years” speech. One thing that interested me was the idea that watches weren’t invented until about two hundred years ago, and though hour glasses have been available for much longer, the idea of knowing the exact time was not something that was really needed. A person simply woke with the sun and talked about things like distances in terms of days, not hours. The humans of the past were much more in tuned with nature than we are today. They let the requirements or even the inconveniences of the world control them, rather than trying to control it. It’s a bit hard for someone like me to imagine a world without an idea of organized time. My brain can’t really wrap itself around the concept. However, it was an interesting trip nonetheless, continuing on with a jaunt through the “snogging park” and ending at Greenwich market, which made me wish that I had a limitless bank account.
The rest of the day was spent in a trip to Camden, but being the foreigners that we are, we didn’t realize that markets here tend to close at a reasonable hour, so the whole town was shut up when we arrived. We still had an entertaining walk through Camden however. Our first attempt at dinner failed when the kitchen was closed, and the place we ended up eating left us feeling like we had entered the Temple of Doom, complete with giant carvings and statues, and even a matching soundtrack. After we made out escape (feeling rather shaken) we returned to our hotel, having had a most informative, and interesting day.
August 22nd, 2009 · 1 Comment
Recently I travelled with my class to Greenwich to see the Prime Meridian and other famous sites in the town. Instead of taking the tube, we travelled in style, hopping on a boat that took us down the Thames. As we motored down the river, I was beset on all sides with proof that London is truly a town of ever-changing ideas and time periods. Tall and majestic 17th century churches rode right up against uniform concrete estates. In what once was a warehouse district stoop a massive ziggurat-like structure all consisting of flats with views of the Thames. And in walking distance of Greenwich was the monstrously expensive and ugly birthday cake of the Millennium dome. What was once supposed to be a way to promote development in the surrounding area, the Dome stands surrounded by forlorn construction sites.
Once in Greenwich, the scenery took a turn for the better. Beautiful old houses lined the streets and the incredible sites such as the Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House, and the Astronomy Museum were all in shouting distance of each other. After a short hike up a tall hill in the beautiful Greenwich Park, we stopped at the royal observatory and the Prime Meridian. After the obligatory group photo, we were left to our own devices to explore the nearby museums. It was in the Royal Observatory that I learned a bit of the history of the invention of longitude. Perfected by a British clockmaker, longitude allowed mariners to master sea travel and cartography. It should come as no surprise then that the origin point of longitude, the Prime Meridian, should be at any other place than England. Because the English were the first to discover it, England was able to place itself, more specifically its capital, at the origin of everything. It is simply startling to think that things we take to be true without bias, such as the orientation of maps, can be so heavily influenced by nations attempting to gain influence.
August 21st, 2009 · 1 Comment
Today started out bright and early with a trip down the Thames toward Greenwich. The ferry ride offered spectacular views of the Tower Bridge, the London Eye, and many other popular attractions everyone expects of London. The Royal Park was beautiful and made me wish I could just picnic and read there all day. I’m glad we got to the top of the hill and the Prime Meridian before all of the crowds. I took the stereotypical picture with one foot on either side of the the Meridian as this is probably the closest to time travel I’ll ever experience. Afterwards, I explored the museum and really enjoyed it. Working in exhibition development this summer helped me to appreciate all of the effort that goes into desiging a museum. There are two things from the museum that particularly stick out in my mind:
1. In the exhibit about time in society where they displayed the evolution of clocks and wristwatches, I noticed that they included a cell phone. I thought this was great social commentary that might not occur to someone right away because recently many people have stopped using wristwatches even and rely only on cellphones for the time (especially younger people, myself included).
2. I appreciated how the museum displayed the comment cards that asked people to share their experiences of “When stopped for me…” I thought this added a more philosophical tone to the exhibit and made the point that the way people notice, remember, and live time in different ways.
After lunch, Alli, Mara, Kim, and I ventured into the Greenwich Market and explored the variety of shops and vendors. We all got henna tattoos and I had a short, but nice conversation with the artist about the significance of henna in South Asian culture. Henna is used to stain the skin in intricate and beautiful designs and it is very popoular for woman to get hennaed for special occassions, especially weddings. In the artist’s words: “An Asian bride is not complete without henna.” She explained to me that hennaing is meant to be a very calming process; therefore, the bride, her sisters, and cousins will have hennaing parties before the event in order to calm the bride’s nerves.
We then ventured beneath the Thames and wandered into the neighborhood on the opposite side of the river. We found Millard Park and stumbled onto a farm just beyond it. There were horses, sheep, goats, chickens, llamas, and one pig. At this point, one of my favorite things about London is the fact that many of the attractions are free to the public. It seems that the city tries to keep culture and recreation much more accessible than do many American cities (or at least the ones I’ve visited).
We journeyed home on the Docklands Light Rail. It was nice to travel above ground on the train. It was faster than the bus would have been, but we also were able to see a bunch of different neighborhoods that seemed to vary in class.
[[On our way out from the Greenwich Observatory we sat down at the steps and had a short discussion as a group where Professor Qualls spoke on the concept of time, and how we can use it as a tool to observe as well as analyze the different communities we were to explore in our time here. And that is just what I have attempted to do today.]]
Time. I moved slowly.
As a group, we took a somewhat speedy boat ride through the Thames river in order to get to the Greenwich. This boat ride was… fascinating. We saw various popular spaces such as Big Ben, The London Bridge, The Tower Bridge, The Globe, St. Paul’s Cathedral, among many others. The whole time we were on the boat I only moved if necessary, to get a better view for instance. I was mostly touched by the breath taking view of Big Ben, finally the sight of one of the London’s most popular icons, the one I have always associated with the city. Just yesterday I had only seen the sight of Big Ben in pictures, three thousand four hundred and forty miles (a 6-hr flight) later I am here facing the marvelous structure. It was a slow moment of glory for me.
Time. We moved fast. They moved slow.
After arriving at our final destination Greenwich Pier. We walked through the Royal Park to get to the Greenwich Observatory where the Prime Meridian is located as well as an Astronomy Museum and a really cool clock exhibit. We left here and walked through town a bit, where we saw various interesting places including the architectural marvel of the University of Greenwich. Then went to eat and to a cool market where I purchased earrings made of Chandelier crystals for only 1 pound. All of this was done by approximately 2pm… we were moving fast.
They people in Greenwich moved slow. Since we visited many popular (touristy) locations, mostly frequented by tourist, people moved slow, at their own rhythm. People sat peacefully at the Royal Park, they paced calmly through the museum and through the University. People moved slowly.
Time. People moved fast.
I went to Camden town, a cool funky place filled with young fast moving people. Everyone had lots of energy. There were people everywhere chatting with friends, shopping and eating at various local eateries. For some reason, I was a little surprised to see a few well-know stores from the U.S. such as: The Gap, Aldo, H&M and American Apparel. I liked this place a lot, time went by pretty quickly. People moved quickly and I moved at my own rhythm.
So far, the concept of time in the different communities I have been to has definitely been an interesting variation, influenced by numerous factors such as the location of the community and people’s purpose for being there. Time, whether it goes by slow or fast impressively projects certain truths I have been previously unaware of, I now see time in a different way… and I am glad for my timely lesson. Thanks professor!
August 21st, 2009 · 1 Comment
Since I think everyone seemed to enjoy the same things about the first half of today, I thought I’d talk about what I did after we left lunch. Brandon, Grace, Henry and I went to the National Maritime Museum (as did a few others, I believe). It was a fairly big museum with a great variety of exhibits.
Among them was an exhibit on the Atlantic in British maritime history, which covered the slave trade and the American colonies, among other things. Another was on art with British ships and naval battles as its subject. A third was on passenger ships since the early twentieth century which, though undeniably is a part of British maritime history, was less interesting to me. The most important thing I noticed about the museum was how almost all of its patrons were British and not tourists, which was nice to see. I wonder if this is because Brits like to look back upon the naval and trade prowess of their past, despite its negative connotations of war and colonialism, as something unique to Britain and something to be proud of still today.
We then visited, as well as others did I’m sure, the Painted Hall and the Chapel. The Painted Hall, which commemorates and glorifies William and Mary’s 1689 ascension to the throne, was evocative of the Christopher Wren/Isaac Newton/Early Georgian era we’d been seeing bits and pieces of all day. The Painted Hall has grandeur, beauty, innovative architecture, represents England’s growing financial and political power, and throws in some anti-Catholic propaganda, too.
The Naval Chapel was not nearly as ornate and boastful, but was still beautiful. It’s a reminder of the centrality of the Navy in British life, and of the gratitude the British have had and continue to have for those who’ve served their country.
I love UNESCO world heritage sites and am thrilled to be able to count Maritime Greenwich among those I have visited! I honestly didn’t know what to expect before going to Greenwich this morning. I knew that there was an observatory, which meant that there was at least one really big hill, and the Prime Meridian, which my mother had requested I take a video of myself dancing on (yes, I did and it’s a long story).
What struck me first at the observatory was the practical elegance of the buildings. The original observatory, designed by Christopher Wren, had a beautifully decorated dome that was perfect for viewing the sky, but it also had the necessary living quarters for the Royal Astronomer. My favorite exhibit in the observatory museum was of the clocks. I found it really interesting to see the progress of clocks over time and the timepieces used in specific jobs to this day (ex. the diver watch and the Underground/Bus driver clock). I didn’t know that wristwatches were seen as feminine before WWI, but were found to be more practical in the trenches, causing men to adapt them.
After lunch, Chelsea and I headed over to the Maritime Museum and spent a fair bit of time wandering around the exhibits. In one of the rooms there was a really neat display that showed Butler’s Wharf (which we passed on the boat) as it was in 1937 and then again in 1997. It was very clear to see the development that happened over that 60 year span. In 1937 it was a heavily worked dock and warehouse area, while in 1997 it had been converted to luxury apartments. That display illustrated the expansion of the upper-middle class city into what had been a very working class area.
One of the other rooms in the Maritime Museum that I found fascinating was the reconstructed stained glass from the Baltic Club. The Baltic Club was a high-end club in the center of London and it was bombed in 1992. This exhibit showed the damage that had been done to the windows and what the conservationists had to do in order to restore them to their original state.
Greenwich Market was a curious place. It had just about everyone and everything you can think of: different languages being spoken, ethnic crafts, clocks made out of vinyl records, jewelry, lots of soap/incense places, and, of course, food. It didn’t take me too long to get through the market, but it was very charming. After the market, Chelsea and I, after much searching and walking, managed to find a 188 bus stop that was not closed for construction. Neither of us had really been on a bus in London, so we figured it was as good a time as any to figure out the system. A very long bus ride later, we got the Russell Square and made our way back to the hotel.
Tags: Kelley · Markets · Museums
The boat ride was a really great way to see London, today. It was incredible to see how much the Thames has stayed the same over the years (in that it is still a major waterway for transportation purposes) as well as how much it has changed (in that it is, luckily for us, no longer a cesspool of human and industrial wastes). The museums at the Royal Observatory were fascinating. I really thought a lot about the concept of time and what it means to our culture. That watches used to be a symbol of wealth and status, I think, is particularly poignant. The wealthy are, in essence, the ones who own time in that they own time of their employees, and therefore, to an extent, the employees themselves. Greenwich is an absolutely beautiful area and I plan on going back. I particularly enjoyed wandering around the market; I’m now especially excited for our East Street Market assignment tomorrow.
Today ended up being a long day of walking after our boat ride down the Thames. It was a beautiful day for both walking around the city and being out on the river. The boat ride, for me at least, was a nice introduction to some of the more touristy sites I relate to London in my mind. I particularly enjoyed the fact that it was a perfect spot to appreciate the bridges of London and the architecture along the Thames. Greenwich was a wonderful experience, especially since I have wanted to visit there since I was about eight years old. The museums concerning the clocks and observatory were wonderful. I especially liked the layout of the clock museum and how it presented the problem of telling time at sea and how they finally developed the solution for it. And the planetarium was very good. The presenter had a wonderful sense of humor, while still being very informative.
After lunch, I went to the market with Mara, Sarah and Alli. It was a very diverse market with numerous stalls and items for sale. We ended up spending a few pounds on henna tattoos. After this we walked to St. Alfege’s Church and even though we couldn’t go inside the church it was worthwhile to see the architecture and look at the old gravestones. From here we decided to make our way under the Thames and find a rail station to come back to the hotel. Well, we found a park, Millard Park, by the station and thought that it was a good idea to go into the park and investigate. Well, we ended up finding a farm. There were loads of animals there: pigs, cows, goats, sheep, chickens and horses. I especially appreciated the equestrian center we found with the farm. I knew that there are numerous stables and equestrian centers throughout the countryside, but I wasn’t expecting to find one in Greenwich. After walking through the farm, we decided to make our way back to the hotel on the train from the Mudchute Station. Overall it was a long day of walking and exploring, that lead us to find many different aspects of London and how this city is unpredictable.
Tags: Kimberly · Uncategorized
Well…let us know what you thought. You have already travelled broadly across the city from your tube exercise yesterday to Greenwich today. What were your impressions of London before you arrived and have they changed or been challenged in the last 30 hours? I want to see you blogging at least every other day. Keep a notebook with you at all times to jot down ideas that you can make into a thoughtful post when you get back to your computer.
Tags: Professor Qualls