๐Ÿ“Museum fรผr Naturkunde, Berlin

On day 2 of my stay in Berlin I ventured out of Museum Island and to the Museum fรผr Naturkunde to visit my first Natural History Museum of my trip ๐Ÿ’š Although it is a little out of the way from Museuminsel I think it’s definitely worth it.

It is housed in a similar building to the NHM in South Kensington, London. Made of Portland-esque Stone, decorated with animal statuettes (and it’s equally as huge). The entrance is also similar, with the looming dinosaur skeleton centrepiece (although I know Dippy is on tour around the UK).

The interactives in the main hall were really cool (see above). Look into the binoculars and the dinosaurs come to life; showing you what they would have looked like and loved like when they were on earth. I thought this was a really great addition as it is difficult to imagine what these skeletons would’ve looked like roaming the earth so to actually visualise it was pretty mind blowing ๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿฆ•

In the museum, there were two rooms that really stood out for me and I actually squealed with excitement when I found them!ย First, the spirit jar display room! (My favourite museum subject) and my goodness it was the best one I’ve ever seen.

The jars, filled mostly with sea creatures and reptiles and areย showcased on shelves from floor to ceiling. What is great is that these could have been in storage or behind closed doors but the Museum have chosen to allow them to be on show, despite a working room being in the centre, so that visitors can experience such a phenomenal collection.

My second favourite gallery was the taxidermy room. If you know me, you know how much I love taxidermy and natural history! The room was different to anything I’ve ever seen before as it explains how taxidermy collections are created.

y8yez8chqpcmatfgnjdzra-e1535553959486.jpg

Each display case documented a different style of taxidermy including:

  • The reconstruction of extinct animals
  • The skeleton collections
  • The bellows and fur collections
  • Bird skin collections
  • Impression of a fish

As someone who loves taxidermy specimens I think it is so important to understand the processes that go into creating the specimens that you see on display. Breaking things down can help visitors to learn better and I certainly learnt so much from this room. It also supports people’s understanding of how decisions are made for each specimen – what materials can be used, how it can be stored or displayed and what conditions need to be thought about when acquiring natural history objects.

This museum is a really great example of a natural history museum that is a vital educational resources for a variety of audiences. They have spaces in the upper galleries for school groups and I can see why – the place is the perfect space for young visitors and teaching the school curriculum.

Happy museum musings,

Em xo

 

Advertisements

Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin

The next stop on my Museum Tour was Berlin, Germany ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช I had heard so many great things so my expectations were very high. And oh my were they exceeded! If you haven’t had the chance to visit, put it on your bucket list RIGHT NOW! ๐Ÿ—’

I’ll write another blog post about why I am now obsessed with Berlin so much but for now here’s a little insight into the Deutsches Historisches Museum. The Museums main building is housed in Berlin’s former, Zeughaus (armoury), whilst the second section, added between 1998-2003 was designed by I.M Pei, the same man who designed iconic pyramid for The Louvre, Paris.

2018-08-01 17:38:32.325

You’re actually not allowed to take photographs of the exhibitions which was very frustrating but what I want to focus on is the museums amazing accessibility features – something that many museums could learn from. I’ll be focusing on the Museum’s accessibility in their current major exhibition “Europa und das meer” (Europe and the Sea) ๐ŸŒŠ

Around the whole exhibition space there are white raised, textured lines along the floor. As I worked my way around the space I realised they were to assist visitors who are visually impaired with navigating their way around using the raised pathways. These pathways lead you around the exhibition in a logical order and also merge into a square of dots (like you find on pavements as you’re coming up to a road or crossing) symbolising that an audio-visual station was ahead.

img_0435

At these stations there are 3 large panels.

Panel 1:

The first panel has text written in ‘academic speak’ using technical wording and “jargon”. This interpretation is usually written by specialist Curators who have an in-depth knowledge of a subject and is created to engage other specialists and visitors with a comprehensive subject knowledge. This type of text can be very overwhelming and I often find myself reading the first couple of lines and feeling well out of my depth so moving on without learning much. This is where panel 2 comes in…

Panel 2:

A simpler text panel written in what is referred to as “Simple German”. Smaller words, less text, same impact. This is such a brilliant addition to the interpretation and having worked with a range of audiences (people with Special Needs, visual impairments, English as an Additional Language etc) I understand many of the access issues that too much text or jargon words can have. There are also many other visitors that would benefit from this type of text panel: including those with Dyslexia, younger visitors, those with limited knowledge and people who only want a basic understanding of a subject.

Underneath this text was a Braille version of the wording above as well as the audio loop that played the information on the guide available from the exhibition desk.

Panel 3:

The third panels at each stations all had large maps so visitors could visualise where in Europe was being discussed alongside video interpretation being shown in German Sign Language.

img_0437

Also, although the exhibition is displayed across two floors, all museum entrances are wheelchair accessible. I have been in museums (and actually worked in one) where if you couldn’t use the stairs you couldn’t access the whole building. Now I know for many institutions this is due to Grade Listings of buildings and the guidelines stopping lifts being added but it does rather spoil the vi and we as a sector should be working better to ensure access is a priority. Even having a video downstairs doing a tour of the upstairs rooms/exhibitions or having interactive collections online for visitors to view at their leisure would enhance the experience and ensure access issues don’t stop certain groups being excluded.

From a personal perspective, museums can often feel very exclusive, with their text, subjects and spaces which reinforces this ‘us’ vs ‘them’ notion. If the sector truly wants to be more accessible and inclusive, I think that following the steps of the Deutsches Historisches Museum would be a good way to go! Improving access, be it physical, representational or educational is something that I think is of the highest priority for the sector to become more open to the audiences is should be serving.

Top marks to Deutsches Historiches Museum ๐Ÿ’ฏ

Em xo

๐Ÿ“Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

A little different from the other museums I visited whilst in Amsterdam aye! But this was one that I’ve wanted to visit ever since I saw a poster for it in the Ipswich Museum offices when I was a Training Museum Trainee in 2015.

The Rijksmuseum, located in Museum Plein, is so grand, it’s pretty breath-taking. As you walk through the dimly lit tunnels with buskers playing modern songs such as Seven Nation Army on traditional instruments, you feel like you’re stepping back in time.

Although there are copious amounts of paintings and art works (which aren’t really my thing in all honesty) I did find some pieces that really jumped out at me.

My object highlights:

1. Caritร  Educatrice (Charity the Educator), Lorenzo Bartoloni (1777 – 1850), Florence, c.1842 – 1845, marble, (BK-2008-5-A)

img_0238

The woman personified the virtue of Caritร s (charity) in her role as educator – a typical Italian theme. She is caring for two children and encouraging the older one to read. Inscribed on his scroll is the moral “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”. This piece was so beautiful with the shadow reflected onto the light grey wall behind and stood so powerfully in a room full of strong objects. With this sculpture, artist Bartolini contributed to a topical discussion about the importance of education in Tuscany at that time.

2. Glass vase in a brass mount attributes to the Wiener Kunstgewerbeschile, brass, glass, c. 1900 (BK-2015-21)

img_0256

I’m not really sure why I loved this object so much but I just felt mesmerised by it. The iridescent colours, contrasting materials and how I’ve never seen anything like it before. Also, the changing colours look pretty awesome in a boomerang!

3. Concentration Camp coat, worn by Isabel Wachenheimer, Texled, 1938 – 1945, rags printed with blue ink, synthetic buttons, (NG-2011-97-1).

img_0259

This numbered prison coat was worn by Isabel Wachenheimer (1928 -2010) in Lenzing Pettighofen concentration camp in Austria. Isabel had been transferred from Auschwitz death camp along with 500 other Jewish women in October 1944. This came just after her parents had been murdered at Auschwitz. The reality of this story really hit home; the fact that a human being who had survived the WW2 concentration camps had worn it and donated it was overwhelming. Underneath the coat is the Wachenheimer family photo album which made the display more relatable and personal.

4. Facial casts of Nias Islanders, plaster, after 1910, (NG- C-2012-3).

img_0262

These casts, created by anthropologist J.P. Kleiweg de Zwaan are the result of research he conducted into the physical characteristics of different ethnic groups. On a 1910 expedition to Nias – an island located off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia – he covered the faces of a group of living men with plaster to record their appearances. Something about the casts fascinated me and it wasn’t until I’d left that I realised it was the power imbalance displayed in the artwork that was most prominent. The white European anthropologist visiting ethic minority groups and documenting their differences for his own experiment. The research and outcome felt very supremacist; reminding me of the race inequalities that have been present for centuries and continue in the present day.

I would definitely recommend this museum for anyone looking to do one big culture trip in Amsterdam. It would take a whole day to go around properly and there’s something for everyone: art, sculpture, weaponary, delftware, dolls houses: the lot. Another one ticked off โœ…

Em xo

๐Ÿ“ Sex Museum & Erotica Museum, Amsterdam

Well… what can I say? These museums are both very intriguing, fascinating, uncomfortable and unbelievable at the same time!

Sex is such a big part of Amsterdam’s identity and there’s no shortage of it everywhere you turn. So if you’re uncomfortable with sex or pornography or oversized phallic objects I’d urge you to look away now…!

First up: ๐Ÿ“The Erotic Museum. Located along a canal in the Red Light District, (next door to the Museum of Prostitution), it’s housed across 4 floors in a typical tall, narrow Dutch townhouse. My favourite objects in the first section were the household objects that were all overly sexualised – from paper weights and nut crackers to coasters and tableware – if it’s sexual; you can display it in your home!

 

The further up the house you go, the raunchier it gets: with a library of sex inspired books, a sexy art/photography gallery and leading to full on pornography films, audio and objects on the top 2 floors (including a very bizarre pornographic remake of Looney Tunes with Tom and Jerry having very rough sex with Donald Duck’s wife behind each other’s backs…) ๐Ÿฑ๐Ÿฅ๐Ÿน

Although this museum was fun, I didn’t learn very much and it all just seemed very over the top! I think the mission is to shock and excite people by displaying as many sexual objects as possible rather than to act as a learning resource – which is fine! But I do like to come back with some facts which was virtually impossible here!

Next up: ๐Ÿ“Venustempel Sex Museum, Amsterdam

The Venustempel (Temple of Venus) is the worlds first and oldest sex museum and it was brilliant. Although it was, of course, very sexual (I’d have been disappointed if it wasn’t), it felt very different to the Erotic Museum. From the outset it had a more historical context with themed sections depicting sex through the ages, sexual preferences around the world and it didn’t seem as crude. Although not the best, it’s definitely one to tick of the old Amsterdam bucket list!

My favourite objects:

1. Part of a temple wagon, India, 19th Century

img_0306

 

When I worked at the British Museum, one of my main responsibilities was to write donor reports for supporters of exhibitions, posts and projects to give them evidence of where their money was being spent and how successful the support had been. One report I wrote featured the conservation of a beautiful chariot also known as a “Juggernaut” or “Ratha Yarta”. The object above is an example of the popular erotic decorations often found on such chariots which were pulled by pilgrims at religious ceremonies.

2. Baking tins, early 20th century

img_0309-1

These baking tins were used to make cookies in the early 20th century and feature images from the Karma-Sutra. Karma Sutra cookies definitely sound very delicious. It’s a whole new take on you are what you eat and I LOVE it!

3. Terracotta tablet, representing a Roman orgy, Italy 1900.

The grey tablet is the Roman original and the terracotta version is the reconstruction. The text label asks visitors to look closely at the top one and see if they can figure out where the leaves on the bottom tablet should be ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿ‚ And of course, it revealed a more sexual piece of art than expected! The leaves covered evidence of the subjects’ genitals or engaged in sexual intercourse or masturbation. This object was a real fun piece and the task of finding where the stray leaves should be was a great thing to do with other visitors next to the display!

4. Orchid inspired sinks

img_0326

Okay so my last favourite piece isn’t technically an object but a beautiful sink installed in the Museum’s 2010 renovation to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Yes it’s in the visitor toilets, yes I got a few weird looks but I just think it’s lovely and so subtly sexual! It’s well known that flowers often have erotic meanings – the Orchid often symbolises love and beauty. More appropriately, and in theme with the museum, in old Greek, the word Orchid actually means “testicle” ๐ŸŒบ๐ŸŒบ๐ŸŒบ

These two museums, although similar in essence, are actually pretty different. The Erotic Museum is less educational and more humorous/outrageous so if you want more of a laugh then definitely go! But for me, the Sex Museum was more historical, and educational, thus making it a lot more engaging and compelling. I learnt a lot more than I expected I would or could about sex!

All in all, Amsterdam’s sex museums really are something else – you’ve got to tick them off ๐Ÿ†๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ›โœ…

Em xo

๐Ÿ“Museum of Prostitution, Amsterdam

On my first day in Amsterdam I headed straight for the Tourist Information Centre and got my ticket to the Red Lights Secrets: Museum of Prostitution– which is included in the Top 5 Amsterdam Museums (pretty good considering there are over 75 in the capital!) ๐Ÿ›๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ

The Museum is located along the bank of a beautiful canal in the Red Light District, the oldest part of Amsterdam where sailors used to stop off to find entertainment. It’s nestled in-between the Erotic Museum, famous red windows and Moulin Rouge-esque bars.

 

As well as entry, a booklet and audio guide are included in the price which is a real bonus! The audio book is narrated by a sex worker/therapist named Inga – arguably the most famous prostitute in the red light district! Her honest, thought-provoking and often comedic commentary is so intriguing and intimate; she’s the star of the show!

Set in a former brothel, the exhibits are housed in rooms that would have been inside when the brothel was still fully functioning. The first room, ‘The Office’ has been kept exactly how it was when the brothel closed – with a register of workers, an early noughties computer and the story of a woman named Chinese Annie who was murdered in the brothel before it was closed down. Along the back wall is an interactive piece with video viewpoints from prostitutes, landlords, clients and pimps which gives different POV’s of those involved and their individual reasons for being involved in the industry (of course the Pimp acted as the loving boyfriend supporting his girl and keeping her safe rather than an exploitative waste of space).

 

Upstairs the rooms were set out in the typical style of a red window room, a prostitutes bed sit and a ‘luxury room’. The first two were pretty simplistic but somehow felt very gritty: with lots of sex toys, mirrors and condoms waiting to be used. The luxury room or ‘workshop’ as Inga described it was very over the top with its salmon pink 2 (or more) person bath, champagne and lots of sexy slinky underwear. Rooms like these would be used by men willing to pay a lot more than the typical โ‚ฌ30 – โ‚ฌ50 usually given to Red Window Girls.

 

For me, the museum had two main overarching themes – one was the positive side to sex work that is never usually displayed. There was a real sense of female empowerment and strength, with the women’s work being celebrated rather than revered or dirty which is the typical stance taken. Many of the women’s stories told us how they had chosen to do this work, they enjoy how much money they make from it and how in control it makes them feel.

On the other hand there were constant reminders of the negative realities of sex work around the world. Alongside the liberation narrative, the displays covered issues such as the global sex trafficking industry, the role of “loverboys” – whose jobs are to make vulnerable women fall in love with them then take everything they earn from sex – & the overwhelming numbers of murdered sex workers by male clients, pimps or their partners. It really hit home how much danger these 4.5 million sex workers around the world are in at the hands of the men that solicit, traffick and use them.

A shrine in honour of some of the prostitutes murdered whilst at work in Amsterdam. Next to this is a wall documenting the names and stories of hundreds of other women murdered whilst working in the Dutch sex trade.

My top 3 facts:

1. In the past, red lights were used to obscure the traces of sexually transmitted diseases! Nowadays they are used as the red lighting makes the skin look smoother (and thus more attractive apparently…!)

2. To become a Prostitute in Amsterdam there are only 4 job specifications – you must be at least 21 y/o, hold a valid EU passport or Green Card, pass the ‘intake interview’ and be able to afford the โ‚ฌ150 weekly rent of a red window room. Simple.

3. The average visit to a prostitute in the Red Light District lasts around 6-10 minutes… No comment ๐Ÿ˜…

To end there is a magnificent confessions wall covered in saucy, sexy and damn right shocking secrets from visitors which are as funny as they are uncomfortable but help to end your visit on a high!

10/10 would recommend. Potentially in the top 3 Museums I’ve ever visited… but don’t hold me to that!

Em ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿšจ๐Ÿšฒโ™ฅ๏ธ