Saturday, 21 July 2007

Oxford on My Own

On Thursday afternoon, July 19, after finishing our guided tour of the Bodleian Library, we had Oxford on our own. Several of us first had lunch at the Eagle and Child pub, which was the favorite pub of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien and the other ''Inklings.'' Then I set out to walk around the city, passing by several of the colleges, including Christ Church (the Cathedral and House). Most of my time was spent at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the next-door Pitt Rivers Museum of Anthropology and World Archaeology.
( and (


The Victorian Gothic-style Museum of Natural History opened to the public in 1860 and was ''designed as a cathedral to science.'' Last year, a newspaper chose it and the Pitt Rivers as the most ''family friendly'' museums in the U.K., and I can see why! Hundreds of children were running around enjoying well-designed exhibits on fossils, animals, rocks and minerals, and insects. I was a bit disappointed in the mollusk exhibit upstairs. Museum education specialist Chris Jarvis said it hadn't been updated. (Dad, you'd like this huge chunk of pyrite that lots of kids were running by, yelling: ''Fool's Gold! Fool's Gold!'' Photo above shows me by the museum's inevitable statue of Linnaeus.)


Chris kindly gave me a copy of the little paperback he recently wrote and illustrated, titled The Life and Times of Carl Linnaeus. The museum gave them out during its fun-filled Linnaeus celebration this past May 31 and June 1. I love the ''Mnemonic for Remembering our System of Classification'' that Chris uses in his book (for Kingdom - Phylum - Order- Family - Genus - and Species): Kissing Pigs Often Feels Gooey (and) Slimey!!!

The Pitt Rivers Museum was founded in 1884 and it now contains more than half a million artefacts. Favorites include Bast, the Egyptian cat god; an Egyptian mummy, and shrunken heads. (Photo at right shows a Pacific Islander chieftain dress of abalone shell.) After the Pitt Rivers, I fast-walked to the Ashmolean Museum, which is the world's first university museum. It opened in 1683 and the current building is now undergoing a major renovation. Before heading to the train station in the early evening, I just had time to see the ground floor, which includes classical Rome and Greece; ancient Egypt; English pottery, and European porcelain.

No comments: