I made a long anticipated, long overdue visit to Ipswich Museum. It is one of those regional treasures, crammed with original Victorian enthusiasm for building a monument to share the wonders of the world with all members of the public. The entrance hall alone is awe inspiring. Photos really can't do it justice, so I engaged a very talented artist* to try to share the beauty of the exhibition hall.
Yes, that's a giraffe! Next to him is a rhino, and a case of gorillas, and in front of him, a whole woolly mammoth! You might just spot a very handsome lion at the back, looking over at a zebra and kudu, with a leopard looking over his shoulder.
And walls and walls of taxidermy cases, with their wonderful, quirky, unique Victorian interpretation of the animals. Though it is too easy to poke fun at some of these antiquated interpretations of animals that were strange and unfamiliar to them, I prefer to enjoy the character that they have imbued them with, realising that every individual mount is just that, individual: It is that taxidermist's personal view of how best to show the animal skin they received, in a way that would engage their audience.
It wasn't easy to pick the first one to share with you, but I've chosen the gorillas. Mounted to show them as vicious animals, the text board accompanying them explains how this myth of the aggressive gorilla began, and prompts the audience to consider this point.
(Sorry it isn't a good photo - the museum is dark to preserve the exhibits, and my assistant called in sick. If you want to appreciate it in all it's glory, then go to Ipswich - it is totally worth it! Not just for the exhibits, but for the building and the wonderful, helpful, friendly, keen and well informed staff!)
And this was just the first room - there are the many bird cases upstairs, the mankind collection, the gold hoard, the selection of torture implements, a geology hall, and an upstairs gallery of local history - no doubt reflecting some of the great information you can find in guides such as (one of the lovely staff, Caleb's) "Ipswich Through Time". I will have to cover other aspects of the delightful displays in a number of additional posts, as they are so stunning.
Watch for more posts. And more pictures. And, of course, some more artistic interpretations by this new, upcoming talented illustrator*.
*Not the same very talented artist who does the dramatic reconstructions of the Grant Museum "Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month". I'm sorry, but we just couldn't afford that level of talent.