In The Steps of Darwin
Thursday, 22nd January, 2009
If I am honest, I've never given much thought to evolution... I mean I really like dinosaurs, but I am not sure where they fit in evolution wise. Whatever, one thing I do know is I like taxidermy.
Taxidermy is so Victorian and abject. I like charts and maps and things laid out and arranged for display in specially made glass cases.
Until 19th of April, the Natural History Museum in London is running what is apparently the biggest ever Darwin Exhibition to commemorate his bicentenary this year. I mean, personally I can imagine bigger Darwin exhibitions but I don't know really how you would measure this. That aside, this was a total blast. Once a month at the Museum they have a late night opening with a bar!
So I went along on one of these nights and there were some seriously cute boys there. Outside at the time there was a temporary ice rink and beside that a little bar, where we stopped and had a "Winter Pimms", the Pimms alternative to mulled wine, which is at first sip, horrific by the end of the glass oddly comforting.
The Natural History Museum is a magnificent building, a complete maze to get around and finding the exhibition within is part of the fun.
Once found, we are greeted by a mini Galapagos, made of taxidermy, model and real live animals. The Darwin exhibition really begins with the Beagle, speaking frankly, I was distracted by the live iguana. There were maps and letters home, we touch on his early life, training to be a minister in the Anglican Church. Apparently Darwin was very keen on killing and eating things he had never tried before, it sounds like he had a real blast in South America. Although according to the Peta website he was a vegetarian, I don't know who to believe.
Then there were fossils and finches and all kinds of beetles displayed in glass cases.
In the next room Darwin's study has been recreated and pages of his diary displayed. In one entry Darwin weights up the pro's and con's of a wife as he considers marriage.
Then we moved on to a room full of skeletons, which illustrate beautifully this whole origin of species, descent of man stuff…because I found out snakes have legs! Little tiny legs that are so small they are just little lumps under their skin, but it was really starting to make sense. There were monkey skeletons, bat, dog and dolphin skeletons, beautiful skeletons in glass cases in a dark room.
In this room we touch on intelligent design or whatever the Americans teach in school and by this point obviously we are all convinced that there is no god so we had a good laugh at them.
The exhibition is extraordinary, even if you are not a nerd. Beautifully curated, it flows, educates and entertains. As a result, one feels a great deal of empathy for Darwin and from his diary entries and personal artefacts get an idea of what kind of man he might have been along with all that evolution stuff.
Then upon exiting we had a little glass of champagne at the bar and headed off for some sushi.