Saturday, 21 February 2015

Five of my favourite museums. What are yours?

I think the post about bridges a fortnight got me thinking of other of my favourite things. So I have decided to look at five of the favourite museums I have visited. Here is my list of five that I could happily visit again.

1. Pergamon Museum, Berlin

In fact I could have probably not gone off Museen Island in Berlin with a list, as the Bode Museum, Neus Museum, Altes Museum and Alte Nationalgalarie are also well worth a visit. But the think about the Pergamon is the sheer scale of some of the exhibits from its ancient society collection. From the Market Gate of Miletus (Pictured), the Pergamon Altar or the lush blue of the Ishtar Gate and intricate mosaic walls of the Aleppo room. I first saw the collection near the start of a Lange Nacht der Museen in the City and certainly had to go back here for another visit when I returned to Berlin. But as well as the big vista show stoppers there are rooms full of ancient artefacts. The museum is currently undergoing a five year renovation project due to be completed in 2019 and sadly the Pegamon Altar room will be closed to visitors for all that time. But well worth a visit in the meantime and you know you can always return.

2. Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra

Really two museums in one. To the south side of the A2 Belfast-Bangor Road in the grounds of Cultra House is the collection of buildings lovingly relocated from all over Ulster of both urban and rural living. All manner of lifestyle from Ulster's past are shown not just in the stonework but the furnishings and on site re-enactors show off the skills of our forefathers. On the other side of the Road (linked by a free bus with the combined ticket) is the large and diverse collection of means of transport. Many of them including the Wright Brothers plane built by Short Brothers bringing powered flight to Europe up to the Delorean sports car built nearby.

3. The National Gallery, London

In compiling  this list I was thinking which of these Museums I visited most. While the previous one had a large number of visitations I think the National scores top for walking through the door. I've spent many hours while I studied and lived in London walking in for free and being inspired. I know that often artists would sit in there and sketch, but mostly I was a poet going in there to have this pictures (and not always the well known ones) inspire me to pen words. Of course it's location (I used to walk past it daily when I worked in Piccadilly) makes it easily accessible for most of us.

4. Laurel and Hardy Museum, Ulverston, Cumbria

By far the smallest museum on this list (when I visited it), but then its position has significance. It was here that in his Grandparents house that Albert Stanley Jefferson was born in 1890, better known by his stage name of Stan Laurel. The collections started as the passion of one man, the late Bill Cubin and is still curated by his daughter and grandson. But the tiny terraced house that the museum was was housed in was overcrowded with memorabilia and very cluttered, so in 2009 it moved to larger premises in town. Where better but the former Roxy Cinema for Ulverston's most famous son and star of the silver screen.

However, one day I hope to go to Harlem, Georgia, USA to visit the equivalent hometown museums of Oliver Hardy.

5. Neue Synagoge Museum, Berlin

There are a number of Jewish Museums in Berlin but instead of listing the excellent Jewish Museum, which is one of the largest in Europe I have gone for the more intimate setting of the Museum to the rear of the New Synagogue. The building of the synagogue itself was saved by local police officers when Nazi mobs intended to burn it down on "Kristallnacht" 9 November 1938 because if it being an historic landmark. But the Museum at the back tells the history of the Jews in Berlin and the New Synagogue from its building from 1859-1866 to its last use on 31 March 1940. Sadly only the front offices, along with the building next door which continued to be used by Jews in the city until 1942. So the prayer room and original dome were demolished in 1958 by the Jewish Community of East Berlin.

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