Are you an art gallery or science museum person, and can you be both?

Greenwich Foot Tunnel under Thames

Greenwich Foot Tunnel under the Thames

Today we took a walk along the Thames from Blackfriars Bridge to Greenwich. The route is around 7 miles long and winds its way through the heart of London’s historic docklands. The purpose of our trek? To visit the new Solar Season at the Greenwich Observatory. It’s well worth a visit if you have an interest in astronomy, and the planetarium show ‘Secrets of the Sun’ is the highlight of the current exhibition. I’ve visited the observatory several times in recent years so my main reason for going was this temporary display, but we had a quick look at the camera obscura too (the ultimate spy device), something of which I never tire.

The Meridian Line in Greenwich: 0 deg E, 0 deg W

The Meridian Line in Greenwich: 0 deg E, 0 deg W

It got me thinking about the places I prefer to visit when we travel and how I tend to be very polarised (pardon the pun) in my interests. I have to admit to not being the world’s best appreciator of art. I will rarely go out of my way to visit a gallery. I’ve been to Madrid several times but never the Prado, and to Paris many times but only once to the Louvre; we were in New York for a year and lived three blocks from the Met and never set foot inside. I know, I know, it makes me a bad person in the eyes of many. In my defence I do enjoy looking at pictures in small galleries and displays when the mood takes me, and love staring at sea pictures and dramatic skies.

I do however enjoy science museums and get very excited by unusual natural phenomena. We have visited science and natural history museums across the world, and we both have a keen interest to see volcanoes wherever we can. We’ll travel out of our way to see meteor craters, unusual rock formations, geothermal spots, waterfalls, canyons, glaciers… any of the amazing natural wonders that grace our planet. I wrote yesterday about our experiences of seeing the aurora borealis; without doubt one of the greatest spectacles on earth.

Traffic light art; Canary Wharf

Traffic light art; Canary Wharf

I wonder if others are also drawn strongly to either artistic achievements or natural wonders. Of course it is possible to appreciate both, but do most of us possess a strong bias for one or the other? I can look at a sculpture or painting and remain unmoved when others are speechless, while the sight of nearby flowing molten lava or a spectacular waterfall will have me enthralled and inspired, and I will want to spend a long time admiring the power and beauty of the sight in front of me. I appreciate that for others it is the opposite.

We are thinking of a trip to Italy at some point soon, and it’s not surprising that Florence will not be our destination. Instead we will head for the Aeolian Islands, and the active volcano of Stromboli in particular to see nature at its most fiery and majestic. And who knows, I might even buy a picture of the lava flows to hang on our wall back home.

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8 Responses to “Are you an art gallery or science museum person, and can you be both?”

  1. No, I manage to be both an art and science museum geek and will throw history into the mix as well. Sport and music, though…I’ve walked around Grand Prix circuits and sat in concert halls to keep my friends happy but I’d never make the effort to go there on my own.

    March 4, 2010 at 8:52 am Reply
  2. Karen Wise #

    Right now, because we have two small children, we’re more science museum types. In our recent trip to Australia we visited two excellent museums for kids: the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney: it has a brilliant building section which appealed to my two year old who is into Bob the Builder right now; and the Science Museum in Brisbane, where my four year old spent five hours (two visits in one day!) exploring, playing and learning.

    March 4, 2010 at 12:05 pm Reply
  3. I loved natural wonders as a kid. My father was a Earth science teacher, so I began learning about geology, meteorology, etc., at an early age.

    But as a teen I discovered the arts, and that’s what I’ve preferred ever since.

    So I’d take an art gallery over a science museum. But I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who like both equally. (And others who have flip-flopped, like me.)

    March 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm Reply
  4. Abi, I’m with you on the history stuff too (more the 19th/20th century than pre-historic though). As for your indifference to sports, I reckon there’s many out there who are at the extreme opinions on that topic (I’m a big sports fan, but would never convince my wife of the cultural value of going to watch a football match in Brazil or Turkey)

    Karen, it makes perfect sense. Science museums are far more interactive and made for kids. Buttons to press, levers to pull… visiting a gallery with small children must be a challenge.

    Nancy, it’s no wonder you were into natural wonders with your father’s job! Like you say, there’s no doubt a range of preferences, and thankfully enough opportunities for us all to enjoy what we like.

    March 4, 2010 at 5:03 pm Reply
  5. Ha! I did go to a football match in Santiago and found it fascinating – although I think it was the heavy-handed “crowd control” techniques that caught my attention rather than the football itself…

    March 5, 2010 at 6:57 am Reply
  6. Have you written up your Santiago football experience Abi? It sounds like a good story waiting to be told!

    March 5, 2010 at 2:01 pm Reply
  7. A good museum is a good museum, art or science or otherwise. So, I’m both :-)

    March 7, 2010 at 4:32 am Reply
  8. Thanks Andy – it was a very interesting experience but I’m not sure it’d help you convince your wife to watch a game there ;) !

    March 10, 2010 at 9:15 am Reply

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