It is damp and dreary but I have been looking forward to today for months so I was going to be put off. Walking up the granite steps into the museum I was immediately stuck by how bright everything looks. And how busy, my favourite little museum had really come alive!
I have been going to the Royal Cornwall Museum since the 1980s. I think every person I know who went to school in Cornwall has been taken to see the Egyptian mummy at some point. Since those school trips I have continued to visit regularly, to use the library, to hunt down an object I have read about or to attend a talk. But today really felt like a new chapter.
The hard work of the past few months has paid off. All the familiar displays have been rejigged and reanimated somehow. They are better lit and there’s now plenty of fascinating interactive displays, things to handle, to get the mine racing – young or old. But by far the highlight for me was the new World Wide Wonders Exhibition in the quiet Treffry Gallery.
This room, usually reserved for functions, was an absolute joy. The room is filled with objects that the museum has had for hundreds of years in some cases and have never been put on display to the public before. Objects from every corner of the globe, brought back by adventurous Cornish men and women who made dangerous or ground-breaking journeys in to the unknown.
There were objects from China and Tonga, India and Africa. A huge leg bone from the extinct Giant Moa bird of New Zealand, a tribal mask from Sierra Leone, a golden wedding coat from Albania and a magnificent wooden battle club from Fiji. Glass cabinets display collections from Papua New Guinea, China and the Navajo tribes of the US. Each object has a fascinating story to tell, of its origins, how it arrived where it is and the collector who brought it there.
Another highlight for me was the new Spotlight Gallery where you can discover the secret life of some of the objects in the museum’s care. With an estimated 321,000 items to look after only a tiny percentage are able to be seen at any one time and it is a huge task restoring, documenting and safely storing so many precious items of history.
The founders of the museum wanted to inspire a passion for discovery and invention in us all and with these new exciting exhibitions and the reimagining of the original collections I really feel that the museum is embracing that ethos with a new found energy. I for one am looking forward to the year long calendar of events to celebrate this special anniversary of a very special place!
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