We started our journey at the Museum of the History of Science which was formerly the Ashmolean Museum, the oldest public museum in the world (1683).
We entered before the opening because Tony, our companion, organized a quick introduction with a memebre of the museum staff.
This gentleman whose name I don’t remember accompanied us for half an hour explaining the history of the museum and its most important collections.
His passion for telling the stories of the museum impressed me and made me even more interested in everything he said; it was really pleasant.
Thinking now about the things I saw that I liked most, I realize that they are almost all related to the stories of the gentleman because he left a memory in my mind intriguing me in a natural way.
Initially he told us about a bone that in the past was thought to be a mermaid and how at the time were used museums: collections of strange objects from around the world that the rich exhibited in private collections.
The world’s largest collection of pocket sundials is in this museum. Incredibly ingenious; I knew how a sundial works but seeing a pocket sundial that can be adjusted to any latitude and also indicate other values was sensational.
A precise and complicated object in its study and realization. Too easy to read the clock, I want to start walking around with a pocket sundial.
Another thing that struck me was the armillary sphere. An even more complicated construction than a system that is not even real and despite this perfectly expresses the sense of the seasons, of sunrise and sunset, of the sign of the zodiac, of the passage of time.
It is incredible to think how they made a perfect machine even if the initial concept is wrong (the sun that revolves around the earth).
All this system has also been “simplified and complicated” by creating a flat object that represents all this, the “Astrolabe with geared calendar”.
The French clock instead reported 10 hours and not 24 because after the revolution because they wanted to revolutionize and rationalize the time system and time by inserting a decimal system. Fascinating how it was still possible to question an entity that now rules the world with the stroke of a hand.
I must mention that I saw a blackboard written by Einstein, usually these things do not affect me but the way in which it was told to us and the story of how all Oxford tried to see this little blackboard in any way fascinated me. A chalk mark on a blackboard is not as temporal as we imagine.
After this first museum full of emotions and old scientific instruments we went to see a small exhibition on 3D forms and “From Leonardo to the present” which, however, did not affect me much.
It was interesting to see some real sketches of Leonardo and how elaborate and current they were but at the same time it was not very involving and not very wide.
Our visit to the Bodleian Library did not last long and we headed to one of the oldest pubs of all, the “Turf Tavern”.
A real English pub with a history of 400 years on its shoulders, very English, delicious fish and chips, certainly recommended if you want to smell a real local atmosphere.
In the afternoon we went to the Pitt Rivers Museum, a magical place.
Its asrchitecture is incredible, entered from the part of natural history we crossed the whole room to arrive in the ethnographic part.
It reminded me immediately of the Hornimam Museum thinking of objects from all over the world collected in a single room. This time, however, the room has been divided by type of objects and not by their provenance and there are two other floors “balcony” at the top.
If I didn’t like the Horniman museum because of the lack of clarity in exhibiting the objects in the collection, I was impressed by the vastness and the possibility of comparing objects of the same type from one culture to another.
I dwelt on some types of padlocks from the past made of wood, sculpting tools, Italian playing cards that we still use, clothes made from animal intestines (very beautiful both for the material and for the design, photo above) and also a huge totem that stands above the room.
One part that caught my attention was the floor: braided, thick, playful and resistant.
As a final stop we went to the Museum of modern Art and we saw an exhibition by Kiki Smith, large tepestrelliere working in detail were the part that captured my attention, decorations with animals and medieval myths told stories of the past. I remember, however, that tiredness on this occasion played a key role, so much so as to remind me of my state rather than that seen.
Great day at Oxford, Tony a nice and wonderful character. Surely a second visit to Oxford deserves to be made to see the other museums and to enjoy more of a greater tranquility and a more relaxed atmosphere throughout the city.