A family day out today to the re-branded 21st century 'Great North' Museum, better known to those of that live up here as the Hancock Museum. (As an aside I wondered how much the marketing people were paid for the name re-brand, is no one else getting a bit fed up of this whole 'Great North' thing? Why don't we just draw a line across at Teeside and call the whole thing 'The Great North' to make it easier and appealing to all our rich southern cousins and visitors?) Its been closed for a good while for a refurbishment and revamp, opening back up a few weeks ago.
Museums are places that revisit the past, when it comes to Natural History they explore many of the creatures that have failed to adapt and as a result failed to survive. In the not too distant past they were perceived as dusty, stiff places visited by academics and strange men interested in Beetles and Bird Skulls.
There is an irony then that in order to avoid becoming one of their own exhibits museums like the Hancock are having to adapt to survive in the 21st century. I can understand the thinking behind this adaption, without an admission fee they need to drive visitor numbers to make sufficient profits from the retail and food areas to prop up their funding. I see how our culture has driven them to become interactive and to create 'sound byte' displays that can be consumed quickly before moving on to the next one. Sure they are trying to appeal to the young, Internet, Twitter savvy, competing with all of the forms of entertainment that didn't exist 25 years ago.
However part of me mourns the loss of dusty, echoing corridors filled with glass cabinets of curiosities and trays of exotic butterflies and beetles. I want to see all the forms of female Blue tailed Damselfly not just one measly specimen inserted into a small viewing hole in the wall. I want my children to appreciate the breadth and diversity of our Natural History and the effort and passion that men like Hancock put into their collections.
I think there is a place for both, what's your view?