Tag Archives: museums

Ferrymead Heritage Park

Located at the foot of Christchurch’s Port Hills, on the site, initially, of an ancient Maori hunting ground and later, of Zealand’s first public railway, Ferrymead Heritage Park includes the model town of Moorhouse (old Christchurch from colonial times to the 1920s) as well as a transport and technology museum.

The Grocer's store at Ferrymead
The Grocer’s store at Ferrymead

On weekends and during holidays, a team of dedicated volunteers mans the businesses and transport of Moorhouse and visitors stream into the little town to ride the tram and the old steam train.

On the Thursday afternoon that we visited Ferrymead all its attractions were ‘static’, which meant that neither the transport, nor the businesses in the town were manned and operating. Still everything was open and the whole of Moorhouse was ours.

We could visit one another in “our” cottages and shops. We could linger in the dimly-lit church and in the spooky gaol, where a criminal dummy lay stretched on a bed, staring with glassy eyes at a small barred window. We could tinker with the pumps in the street and potter with the gadgets in the sheds. We could sit in the single classroom in the little school. We could push buttons and follow tiny trains around miniature landscapes, through tunnels, points, signals and crossings in the model railway shed. We could hide in the thunderbox outhouse and scuff along dusty roads.

There were huge garages lined with motors from every era. There were hangars full of aeroplanes, including an old NAC Friendship like the one on which I took my first flight in the 1960s.

It was a great afternoon for all of us – a lovely walk down Memory Lane for the baby boomers and a fabulous flight of imagination for the 21st century kids.

Te Papa

Creative, quirky and vibrant, Wellington has the feel of a place where things happen and where anything is possible. Hippy, arty, Bohemian and discerning, with a taste for the good things of life and an overlay of NZ’s distinctive Maori Polynesian traditions, it has a culture all of its own.

Te Papa
Te Papa

Te Papa, Wellington’s Museum is the perfect cultural storehouse for a city like this. As a building it is strikingly different. It crouches boldly, almost defiantly at the water’s edge, its bold  stone and glass  glinting in the sun, glistening in the rain.

When it opened in 1997, Te Papa was a forerunner in the hands on, inter-active whizz-bang fleet of world Museums, with their attention-grabbing displays. Nor has it shied away from the controversial or contentious and one of its early exhibitions which included the infamous virgin in a condom, had banner waving protesters lined up outside its doors for days.

Yet, alongside all this, Te Papa has provided a fitting place for the ancient treasures of the nation, those things which need no shouts of acclamation but make their own discreet statement. So it is with many Te Papa exhibitions too, which plainly and quietly, tell the stories of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Te Papa is a must for any Wellington visit.

Milestones in Singapore’s history

Singapore's White Lion
Singapore’s White Lion

Singapore’s history begins with the Sumatran Prince, Sing Nila Utama sometime in the 14th century. Legend has it that when he landed on the island, then known as Temasek, Sing saw a white lion crouched at the edge of the sea. Believing it to be an omen, he re-named Temasek Singa Pura, or Lion City.

Singapore’s modern history began when, on February 19, 1819, Singa Pura’s Malay Ruler, Tengku Long, signed a Treaty with British Governor Sir Stamford Raffles, allowing the establishment of a port. Soon after, Singapore became a British colony, with Sir William Farquhar as Governor and Tengku Long, now re-named Hussein, as Sultan..

Trade coursed through the new port, which was free and open to ships from any nation. As migrants flooded in from China, India, Malaya and Europe they were assigned to their own separate areas of the city. The population burgeoned and Singapore flourished, taking the lead in Asia as melting pot for different ideas and cultures.

On February 15th, 1942 the Japanese took control of Singapore and re-named it Syonan-to or Light of the South. Japanese became the official language and all systems and institutions were run by the Japanese. British and allied Singaporeans were interned. Chinese and Malay Singaporeans were pressed into slave labour. Times were hard and the regime harsh. Rationing was strict, food was scarce and malnutrition commonplace.

Independence from Britain followed the post-war re-build and in 1963, Singapore joined Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia. The union was short-lived and Singapore separated from Malaysia on August, 9, 1965.

Enormous efforts were poured into ensuring the new, independent island state’s survival. Changi airport was built and Singapore Airlines established. Oil refineries and the electronics industry were fostered. A world class financial market was developed and the port of Singapore became one of the busiest in the world.

Today, Singapore is a thriving, modern industrial city state with a clean, green environment. It still leads as melting pot of ideas and cultures and it looks set for an exciting future.

A wealth of great museums tell Singapore’s story. The following three, in particular, are a  must for a fascinating insight into Singapore’s past, present and future.

Fort Siloso Museum on Sentosa Island recaptures seafarer, Sing Nila Utama’s adventures, British colonization, the lives of some the settlers whose grit and determination built early Singapore and the dark days of the Japanese occupation.

The Asian Civilisations Museum, in Empress Place looks at the context of rich and varied Asian cultures in which Singapore sits and also at the unique Peranakan, or Straits Chinese culture with its beautiful traditions of furniture, china, costumes, food and customs which such an important part of Singapore’s story.

The Singapore City Gallery shows Singapore as it is today, with a 3D model of the island, an aerial map, a map pin-pointing interesting nooks and crannies, a transport map, models of Singapore’s architectural highlights and glimpses into future developments and best of a “planner’s table” which allows visitor’s to play at shaping the Singapore of tomorrow.

More lists of Museums can be obtained from Singapore Visitor Information Centres at Changi Airport and all over the city or on http://visitsingapore.com

An Art Gallery and a Museum in Newcastle

The Laing Art Gallery sits on the edge of Newcastle’s famed and beautiful Blue Carpet, the open city square laid with a unique pattern of blue tiles (hence the name!)  The Blue Carpet draws the buildings which surround it together, unifying both the old and the new, to create an intimate space for relaxing or on occasion, for performance.

The Laing Art Gallery
The Laing Art Gallery

The Laing recently claimed the prestigious ‘Large Visitor Attraction of the Year’ prize at the North East England Tourism Awards. It has a superb permanent collection, including works by Henry Moore and paintings by the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood group. The works of local artists, like wood engraver Thomas Berwick, the painters of the Newcastle School of Art, founded in 1843 and more recent artists like Oliver Kilbourn, are a glimpse into the creative, as well as the social history of the city.

At the other end of town, The Discovery Centre sits at the intersection of two busy main roads. It is a large, imposing brick building which looks very much like some grim relic of an early nineteenth century educational institution.

The Discovery Centre
The Discovery Centre

Inside, one exhibition tells the story of the shipping industry and the Tyne which was and still is the life blood of the region. Another traces the history of Newcastle from the Romans to the present day. The “Working Lives” exhibition outlines the “hard graft and ingenuity” that is the story of the Newcastle worker. Finally, DVDs in a little video corner introduces some famous Newcastle inventors like George and Robert Stephenson, of the locomotive fame, Joseph Swan who invented the filament light bulb in 1978, Gladstone Adams, the father of windscreen wipers, Arthur George, the author of the Joystick and a clutch of 21st century corporations like DUK responsible for Biometrics fingerprinting, Global Point Technologies who introduced satellite tracking and Peratech of the Touch Smell Robot.

While an afternoon browse through a gallery and a museum can only really give a summary of a place and its history, the Laing and the Discovery Centre sum up Newcastle, its history and its people most impressively.

 

The National Museum of Australia

The big, bold, bright and angular National Museum of Australia sits on the edge of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin. It breaks the balance of Walter Burley Griffin’s art deco city, the decorous white of the New Parliament building and the muted green of the landscape with its unruly lines. From a distance it’s an attention-grabbing architectural interloper. Up close, from outside it’s overwhelming. Inside it’s magical.

In the Garden of Australian Dreams
In the Garden of Australian Dreams

You can dip into the past and find fascinating (and minute) details like the origin of the “furphy”.  You can dance through the present (literally) following the moves of young aboriginal dancers. You can design your own space-craft, don three-d glasses and watch it negotiate the 22nd century freeways in K Space’s theatrette.

But the best and most beautiful space at the National Museum is the garden Of Australian Dreams. The gallery brochure describes it as a “rich landscape of symbols and meanings drawn from Australian life”

A giant map spreads across the surface of the garden and under the Museum building, bringing together the conventional map of Australia as well maps of aboriginal boundaries, vegetation,  geology, roads and electorates.  The broad yellow line which intersects the area, represents the line devised by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 to divide the globe into Portuguese and Spanish territories.  Red and white poles represent the way that the early surveyors read the Australian landscape. A walk-in camera obsura helps you to interpret the garden. The bush is represented by a stand of gums. The rudimentary white “Dream House” represents the built environment of Australia. The gnome perched on a ledge on the “Dream House” represents the “Antipodean” that Europeans of the Middle Ages imagined lived in the mythical land down under.

Always available to guide you and answer any questions on the National Museum of Australia, is a large, well informed, endlessly gracious, multi-cultural and multi-lingual retinue of guides.

The Museum of Garden History

At a busy roundabout on London’s Albert Embankment, just over the river from the Houses of Parliament is the world’s first Museum of Garden History.

The Museum of Garden History
The Museum of Garden History

Housed in the lovely old St Mary-at-Lambeth church and set in a peaceful, almost rustic     garden, it is staffed by tweedy, be-brogued gentle-folk with unmistakable stamp of the gardening enthusiast. The Museum of Garden History is quaint, other-worldly and a fascinating insight into the British passion for their gardens whether they be grand rambling parks or modest allotments.

An erstwhile baptismal alcove, just inside the church entrance is now a tiny oral history “auditorium”. It booms an whispers its stories in the corner like a tardis. Wall displays trace the history and evolution of gardens and look at the work of great garden designers like Gertrude Jekyll, at gardeners like Capability Brown and at plant collectors like the John Tradescants. One of the central displays outlines the rise and demise of one of England’s great seed merchants as well as examples of the merchandise of the house. Others house historic collections of gardening artefacts – tools, watering cans, gloves and boots along with gnomes and other curious garden ornaments. There are interesting post-war advertising posters which feature mother (with the teapot) the children (at the table) and father (pushing the lawn-mower) in the idyllic shaded garden of their grand, two-storey, unmistakably English house.

The Museum Café sells fabulously colourful vegetarian foods – salads, pastas, chunky and grainy combos, fat muffins and moist cakes, thick with fruit, as well coffee, tea, juices and smoothies.

In the rear courtyard of the church is the tomb of the John Tradescants, the famous plant hunters and gardeners to Charles I. The 17th century knot garden, which is the courtyard’s centrepiece, is planted with specimens discovered and grown by the Tradescants. Also in the courtyard is the grave of Captain William Bligh, carved with words of high praise for his distinguished service in the British Navy (No mention anywhere of the ignominious Bounty affair)

The Museum shop is crammed with charming little gardening knick-knacks, beautiful books, cards, garden produce bottled or tinned in tiny containers, toys and of course tools and clothes for the garden!

 

Buda, Part 3, North of Castle Hill

While the southern and middle peaks of Castle Hill hold the most popular tourist attractions, the northern end is not without its share of interesting landmarks and monuments.

Musicians at the Vienna Gate
Musicians at the Vienna Gate

At the edge of the hill the Vienna Gate looks across a square to the massive Hungarian State Archives. Nearby is the gothic Magdalene Tower, the only part of the Church of Mary Magdalene left standing after the ravages of World War II. There are three great Museums. The Museum of Military History is crammed with relics from Hungary’s many invasions and occupations. The Music History Museum displays beautiful old instruments and houses the Bela Bartok exhibition. Although the Hungarian Museum of Commerce and Catering sounds like boring old cake tins and cash registers, it is actually a fascinating insight into Budapest in its heyday under the Dual Monarchy. The commerce section has replicas of early Budapest shop fronts and displays as well as contemporary advertising. The catering section features memorabilia from the chic coffee shops, elegant hotels and glamourous restaurants of 19th century Budapest. There is a  fascinating exhibition on the life and work of Hungary’s leading culinary light, confectioner Emil Gerbaud.

In and around all the great historical monuments and throngs of tourists, ordinary Buda life goes on. Gypsy violins from the buskers in St Matyas Square drift down through quiet, narrow back streets with old-world bakeries. Vertiginous stairs and paths lead between lovely old baroque, art nouveau and art deco houses with windows dressed in lace and Italianate shrines sculpted into their facades. There are tiny courtyards and playgrounds carved into the hillsides. School bells ring behind high brick walls. The vista up through the trees to the battlements of the Buda Castle and the spires of St Matyas Church is as old as Corvinus, Matyas the King.

At the foot of the hill, the streets spill into a busy square with solid stone 20th century office buildings and shops. Beyond it the traffic roars towards south to Obuda or over the Margaret Bridge across the Danube and into Pest.