All posts tagged: history

Book Review – ‘Seven Skeletons’

Title: Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World’s Most Famous Human Fossils Author: Lydia Pyne Genre: Non-fiction (science, history) Rating: ★★★★ “Over the last century, the search for human ancestors has spanned four continents and resulted in the discovery of hundreds of fossils. While most of these discoveries live quietly in museum collections, there are a few that have become world-renowned celebrity personas—ambassadors of science that speak to public audiences. In Seven Skeletons, historian of science Lydia Pyne explores how seven such famous fossils of our ancestors have the social cachet they enjoy today. Drawing from archives, museums, and interviews, Pyne builds a cultural history for each celebrity fossil—from its discovery to its afterlife in museum exhibits to its legacy in popular culture. These seven include the three-foot tall “hobbit” from Flores, the Neanderthal of La Chapelle, the Taung Child, the Piltdown Man hoax, Peking Man, Australopithecus sediba, and Lucy—each embraced and celebrated by generations, and vivid examples of how discoveries of how our ancestors have been received, remembered, and immortalized.” (Penguin Random House) After reading …

From My Holiday – The Wellcome Collection

After wandering around the Hunterian Museum for a few hours I headed back to my hotel, stopping in at the Wellcome Collection on the way. The Wellcome Collection explores the relationship between life, medicine, and art. If you can manage to do what I did and visit the Hunterian and Wellcome Collection in the same day, then you really should. There are many links that can be drawn between the two, and I found that the information I learned at the Hunterian enhanced my experience of seeing the artefacts in the Wellcome Collection. Henry Wellcome (1853-1936) was a pharmacist and philanthropist, as well as collector of interesting things. He was one of the co-founders of the Burroughs Wellcome & Co. pharmaceutical company, the first to give the world medicine in tablet form in 1884. In later years he would go on to assemble one of the world’s largest collections of medical and health related paraphernalia. On display here are a wide variety items from different cultures around the world. Along with an impressive display of pharmaceutical …

From My Holiday – Read This → Go There (a book to read and its London connection)

This post is inspired by the ‘Read This, Watch That’ posts on River City Reading (a great blog that you should check out if you haven’t already). In this post I’m going to give you a quick rundown on a great book I read a while ago and then tell you all about a completely obscure museum I visited while in London that turned out to be a surprise literary point of interest for me. Read This → The Giant, O’Brien by Hilary Mantel Published in 1998, The Giant, O’Brien by Hilary Mantel, is a fictionalised account of the life of Charles Byrne (O’Brien in the novel), largely focusing on his time spent in London. Standing at 7ft 7″, Byrne towered above the average man at that time (5ft 7″ on average), hence his nickname, ‘The Irish Giant’. He took advantage of his height, travelling around Britain and displaying himself at fairs for money. He arrived in London in 1782, where curiosities and novelties such as himself were a well received and lucrative business. It was …

From My Holiday – The British Museum (and, a little about The British Library)

The day after my adventure in the rain, I made a trip to The British Library, which wasn’t so much a trip as a stroll across the road, as my hotel was basically right next door to the Library. I’m nothing if not an efficient planner of accommodation in relation to tourist spots. The Magna Carta exhibition was on while I was there, which was to celebrate 800 years since the Magna Carta was first agreed on June 15, 1215 (which just so happens to be my birthday) (the June 15 part, not 1215, in case you thought I was a vampire or something). It was an amazing exhibition to see, which included two of the four original Magna Carta documents, as well as Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence and one of the original copies of the US Bill of Rights. How many times do you get to see all of those things together? Apparently once in a lifetime according to all the signage. But though that exhibition may now be over, I can still …

From My Holiday: The Louvre – Decorative Arts and Napoleon’s Apartments.

The Decorative Arts galleries and Napoleon’s (the III – not THE Napoleon) Apartments were probably my favourite parts of the Louvre. Not having a lot of money to spend on furniture, I’ve never really thought of it as art – I generally consider it firstly based on price, then functionality, then how it looks (unless it’s something I really REALLY want, like my cosy red armchair). Needless to say after wandering through these galleries my mind has been completely changed and I now have a greater appreciation for the beauty of furniture.Words such as sumptuous, decadent, luxurious, and opulent are the only apt ones to describe these rooms. Decorative Arts Furnishings While the Louvre is perhaps most famous for its paintings, the Decorative Arts galleries are no less amazing. The collection is made up of a wide variety of objects such as “jewellery, silverware, enamels, ivories, bronzes, semi-precious stone work, ceramics, glassware, stained glass, furniture, and rugs, and spanning the period from the early Middle Ages to the first half of the 19th century” (louvre.fr). While …

From My Holiday: Inside the Louvre

Last time I was in Paris, I saw the outside of The Louvre. If you’re into buildings that alone is almost enough, as the home to perhaps the most famous art collection in the world is a piece of art in itself. The Louvre Palace dates back to the late 12th century and was originally built as a fortress; the original foundations of the fortress are still visible in the lower ground of the palace which was pretty amazing to walk through. Over time it was extended to become the palace that we know today. It was the home of many French kings, perhaps the most notable – for me anyway, purely for literary reasons – being Louis XIII and his son, Louis XIV (the rulers of France in the Alexandre Dumas novels The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask respectively) and was the royal residence until the latter Louis moved his court to Versailles in 1682. From that point the palace began its transformation from palace to museum, but its status …

From My Holiday: Exploring the Panthéon

On my first full day in Paris, I took a walk to the Panthéon. It takes about a day to travel from Australia to Europe (actually, it takes forever to get just about anywhere from Australia, even other parts of Australia), so thankfully it wasn’t too far from my hotel as I was pretty tired from the flight. I’d walked past the Panthéon when I was in Paris last time, but from memory it was closed for renovations so I didn’t get to go in. I made the most of it this time around, and I was in there for at least 2 hours. I can highly recommend getting the audio guide if you ever visit (I got audio guides just about everywhere) as you can learn a little bit more about pieces of art and the building itself. And now, a little history lesson courtesy of some scribbled notes and the souvenir guidebook I picked up: With foundations dating all the way back to 496 (yes, that’s a year with only THREE digits), the Panthéon has a very …

Book Review – ‘The Invisible History of the Human Race’

Title: The Invisible History of the Human Race Author: Christine Kenneally Genre: Non-fiction (science, cultural studies) Rating: ★★★★★ “We are doomed to repeat history if we fail to learn from it, but how are we affected by the forces that are invisible to us? In The Invisible History of the Human Race Christine Kenneally draws on cutting-edge research to reveal how both historical artifacts and DNA tell us where we come from and where we may be going. From fateful, ancient encounters to modern mass migrations and medical diagnoses, Kenneally explains how the forces that shaped the history of the world ultimately shape each human who inhabits it.” (christinekenneally.com) I’d like to begin by saying that I don’t really do science. So, those of you wanting to read this book for the sciencey aspect of it and hoping I may be able to provide some insight on that, should probably stop reading now. There is no science here for you. This is mostly because I have no idea how to write about it without sounding like …