The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deers would still be drinking out of that water hole…
JD Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
One of my favourite ways to spent time in a city is to visit their museums. All over the world, from the Middle East to the Far East to the Deep South, museums give the perfect place to cool off from the sun, get out of the cold, or take a break from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Museums, collections of things of beauty and significance, play such an important role in safeguarding our history, right from it’s earliest tangible times, all the way through to the present day. The Louvre in Paris, New York’s MoMA and Metropolitan Museum of Art, Washington’s Smithsonian, Florence’s Uffizi Galeria, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Palace Museum in Taipei or Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, all, for very good reason, are touted as being amongst the most impressive museums in the world. These are my three:
The Natural History Museum, London
Nothing brings back the spellbound wonder felt in childhood like walking in those big doors and coming face to face with a diplodocus. Specifically, Dippy. And, brilliantly, that wonder doesn’t fade. Around every corner there is something else fascinating. London’s Natural History Museum is a one of my favourite places, and somewhere I would always encourage visitors to go. There are always amazing temporary exhibits, the BBC’s Wildlife Photography of Year amongst them, and so many unusual and fantastic things going on, the night time free music concerts as an example, as well as the permanent collection. Now, London is hardly short of impressive or fantastic museums, counting also the British Museum in it’s number, and whilst that is incredibly comprehensive and home to the Rosetta Stone, it is the interactive nature of the artefacts from the NHM that nudges it just ahead in my mind.
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
For diversity and scope, the Israel Museum is absolutely up there in terms of fantastic museums. Not just it’s main attraction, the Dead Sea Scrolls and it’s fantastic commentary (narrated with real passion!), but beyond that, the Israel Museum is without a doubt the most eclectic collection of any museum I’ve seen. With wide, light galleries and fun, quirky outdoor exhibitions for those who’ve seen a few too many spearheads, it gets the balance just right, and the epitome of modern protecting antiquities comes in the form of the Shrine of the Book, pictured below.
The Hermitage, St Petersburg
Ornate glamour and beautiful splendour abound, the Hermitage is an extraordinary collection in an extraordinary building. A museum of art and culture, it, for me at least, epitomises the romance and extravagant, grandiose glory of St Petersburg. As well as housing some of the most renowned pieces in the world – Michaelangelo’s statues, paintings from Picasso, Rembrandt, and Da Vinci- the Hermitage is also home to endless other priceless artworks and artefacts, and on top of that every wall, every floor, every ceiling, all have been built with utmost care to aesthetic detail. That Orbeli, the curator during the World Wars, refused to leave the street of St Petersburg until the collection was safely, secretly, smuggled from the city, says much about the importance of such a museum. I was captivated before even walking through the golden-tipped gates… it isn’t difficult to imagine how the Hermitage existed before it became a Museum, as the beautiful Winter Palace and numerous other royal buildings of the Tsar’s family. And, for those willing to brave the queues, there is free entry on Thursdays.