29 Jun 2015

Travel: Museum of Curiosities, London

My friends and I recently visited the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities (Mare Street, London). We weren't quite sure what to expect when we arrived, and we weren't quite sure what we'd witnessed when we left. But such is the charm of this unusual little place!
Cabinets are full of wonders - from skeletons, crustaceans and mummified creatures to risque books, modified dolls and celebrity poo - this is what you'll find when you descend the narrow spiral staircase from The Last Tuesday Society cocktail bar into the realm of collector and artist Viktor Wynd. For a modest £4 entry fee visitors are free to explore the small museum at their own pace - I'd recommend going around at least twice, so much stuff is there that you're bound to have missed bits on your first trip around . . . 
Above: Cabinet contents range from books and paper goods to sex toys and skeletons!
Above: Shrunken heads, modified bones and scientific paraphernalia ... why not!
Above: Examples of art by collaborators of Viktor Wynd make for interesting viewing.
Above: From the beautiful to the bizarre - the collections have very little rhyme or reason. 
Above: Flying skeletons keep watch as you browse.
Above: Etchings, sketches and tattooed limbs...
Above: I've all-but cropped out the big red dildo from this otherwise fragile, beautifully melancholy display - but that's the kind of juxtaposition you can expect in this Museum of Curiosities!
Above: Visitors can hire out this area of the museum for intimate meals around a coffin, with a mummified merman hovering over you and a beastly skeleton watching on. This felt rather Rocky Horror!
Above: Gallery director Vadim Kosmos perches on a stall up in the bar above the museum. 
Above: Why not round-off your visit in the company of this dandy lioness? She'll happily sit quietly with you whilst you sip on delicious cocktails!

If you're a fan of Wunderkabinetts, curios and all things unusual then I would highly recommend a visit to The Last Tuesday Society. It's the sort of place you could expect to find Vince Noir and Howard Moon hanging out, were they real. As well as cocktails, bar snacks and - of course - the museum, the venue also hosts regular taxidermy classes, lectures and 'petting zoo' events. If you're lucky, you can even join a tour of the museum hosted by Viktor Wynd himself (usually on a Saturday afternoon - see the website for specifics).

With thanks to alicefangs and whitelephants for some of the images.

22 Jun 2015

Travel: Horniman Museum & Gardens, Forest Hill

East London's Horniman Museum (Forest Hill) was founded in 1901 by Frederick John Horniman. Having inherited his family's incredibly successful tea business, Horniman used the resulting money to indulge in passion for collection, utilising the museum - designed by Charles Harrison Townsend - to display his treasures. Specialising in anthropology, natural history, cultural artifacts and musical instruments, today the museum makes for a wonderful (and - best of all - free!) day out. Make sure you don't miss the huge Horniman Walrus (as if you could! - as you can see above, he takes pride of place in the museum) who has been on display in the museum for over a century!
Exhibits include many natural history items, including this fascinating turtle skeleton showing how the carapace (shell) connects with the rest of the skeleton.
A favourite exhibit of mine was Frederick Horniman's display of beetles, complete with handwritten descriptions. There's just something magical about this to me - the handwritten notes in particular. 
Set in 16 acres of beautiful gardens, the museum also boasts an aquarium (entrance to this includes a small fee), tea room and gift shop as well as a sound garden, nature trail and animal enclosures featuring alpacas, goats, rabbits and sheep. Not to be missed is the Grade II listed conservatory which was relocated to the site in 1980 from Horniman's family home in Croydon.
The environmentally conscious CUE building was opened in 1996 and sits alongside the outdoor seating for the tearoom.
The grounds also feature a bandstand from 1912 which offers wonderful views across the estate and beyond. 

The Horniman Museum made for a lovely afternoon out and I would recommend it for anyone interested in Natural History. Also on display is a vast collection of musical instruments and fascinating cultural artifacts - this gallery is a little creepy with hollow-eyed masks and carnival puppets and Haitian voodoo altars on display - but that was right up my street!  

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