Yesterday we visited the Oxford Natural History Museum. We were supposed to be visiting another Oxford Museum but it was a bit of a disastrous day (read about it here) so instead of looking into stories and being inspired to write one we were looking at everything from spears, guns and dinosaurs to shrunken heads, skulls and crocodiles and quite a lot in between.
We found the main museum just too hot -it’s really just a large, fancy, Victorian greenhouse – and yesterday we saw on the thermometer that it had reached 30 degrees so we quickly went into the Pitt Rivers part at the back which seemed to be much cooler.
There were rows upon rows of cabinets filled with the most random of items. Pitt Rivers was a man who collected on a scale that my collection of charity shop plates just can’t really compete and after his collection outgrew his bedroom (I’m being facetious) he donated it to the ONHM on proviso that they paid for its upkeep and provided a teacher to teach visitors about it.
My boys LOVE this museum probably because its contents is pretty random. Previously we’ve seen and learned about the Chinese idea of foot binding, we’ve seen head binding -the change of shape of the skulls is really quite incredible – they’ve seen examples of shrunken heads, stocks that were made many years ago to punish a particular person and, my favourite, the weaving looms that taught them how cloth was made.
The boys excitedly showed Daddy everything they had seen before as he’d not visited the museum. Information came rushing out of them with bits mainly correct but the odd piece wildly inaccurate! They also followed the mouse trail ( a trail to find wooden mice around the exhibits) which turned into a bit of a competition to see which boy could find the next one. They learned about a wooden crocodile headdress, what ‘stowaways’ on boats are and they found a nice teapot with matching tea cup that ‘Mummy would like.’ Yes, they might not remember the specifics of what they saw but just having an interest in looking, finding and talking about what they see is really the beginning of fuelling their curiosity. I wasn’t measuring their learning yesterday against academic targets as I could clearly see the enthusiasm and that’s enough for me at the moment.
We had a great time and then on the way back to the car Tobes decided to start a leaf collection. I managed to limit this collection to just 5 and he carefully chose his leaves according to his own defined criteria. He had a brown one, a mottled one, one that had just fallen off the tree by the looks of it and a couple of others. He sat and held them in the car all the way home and when we pulled into out driveway he asked if he could have a pen to draw faces on the leaves as they were his new ‘friends’.
We found him a pen and while Hubbie did the emergency tea of baked beans on toast Tobes busily set about his leaves.
I was feeding the baby and after a while Tobes came in (with Hubbie) to show me what he’d been up to and this is what I saw
He’d found a box and lined it with a piece of fabric, put some socks in there (not really sure why the socks were there but they seemed very important!) and then arranged his leaves. (There was also a sad moment when he showed me the old, brown leaf that he said was ‘the Granddad leaf as he is dead’ which had Hubbie and I filling up…)
He then said ‘It’s my museum cabinet’
And that’s when I thought, of course, you’ve made your own little museum with the leaves being the exhibits, the box being the cabinet and the clingfilm you so desperately had a confused Hubbie sticking sellotape round the edge to hold on, was the glass.
Hubbie and I were completely surprised. Surprised that he’d had the idea and made it happen. I know he’s a determined little chap but this isn’t something he’s done before.
I’m very proud of my little man and also of the museum he made.