Thaw

After some bitterly cold days, culminating on Saturday morning with a low of -9 degrees in the garden here, it’s warmer today. We were in Oxford on Saturday, and spent most of the day in the Ashmolean Museum (www.ashmolean.org) keeping warm and being enlightened at the same time. I’d not been since the huge new building and re-configuring of the exhibition spaces, and I have to say it was fantastic. The blend between the original building and the new space is virtually seamless, and one keeps coming across unexpected glimpses of other floors and galleries which is a total contrast to the ‘old’ museum. Slightly sad to see some well-loved displays have gone – all those pale wood glass cabinets full of prehistoric stone tools carefully hand-labelled – but overall a vast improvement, though there is (or seems to be) less material on display overall? One is frequently advised to spend a lot of time in a museum or gallery looking at just one painting or artefact, but that seems hard to do in practice, especially when one is an infrequent visitor. Even so, we spent a long time on a few rooms and did not even visit two whole floors, so plenty for the next visit. A dearth of garden-related material – though of course the museum has its roots in collections amassed by the John Tradescants (father and son), who were gardeners and plant collectors (everything-collectors, I fancy).

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