... with one eye open.

By Chamaeleo

NHM: Images of Nature

More atmospheric in large ("L").

Here are some of the disappointed museum visitors (the dinosaurs gallery is closed...) fighting back their tears in the Images of Nature gallery. This is one of my favourite galleries: it is beautifully fitted out and decorated, always pretty quiet (and rather cool as it is climate controlled to protect the artwork), and contains some treasures. It is a varied gallery containing both images of nature as produced by modern imaging techniques (such as CT scans, photographs, and scanning electron micrographs) and also traditional artwork that features nature as its subject. I'm a fan of botanical and zoological illustrations as both a form of art and a scientific discipline (the morphology, colours, and details must be accurately represented), and these are pleasingly represented here even though there isn't a great number of individual pieces to view. The gallery aims to explore the variety of ways in which the natural world can be imaged, rather than featuring a vast number of artworks; it was recently refitted and features just over a hundred images, and also six interactive kiosks which are actually pretty nifty and allow a variety of artworks to be examined in great detail, and techniques and particular pieces are described and explained in videos.

The gallery is atmospheric as it is kept fairly dark with the exhibits spotlit, backlit, and in lit cabinets; the low lighting makes high ISO a necessity (without a tripod...), but I managed to keep it relatively unextreme here and am pleased with the overall look of the image.

The dodo at the left is a fascinating exhibit: the original painting is from the 1620s (it is thought to have been painted by Flemish artist Roelandt Savery) and is a very famous depiction of the bird, but it hangs next to a modern painting that was commissioned to represent the dodo based on our modern understanding of avian anatomy rather than simply based on the iconic image. It is now thought that dodos were more upright and rather less podgy than we imagine them to have been: stuffed dodos almost always conform to the image of the bird than achieving the correct anatomy. When Richard Owen first reconstructed a dodo skeleton from bones that he was sent, he actually fitted them inside an outline taken from the Savery painting; he then produced and publish a detailed description of the species, thus perpetuating the iconic (but incorrect) image that remains even now!

p.s. Hum, the pots at the right are a "site-specific installation" entitled "The Remains of the Soil From the Land Where the Sun Never Set". Today while I was taking photographs, I heard a visitor comment (to their companion) that there must be a leak, and they were both serious as the other responded, "No, they've holes in the bottom, so that wouldn't work." I had no idea what they were for until I looked them up and was informed that they are art...

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