The publishing house I work for recently threw a party in the 1886 Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and I got very excited because I love dinosaurs. I loved them when I was small because of all the complicated names and the anamatronic models in London’s Natural History Museum (remember them? They seemed so impressive!). And now I love them because we know such an amazing amount about them from bits of rock and bone but of course they are completely unknowable, unrecoverable. The pinned-together skeletons are majestic but hollow.
The roof of the Museum is almost like a skeleton itself, the ribcage of some vast complex creature. The Victorian glass had recently been extensively restored and the struts glowed in the golden hour – I was delighted that the late opening gave me the chance to see it in the evening sun.
The architecture of the Museum is a collection all on its own, as much of it is carved with flora and fauna, and all the pillars around the balcony are each made from a different British stone.
I know there is a prosaic explanation for this (serpentine is named after its greenish colour and the placename is a corruption of the Cornish ‘Lys Ardh’ meaning ‘high court’) but serpentine stone from The Lizard sounds so magically reptilian!
We also got a special tour of the entomological collections (yours truly held a tarantula!). Below, just left of the middle and labelled Cambridge, is the world’s oldest pinned butterfly. Sad but beautiful.
And this is what happens if you give me cava near dinosaurs.
p.s. You should know I wrote this wearing a dinosaur sweater.