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December 4, 2006

National Museum of Scotland

I'm a terrible science museum geek and have been known to visit cities purely for their science centre. Though I seem to have outgrown the worst of this nerdy-ness, I recently visited the National Museum of Scotland, in Edinburgh, and wanted to share a few things I noticed.

It takes a very long look at the history of Scotland, considering natural history alongside all the Celts and Romans, Kings and Queens, etc. This is the approach lots of museums used to take. The Natural History Museum used to be part of the British Museum, in fact the V&A and the Science Museum were the same for years too; the delineation of science museums is a (reasonably) recent trend. Anyway, my point is that it's visitors aren't just coming for the science, and it is part of a larger, more broadly influenced, institution.

Visually there were a few things that caught my eye. All the photos are links to flickr, so you can click on them to see bigger versions.


Above is the piece I was most intrigued by. It'sa allusion to children's own writing within a science text. Some of the explanatory sections of signage were presented as a schoolchild's exercise book*, with "hand-written" notes and diagrams. I think this says a lot about how and when the public are expected to engage with scientific ideas.


There was also this illustration, used as backdrop to cases and displays. This is in many ways decorative, but also takes a small cross-section of roots, a rather traditional form of technical illustration. There was not further textual elucidation of this cross section that I could see, and I wondered if the scene was an illustration from an old science book pasted up mainly for decorative purposes. Below is another shot of it, with one if the display cases in front, showing "Nessie" along side more "scientific" displays.

nessie at museum of scotland

If you are in Ediburgh, it's worth going to the museum, if only to see Dolly. Yes, the real Dolly (preserved). The Science Museum in London only has a jumper made from her wool (an intarsia jumper, with a picture of a sheep on it, naturally, but a just a jumper nonetheless).

* or rather "jotters", it being Scotland.

December 3, 2006

Narrative map

Rojan's path of the hare

This is a drawing found in the book 'Frou' (that's the name of the hare) originally published in French; a Père Castor book from the 1930s (though this English version is undated). It was done by drawing directly onto lithographic stone by Rojan (Feodor Rojankovsky), a brilliant illustrator of many of these books, which mostly recount stories about animals in their natural surroundings.

This isn't exactly a contemporary publication. My point is that the drawings themselves are diverse and highly inventive, including scenes, diagrams, maps of the narrative (like the one shown here) and comic-strip series of actions such as birds diving in the water… a precursor to all the original and instructive ways of conceiving of illustration found in many children's books today.