Day and night at the mu­seum

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

From Page 1 me­dieval build­ing on the Arno River and only a paint­ing’s toss from the Uf­fizi Gallery.

In­side, the Medici col­lec­tion of­fers a dis­play of 500 years of sci­en­tific in­stru­ments, in­clud­ing all things Galilean. I’m struck that not only did early sci­en­tists de­sign th­ese ex­quis­ite de­vices to mea­sure, say, at­mo­spheric pres­sure or grav­ity, but they of­ten built them too. The Lor­raine col­lec­tion has enough me­chan­i­cal, math­e­mat­i­cal, elec­tri­cal and time­keep­ing de­vices to keep us en­thralled. Then, whoa, we hit the 17th and 18th-cen­tury child­birth and sur­gi­cal col­lec­tions and de­cide it’s time for a cap­puc­cino. www.imss.fi.it.

Vasa Mu­seum, Stock­holm: This Swedish mu­seum is like Dr Who’s Tardis: very small out­side and very big in­side. And like the Tardis it takes vis­i­tors to an­other world, specif­i­cally 17th-cen­tury Scan­di­navia. In 1628, Stock­holm’s finest gath­ered to watch the launch of the king’s glo­ri­ous 64-gun war­ship, the Vasa.

Af­ter much hoo-ha and, yes, a 64-gun salute, the world’s might­i­est ship turned tur­tle and sank. Oops.

Sal­vaged in 1961 and beau­ti­fully re­stored, the ship, which is the last of its kind any­where, now stands in front of me. It’s enor­mous, 60m from bow to stern and about four storeys tall. I re­alise im­me­di­ately that this will be no whip-in, whip-out visit. There are ex­hibits on seven lev­els, built around the breath­tak­ing ves­sel, pre­sent­ing the lat­est arche­o­log­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal ev­i­dence about the Vasa and the 30-50 peo­ple who died in the dis­as­ter. I’d bet­ter hurry: the mu­seum closes in four hours. www.vasamuseet.se.

Egyp­tian Mu­seum, Cairo: If San Fran­cisco’s Ex­plorato­rium is the daddy of all sci­ence mu­se­ums, the 144-year-old Egyp­tian Mu­seum is the mummy of all arche­ol­ogy mu­se­ums. And we’re here to pay our re­spects to the most fa­mous mummy of them all, King Tut.

Briskly thread­ing our way through the crowds of lo­cals and tourists, we make our way to the boy king’s room. I’ve seen some fan­tas­tic stuff on mu­seum trawls, but Tut’s grave goods go be­yond fan­tas­tic. The beauty, crafts­man­ship and vi­brancy of the ob­jects, which were made by ar­ti­sans more than 3000 years ago, leave me speech­less. In this gallery there are no gig­gles, flash­ing cam­eras or loud voices.

And, as a car­ni­val spruiker would say, ‘‘ Wait there’s more!’’ Roughly 120,000 items are on dis­play at any time; sup­pos­edly, an­other 150,000 are stored in the base­ment. We take a breath, re­group and be­gin at the beginning, the Narmer Pal­ette pe­riod, dat­ing from about 3100BC. Go on ahead. We’ll catch up with you in about six months. www.egyp­tianmu­seum.gov.eg. Leigh Day­ton is TheAus­tralian ’ s sci­ence writer.

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