Day and night at the museum
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.