Friday, February 6, 2009

What you can find in a museum cleaners vacuum bag?

Associated Press reported just before Christmas 2008 that a $15,000 diamond had been ‘found’ by cleaners at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. A closer reading of the story revealed that it must have first been ‘lost’ by its owner, as it was ‘found’ by the cleaners by combing through the detritus of 4 vacuum bags. Apparently the one-carat stone had fallen out of one Catherine Hart’s ring during a ‘Night at the Museum’ sleepover. News must have been short that day, because we also learnt that Hart was 59, thrilled to have recovered the diamond, which her husband gave her in 2000, and intends to give it to her granddaughter someday. She was even quoted as saying the episode showed ‘the diamond is forever, it really is, because it came back to me”.

Setting aside the questionable sense of a New York matron sleeping in a semi-public place with a loosely attached diamond, it got me thinking about whether I would like to sleep over in a museum, and if so which one. I rather enjoyed the Ben Stiller movie Night at the Museum, especially the cameo performance of Ricky Gervais as the museum’s director. It’s the ultimate interactive museum where everything comes alive, from battlefield dioramas to dinosaurs. It reflects I am sure a deep seated desire amongst many museum goers to see more than static exhibits, a process becoming increasingly realisable through the work of the likes of Sarah Kenderdine at the Museum of Victoria (the Virtual Room) and Peter Morse, Visualisation consultant at UNSW.

But where might I like to bed down? First choice would have to be the King’s Library at the British Museum, not only because of its extraordinary beauty and proportions as a room, but also because of the gorgeously eclectic selection of objects displayed in it – a ’cabinet of curiosities’ on a grand scale. Both at night time and during the day it is a space to be wallowed in. Closer to home, the Boiler Hall at the Powerhouse Museum is not only a great space, but from day one of its opening under Lindsay Sharp in 1988 dedicated to the theme of transport it has had some of my favourite museum objects on display from the Catalina to the Central Station destination board. I would happily camp there for a night.

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