I’d been planning to take E to the Natural History Museum for a while, and decided last week may be a good time to do it until I realised I’d not left enough time to book train tickets. (I only thought about this three weeks ago – I’m not remortgaging the house to get to London for a day, we’ll just go later this year. I’ll try and book now.) She’s been into dinosaurs for a while and I thought she’d like to see them. But then I remembered Leicester.
S and I have a soft spot for New Walk Museum as it’s where I was able to get him a ticket to meet his hero Sir David Attenborough a few years’ back when I worked for Waterstone’s and Sir Dave was giving a talk for his new book. We’ve not been back since but I knew they had dinosaurs there. Further investigation revealed dinosaurs, a wildlife section, a play area for under 5s, German expressionism and an art and craft display about the chap who built Stoneywell house (see previous blog). We decided to go.
E loves taking the train so was already excited when we got to the station and sat and coloured in the children’s worksheets from the museum’s website while we travelled. It was pouring with rain but we were ready for it with umbrella, boots and rain coats. It’s a short walk from the station to the museum and they have a rail for hanging your dripping coats.
Funnily enough, once we walked into the gallery E wasn’t that interested in the dinosaurs on display (this is typical.) I don’t know if she expected them to be real or if she was just blase about the whole thing. She enjoyed the interactive display about aquatic pre-historic animals and we did talk about fossils for a while but then we moved on. The wildlife section did interest her a lot more, and was also well laid out for children, despite being quite a small gallery. She liked the woodland crawling area (you come face to face with a fox and badger, as well as small tunnels and worms) and the polar bear in the Arctic bit.
We had a cup of tea (the coffee shop is adequate though Costa so all the drinks are made with water that is nuclear hot, and it’s not great for lunch. Sandwiches, I think, sausage rolls and other wise lots of cakes) and then went upstairs to the world art section which held her interest a little, and the Picasso gallery which had a selection of ceramics donated by the Attenboroughs (Richard) in memory of his daughter and granddaughter who died in the Boxing Day tsunami.
These were decorated with animals and faces and she did like them, though she did also like running about in this gallery. The German expressionists I thought were fascinating but didn’t have time to look properly, though we did say hello to their David Bowie tribute wall. Again, E was interested but only in a superficial way – she liked the film playing on the floor. I don’t really expect her to pay a lot of attention but once in a while she would point something out and I (who usually spends very little time in galleries) would have to make do with trying to take in what I could.
There were some other galleries with temporary exhibitions which we didn’t go in, and the gift shop (I love a good museum gift shop – we bought a pack of small plastic dinosaurs, a hatch your own dinosaur egg, a dinosaur sticker book and a plastic cup with a dinosaur on it. In short, complete tat. V enjoyable.)
We made our way out into the rain in order to find some lunch before our second museum of the day – more on that in the next blog. But how do I rate the New Walk Museum and gallery for children? 7 1/2 10 – free entry, easy to access, good exhibitions, friendly staff, rubbish coffee shop. Also there weren’t any postcards of the building or the dinosaurs, a small thing but we send postcards when we go anywhere to my mum, niece and nephew and they don’t want art reproductions.
New Walk Museum is open seven days a week and is free to enter.