To start off this post I wanted to briefly talk about my one day off. A few friends and I had a picnic in Regent's Park and then went shopping (don't worry, Mom, I just went window shopping) and got the most AWESOME frozen yogurt ever at a place called Snog in Convent Garden, a very cute area, and then to the Thames Festival at night. The Festival was so much fun! There were a lot of cute little vendors selling clothing, homemade items, baked goods, and food in general. We obviously took care of that, eating burritos and Nutella and strawberry crepes. DELICIOUS!! The night ended with an awesome fireworks show right over the bridge. It was a very nice day off indeed.
In other news the past two days have been entirely devoted to going to visit different museums, including the Natural History Museum (not to be mistaken as New York's Museum of Natural History), the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Imperial War Museum.
I enjoyed the Natural History Museum a lot more than I thought I would. It was indeed similar to the Museum of Natural History in NYC, but, based on memory, I felt that this museum was a lot more interactive. For example, in the dinosaur exhibit they had robotic dinosaurs that moved around and “roared” at people walking by. There were also computers around the exhibits providing information and allowing people to become more engaged by doing things like making a fossil collection. I thought this was very fun and made the museum more kid-friendly.
I thought the V&A had an excellent variety of artifacts, with exhibits ranging from collections of silver to jewelry to items used at teatime. I thought the most interesting exhibits were the ones showcasing the jewelry and providing information about what it means to have tea. The jewelry exhibit was interesting because you got to see the evolution of jewelry over the decades, from tiaras to rings to necklaces and bracelets; they even had a Kennedy pin. From my perspective, much of the older jewelry looked more like costume jewelry today, except a lot more extravagant and sparkly. I liked the tea exhibit because it helped me better understand why Colonists were so angry about the Tea Tax the King put upon them before the Revolution. I always thought they were just upset because they simply enjoyed drinking tea, but this exhibit taught me that having tea was a daily practice for the English, especially those in the upper class, so taking this tradition away from them was a huge slap in the face and implied they were of “low” society. The one thing I was upset about in the V&A is that the fashion exhibit, one I really wanted to see, is closed until 2012.
At the Imperial War Museum, I looked at exhibits relating to World War I, II, and the Holocaust specifically. I thought that the World War I and II exhibits were set up very similarly. They each showcased artifacts, had images from the war, and played video clips from the wars. The main difference I noticed was the music that was played in each exhibit. The music that was played in the WWI exhibit was more upbeat and prideful, almost congratulating the work of the soldiers. This went along with the pictures of specific people in the war that were commemorated for all of their successes in the war. There were not many of these images in the other exhibit. The music in the WWII exhibit, however, was quite the opposite. It reminded me of the music played in the final scenes of the film, Inglorious Bastards, when everyone gets murdered: it sounds like opera music that is both holy and depressing at the same time. This music, for me, evoked more emotional feelings than the music in the WWI exhibit. This type of music went along with the images of the murdered people, and the people still alive screaming for help. I think this definitely evoked more feeling than war music, such as the music of Mars from Holst’s Planets, because it provided contrast to those images shown.
The Holocaust exhibit definitely provoked greater emotion out of me than the other two exhibits. I believe this is because it focused in more on the genocide of the Jews and other people Adolf Hitler deemed to be inferior to the white race as opposed to the war as a whole. Seeing images of murdered people and shoes that they used to wear was heartbreaking. It was also weird for me to go this exhibit in general. When I was younger, about 13, I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. However, when I went to this museum at that age, no emotion was really evoked out of me. I think that is because I was too young to comprehend the severity and horror of the situation, and therefore did not appreciate the museum or take in anything it was giving me. Now that I am older and am more educated and understanding of the horrors of war, I was able feel the pain and suffering of the Jews more than I was when I was younger. Interestingly enough, I believe the English understand this concept as before entering the exhibit, there is a sign saying it is not suitable for children under the age of 14.
In addition to the museums, we also visited the War Rooms, where Winston Churchill and other important figures worked to strategize about how to stop Hitler. I thought it was very interesting to walk through those rooms and see how people worked and lived under there during the war. Not much feeling was evoked for me during this tour, however. I think this is because I do not understand what it is like to live through a war and, unless another war breaks out directly around me to the point where my life is threatened constantly, I will never understand. I think this also has to do with how conditioned people are to war and violence today, thanks to the help of certain media and how and at what age we are taught about war in school. I think learning about war at such a young age takes away the impression of how terrible it is because, as mentioned above, kids are too young to comprehend and understand it, therefore not thinking much of it other than something they are taught in school.