I love museums. Culture, history, art and science coming together under one roof, collecting the shared human experience we all share. Whenever visiting a destination I always make sure to check out the local museums, hoping to soak in rare artefacts, learn about different ways of life and having my eyes opened to the wonders of the world. Here is a list of some of the museum experiences that have really stayed with me, from destinations all over the world.
1. National Museum of Iceland – Reykjavik, Iceland
Located in the heart of Reykjavik’s Old Town, I had only planned to spend an hour or two at the National Museum of Iceland. Cut to six hours later, and I was still engrossed in the history and culture of the Icelandic people. With fascinating exhibits and guided audio tours in a variety of languages, the entire history of Iceland from settlement to the present day is presented. From the Icelandic Sagas and the Vikings, to medieval ships and armour, historical accounts and modern challenges facing the small Nordic nation – the collection is staggering, and a fascinating insight into the history of this interesting little country in the middle of the North Atlantic.
Highlights: The strata ash-layers of Iceland’s history-changing volcanic eruptions, ancient viking artefacts and costumes, and original books of settlement and the Icelandic saga tales.
2. American Museum of Natural History – New York, USA
Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City, the American Museum of Natural History is probably the most well known museum in the world. Possessing one of the greatest collections of fossils in the western world, the museum has over 32 million specimens, making it one of the largest in the world. The sheer scale of the building is daunting – do yourself a favour and grab an audio tour and plan your visit to maximise your chances of seeing everything you want to!
Highlights: The spectacular wall of biodiversity, the stunning taxidermy collections in the American sections, the space shows in the Hayden Planetarium and of course the amazing collection of dinosaur fossils on the fourth floor!
3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York, USA
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an exhaustive collection that spans thousands of years of human history and civilisation – nowhere in the world can you walk through so many years of history under the same roof. A summary of the collection is impossible in a single post. Allow a whole day (possibly more!) to just scrap the surface of this amazing repository of human history, art and culture – and be sure to plan your visit in advance!
Highlights: The fully reassembled Egyptian Temple of Dendur, the medieval knights in the Halls of Arms and Armour, and the exquisite collection of Greek artefacts. Not to mention the extensive collections of American art and portraiture on the upper floors.
4. The British Museum – London, United Kingdom
Probably the world’s most famous and well-known institution, the British Museum is a must-do on any first visit to the city of London. A rich history surrounds the museum – the massive collection of artefacts, art and sculpture was amassed during the Empire’s exploration and discovery from across the world’s cultures. Despite the sometimes dubious acquisition of the museum’s treasures, the museum is still a internationally recognised centre of preservation and history.
Highlights: The Egyptian wing of the museum boasts the Rosetta Stone, the critical key to deciphering the ancient and mysterious hieroglyphics of the Pharaohs, as well as halls of mummies and sarcophagi. The Greek section features the controversial Elgin Marbles, sculptures from Frieze of the now ruined Parthenon of Athens, lining the walls in their original positions.
5. Deutsches Museum – Munich, Germany
The Deutsches Museum was founded in 1903 and is the world’s largest museum of science and technology. Located on a small island in the Isar river in the middle of Munich, the museum boasts ground-breaking German technology and machinery from throughout the last two centuries – aeronautics, space flight, scanning electron microscopy to name but a few. Prepare to learn about chemistry and biology, machinery and the industrial revolution thought the history of Germany.
Highlights: The museum has an extensive gallery on microscopy, focusing on both light and electron techniques. As a science nerd this collection was fascinating, and included the world’s first electron microscopes, as well as a large contemporary exhibit on DNA and genetics, including the technology behind the mapping of the human genome.
Obviously this list will change as I’m lucky enough to visit more of the world’s museums and art collections. What’s your favourite museum? Whats the one gallery you could spend an entire day wandering the halls of?