Whipple Museum of the History of Science, 19/10/09
I attended the Cabinet of Natural History at 1pm today, at which PhD student Ruth Horry gave a fascinating talk on air ships and the attempt to capture plant spores over one trans-Atlantic voyage. It made for a sometimes amusing, sometimes tragic, always interesting story.
Then on to the Victorian Parlour, to begin my residency!
About twenty people came through the Parlour and a handful looked at the books I’ve brought in, including:
Dark Matter: Poems of Space, a few copies of Darwin’s Microscope, Human Cartography by James Gurley, River Turning Tidal by Mick Delap, and a copy of a favourite which I’m currently reading, Angels & Insects by A.S. Byatt. All but the latter are poetry books, but I also have a copy of The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes, an amazing non-fiction book, so there is variety.
Not wishing to accost people, I read and wrote, but realised that most people assume I am a docent and had a few questions about museum items.
I did have an excellent discussion, for twenty or thirty minutes, with a lady and a young man, probably her son, who was about my age—they were delightful; she a science fiction writer and he an actor! I should have asked their names and wish I had. They’d read about the ‘Poet in the Parlour’ on the Whipple website, so it’s good to know that is helping get the word out.
We had a great discussion about what it means to be a ‘Renaissance’ man or woman, the ‘two cultures’ divide, science and literature in general, agents and publishing…I told them a little about my projects…it was delightful and they were so pleasant.
I’ve decided that tomorrow I will put up a small sign saying ‘The Poet is in the Parlour: come have a chat about literature & science, browse the books or ask questions.’ I need a bit of an ice-breaker. I’m here to be informative, and hopefully approachable, hopefully adding an interesting new element to the parlour, but I don’t want to rush up to museum guests with my book.
One thing I love about museums, especially small ones like the Whipple, is the serene, thought-provoking space they offer. Talking sometimes disturbs that, so I want to talk if guests are interested, but I don’t want to disturb them if they don’t. It is a pleasant mix for me—I enjoy a good conversation and I spend a lot of time in (what I hope is) productive contemplation.
If only the heating worked, this would be quite a cozy little Victorian Parlour. Fortunately they’re working on fixing that problem…