Zeitgeist (or: Spirit of the Age)

I have just come back from a lovely visit to Shrewsbury where I met with Phil Scoggins and Jackie Tweddle at Rowley’s House. It was a very productive day.

I was there to discuss the plans for the two cabinets I’ve been asked to fill.  We caught up with the latest developments on the project (funding is an issue as it is with anything, especially museums; everything detailed about this project on my blog is, of course, ‘funding permitting’) as well as digging deeper into the approaches I outlined. 

I have an even more focused idea now and can’t wait to get back to the collections.  At the moment, Shrewsbury museum tends to single out individuals in Shropshire’s past and use panels to educate the public on the subject.  Many of the objects on show aren’t necessarily related to the people being discussed which, although interesting, isn’t how it’s going to be done at the new site.  What Phil and Co. are trying to do with the new location is to centre the stories and the people around the objects themselves.

Personally, I think that it’s an object that one engages with and the stories and people involved are more exciting because one is interested in that object.  I will hopefully have two large cases to play with and will, as mentioned before, choose a variety of specimens to ignite people’s imaginations and drag them back to the Victorian era. 

Who were these Victorian men and women able to devote so much time to this ‘hobby’? Why were they collecting things and what were they used for? How did they collect and preserve the specimens?  What impact did that have on the natural world? Was there a difference between how men and women collected?

I think it’s easy to think about the Victorian era as stuffy and prim; eccentric yet dull.  To understand what, why and how these people did what they did, we need to understand the Zeitgeist:

Zeitgeist (German) is “the spirit of the times” or “the spirit of the age.”  Zeitgeist is the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual, and/or political climate within a nation or even specific groups, along with the general ambience, morals, sociocultural direction and mood associated with an era.

It is still early days but I hope you get an idea about where we’re going with this.  There may be a way to use some of the larger taxidermy cases in the exhibit as well. It’s all to play for and the flexibility allows me to have fun with it.  Here are some images from Shrewsbury museum:

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11 thoughts on “Zeitgeist (or: Spirit of the Age)

  1. I used to manage a Victorian taxidermy collection and the variety of specimens was incredible. The “star” was a Bengal tiger.

  2. hey I have to do a presentation that includes 20 objects that capture the zeitgeist of Victorian Britain. trying to move away from the obvious – a steam train or a telegraph – do you have any suggestions??

    • Merci de votre participation à cette 2ème édition de Mets tes baskets dans l’entreprise, créée en 2011 par l’association ELA. Une opération accessible à toutes les entreprises !! chaque engagement compte, chaque pas compte !

  3. Hey Russell,
    I grew up near Rowley’s House and loved it. While at a taxidermy-themed event at the Horniman last week (obviously now drawn to stuffed animals!), I wondered what ever happened to the exhibits. Great to get some insight into it – I’ll definitely make a trip to the new Shrewsbury Museum next time I’m back in town.

    • Yeah, it was great! Lots of extra behind-the-scenes insight, which is good considering how many times I’ve already been, ha! It’s the default activity when I have friends and family staying. I also won the Twitter competition to choose an animal for the homepage of the site earlier this year, a very proud moment.

      Must have been an interesting place to work!

      • Guaranteed, man that is the nicest way to begin a day! Rainy days, you back in France now? Hey, if I had money I wouldn’t be dreaming of an office, but a little cash is necessary to feel free, maybe. That’s how it feels right now. Hope you’re doing good! Do you write as well as write and play music? Would love to see your writing site if you have one, I’ll bet it’s good!

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