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An entertaining story here about how some well-meaning Victorians unwittingly misled millions of people for nigh-on 150 years:

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Introducing the first in an occasional series drawing your attention to some of the most interesting merchandise available from the gift shops of our galleries and museums…

William Morris bottle

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There is perhaps just one of the many ‘achievements’ of Tony Blair’s New Labour administration that has proved uncontroversial and universally popular.  It also happens to be the only one that directly relates to this blog: the 2001 decision to abolish entry fees to a number of the UK’s major museums and art galleries.

How wonderful then to see the Times living up to its reputation and asking for us plebs to be charged again to ‘encourage quality’ in a recent article their web editors have signposted under “Intellect R.I.P.”:

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***You can find part one of this post here.***

Proudly nested just behind the elegant facade of the University of Manchester, just yards from where Ernest Rutherford did some very important stuff with atoms and what-have-you (yes, in Manchester, not Cambridge), lies the Manchester Museum.

Manchester Museum

Now, I don’t want to be superficial, but the obvious place to start with MM is size.  The range of exhibits fall perhaps somewhere in the middle of London’s British Museum and Natural History Museum.  However, if the Manchester Museum were to meet these bigger boys down a dark alleyway and say something inadvised about their parentage then I think it would be our Lancashire friend left with the bruised brickwork and broken wooden cabinets.

On the other hand, what might be genuinely lacking in breadth (and occasionally quality) is more than made up for in charm.  And I certainly don’t mean that as a patronising pat on the head.

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Think of this as an accompaniment to Picture of the Week: i.e. anything that doesn’t fit neatly under that heading will get squeezed into this one instead.  I suspect we’ll be featuring mainly museum exhibits, but I may come up with the occasional sculpture, installation or what have you…  First up:

Phillips Economic Computer

What the hell is that?  Good question.  It is, in a nutshell, an attempt at creating both a model and clear visual representation of national economics in action – using, of course, the universal language of dyed water.

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For reasons that may or may not become clear as we proceed, the following quote seemed as good a place as any to kick this whole thing off from…  Although much-referenced, it has not been easy to find comprehensive links, but some are provided below.  Let’s be honest though, the words speak entirely for themselves:

These ambiguities, redundancies, and deficiencies recall those attributed by Dr. Franz Kuhn to a certain Chinese encyclopedia called the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge.

In its distant pages it is written that animals are divided into:

(a) those that belong to the emperor;

(b) embalmed ones;

(c) those that are trained;

(d) suckling pigs;

(e) mermaids;

(f) fabulous ones; Read the rest of this entry »

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