Indulged in a bit of time travel earlier this month, and visited the Redpath Museum on the campus of McGill University. Its collections, and its old-fashioned labelling and display cases, truly evoke an earlier era of natural history museums. Indeed, the Redpath is one of the oldest museums in Canada, established in 1882.
|This is the scene I remember from childhood visits: |
being greeted by the skeleton of a ferocious dinosaur
|As a child, I didn't appreciate the beautiful|
architectural details of the plaster work, and the way
the decorative motifs echo natural forms of shells and plants.
|The impressive front door, seen here from the inside,|
is masterfully carved.
|Among the items on display are shells, coral, and a giant crab.|
|A group of university students was busy sketching some of|
the animal specimens.
The mineral collection includes over 20,000 items from all over the world. Exhibits dedicated to hominid evolution, Egyptology, and world cultures fill the upper floor. (I had forgotten about shrunken heads!)
Compared to natural history museums in Ottawa, Toronto, London or New York, the Redpath Museum is modest. It has not been a funding priority for either the university or the government, and it is very much a relic of the Victorian era. And therein lies its charm.