Heather’s Show Scotland adventure: Part 2 – Dundee

After fortifying myself with a full Scottish breakfast at the B&B, I made my way to the station to catch the next train to Dundee. Although they weren’t having a Show Scotland event, I couldn’t go to Dundee and not pay a visit to the newly re-opened McManus Museum and Art Gallery. Wow, I was really impressed, from the minute I stepped through the doors. After a friendly greeting from the staff, who gave me a helpful map of the new layout, I began my exploration with the “Making of Modern Dundee” gallery. This was great fun to look round, containing objects connected with all aspects of Dundee life, from the various manufacturing industries to shopping to world wars. My favourite item was the huge paddle for stirring marmalade. I then went upstairs to the “Dundee and the World” gallery with it’s shiny, newly restored, stained glass. The obejcts here show Dundee’s links with international trade. There are some amazing examples of craftsmanship in the carvings in this gallery. My favourite item was a clothing toggle shaped like a whale. Although one of the smallest items in this gallery, it’s perfectly formed.
At the end of the Long Gallery were the “Here and Now gallery”, the “20th Century Gallery” and the “Victoria gallery”. My favourite paintings were in the latter, The Knife Grinder by Robert McGregor because there is lots going on in it and The Riders of the Sidhe by John Duncan because I like the colours and the way he paints textiles. I headed back along the Long Gallery, past the Creative Learning suite where some children were having a great time, and down to the “Landscapes and Lives” gallery. This part contains objects relating to the early parts of Dundee’s history. My favourite item here was the log boat. I popped into the cafe where I had a lovely lunch (good food and good service). I’ll definitely be back for another visit in the future (if only for another slice of lemon loaf!) As I left and was about to cross the road outside, a couple of tourists stopped me and asked if I would take a photo of them in front of the museum, so they were obviously impressed with the refurbishment too!

My next stop was the D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum at the University of Dundee. If anyone had asked me a couple of weeks ago who D’Arcy Thompson was, my reply would have been “Who?” So, when I saw that the museum was having a Show Scotland event connected to the 150th Anniversary of his birth, this was my chance to find out about him. Firstly, we were serenaded by the University Choir who sang us three songs around the theme of animals and birds. We then had a talk about some of the discoveries the curatorial staff had made about D’Arcy whilst researching for the 150 anniversary celebrations. This was followed by a talk about D’Arcy’s assistants, who all went on to become notable natural historians in their own right. I was really interested to hear how much D’Arcy encouraged his female assistants, one of whom, Doris McKinnon, became the first female professor at King’s College London, where she headed the Zoology Department.
After another musical interlude from the choir we heard from Mike Taylor (yes, our very own Mike Taylor, in his role as natural historian) about a particular voyage to the Bering Sea made by D’Arcy and his assistant Alex Rodger, who had a connection with Perth Museum. This was followed by a talk on how D’Arcy’s groundbreaking work “On Growth and Form” is still applied today.
We had a chance to look around the museum and the most striking item for me was the skull of the salt water crocodile. No mistaking that for anything else. I certainly wouldn’t like to feel those jaws clamped around my ankle! This was a sharp contrast to my other favourite object in the museum, a wee hummingbird’s nest. So, with my curiosity about D’Arcy Thompson satisfied, it was time to go home to Edinburgh.

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