Saturday, 6 August 2011

Corinium Museum

I rather fancy doing this. A tour of local English museums. If anyone would like to fork out a squillion quid for a local museum fanatic to wander freely about our beautiful countryside, chatting to old ladies guarding our national treasures - collections of old spoons, broken saucers, rusted farm machinery with bits dropped off, signed photographs of Wilfred Pickles - then I am the woman for the job.

Of course I have to deal with one issue immediately. Class. Some local museums know they are in locations that are distinctly up-market, and have to behave accordingly.

Take the Cotswolds. It's so upscale, it brings out in me the side of the family we never mention. But I can feel myself turning into a Revolutionary Marxist just walking down the High Street, and this is only Cirencester.

Admittedly, within ten minutes of this fancy town, I'm feeling a bit bolshy. I get scowled at by a yachting type in a Cirencester car park for my new sin (I don't know, parking the car?); the council considers 20p in exchange for my wee is not exorbitant; the heel of my shoe is levered off by a Cirencester grate (they would say, all the fault of my thick ankles); and I then suffer a self-inflicted wound when I drop a lump of Tesco value coleslaw straight into the left cup of my bra.

In that state, (disgruntled, full-bladdered, limping, bosoms whiffing of vinegar) I set off with three gritlets following the discreet wrought iron signage to Corinium Museum, through the tasteful colour coordinated streets of Cirencester.

I ask Tiger if she can eye-spy any female not wearing a linen mix. After five minutes she gives in. I tell Squirrel, if you see any man wearing a vest, shout. And to Shark, I say, can you spot a plastic handbag? Apart from mine?

Well, now you get the idea about Grit's day out to Corinium Museum. It's located in a very up-market traditional and stylish place where radical has barely touched. It has an image to maintain; one that likes to say, We transcend the local. We are groomed for higher states.

Welcome, Grit.

Corinium Museum is entirely in keeping with its surroundings. Stone carved letters and discreet beige titles nailed to a beige stone background is, indeed, so discreet that I stand in front of the sodding building and can barely make the words out. The rules of sartorial elegance can clearly be applied to buildings as well as the inhabitants of Cirencester.

Inside, behind the ticket desk, there is an old lady. Of course there is. This is all part of local museum culture, and I defy you to find a muscly young man with tongue stud and facial tattoo.

The old lady is pretty much in keeping with the tone of Cirencester and charges me seven quid for a guidebook coming in at 3.50. She claims this is an accident, but it seems to me entirely fitting. Everything in the Cotswolds assumes a genteel status and is naturally twice the cover price.

Once inside, the museum has no intention of letting you forget that Cirencester was the second largest town in Roman Britain. It still enjoys this status, greatly ennobled by Cotswold stone and nearby David Bullingdon Club, so as you tour round, behave yourself.

But from here on, I think you must visit. First because if anyone wants any more fantastic insight into the class and culture of Britain as demonstrated through its local museumery, then I want a contract, and second, because whatever you read about Corinium Museum on the reviews sites, they are mostly true.

It has an excellent presentation of prehistoric to Roman finds, plus informative arrangements, clear interpretations, supportive visuals and strong presentation of key exhibits making it utterly suitable for the Mummy Grit School of Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, and the Grit Education Method which is, basically, talk about stuff.

So yes, of course avoid the school tours because they are a nightmare anywhere, but otherwise, apart from missing out the v. important referencing of Cotswolds middle to upper class, the reviewers on trip adviser are right. (Although I suspect one of the contributors is the very professional and presentation-savvy curator.)

See? They may be Roman but they are still old spoons.


Dave H said...

My father used to work in an office above the museum. I remember the office floor as bearing a passing resemblance to a modern model of space-time. It certainly wasn't flat or level. Many years later I worked in Cirencester for a few years, although this time the office floor was level.

Grit said...

there is a whiff of suspicion here, is there not, dave? A wobbled floor made level?

to my mind it is entirely in keeping with how the cotswoldsians tidy up unsightly versions of history, eh?