Friday, 22 March 2013

Southampton SeaCity Museum

Q: How is Southampton's SeaCity Museum?
A: The maritime history gallery? High on design, shallow on information.

Like, I was desperate to know more about The Oak Book. This is amazing! A book of council rules dating from 1300! Who doesn't want to know more about the shipping trade, local politics, and social interests of medieval Southampton? But no museum information helps me out. I stood in front of the thing questioning the fount of all wisdom, my ipad. Result. Then I went and collared the man at the desk. He confessed (after only three minutes interrogation and no thumb screws!) that if you're a visitor seeking knowledge in any depth or detail about Southampton's sea history, you'd be better off with the city archive service.

A: Titanic gallery upstairs? Excellent.

After my historical huftypufty, I start feeling better with the upstairs Titanic tour; it is excellent, with a visual narrative combining with individual stories and insights into the social setting of 1912. Dramatically, it is well designed, as you have to appear to cross the gangplank onto the fatal ship, then engage in deck life, before being sunk with the video. Your progress ends with the Titanic inquiry, for which you sit in a courtroom and pretend to be judge, jury, or speaker in the dock. By the time I'd finished, I felt wrung out and knew for sure that Leonardo DiCaprio was never on board.

A: Titanic gallery downstairs? Pleasing many masters.

Probably designed with National Curriculum History attainment targets in mind, 3.1, 4.2, 5.7 (2011). I pointed out a few choice items (film versions; plastic diver; question about a locked torch case) then left it, to go and drag Shark out of Gallery 1.

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger do as they do in all museums (home educated child alert). It delights and frustrates me in equal measure. Every panel has to be read; information has to be copied into notebooks; artifacts have to be scrutinised; videos watched; audios attended to. It makes me hugely proud and simultaneously pissed off when, after one hour, they're still at the first gallery, when the place shuts before they've gone the whole round.

As usual, we were chased out the building by jangling keys.

Conclusion is yes, visit, at least for the Titanic. And, of course, for the overnight stay in the local Premier Inn where you can enjoy their delicious breakfast, including my favourite speciality - of which I have to secure at least three for my handbag - their leek and potato vegetarian sausages.

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