Posts Tagged ‘renaissance’

London — By Andrea Kirkby on February 15, 2010 at 1:32 pm
Filed under: featuredarticle, london for kids, london museums, medieval, renaissance, V&A

Fun in the V&A

I had a little extra time in the V&A Medieval and Renaissance galleries this weekend, and one of the things I really enjoyed was the number of fun things you can do – trying on mailed gauntlets, rubbing a brass, or designing your own monsters.

Try this on at home - or at least, try on one like this in the V&A!

I’m sure these activities are intended for kids. But you know what? It was the grown-ups who were trying most of them out!

I particularly liked the gauntlet. When you try it on, you feel how the plates of the mail slide silky-smooth over your hand, and it’s really quite sinister, a bit like animating a metal snake.

There’s a particularly neat ‘What is it?’ display with some very strange implements, and covered answers for you to check. I’m not going to spoil the surprise here – but anyway, I thought I was pretty expert on Renaissance culture, having been a keen re-enactor and also done a fair bit of art history. I think I scored 2 out of 6!

There are also a number of touchy items, all labelled quite clearly ‘Please touch me’, and with braille labels. While they may be intended mainly for the unsighted, I found it a valuable addition to my understanding of some of the items to be able to touch – for instance, a carved wooden boss, on which you can actually feel the sharpness of the carving and the grain of the wood standing up.

One of these items is fascinating. We have the account book of the man for whom Donatello made a roundel of the Madonna and child. In that book, he mentions how the back was carved out so that the design could be cast (or stamped, I suppose) in glass. The V&A conservators have done exactly that, and now display the glass roundel so you can see how well it worked – and run your fingers over it.

Not all the activities are great. Drawing didn’t seem to be a great favourite. either with adults or kids. But it certainly adds something to anyone’s experience of the galleries to be able to touch and try on the exhibits, and it’s something I hope more museums will try.

Photo by Unforth on flickr


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