Ipswich Museum

I had read on twitter that Ipswich Museum is one of the best preserved civic museums, still with one of the display cases which it brought from its original building which opened as a private natural history museum in 1846 in Museum Street to its new building by Horace Cheston which opened in 1881, with its fine terracotta façade and its Jungle Case with backdrop painted by E.R. Smyth, a local Ipswich artist:-

Inside is highly atmospheric, although potentially at risk from a forthcoming lottery development (I haven’t seen how the Pitt Rivers has maintained its original style of display). The displays were Darwinian, based on the ideas of the Rev. Professor J.S. Henslow, who was the Museum’s President and had been Darwin’s tutor at Christ’s:-

The Great Pied Hornbill:-

At the back are displays of human anatomy:-

Upstairs are the great ornithological collections of Fergus Ogilvie (1861-1918), a local landowner with an estate in Argyllshire and author of Field Observations on British Birds:-

A reconstruction of Bass Rock:-

A Dotterell:-

I have never seen anywhere so spectacularly redolent of the Victorian fascination, and sense of wonder, in all aspects of the natural world.

Upstairs is Ethnography.

The life of the trapper:-

The hood of a sealskin coat:-

Figures from African Masquerades:-

I’m sure the displays will be condemned as outdated, which they indubitably are, but they preserve a strong sense of respect for other cultures from the days when Edward Fitzgerald lived in Woodbridge and Edward Moor built a Hindu monument in his Ipswich garden.


3 thoughts on “Ipswich Museum

  1. Kate Woodhead says:

    It seems like a perfect relic of a Victorian museum – and should be kept as such – even if just one part of it is preserved.

  2. joan says:

    It reminds me very much of the Irish Natural History Museum in Dublin which is of a similar vintage and largely untouched by modern fashion. It is known in the city as the ‘Dead Zoo’ and is well worth a visit. One of its most famous exhibits is McClintock’s polar bear which bears a very visible bullet hole having been shot on an expedition in the 1850s in the Canadian Arctic.

  3. Richard Bram says:

    It is the very ‘outdatedness’ that makes it truly valuable. the last museum of this sort I had the pleasure to visit was the Silk Museum in Tbilisi, Georgia, also founded in the 1880s. It’s in much the same wonderful style, utterly outdated which is, of course, its charm.

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