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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Sad dinosaurs and happy surgeons in The Time's 50 Best Museums

In case you missed it, last weekend The Times Magazine ran afeature on the world’s 50 best museums. The article begins, ‘Museums are notmusty repositories of outmoded relics. They are vivid compendiums of ourcultural life.’ We here at the Ministry couldn’t agree more. But how did theTimes rank a globe full of fabulous museums into only 50? And more importantly,how did London fare on this illustrious list? Don’t worry if you don’tsubscribe because we have it all right here for you. (Well thefirst 20 at least…)

First question is, of course, who ranked number one? Who claims the crown in total world museum domination? Drumroll please….

SMITHSONIAN INSTIUTION. Wait…what? As in all the Smithsonianstogether? Really? That seems hardly fair to somehow blend together the Sackler,the American History Museum and the National Air and Space Museum amongstothers into one behemoth competitor. Whatever, we guess the Smithsonians arealready. But just you watch out Washington DC coming up right behind you is ourfirst London museum!

It is….

The British Museum! And boring again. Just seems a bitobvious and derivative really. Of course the British Museum is wonderful, whywouldn’t they be? They have all the culture from the rest of the worldsquirreled away. Lets continue down the list and see if can get past CaptainObvious.

After a stop off in Greece the number four best museum inthe world is…

Sir John Soane’s Museum! Woooaaahhh out of no where! Way to get inthere small obscure London house museum of architectural history. This is oneof my favourite museums in London so I am glad but a bit shocked to see it sohigh up on the list! Really well done Soane’s Museum, now get back to openingup more of the house.

Number 5 is the American Natural History Museum in New York(fair enough, everyone loves a good diorama) and then on number 6, the ImperialWar Museum.

To be fair, they have ranked all of the Imperial War Museums acrossthe UK in one category. They even gave a shout out to IWM North in Manchester,in my opinion probably the best one. So hooray for military history getting inearly.

Number 7 is not a London based museum but the Topkapi Museumin Istanbul. Despite my undying love for this city, this has to deserve aspecial mention. The Topkapi museum is one of my favourites ever so really niceto see it going so well! At number 8 is Versailles…? Is Versailles a museum? Isuppose technically it is. Its gorgeous. We’ll accept it.

Our next London museum coming in at a very respectablenumber 9 is the V&A. I am really surprised the V&A is down at number 9,below the IWM. This museum is kicking some serious ass this year with two newpermanent galleries opening and a series of absolute smash hit exhibitions(Hollywood Costume, Bowie). Huh, well, everyone loves the V&A they don’tneed the publicity.

Number 10 is the National Museum of China and at number 11the Pitt Rivers Museum! Ooo interesting. This is a bit of a divisive one formuseum people. As a Victorianist I am completely obsessed with the Pitt Rivers.But as one London colleague recently pointed out to me spiritedly at anopening, what have they done in the last 150 years? To be fair they do a lot ofamazing research, but I can see his point.

At number 12 its… wait a minute, the Science Museum? A hush falls over the crowd. Are you meaningto tell me that the Science Museum has beaten in the ratings its SouthKensington neighbour and fiercest of rivals the Natural History Museum? Sorry,but NHM isn’t even here in the top 20, relegated to 21. Do you need some aloevera for that burn? Complete scandal in the museum world. Me, I really like theScience Museum. I think they have done a lot recently to make their offeringreally fun and dynamic, lates are brilliant, they finally have some kind of atemporary exhibition schedule going. They are also opening two new galleries inthe near future: Media Space and the unfortunately named ‘Information Age’. TheMinistry is not part of the London set which spurns the Science Museum at everyopportunity (cough Museums Showoff) but really, what a shocker!

Our next LondonMuseum comes at number 15 and it is the Hunterian Museum at the Royal Collegeof Surgeons. Damn, Lincoln’s Inn Fields’ small museums are getting some seriouslove in this article! The Hunterian is undeniably my favourite museum in Londonand it so wonderful to see a medical museum finally getting some seriousattention! They seem to know how to celebrate their 200thanniversary right between this seriously high rating and a new exhibitionopening this week (we tweeted some sneak-peek images just a few days ago!) Withtheir star clearly on the rise, the Hunterian is one to watch.

And none for you Natural History Museum.
I said I wouldn’tbore you any longer than 20 into the list, and that’s it for London’s museumsI’m afraid! Sorry NHM, 21 doesn’t quite make the grade! Oh stop it now, thevisitor figures for Natural History are off the charts, I think they can getby. The rest of the list reads like a dream vacation for me. The Museo Nacionalde Antropologia in Mexico City is number 43, the Luxor Museum in Egypt is 38,the Museum of the Moving Image in New York at 22 and the Vasa Museum inStockholm at 32.

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