Monday, 17 April 2017

N = Nature now

One of the temporary exhibitions at Wellcome is about to change. The objects I've been featuring in my posts are mostly from the permanent exhibitions (I'm allowed to photograph those) but there are other displays that change regularly. 

Making Nature has been concerned with, among other things, the connections between human attitudes to the natural world and the way in which museums, zoos and circuses have exhibited nature for the past 150 years. It's challenging and often confronting stuff. 

I was particularly disturbed, for example, by a small tatty looking preserved platypus, its bill inexpertly removed. Apparently, the first British scientist to attempt to classify the unique creature back in the late 1700s thought his peers were having at laugh with him and had stitched together random bits of various critters. So he ripped its bill off trying to prove his theory.

Horrific though that is, his confusion about such an odd creature is understandable. The wonderful Robin Williams used to say that the platypus must have been designed by committee. Either that, or it is proof that God has a sense of humour: "OK let's take a beaver and put on a duck's bill. It's a mammal, but it lays eggs. Hey Darwin, kiss my ass!' 

But anyway, Wellcome has a new exhibition in the planning stage. They're calling it A Museum of Modern Nature and the exhibits will be objects, stories and ideas provided by members of the public. Great idea, huh!? So I went along to one of the early drop-in sessions when ordinary bods like me can have a chat with official museum types about our relationship with nature today.

Of course, I came away thinking about what I own that might fit the bill. And although I brought very few possessions with me from the Rock, there is something.

When I was very young, I would play bingo with my grandparents, Housie Lotto they called it. The tokens we used to cover each number as it was called were small round shells. One side, flat and smooth, featured a tiny spiral I loved to trace with my finger.The other was nobbly and unattractive. 

Our beach on The Rock
Nan kept them in a jar in the kitchen.

She told me my mother and aunt had collected these treasures on their beach holidays, many of which had been spent on The Rock. So, on family trips to those same beaches, I too would search along shorelines for these little discs. I learned they were not really shells at all, but something more like a lid that sealed sea snails into their homes. I called them trapdoor shells.

Actual sign from walkway to our beach.

I told my own children this story one day not so many years ago while we were wandering along what we call 'our beach' on the Rock, the beach where we have built our retirement home, the same beach where my mother and aunt played. I was holding some trapdoors in my hand, mindlessly running my finger in circles over their flat surface as I spoke. 

But I threw little discs back into the salty surf as we left. 
'Our beach' is now protected parkland the removal of anything natural is strictly prohibited. (I've written about that before.)

The following Christmas, however, I unwrapped the jewellery pictured. My children had found each piece at a different store, so the salty origins of these specific shells that are not shells is unknown, but the kids knew their gift would make me happy.

They knew that wearing those little spirals would remind me of what I love, that wearing and touching these little beauties would connect me to family and home.

What would you exhibit at Wellcome to illustrate what nature means to you?

During the month of April, I am participating in the Blogging from A–Z Challenge.

My posts will all feature images of and by the Wellcome Collection, Euston, London: the free destination for the incurably curious.


  1. Lovely story.. particularly because I love being at the beach and looking for natural treasures. But one thing to represent my love of nature? Impossible!

    Affirmations for a Good Life

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Wow... I had to delete that because I was talking to my daughter while I typed and hit the button before fixing the typos. Sorry.
      Thank you so much for dropping by soon after I posted. This entry has a VERY different flavour from the bulk of my other AtoZ responses, and I suspect many of my readers will be disappointed by it.

  3. I think I would have to create an exhibit of noble (and humble) sticks. It would be tactile and interactive. Because just like Pluto, I am an unabashed
    collector. (Unlike Pluto, however, I do not chew them to splinters.)

  4. I do not think I could pick one thing to represent nature. Sticks, stones, shells, dried leaves and seed pods all find their way into a temporary collection.

  5. It's almost impossible not to collect gorgeous bibs and bobs, isn't it? But for me, it had to be something beachy.

  6. I'm so delighted to have found my way here to this delightful post. I'd not heard of trapdoors before and so you're about to send me down a rabbit hole. But in the meantime, I must say those spirals are gorgeous - and how lovely you were gifted with such beautiful reminders of your childhood.

    I love seed pods and nests (and countless other treasures) and I can imagine what fun it would be to put together an exhibit.

  7. Trapdoor snails? Who knew? For me it would be pussy willows. My mother and I always went down to the cemetery at the Native Reserve and picked pussy willows. And cedar trees. Yes, cedar trees connect me to nature.

  8. What beautiful jewellery and all the more special because of your story.
    I would also choose something from the beach. when we were kids my dad would take us to the beach and we would often go fossil hunting.

  9. I have no idea what I would pick but your jewellery is beautiful and the backstory well told.

  10. Oh we used to hunt fossils too.

  11. Please swap comments with Wendy below! Posting from phone and muffed it up.