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Royal Observatory- the new re-furbishment
The Royal Observatory (Greenwich)
Member Name: siantone
The Royal Observatory (Greenwich)
Advantages: varied spaces; interactive; good intellectual content
Disadvantages: annoying signage; too cramped on busy weekends
The Royal Observatory Greenwich was re-furbished and extended throughout 2005-06 and re-opened to the public in May 2007. If you have not visited for a long time, do note that the experience will be quite different from what you remember. The front part of the site contains the apartments of the first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed who worked in the late 17th century. The apartments are a creative reconstruction so note that the furniture and posession you see are not Flamsteed's.
The new galleries relating to Time are much more interactive than the old galleries which were more contemplative and academic in tone. The same array of objects from astrolabes and globes to scientific instruments and prints are still on display but there is more audio-visual to accompany the gallery narratives. The galleries are quite dark because of the rare paper material on display. The centrepiece is the display of Harrison clocks with interactive touch tables between them where visitors can learn more about the horology and Harrison himself. This is an imaginative use of manuscript material that would have been dull to look at in a showcase. This interactive is suitable for 5 years old upwards and is fun to use for all the family.
The new astronomy galleries in the re-furbished building to the south tell visitors about the latest astonomical research going on in Britain. They are highly interactive with imaginative displays such as the large astonomers' table- where using a puck you can conjur up astronomers to answer your questions about the universe. The four galleries are small however and there will be queues for popular exhibits. The content will also date in time so the Observatory will need to update material in a couple of years. The interactives will also need much maintenance as software dates, so don't be surprised if you see an out of order sign on any of the exhibits, it is inevitable.
One also should not neglect the outdoor spaces and views from the site, including the front courtyard with the museum's 'laid out for you to see' meridian line for you to straddle and take photographs. There are meridian lines to straddle further back in the site especially near the Time for the Navy gallery if the courtyard is too busy.
The signage is frustrating but they are working on. Basically you need to wander and lose yourself rather than be fixed about what you want to do on your visit as the spaces are small and you may have to wait to use an interactive or even get into a part of the building. The museum has a faintly ridiculous policy of no pictures in the galleries- an over zealous attitude to copyright but if you smile nicely the sensible front-of-house staff won't deny you a family picture for the album.
Summary: An important building you should visit at least once
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