Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Archive for the ‘Libraries’ Category

New Zealand 2019 Day 7: Napier Museum

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 12, 2019

Actually, the Napier Museum is also an art gallery and a library!

There are only three floors, but it’s still a very interesting museum.  Alas, I had a Senior’s Moment and left my camera on the desk in the hotel so we have only a few photos on Tim’s phone…


We started off on the ground floor with a display about the 1931 Earthquake.  We had already read about this, and seen the informative video at the Art Deco Trust, but this museum exhibition rounded out the historical facts with personal stories.  There were stories from people who lived through it, including some poignant ones from people who were small children at the time, and there were some treasured trinkets that had been salvaged.  There was also a digital display on a banner, that had voices of the people superimposed over diagrams that showed the transitions as the land rose up and changed the landscape while below it the Richter Scale was climbing.  It was very vivid.  There were replicas of press reports and telegrams, and also photos of the naval ship HMAS Veronica that was anchored in the bay when the quake struck. The ship was thrown right up out of the water and then back down again, coming to rest in newly exposed mudflats when the ocean retreated.  They had to wait until a high tide before it could be re-floated, but they had radio and they sent an SOS to Auckland by Morse Code.  The next day two naval ships arrived with medical help and supplies, and the city has never forgotten the navy and how it managed the relief effort.

There was a lovely display of local silverware, and not all of it was owned by the rich and privileged.  We were both captivated by trophies awarded to two fire stations competing in fire drills.  Tim liked the rooster, and I liked the one with the water cannon!

There was also a display of Maori carvings and whatnot but we’ve seen a lot of that by now (and I think you need to be a bit of an expert to see the difference between them) and the same was true of the exhibition about a pioneering family called Webb.

However we loved the display of architectural drawings by the architect J A Louis Hay.  He was in his fifties and already a notable architect influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright when the earthquake struck and Napier needed rebuilding.  He joined the Napier Reconstruction Committee and ensured that local architects who had the interests of Napier at heart were those who controlled the massive rebuilding task.

There were framed drawings of his proposed buildings, many of which we’ve seen realised as buildings in the CBD, and there was signage that explained that he was a meticulous man who was intolerant of shoddy workmanship.  But it was from Wikipedia that I discovered that his wife was severely injured in the disaster.  I think these architects are real heroes, who restored a ruined city into a truly beautiful place, and I suspect that the local people who had suffered so much must have been delighted to see their new city arising from the disaster.

We also took the opportunity to admire the Napier Library.  It is a beautiful space, quiet and calm, and nicely organised with a spacious feel and what looks like a good contemporary collection.  They also had a clever initiative to encourage borrowing: you can borrow a ‘pot luck’ bookbag of five books, which are tagged ‘romance’, ‘thriller’, ‘paranormal romance’ (what’s that??) or ‘crime’.  You simply scan the bag, take it home and embark on a voyage of discovery!

We rounded off our two days in Napier with a wonderful meal at Bistronomy.  If you like fine food in a creative contemporary style, this is a restaurant you must not miss.  They make excellent cocktails (I had a Sour Tart, made with gin, elderflowers and feijoas (in season now); and Tim had a Lady Marmalade which was made with charred citrus, aniseed and Cointreau.  What we particularly liked was that the cocktails came before the first course as they should, because the whole point of a cocktail is that it’s a pre-dinner drink, and very rarely is it compatible with an entrée.  In a best-forgotten place we went to in Wellington, the bartender took so long to finish his theatrical performance—prancing around, waggling his pony-tail and thrusting his biceps about, that by the time the cocktails arrived #EpicFail we had almost finished entrée…

No such problem at Bistronomy.  The service was excellent, and the food was served perfectly.  Here’s the slideshow, and I have added the description from the menu so that you can see the complexity of the dishes:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One thing we didn’t photograph, though it wouldn’t have conveyed much if we had, was the house-made bread which came with whipped butter flavoured with lemon and horopito.  We had never heard of this flavoursome ingredient, and it tasted sublime.  It’s a kind of bush pepper apparently… and I really hope we can source it at home! I’d like to try using it to flavour muffins:)

Tomorrow we are off to Auckland!

Posted in 2019 New Zealand, Dining out, Libraries, Museums, Napier | Tagged: , | 10 Comments »

London, Beethoven’s Tuning Fork, Thursday, 29.9.05

Posted by Lisa Hill on November 28, 2005

Triumph! First in the queue to buy afternoon tickets for ‘Forgotten Empire (Treasures of Persia) at the British Museum! We’d read about this exhibition at home in Melbourne, and checked it out online, so we were keen to see this special exhibition of items on loan from Iran.
But first, our quest to find Beethoven’s tuning fork at the British Library. I’d emailed Amelie Roper, Curator of music collections, and established that it was on display before we left home…
Beethoven has always been my favourite composer. As a teenager I used to go into the Melbourne Library at weekends and read everything I could find; I played the symphonies (conducted by Herbert Van Karajan) endlessly. The idea of being able to see something Beethoven had touched made me feel as excited as a little kid, and I felt the anticipation keenly as we walked in the sunshine to the beautiful new library building.
According to Amelie, it is said that Beethoven gave the tuning fork to the violinist George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, from whom it was passed to Ulysses Bolton (1801-66) and then to Paul Waddington. He passed it on to John H. Balderston who said, in a letter that survives, ‘It was given to me on a promise never to sell it, but to be given to some decent musiker who would care for it and pass it along when the time came.’ Balderstone did this by passing it on to Gustav Holst, who gave it to Vaughan Williams, and in 1993 Ursula Vaughan Williams presented it to the British Library ‘in the hope that all musicians will feel that in belonging to this treasure house it belongs to them all.’ I myself am not one of the august company of musicians she was thinking of, but I was thrilled to see it there, beside the MS of his Ninth Symphony too.
Amelie had also told me about some of the other treasures in the John Ritblat gallery, and as I walked around marvelling at what I saw, I jotted my thoughts in my journal:
‘I cannot explain what a thrill it is to see these documents and books. My heart is thudding! The weight of civilised learning and history is here – the power of ideas and imagination & the recording of events & theories and stories in print which have made civilisation what it is today. We inherit this genius, this history because of reading and writing, and it made me feel proud of my profession, teaching, which ensures its continuity into future generations.’
There on display was the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus, the earliest and best written of the books of the Old Testament; scraps of the Unknown Gospel on papyrus dated about AD100-150; and the Gutenberg Bible. There was the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the earliest history of England in English at the time of King Alfred (849-899, but copied in about 1040) – the page describes attacks by the Vikings. In a large cabinet, there are various incarnations of the Magna Carta as well as the Papal Bull denouncing it; Beowulf, and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales on 11th century vellum, and the Julius Work Calendar. Of course there is also a cabinet with Shakespeare’s First Folio, the sonnets, and his mortgage deed. (It seems so mundane, Shakespeare having a mortgage, just like everybody else.)
Alice in Wonderland was there and so was Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.

James Joyce’s (very messy) Finnegan’s Wake, and Middlemarch by George Eliot, open at the page where Dorothea and Will declare their love for one another.
There’s a charming little pile of Dickens’ David Copperfield in blue paperback instalments, and the MS of Persuasion was on Jane Austen’s writing desk, not far from that famous page from Jane Eyre in Charlotte Bronte’s handwriting: ‘Reader, I married him.’
For Tim, the highlight was the letters of Newton. Amongst the more modern documents were Haig’s Order of the Day on April 11th, 1918, when he held the line and the British won; the diary of Captain Scott in 1912; the HMAS Victory logbook from 1805; and a letter from Florence Nightingale to Sidney Herbert about the appalling conditions in the field hospitals in 1854 during the Crimean War. Beatles songs too, like ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ written on scraps of paper & envelopes. You can also listen to sound recordings, including Thomas Edison reciting ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ and a speech by Florence Nightingale, and – marvels of the 21st century – documents and books too fragile for display can be viewed page by page on computers in a small room adjacent to the gallery.
I had another literary thrill en route too. We walked past the University of London, (where my father took his degree) and recognised its sturdy monolithic concrete as the ‘Ministry of Truth’ from George Orwell’s 1984!

Posted in England 2005, Libraries, LitLovers pilgrimage, London 2005, Museums, MusicLovers pilgrimage, UK 2005 | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »