20 May 2008

Breaking news: Stein-sullied Darwin statue restored to prominence

What an absolutely delicious bit of news I have for you today...
Unless you've been living in a hole (or possibly - gasp - not reading blogs), you will know of the statue of Charles Darwin at the Natural History Museum in London. It is the one that has been defiled by not only by its proximity to the dirty dish cart in the café but also by a recent 'contemplative' visit under false pretenses from one Mr. Benjamin Stein (right).

Now, it is true that Darwin has already got his revenge for the latter, slapping back, as it were, at Mr Stein. However satisfying that may have been, though, it did not change the fact that the statue was positioned in a lowly spot, ever in danger of being splattered by discarded cups of tea and the crumbs of scones, next to piles of highchairs and littered at his feet with discarded stir sticks.

Well, dear reader, as of today, all that changes. Without stealing the thunder of the intended museum news item (which I shall cover on its release next Monday), I can at least tell you what any astute museum visitor can see with her own two eyes this morning: that the Darwin statue is in the process of being restored to its former place atop the grand staircase.

The photo at left is a vertical panorama of the central hall, with the aforementioned staircase front and centre. Note the big scaffolding. Note also the little sign at the bottom of the stairs, which reads:

"As part of Darwin200, a national programme celebrating Charles Darwin's life, his ideas and their impact, we are planning to move the statue of Charles Darwin to replace the statue of Richard Owen in the centre of the Central Hall staircase."

Richard Owen is the founder of the Natural History Museum, great popularliser of natural history, coiner of the words "homology" and "dinosaur" but also, significantly, an opponent of Darwinian evolution. Owen fans will be relieved to learn that his statue will not be moved to to the café but to another spot in the museum that evokes its share of grandeur.

If you then walk out of frame, around to the left, and proceed back into the café where Darwin currently sits, you see this (right). The sign at Darwin's feet reads:
"Be careful - Darwin being cleaned"
[insert bad joke here]
And continues, "This statue of Charles Darwin is being conserved for Darwin200, a national programme for the next 18 months celebrating Charles Darwin's 200th birthday next year."
Indeed, this is the first of many museum events aimed to celebrate Darwin's 200th birthday in 2009, and precedes by a few weeks the official launch of the Darwin200 anniversary period which includes not only the bicentenary of Darwin's birth but also the 150th anniversaries of the Wallace/Darwin paper at the Linnean Society on 1st July this year and the publication of On the Origin of Species on 24 November next year.

4 comments:

Richard Carter, FCD said...

I have mixed feelings about this move. Delighted that Darwin is being given a more prominent position, but what's going to happen to poor Owen? A brilliant scientist. I hope he doesn't get relegated to the cafe!

Michael D. Barton, FCD said...

Exciting! In his rightful place for my future visit to NHM (whenever that may be).

Karen James said...

I agree Richard, but *tsk tsk* it appears you didn't read my whole post. If you had you'd have seen this: "Richard Owen is the founder of the Natural History Museum, great popularliser of natural history, coiner of the words "homology" and "dinosaur" but also, significantly, an opponent of Darwinian evolution. Owen fans will be relieved to learn that his statue will not be moved to to the café but to another spot in the museum that evokes its share of grandeur." To be more specific, it is my understanding that it will be moved to a temporary position in the nearby balcony and later may be re-positioned at the opposite side of the Central Hall "facing" Darwin.

Richard Carter, FCD said...

*Tsk tsk* indeed. In my defence, I was reading the post on a 4" x 3" computer screen, and my eyes were rather tired.

That's not really much of a defence, is it?