I was on my way to the V&A at lunchtime today when I noticed that the Exhibition Road entrance to the Natural History Museum was empty of people. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before. This entrance leads into the Earth Story part of the museum and was once the headquarters of the Geological Society. As I was (again) researching geological type stuff this morning, I figured this was an omen. I went in.
I’ve never been to this part of the NHM before. It’s fabulous. The entrance alone is worth seeing. A long, long escalator rises up, taking you through a massive globe of the earth, the constellations painted on the walls, the faint rumblings of tectonic plate movement heard every now and then.
You step off the escalator at the top floor, the floor of the volcano! Each of the floors (there’s three) circle around the central escalator with a staircase taking you gradually back down. It’s a wonderful design and ensures you don’t miss a single rock.
Rather than bore you beyond all reason, I’m only going to mention the Kobe earthquake exhibit.
The earthquake struck Kobe on January 17, 1995 at 5:46 in the morning. And caused a horrendous amount of damage and killed over 6,000 people. The tremors only lasted 20 seconds but the damage was extraordinary with over 200,000 buildings destroyed alone.
To honour the people who lost their lives and to give people the smallest example of what it would have been like, the museum has created a Kobe supermarket complete with shelves of goods, shopping trolleys and closed circuit TV screens showing the actual moments of the quake.
Without realising it, I stepped into the shop and started looking around when the quake struck. For 20 seconds, the floor starts moving, things start rattling, the people on the small TV screens go flying. Clearly, it was not as powerful as the actual earthquake but it was enough to make you realise how awful it must have been. For me, the worst bit was when the lights went out and the screens just flickered black and white static. Quite sobering.
I spent the rest of my lunchtime, joyfully frolicking among display cases of rocks, fondling the 4.6 billion year old meteorite that fell on Victoria a while back (it’s older than the earth!) and generally being in heaven. It was with a slightly heavy heart that I returned to work. Very slightly.