Friday, 7 September 2012

Long Way Down

You get to see – and hear – some funny things as you wander through the Museum.  The other day, a couple of kids on the fourth floor, as they crossed a “bridge” looked down at the drop to level ‘0’ and one said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to jump down there!’  About a month ago, I too looked down, and saw a couple of workers taking pieces of the horse skeleton that lies in a glass case at the bottom of this drop, presumably performing some kind of restorative process on the bones. 

And I thought: yes, that’s how most of us deal with history.  We preserve it; give it a polish, and present it to the present with a contemporary sheen.  As long as we can gloss over the past and put it in a glass case, we can distance ourselves from the humans behind the story.  But their story isn’t likely to be much different from ours.  This horse came to a pretty pitiful end – it’s likely it was hamstrung and slaughtered, a sacrifice to honour the dead, or as a propitiation to the gods. 

I wonder if, in 500 years, museums will look back on the 20th century and baulk at the things that were done in the name of religious fanaticism, political ideology or ridiculous superstition. Or will they, as this century, this new millennium, seems to be suggesting, carry on abusing animals, minerals, the planet and our fellow human beings with unending, unremitting lunacy?  I wouldn’t wish it on my kids.  But history can teach us nothing.

Horrible History

Those Vikings had some
horrible ways; pillaging and
raping with their elongated boats
and horny helmets: the stuff
of comic books and cartoons. 
But flog a dead horse?
This equine specimen,
encased with nuts and bolts,
from four floors up looks like
he was thrown from history,
straight into the 20th Century
 – a fate far worse than
anything the Vikings could do.

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