Saturday, 30 January 2016

litotes or b-sides

The unseen stacks and storerooms of museums around the world surely hold vast amounts of less interesting specimens and artefacts, not really fit to rotate them for display or loan—notably lacking artistic or scientific merit. It’s as if one could accuse museums of having hoarding-tendencies since these objects are unlikely to ever be disturbed from their slumber.
Thanks to BBC Radio Four’s Inside Science, however, I was introduced to a brilliant, sardonic little project of one curator to try to showcase these hopelessly neglected shelves of items in a blog called Underwhelming Fish Fossil of the Month, wherein keenly dull examples from the museum’s backroom collections are showcased and ridiculed—like in this preservation from August 2015 that’s compared to something as regal and fanciful as the Luck Dragon from The Neverending Story. It’s silly and absurd and sometimes overly generous with its praise. I noticed, however, that by browsing through these featurettes and their deconstruction of each fossil, I was actually learning far more about the evolution of fish and the methodologies of conservation and classification than I ever knew before. It’s really fascinating stuff, and I think one ought to rummage through their wardrobes, attics and junk-drawers to tease out some cultural merit of what’s been relegated to those dark corners.