Brighton, East Sussex: Booth Museum of Natural History

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So a Sunday walk of the Devil’s Dyke in the South Downs somehow turned into a trip to Brighton to get ice cream (I say somehow, but obviously if I’m in the proximity of delicious ice cream, I’m stopping), where we happened to drive past the Booth Museum on the way, and decided to pop in for a visit (my boyfriend was sure I’d enjoy it, due to it being a collection of Victorian taxidermy).  I’m glad we did, because not only does it give me something else to blog about, it was quite a nice little museum.

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Admission is free, and the interior was pleasingly deserted, save for the cases of dead animals stacked four high that lined the walls of the museum.  These animals were mainly birds, because Edward Thomas Booth had a real bird obsession.  He apparently got kicked out of school because all he wanted to do was go shooting and study birds, so he devoted his life to his passion, becoming a pioneer of Victorian taxidermy as one of the first taxidermists to arrange animals in a natural setting.  His work with birds was indeed superb, and the only ones that suffered from derpy face syndrome are the birds that would naturally do so anyway.

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However, he was evidently less successful at mammals, as evidenced by the lion head on the right, which has to be the most melancholic lion I’ve ever seen (though really, why shouldn’t he be depressed?).  I LOVE derpy taxidermy, so I was definitely a big fan of Mr. Mopey Lion and the Tasmanian Devil at the start of the post.  Not that I didn’t enjoy the birds as well, particularly the splendid and varied tits on the back wall (teehee).

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Although birds made up the bulk of the collection, there were a few galleries hidden in the back about evolution and rocks and things.  If I wasn’t already won over by sad lion, I definitely was when I saw they gave a tongue-in-cheek nod to Just So Stories when explaining why elephants have trunks (I made my grandpa read me the story of how the camel got his hump every single day for a good few years as a child, because he did the best grumpy camel voice (and for some reason he went along with it, probably because he was awesome) and I am inordinately fond of Just So Stories as a result).  They also get props for hiding the bug gallery in its own section in the middle of the museum, so you didn’t have to walk through it if you didn’t want to (and I most certainly didn’t want to, stupid gross butterflies).

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I also really liked the re-creation of a Victorian parlour – excepting the butterfly case, it contained the kind of furniture and antique taxidermy I’d love to have in my own parlour (if I ever have a parlour), especially the lovely owl and fox, and the random scary monkey head on the wall.

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They even had a Feegee mermaid in there (based off of P T Barnum’s famous creation of a monkey head grafted onto a fish); the whole museum was like some grand taxidermied tribute to the Victorian era.  It was pretty fantastic.

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So, if you love Victorian taxidermy as much as I do, I highly recommend this charming little museum (I would say it’s probably not worth the trip on its own, but there’s so much to do in Brighton that you’d have absolutely no trouble filling up the rest of your day).  It’s sort of halfway between Brighton and Hove, so you can easily stop off in Brighton for ice cream and such, as we did (my favourite shop is Scoop and Crumb; their flavours are always changing, but they’re always delicious), but do check the museum’s website as their opening hours are slightly erratic (they close for lunch and stuff).  4/5.

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