While big-name museums tend to house the most famous works — and, usually, they’re famous for good reason — I love the lesser-known places for the up-close access you get. Sure, it was fabulous seeing artifacts from Tutankhamen’s tomb when the tour came to the Franklin Institute, but you can see comparable finds in just as good condition at The Oriental Institute in Chicago, where you can stare as long as you want, or even take a picture (as you can see).
On one of our pilgrimages to places connected to people we admire, Hubby and I trekked to the Bournemouth area in southern England to visit Mary Shelley’s grave and a minor museum called The Shelley Rooms. It was one of those places where you walk in, you have the place practically to yourself, and an old guy who’s holding down the fort comes over and talks to you fondly about his favorite topic. (At this point, I always wish my grandfather had done that kind of thing.)
The Shelley Rooms, once the home of the Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s son, housed a small collection of memorabilia, once belonging to a friend of the family. The item I remember most vividly is a generous lock of the poet’s hair, taken when his flowing childhood locks were cropped for good. Talk about a personal effect! Considering that he was cremated, this is about as close to the man (physically) as you can get.
The experience was moving — more moving than seeing Mary’s grave, and I’m generally more an admirer of hers than his. (In fact, Mary makes a short appearance in my book For the Love of Lila, advising the heroine not to forsake love for liberation.)
From what little I can glean on the Web, The Shelley Rooms have been sold and are now part of a doctor’s office. (“Despair!”) So for an alternative Shelley experience, check out Vincent Price’s reading of his poem “Ozymandias” here.Tweet this