Friday, 29 July 2011

Welcome back

The National Museum of Scotland re-opened today after a three year, £47M refurbishment. At 9.15am they pulled back the tarpaulin from a big animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex, which mucked about for a little while, aided by a few explorers in pith helmets. There was quite a crowd. Then there was a bit of drumming and some marching. I'd left by then.

Not because I didn't want to go in, but because I had to open up the shop. I'm a professional. My partner went to a preview night on Wednesday and was impressed, so I'm looking forward to getting in and having a proper look round. I've missed it while it was closed - it's always been one of my favourite places. The cavernous main hall, with its fish ponds and pillars was always amazingly relaxing considering it was often very busy.

There has been a gradual move in museums away from piling everything they have into cabinets and putting a huge list of numbered labels somewhere near the bottom. Nowadays the idea is to have far fewer objects and use the story of the item to flesh out a historical or scientific theme. As an educational approach it's far more engaging, and for those that miss the 'more is more' technique there has been a simultaneous trend towards open storage policies. Meaning you can have access to what's kept in the collections behind the scenes, to varying extent from museum to museum of course. Some have huge racking systems that can be pulled out, allowing a visitor to view rows of stuffed starlings, lines of antique china plates, or trays of Roman coins. And so on.

For an old fashioned, everything on the wall, cabinet of curiosities museum, try Oxford University's Pitt-Rivers Museum. It's a great place, that has deliberately kept its traditional style. Meantime - get yourself to Chambers Street to see the T. rex skeleton.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Red tape

Okay, so not so soon, it seems. I've entered the horrendously bureaucratic world of listed buildings. The shop is part of a C(S) listed building, so I have to make a proper application. This will take six weeks, minimum. I need to give them the proper paint number, which I don't yet know. I need to give them a photo of the shop, which it seems I can't do by email as the file is 3Mb. I have to supply a site plan, but don't know exactly what is required,  even though I asked. I did point out that they have the address, and that they could just look at Google street view, but that's not allowed.

I tried to register online so I could eventually submit my application, but the link didn't work. Another two phone calls and I've found another way to register and am in the middle of that process now. Once the application is in, I will get a visit from someone to have a look at the place and check I'm not planning to demolish the building with a jackhammer. Then there will be a three week period where signs are posted telling people the proposed change and allowing them to object. All to paint the shop back to the colour it was a few years ago.

Fun, fun, fun.


I'm currently trying to get the front of the shop tidied up. It's looking a little sorry these days. I should have started the process a little earlier so it was ready for the festival, but that would have needed some level of organisation and foresight.

I've spoken to a company about a new sign for above the window. The old one was painted years and years ago in a highly stylised font, which is barely legible from even a short distance away. The new one will use the new(ish) logo and be visible from the bottom of Victoria Street, the way most Grassmarket visitors approach the area. People will be able to see what the shop sells from across the road. I'm hoping that'll help a little.

I've left a message with the guys that painted it last time, some seven years ago. I presume they can come up with something like the dark, coppery orange I have in mind. In the meantime, though, I need to run the idea past the council to check it'll be okay. It should be, as there are currently two orange shops nearby, and the pub next door was a bright orange a few years ago. There is an official application you can use, which costs some money and involves paperwork, but I was told the normal procedure is to phone a planning officer to get the go-ahead or advice on what might need to be changed. I finally got hold of one yesterday, who thought it would be fine, but asked me to email the listed buildings department with images of the nearby orange shops and one of the current Mr Wood's front. That email got bounced by their firewall for being too large. I sent them separately and they all bounced as the destination inbox was full. I might post them coloured-in sketches instead. I don't know how long it'll be to get the official approval I'll need before the painters start and the sign can be put up, but it doesn't look like being early August now.

Soon, though, there will be a new-look Mr Wood's Fossils.