A Guide To: Museums in Cambridge
Got a free afternoon? Why not do something a bit cultural for a change?
Spending a precious afternoon off in a museum might seem like a hilarious joke. But to be fair to the Bubble, it has a decent selection of museums, many of which are totally free. Why not spend this weekend visiting one of them? It beats essay writing, surely, and you get that smug feeling of being all cultured and stuff…
Location: Trumpington Street
Opening Hours: Tue-Sat 10-5, Sun 12-5
The Fitzwilliam Museum is one of those Cambridge institutions like the Botanic Gardens which everyone means to go to…but it never happens. So if you haven’t seen it yet, use a free afternoon to tick it off your Cambridge checklist. With its Neo-classic style building and huge front garden containing Henry Moore’s ‘Reclining Figure’, the exterior is fitting for the treasures that lie within.
Hailed as “one of the great treasure houses of Britain”, the Fitz has a great range of cool stuff, from traditional Korean pottery to post-modern art – enough to satisfy Indiana Jones himself.
The Fitzwilliam is a tourist hotspot in every sense of the word. Irritating though this may be, the museum does have a great tour programme, with a variety of general/ specific tours. Sneakily tag along with one of these, and you’ll hear the proper chat.
Tab Tip: The Fitzwilliam regularly holds special exhibitions of treasures from around the world. Check fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk for the schedule.
Whipple Museum of the History of Science
Location: Free School Lane
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 12:30-4:30
I have to be honest: I still haven’t found the proper entrance to the Whipple. As it turned out, entering via the emergency exit wasn’t the best move ever but, one embarrassing phone call to the Biology department later, I was in. The Whipple has scientific artefacts from throughout history, from fancy medieval telescopes to the very latest technological developments.
The explanations are all pretty technical, so visit the hidden room upstairs instead. Here lies a replica of a Victorian science lab, with costumes to try on and loads of strange paraphernalia dotted about the place. Cool stuff.
Tab Tip: Don’t assume you’re not allowed to open all the drawers – they are actually for visitors, even if they don’t seem to be!
Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences
Location: Downing Street
Opening Hours: Mon to Fri 10-1 & 2-5, Sat 10-4
You might think it’s on the Sidgwick site, but just to be confusing the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences is actually on Downing Street. The outer building may not be as attractive as the Fitz, but you’ll be awed by what you see inside.
The centrepiece is the iguanodon skeleton, a huge dinosaur whose fossil was embarrassingly mistaken for a 4ft lizard when it was first discovered. Around the place are millions of fossils of almost every kind of animal that’s ever lived, from small nameless plants to huge animals with teeth the size of your head. My personal highlight has to be the 125,000-year-old hippopotamus found in Cambridge. Super retro.
Tab Tip: Sedgwick also has a fossil of the smallest dinosaur that ever existed. Look over the shelf – it’s hidden at the back somewhere!
Museum of Classical Archaeology
Location: Sidgwick Site
Opening Hours: Mon to Fri, 10-5, Sat 10-1
If looking for Sedgwick landed you in Sidgwick, you might as well give the Museum of Classical Archaeology a visit. It may just look like a huge room in Department of Classics filled with replicas of Greco-Roman plaster casts…and that’s exactly what it is. Even if you don’t recognise the names of these guys, you’ll definitely recognise their faces. They’ve been looking at you from inside your history textbooks since primary school.
Tab Tip: Classics students often have supervisions here, so sidle along and listen in for some fun facts you might otherwise not have heard. The museum staff are also super helpful – much more helpful than the £300 book I bought for my Art History course, anyway.