It’s taken more than a week but I finally found time to nose around the most recently opened exhibition at Brighton Museum, Chilled to the Bone: Ice Age Sussex, upstairs in the Spotlight Gallery.
Probably I hesitated because it’s so flipping cold in real life. But that’s daft, the exhibition is great (and warm!): what a cunning way to bring home some of the grand realities of the ice age, by focusing it closely on the local landscape and history of Sussex.
Chilled to the Bone is full of bones and fossils; smart presenting of the science and makes dense, fascinating use of a relatively small gallery space to get across the sheer bio-diversity and constant shifting of Sussex landmass and coastline during the Ice Age period. It’s also got some cool nuggets on the social history of fossil-hunting and the gradual process by which ‘evolution’ went from being outlandish, revolutionary theory to the proven normality on which so much earthbound science is based.
I particularly like the bears. I’ve been thinking about bears a lot recently; partly since I decided to call my next album The Bear. You know how, once you start thinking about a thing, often you’ll start to see that thing everywhere? I’ve been seeing bears all over the place, all over town. Then the other morning I was up at the Booth Museum and there is a large bear standing right in the doorway. It’s so odd that we’ve made bears ‘cute’ by turning them into soft toys, exaggerating the anthropomorphising of them… but that’s another blog entry. Here in Chilled to the Bone, they’ve actually included a few exhibits and artifacts borrowed from the Booth and there is a huge replica skull of a bear that you can touch, along with some interesting information.
Another big impact of this little exhibition (for me, anyway) was starting to think clearly about the timescales involved in the Ice Age, compared to time frames of human history. For example, compare this stuff to the Ancient Egypt exhibits downstairs. What we think of as “Ancient Egypt” entirely takes place in a window of a few hundred years – and was only a few thousand years ago. When you compare that to an Ice Age, which stretches back hundreds of thousands of years, you can start to comprehend our human scale in comparison with much huger geological timescales.
It’s so hard to think in those terms – which is partly why I imagine people struggle so much with quite simple ideas like evolution or the ‘likelihood’ of natural selection; because it’s so tough to even envision a million years, let alone fathom everything that can occur across a natural environment in that time period.
Anyway, I’m waffling. But Chilled to the Bone is warm, interesting and right by the Café, so I’ll be going back a few more times.
Chris T-T, Blogger in Residence