Day 2 in London

This morning, with everyone looking a bit perkier after a good night of sleep, we met in Russell Square for our first Darwin and Dickens Forum. You can click on the pictures for a better view.

After getting a coffee and pastry, we began by discussing our tour of the Enlightenment wing at The British Museum.  Dr. Saraceno explained that the period known as the Enlightenment, which lasted from about 1700 until 1850, involved a cultural change that predicted both the optimism that comes with the acquisition of new knowledge and uncertainty that comes with rejection of the old.   

We discussed how this neurotic uncertainty was reflected in the writings of Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin.

Lisa and Megan take some notes during our class discussion.

After our forum, we all headed over to The British Museum of Natural History for the afternoon.

The British Museum of Natural History is a superlative example of Victorian architecture built in the Gothic tradition.  The museum looks a bit like a cathedral and was intended to celebrate the glory of God’s creation.  

The students took the time to pose for a picture on the steps to the museum.

Upon entering the museum we saw the giant diplodocus that graces the main hall.

Part of our time at the museum involved a private behind the scenes tour of the Botany Department.  We were able to look at the museum’s vast collection of botanical specimens, some dating back to the 1600s.  We were also able to see some of the museum’s botanists at work in their laboratory. Our delightful guide, Jo, managed to unearth some specimens collected by Charles Darwin in 1833 and 1853.  This was a rare and exciting opportunity for our class.  Unfortunately, due to the fragile nature of the specimens photographs were not permitted.

A Note for Mrs. Gabriel Class at GFJ:

Thanks so much for the comment!  I am having a wonderful time in London. I took this picture at The British Museum of Natural History because I thought you might like it.  It is a giant prehistoric sloth!

To answer your questions: First of all, you are super judges of architecture!  The British Museum and the Lincoln Memorial are both excellent examples of the Greco-Roman style. Don’t feel bad for Dr. Firenze, everyone is being so nice to him and carrying his things.  The silly picture was from a book by Charles Dickens called “A Christmas Carol”.  We haven’t seen any bridges yet but as soon as we do I will take some pictures to show you.  I wasn’t scared while I was flying across the Atlantic Ocean because I was watching a movie or sleeping. I was on the plane for about seven hours but it seemed shorter because I was sleeping for part of it.  Also, they gave us good cookies on the plane. I will miss you at centers this week too.  I will be happy to come back the next week! Love, Mrs. Musa P.S. I miss you Ally (and Olivia).

After our time at the Museum of Natural History, we hopped back on the tube and headed to St. Paul’s Cathedral to meet Dr. David Tucker, our guide for a walking tour of “Dickens’ London”.

The walk revealed countless sites associated with Dickens’ life and works as well as the illustrious history of the city itself.

The building above is called Guildhall and was built in 1411.

Dr. Tucker took us to “Little Britain” street (above), prominently featured in “Great Expectations”. We enjoyed hearing the history of this part of the city and how Dickens used this part of the city – populated by prisons and slaughterhouses – the express the dark side of Victorian culture.

The church picured above, St. Bartholomew’s was built in the 13th century and was featured in the movies “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Shakespeare in Love”.

Dr. Tucker described much of DIckens’ early life for us and painted a vivid picture of what it must have been like for a boy living and working in Victorian London struggling to survive. 

Towards the end of our walk, Dr. Tucker took us to see an old prison cell used up until the mid nineteenth century.  The cell is now in the basement of a pub built on the site of the old prison.

Although Margo and Caroline are smiling for the picture, it was a very unpleasant space to be in. The small, dark cell was used to hold about twenty four people at a time!  We were all happy to get out, especially after our guide turned out the lights to show us what it would have really been like in the cell.

Dr. Tucker also discussed the DIckens novel “Oliver Twist” and showed us some “urchin bars”.

Dr. Saraceno was so inspired by Dr. Tucker’s description (and by the novel) that he decided to provide the students with a real “Victorian urchin” experience.  Before Dr. Musa could stop him, he dashed off and swiped a few pence from a gentleman standing nearby.  Luckily, he was able to swiftly and deftly navigate through the narrow streets of London, thereby eluding the angry mob of men pursuing him.  This was quite s feat since some of the men had horses.  

Unfortunately, he failed to remember that his colleague could only pitifully crutch along at a snail’s pace over the bumpy streets. Assuming we are able to spring Dr. Firenze from the jail cell, tomorrow we will be enjoying a trip to Down House and another London walk with Dr. Tucker.



~ by Dr. Musa on May 21, 2008.

3 Responses to “Day 2 in London”

  1. Jen, You are outdoing yourself with the blog. Great job!
    Enjoyed your last picture of the didactic duo. I applaud Dr. Firenze’s demonstration of human evolution. It is a little known fact that before the quadrupeds successfully evolved into bipeds they had to pass through the triped phase. With regard to the elusive Dr. Saraceno, also known as Professor Nimble-foot, I’m somehow reminded of the lesser known first version of Aesop’s Fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” which was entitled “The Tortoise and the Sloth.”

  2. “The Tortoise and the Sloth”

  3. Jen,
    Bravo. I applaud your blogging. I can’t wait to see what you will do next. Please hand the camera over to Dr. Saraceno (sorry Dr. Firenze, but is widely known that you do not possess a technology bag) and show yourself!

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