We decided that Tuesday had just the right amount of rain and wind for us to make the dash from the car to the Museum without getting soaked to the skin (FYI I didn't take the following photos, but I can't seem to find who did to give credit).
This is the Ulster Museum that I remember, the one I went to visit as a kid to see the dinosaur exhibition and the Spanish Armada exhibition when they travelled through Belfast. The is the Ulster Museum that was worth a visit for the building alone...
This is the new "improved" Ulster Museum, the only version of the Museum that Chloe will remember....
Not what you'd call sympathetically restored, I think you'll agree.
The new museum has lost something for me. Actually it's lost quite a lot for me. The museum is now based around a central atrium with rooms and displays leading off the atrium. I'm sure to a lot of people it's very pretty (on the inside) but the museum has lost all of its flow. A lot of effort must have went into the arrangement and layout of the original museum and displays because you were naturally guided around the museum and past each and every exhibit without even realising (and not a multicoloured line on the floor to be seen).
That flow and natural progression through the museum has all gone now. I found that we were constantly doubling back on ourselves, going in circles and just generally missing loads of the exhibits. We referred to the map (yes a map) over and over again but just found it rather frustrating. I'll maybe go back again myself to try and find a path of my own through each of the rooms and then take Chloe back at a later date.
The exhibits that Chloe was most interested in like the triceratops were for some reason I've yet to figure out, in the middle of a stairwell at the side of the main atrium which made it virtually impossible to stand still for more than a second or two to look at them without being bumped and jostled by other people trying to get to other parts of the museum. All paths lead to that damn atrium making it a very unpleasant place to spend any time.
Its supposed to be light and airy and the illusion of light and air is there in abundance but there's actually seems to be less space to move through the exhibits, the walkways are narrower and cramped and this isn't helped by the fact that nobody seems to know which direction to go in, it was so much nicer in the old building when everyone was travelling in one direction. Still the displays are nice and the coffee shop smelt lovely. It will maybe be a lot better once its been open a while and everyone remembers that they never bothered with the old museum so why bother with the new!
It's comforting to know that once the frustration becomes too much to deal with a short hop, skip and a jump away.....
Is a truly beautiful building. So help me, if anyone ever decides this needs a revamp, I'll hunt them down.
Again, you'll notice sunshine. It did not look like this on Tuesday, but the Palm House is still very impressive and on a sunny day the Rose Gardens are a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.
I'm really starting to think that there is one architect in charge of redeveloping Belfast and his tool kit is comprised of a ruler and pencil. If Belfast is on your list of places to see, I'd be inclined to bump it up somewhere nearer the top of the list because if this guy is let loose on much more of it, you may just as well go to Legoland for the day!
I'll admit that I'm probably a bit biased because of my hatred of new buildings (but I hate them because of the complete lack of imagination, a four year old can draw a mish mash of squares and before anyone points out the Waterfront, a four year old can draw round a plate as well). I like my buildings with a bit of character, with nubbledy sticky out bits. Buildings that at least have something to say for themselves. Buildings that don't have severe design flaws such as a full width stairway leading to a doorway little more than a foot in width or stairways which lead nowhere at all, other than straight to a brick wall.
I will say though, that somewhere in the museum (you'll have to excuse me because I haven't the faintest idea where I was at the time) I did catch a glimpse of one of the old set of tall glass paned double doors with the old black and white tiles on the other side and my heart melted for a second.
I'll stop myself now before I question the reasons why the Ulster Museum felt that a guy in overalls with a paint roller and tray deserved the dedication of entire rooms to his "work".