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April’s Historic Trips... 10 Things To Do

Get out and about this month with our guide to the very best historical attractions

Published: April 1, 2010 at 11:00 am
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1: Enjoy old-school travel.

This new exhibition, in partnership with the National Railway Museum in the Netherlands, will use the museum’s rich poster collections to explore the past, present and future of the Harwich-Hook ferry route. You can also walk onto the deck of a roll-on-roll-off ferry, explore the personal recollections of travellers throughout over 100 years of North Sea crossings, and from 2–18 April take a steam ride on a Harwich-Hook locomotive.


Exhibition: Once Upon a Tide
National Railway Museum, York
Until 6 September
Tel: 08448 153139

2: Experience Netsuke

Netsuke is an intricate form of Japanese miniature sculpture. This exhibition at the Fitzwilliam brings together some 200 examples of these elaborately carved, tiny items, which originated in 17th-century Japan and functioned as toggles for the silk cords upon which men strung their pipe holders, purses or writing implements. The collection features subjects as diverse as daily life, religion, mythology, animals and even vegetables, and includes many early and rare examples of this intriguing art form.

Exhibition: Netsuke: Japanese Art in Miniature
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Until 30 May
Tel:01223 332900

3: Regard Roman treasure

Recently, staff at Harborough Museum have realised that a hoard of over 5,000 silver and gold coins discovered in Leicestershire in 2000 contains the oldest Roman coin in Britain, a silver denarius dated to 211 BC, depicting the goddess Roma and the mythical twins Castor and Pollux. The not-to-be-missed coin is now on display.

Exhibition: The Hallaton Treasure Harborough Museum, 
Market Harborough 
Ongoing exhibition 
Tel: 01858 821085 

4: Be wowed by wordsmiths

This is a new exhibition of over 60 works, collected from the National Portrait Gallery, intended as a celebration of Britain’s finest literary talents. Notably, it will include the gallery’s inaugural UK loan of its iconic Chandos portrait of William Shakespeare. This is the only Shakespeare portrait with a claim to be painted from life, and back in 1856 it was actually the very first work the gallery acquired.

Exhibition: Writers of Influence: Shakespeare to JK Rowling
Graves Gallery, Sheffield
17 April–3 July
Tel: 0114 278 2600


5: Enjoy a good drama

Westminster Abbey is hosting the Royal Shakespeare Company this month for a collaboration inspired by Shakespeare’s history plays. The company will tell the story of six kings of England, all linked with Westminster Abbey as they battled for crown and kingdom. Excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays will be performed, music from the period will be sung and Nicholas Sagovksy, canon theologian of Westminster Abbey, will explain the historical context.

Exhibition: Shakespeare’s Kings and Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey, London
13 April–11 May
Tel: 020 7222 5152

6: Marvel at some magical maps

The British Library houses the second-largest map library in the world, with 4.5 million items in its cartographic collection. Their new exhibition will showcase 100 of the most impressive, dating from the 1400s to the present day. Visit to see that maps can be works of art, propaganda pieces or tools of indoctrination, as well as cartographic guides of varying accuracy.

Exhibition: Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art
The British Library, London
30 April–19 September
Tel: 0843 2081144

7: Journey with Gerald

In 1188, Gerald of Wales wrote Journey Through Wales, describing Archbishop Baldwin’s tour to gather recruits for the Third Crusade. Gerald called his book “a clear mirror, reflecting the wild and trackless places we passed through… it portrays the country itself, as well as the origins, customs and ways of the inhabitants”. His account provides a remarkable insight into the actions of and attitudes to crusading. The exhibition also displays Gerald’s De Principis Instructione as well as a jar from Damascus, possibly acquired by a crusader.

Exhibition: Medieval Wales: Some Crusade Stories
National Museum Cardiff
Until 10 May
Tel: 029 2039 7951

8: See the appliance of science

The Royal Society was officially founded on 28 November 1660 when 12 men met in the rooms of Lawrence Rooke, professor of geometry at Gresham College, London. They decided to establish a “Colledge for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematical Experimental Learning”. Some of the most innovative Fellows, such as anatomist Matthew Baillie, are celebrated in this small but fascinating new exhibition.

Exhibition: 350 years of the Royal Society: Fellows, Founders and Innovators
Royal College of Physicians, London
Until 18 June
Tel: 020 7224 1539


9: Relive historical romance

This is your chance to relive some of the most memorable wedding moments captured on film. See wedding dresses worn by Keira Knightley, Helena Bonham-Carter and Meryl Streep, examine the iconic work of Oscar-winning costume designers, and explore the history of the wedding gown. The dresses on display were made for the screen, but they also represent the story and the style of their time. You can also view wedding invitations, favours, wedding wreaths and a selection of bridal images from the museum’s own archive.

Exhibition: Marriage in the Movies National Museum of Costume, Dumfries
9 April–31 October
Tel: 0131 247 4030

10: Learn about a remarkable man

Royal Marine captain Guy Griffiths is the subject of this exhibition – in his time an artist, a forger, a bomber, a POW in Stalag Luft III and possibly a spy. Among his other achievements, Griffiths produced paintings of life at Stalag Luft III, some of which show incidents later portrayed in the movie The Great Escape, and these will be on display alongside Griffiths’ life story and footage taken by his German captors.


Exhibition: Griff: Thinker, Painter, Forger, Spy?
Royal Marines Museum, Portsmouth
Until October
Tel: 023 9281 9385


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