If you’re being generous, this exhibition might be called ‘eclectic’. Less charitable souls would probably write it up as ‘random’. It brings together a taste of the collections from the University of Cambridge’s eight museums, under the theme of ‘discoveries’. Unfortunately, the mixture of artefacts doesn’t really fit the description.
From a skeleton of a dodo (assembled from a selection of dead dodos, rather than a single bird), to a collection of snow goggles from throughout the ages, it lacks coherence. There are certainly some diverting items - a telescope which has been around the world multiple times, first on HMS Discovery and then on the Space Shuttle Discovery; an exquisite inlaid medieval Islamic game of snakes and ladders - but overall this exhibition disappoints.
The star of the show is really the building itself - Two Temple Place is an architectural gem. It’s a late Victorian mansion built by William Waldorf Astor, near Temple tube station, which has been tastefully restored following World War Two bomb damage. The highlights are the glass ceiling in the hall above a sweeping grand wooden staircase, and lots of intricate wooden carving in an upstairs gallery.
The venue sets great store by the fact that it is London’s first which specifically aims to showcase publicly-owned art from around the UK. There are certainly plenty of wonderful collections out there - but unfortunately this show doesn’t highlight Cambridge University’s to its best advantage.
For more art in plain English, check out http://www.curatedlondon.co.uk