THATMuse

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Quite a bit has happened to the Victoria & Albert Museum in its 165 year history – heists, bombings, construction and moments of brilliance. These posts are based off our #THATMuseFacts on Twitter – because a tweet sometimes isn’t enough! If you like learning about funny, interesting or just plain bizarre facts about some of Europe’s coolest museums, follow @THAT_Muse_ on Twitter and look for our quarterly “Top 10” posts like this one about the British Museum, Louvre and Musée d’Orsay!

Velazquez' Toilet of Venus, slashed by Mary Richardson, militant suffragette
The V&A didn’t want one of their works to end up like the Velazquez above!

1) In 1913, the V&A considered banning women because it feared militant suffragettes would vandalize the museum. After Mary Richardson took an axe to Velazquez’s The Toilet of Venus in the National Gallery, alarm spread through London’s museums and galleries. The suffragettes’ actions actually contributed to the V&A’s decision to do away with admission fees in 1914, reasoning that an increase in the number of visitors would act as extra security against possible attacks.

2) A V&A custodian named John Andrew Nevin was arrested and found guilty of stealing thousands of objects from the V&A in the 1950s.

Some of his loot included diamonds belonging to Catherine the Great, swords and Chinese jade, which he smuggled out by stuffing them down his trouser legs. When asked for an explanation, Nevin said, “I couldn’t help myself. I was attracted by the beauty.” In total, Nevin stole 2,068 items from the museum – the largest ever theft in terms of quantity from a British museum (not the BM!). (Read more here!)

3) The oldest photograph of London, probably taken in 1839, is housed in the V&A.

The oldest photo of london, from 1839 of the Charles I statue looking down Whitehall
Today we might say this photo is sepia!

A man named Monsieur de St Croix took the photo from Trafalgar Square, looking down Parliament Street. It is actually a daguerreotype, so the picture is on a silvered copper plate. It is very detailed; if you look closely, you can see a statue of King Charles I and people who stayed still long enough to be in the photograph. The process of daguerreotypy was invented in Paris but quickly brought to London.

4) Two dogs—Tycho and Jim – are buried in the V&A’s John Madejski garden.

V&A garden plaques commemorating deaths of museum director's dogs
What do you think — is this dog burial funny, weird, or sweet?

Jim, a Yorkshire terrier, belonged to Sir Henry Cole, the V&A’s first director. Cole would often take Jim to work at the museum with him and loved him dearly enough to have an enamel model made of the scruffy little dog. Tycho belonged to Cole’s son, Alan. And yes, this is a bonus question for some of our THATMuse V&A hunts, sending teams to find the plaques directly to the right, if entering the beloved garden courtyard from the V&A’s cafe entrance.

5) Aside from being the V&A’s first director and an exuberant dog lover, Henry Cole is also credited with inventing the Christmas card in 1843 (see below).

Henry Cole clearly had some great design chops!

He commissioned a designer and a printer to create over a thousand cards that could then be personalized and sent to friends. Cole also made enough to sell, but they were expensive and deemed a commercial flop. But when Dicken’s novel “A Christmas Carol” was published, Christmas cards caught on. Yes, this trivia is in our Festivities hunt at the V&A — glad you read this post? (Read more here!)

6) The V&A was the first museum to create a public restaurant, which was originally called the “Refreshment Rooms.”

Henry Cole (he sure pops up a lot, doesn’t he?) managed the Great Exhibition in 1851 and saw that many visitors there enjoyed having a hot meal or tea while going about the exhibits. He brought the idea back when the V&A was opened so that guests could have a similar experience. However, the restaurant was described as “hideously ugly” and the original structure – which clashed horribly with the museum itself – was demolished 11 years after it was built.

7) The tallest object in the V&A is a plaster cast of Trajan’s Column, which stands 35.6 meters high!

cast of Trajan's Column at the V&A London

In fact, it is displayed as two separate towers because it is too tall to fit inside the gallery. The Cast Court (including Trajan’s Column,) was installed in the V&A to allow people too poor to travel see culturally important works of art.

8) The Great Bed of Ware (which comes up in our “Festive Feasting” treasure hunt!) is, arguably, Britain’s most famous bed.

The Bed of Ware is massive even by today’s standards — can you imagine what 1600’s Londoners must have thought?

It is over three metres wide and, according tolegend, can hold at least four couples. The bed was famous enough in its day that Shakespeare referenced it in his play Twelfth Night, and 14th century tourists came from all over to lay eyes on it. Evidence of their visits can be seen via the carved initials and wax seals on the bedposts and headboard.

9) Horses and carts take up a lot of space – which the V&A learned when packages and post were delivered to the V&A and the horse did not have enough room to maneuver and get back to the street.

To deal with this issue, the V&A built a large turn-table – the horse just had to stand there and the floor beneath it would just rotate! Talk about inventive.

10) If you’re standing in front of the V&A, look up – you’ll see a large, imposing statue standing atop the building’s central tower.

Statue of Fame atop the V&A
You can see Fame at the very top of this model, from the V&A’s website!

This figure is Fame – and she’s not as scary as she looks, especially since she’s missing her nose!

GIRAFFE START & FINISH POINT

You’ll meet your THATMuse Rep at the Giraffes in the main Hintze Hall. They will have a white canvas THATMuse tote and prior to your hunt their name and contact details will be emailed to you.

TOOLS

Freshly charged batteries in your phones/cameras (per team) & comfy shoes.

Your THATMuse Mission

Photo your team in front of as many pieces of Treasure as possible within the given amount of time (90 mins to 2 hrs.) With each treasure photo you’ll earn 20 game points (about 500 game points), however, with careful reading you could pick more than 1000 bonus THATMuse points. There are several ways to do this. Our bonus questions fall into three key categories: – Scrutiny (looking more carefully at the piece or surrounding rooms) – Silliness (willing to trot like a Tang horse for bonus points?) – Knowledge (All of these questions can be answered within another piece of treasure text, within the hunt) There are also a variety of more artistic challenges & Letter Scrambles spelling out your prize treasure with THATMuse Letters embedded in the text, worth 100 bonus THATMuse points! We’ve intentionally provided more treasure text & fun than you could read about within the given time in the hope that you’ll want to return or extend your visit (& to ensure strategy!)

RULES

  1. Teams must stay together, must not run, jump or shout & of course NO NO NO TOUCHING anything…
  2. No external help… If seen speaking to a tourist-in-the-know or staffer you’re automatically eliminated; Likewise, no googling Marsupials, no GPS-ing where fossilized skin is, no phoning your geologist Aunt for help!
  3. Please be sure you have one (1) Master Copy with all the answers and only use one (1) camera/phone (to facilitate score tallying). In respect to Museum policy please mute your phones & no flash photography
  4. Must meet back at end point (Queen’s Gate, near Darwin Centre) at the precise time agreed. Each minute late merits 5 negative points — that’s 5 pts debited! — per minute (!!) Sometimes there are strategical reasons to be late, but attention: if you’re more than 10 mins late you’re ousted, eliminated, no point in coming back… Ouch!
You can answer bonus questions without having found the relevant treasure, as it proves you’ve read the treasure text (& will hopefully want to return to find it another day – our very goal!). Please note, you can answer bonus questions without having found the relevant treasure, as it proves you’ve read the treasure text (& will hopefully want to return to find it after your hunt or another day; our very goal is to extend your visit and plant the seed to want to return!). For a leg up on some treasure, see our THATNat category on the blog.  Morsels like Human or Ape? Or Rock or Bone or Bird or Dinosaur? May just have answers to bonus questions embedded in your text! For a sneak peek, check out this video of THATNat at the Natural History Museum!

MEETING POINT

We’ll meet on the corner of Cromwell Road & Exhibition Road and together will grapple with the security line entrance to the museum.  Your THATMuse host will have a white canvas THATMuse tote. The name and contact details of your greeter will be sent to you via email prior to your hunt.

London undergroudn entrance in the shade of a tree at the Natural History Museum
Your THATNat Meeting Point

TOOLS

Freshly charged batteries in your phones/cameras (per team) & comfy shoes.


Your THATMuse Mission

Photo your team in front of as many pieces of Treasure as possible within the given amount of time (90 minutes to 2 hours)!


RULES

  1. Teams must stay together, must not run, jump or shout & of course NO NO NO TOUCHING anything…
  2. No external help… If seen speaking to a tourist-in-the-know or staffer you’re automatically eliminated; Likewise, no googling Marsupials, no GPS-ing where fossilized skin is, no phoning your geologist Aunt for help!
  3. Please be sure you have one (1) Master Copy with all the answers and only use one (1) camera/phone (to facilitate score tallying). In respect to Museum policy please mute your phones & no flash photography
  4. Must meet back at end point (same as Starting point) at the precise time agreed. Each minute late merits 5 negative points — that’s 5 pts debited! — per minute (!!) Sometimes there are strategical reasons to be late, but attention: if you’re more than 10 mins late you’re ousted, eliminated, no point in coming back… Ouch!

Please note, you can answer bonus questions without having found the relevant treasure, as it proves you’ve read the treasure text (& will hopefully want to return to find it after your hunt or another day; our very goal is to extend your visit and plant the seed to want to return!).

Discussing team break ups (often a 4-person family will break into two teams, one parent and one child per team) before your hunt can drum up excitement and anticipation. For a leg up on some treasure, see our THATNat category on the blog.  Morsels like Human or Ape? Or Rock or Bone or Bird or Dinosaur? May just have answers to bonus questions embedded in your text!

For a sneak peek, check out this video of THATNat at the Natural History Museum:

THATKid Tuesday is a monthly dose of Art History for kids, running the 1st Tuesday of each month. In this series we’ll be blogging about different terms from the THATKid glossary we’ve created to help kids understand some of the art history terms that pop up in our hunts.

This time we’re going to look at Predella!

The Adoration of the Magi, in the Victoria & Albert Museum
From the V&A Cast courts

Predella, an Italian word, is the name given to the decorative panel below a painting or carving. Often this was used to tell the life story of a main character in several different scenes.  A good example is this cast of The Adoration of the Magi, which is in the Victoria & Albert Museum (and also a THATMuse treasure!).

If you look closely you can see the figures underneath the large scene; these form the Predella. This predella shows the Virgin Mary, St John the Evangelist and a host of saints and angels mourning the dead Christ. The images displayed in the predella were often a form of continuous narrative.

predella shows the Virgin Mary, St John the Evangelist and a host of saints and angels mourning the dead Christ
Here is a close-up of the predella

It’s not just on altarpieces that you can spot these; they were also popular in Renaissance era paintings.

Any questions about Predella? Please leave any comments or queries below!

The idea for THATKid Tuesday stemmed from the Kid Pack’s glossary. The Kid Pack has supplemental exercises for after your Louvre hunt, from a Michelangelo Connect-the-Dots and a Mona Lisa sticker-puzzle to a Botticelli Spot-the-Difference. Good for train rides or long French dinners, kids can also pick up on some terms like composition, perspective and the lot. As THATMuse has grown to include the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert and Musée d’Orsay, THATKid Tuesday’s blog version has grown to include other examples. Tune in the first Tuesday of the month if you’d like another art history dose of THATKid.

Originally published March 13, 2018

On your THATNat at the Natural History Museum, you’ll come across lots of objects that look like skeletons. Mighty T-Rex skulls, a full Iguanodon, and winged pteranodons. But are the skeletons the same as the skulls of the mammoths and mastodons in the museum’s collection?   

It’s a tricky question – one that we will answer on the hunt, of course!   

Not all fossils are bones. Any trace of a long-dead creature can be a fossil. Footprints are fossils. Bones are fossils. Egg shells are fossils. Even droppings are fossils – and we can learn a lot from them! But don’t expect to find some dino do-do with any organic matter in it. That stuff is long gone.   

The Mantellisaurus!

Dinosaur remains are millions of years old, and none actually have any cell tissue in them anymore. They aren’t, well, bones. They are simply mineral replications of the bones that they once were. They have the shape and form of bone, but they are essentially rocks. There is a particular process that leads to these bones becoming the fossils you see today.   

This process is called petrification. If you can remember that you’ll have some bonus points in your pocket for the THATMuse Dinosaurs and Extinct Beasts treasure hunt!

Just in time for Easter, we’ll be celebrating these creatures by bringing them back to life, even if just in our imaginations!

By Bryan Pirolli

Meet Archaeopteryx, the most valuable fossil in the Natural History Museum! 

Archaeopteryx type specimen fossil in the Natural History Museum

Pronounced Ark-ee-op-ter-ix, this is believed to be the earliest bird ever discovered. This fossil was found in Germany in 1861, just two years after Darwin had published On the Origin of Species. This helped prove the value of his ideas. Never before had such a clear link between the animals of today and extinct creatures been discovered. It has teeth and claws like many dinosaurs yet is covered in feathers and seemed adapted to flight. Some people found its discovery so incomprehensible they thought it must be an angel!  

Paleoart of Archaeopteryx sat on a branch
What Archaeopteryx might have looked like.

This fossil is so well preserved it has been designated the ‘type specimen’ for the species. This means it is the best version we have in the world and all other possible Archaeopteryx finds are compared to this one. It seems the creature fell onto a muddy riverbank and was quickly covered up with another level of thick clay like mud, preserving it intact and flat.  

Bird Brained?

Recent studies have also managed to 3D map the inside of its skull. Bird brains are squeezed so tightly inside their skulls that it leaves an imprint of the shape of the brain on the inside of the bone over time. By reconstructing Archaeopteryx’s brain they could see it had a big enough brain to actually fly, not just glide or flap about. It had excellent eyes and co-ordination just like modern birds.  

Sinornithosaurus, a flightless feathered Chinese dinosaur
Sinornithosaurus, a flightless feathered Chinese dinosaur

Recent fossil discoveries in China have also shown many more dinosaurs with feathers. Not for flight but for display and for warmth. It could be that many more dinosaurs we know were covered in feathers, and looked more like giant chickens than the scary creatures we picture today! In February 2020 the Royal Mint released a series of 50p coins with british dinosaurs on them. Drawn by real scientist paleoartists, one depicts the Megalosaurus with a coat of feathers! 

Originally published March 22, 2018

The Beatles had a famous song (at least one) where they sang, “Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes, and she’s gone.” They were not talking about the Lucy you’ll meet on your THATNat hunt at the Natural History Museum in London, (but she was named after this song!) but imagine this tiny human living many, many years ago. She probably had a few happy moments, with sun in her eyes. Or at least we like to think so. Lucy was not a human; however, she was not an ape either. So, what was she?

Discovered in Ethiopia, Lucy belongs to a group of pre-human creatures called Australopithecus. There is a lot of speculation about her, but scientists are pretty sure that she is a female – because of her pelvic bone – and that she walked upright like a human. This was a big deal back in the 1970s.

Today we know more about our early ancestors, but of course it’s hard to know a whole lot about Lucy, who lived around 3.2 million years ago. We learn a lot from her, especially from teeth – of which Lucy has precious few left. You’ll find out more during the THATNat huntDinosaurs and Extinct Beasts.

Keep this blog in mind if you want to have a few bonus points in your pocket when you arrive!

THATMuse stands for Treasure Hunt at the Museum. Our mission is to engage hunters on their scout for treasure (the art of the museums), by injecting a bit of adrenaline, interaction and learning into your museum visit. Teams of 2 to 4 people photo themselves in front of as many treasures as possible within the given amount of time. Poof! The very notion of “Museum Legs” disappears. Our goal? To make hunters want to – voluntarily – return to the galleries after their hunt. That’s why we provide excess treasure: it’s inconceivable to find all your treasure within a 90 min to 2 hour hunt, thus the need to strategise. After a 2-hour visit, do your kids typically lead you back into the museum?

WHERE ARE WE?

THATMuse started out as THATLou (au Louvre) in 2012, expanded to create THATd’Or (Musée d’Orsay) in 2013, took a dip outside the museums with THATRue (Latin Quarter and Marais) in 2014 & by 2015 was commissioned by the British Museum to create a hunt for one of their Friday Lates. That’s when we realized we were losing track of all our names & united under THATMuse. We now have more than 25 themes across the V&A, Natural History Museum, British Museum, in addition to our Paris treasure hunts. THATConcept is the same across, all you need are freshly charged batteries in your phone/camera, comfy shoes & a keen sense of curiosity!

WHY ARE WE?

If stretched out to a straight line, the Louvre would measure 8 miles (15 KM). The British Museum has a collection of 8 million pieces. The Musée d’Orsay has the single most important Impressionist collection in the world…Need we point out the crowds and lines and elbows that come with both lines and crowds? Henri Loyrette, former director of the Louvre, said 80% of 35K visitors a day go straight to the Mona Lisa and then leave the museum!

That’s a crime THATMuse looks to solve, focusing you on a theme, whilst expanding interest in quieter corners you might not think to visit on your own. Moreover it’s FUN, inevitably pumping adrenaline in the chase to capture as much treasure within the given time. You can opt for “friendly competition” (if another family surfaces for the same theme and date) for a social element or some families of 4 prefer to break up into two teams, one parent & child against each other.

Talking THATsmack to drum up museum anticipation is key, after all – and the THATMuse blog has posts per theme, making your treasure hunt educationally flexible. Hunters can read about their treasure before even making it to Paris or London (blog print-outs are useful for long plane rides), picking up on bonus answers before the hunt – important points that may just beat their sibling’s team (meanwhile surreptitiously planting an Art History seed!).

Following your hunt we send you a password to access (& join!) the annals of fellow THATHunters on our Gallery Page, where you can upload some team photos, scores, team name, where you’re from, etc. Not only can you compare notes on other teams’ romps, having your kids see other kids’ bonus photos may just reinforce the story of St George of who that Venus de Milo was!

WHO ARE WE?

An American (Daisy de Plume, Founder and Creative Director), an Argentine (Hernan, CEO), a Brit (Annie, head of French Operations), an Aussie (Raelene, Musée d’Orsay consultant) and a Swiss-Australian-Brit (Barbara, Graphics Consultant). Lest we forget Daisy and Hernan’s two culturally-confused, trilingual sprouts, Storsh and Brooksie, who are keen to help create silly bonus questions for our Kid-Friendly themes! You can meet the team here

The Louvre is a tourist’s obligation just as much as the Eiffel Tower, yet a palace of 65,000m² with 35,000 pieces of art certainly overwhelms! Henri Loyrette, former director of the Louvre, said that 80% of visitors go for the Mona Lisa & then leave.

THATConcept is identical to our other hunts: photographing your team in front of as many pieces as possible within a given amount of time (90 mins to 2 hrs). Additional THATMuse bonus challenges are embedded in your treasure text, ensuring that hunters read about their treasure — making the hunt educationally flexible, fun & interactive!

For information on extras you could add to your booking, please click here.

With over 8 million objects in the British Museum, or “World’s Museum” can overwhelm. We help thread together their collection from Greece (Parthenon frieze), Egypt (Rosetta Stone), Mesopotamia (Lion Hunt), the Americas and Asia whilst injecting fun into your visit!

The Musée d’Orsay has the single most important collection of impressionist art in the world with works by Degas, Monet, Renoir, etc. Famously housed in a former railway station, the open space is complicated. We help make sense of it, with fun, focused treasure hunts for groups, families and corporate team building!

THATRue (our street hunt) is reserved for group hunts of 12+ people or offered as a museum hunt add-on. We’re happy to customise a Hen/Stag harty hunt of just a few teams & have hosted team-building corporate hunts of up to 200 people simultaneously.