Reflections on childhood trips at the museum

I have a complicated relationship with my dad. You know the joke about how women eventually turn into their mothers?

I have a complicated relationship with my dad. You know the joke about how women eventually turn into their mothers? Well sometimes I am genuinely concerned I’ll turn into my father. As much as we love each other, since I’ve grown up it can get pretty heated in our household. 

Memorable incidents have included a screaming match in the world’s busiest airport, to the point where security staff started exchanging nervous glances and edging towards us menacingly. But despite these Eastenders-worthy bust-ups, my dad and I have shared some of the best days of my childhood. 

Lasting Memories

When I was a child, my dad would take days off work during my school holidays to take me on day trips, just the two of us. As the daughter of two teachers, you can bet that the trips were educational. Instead of theme parks or the cinema, we went to museums. But the memories of these trips are some of my enduring favourites.

There was the giant diplodocus skeleton in the entrance of the Natural History museum, with all of the million-year old fossils laid out in front of me. There was the intricately decorated sarcophagi and rusted Celtic swords at the British Museum, and the buzzing, electric magic of the London Science Museum. 

We never followed the organised tours. Armed with just a (fairly undetailed) map, we’d explore the halls of the museums for hours, looking at every Viking drinking horn and Medieval suit of armour, and imagining the people they used to belong to. 

My dad was never happier than when sharing his love for science and history with me. He’d explain how electricity was discovered and channelled into the Walkman I’d been listening to on the train, or why the ancient Celtic warriors painted their skin with blue dye before battles.

I tried out the rocket flight simulator at the Science museum and saw my father’s genuine disappointment when the attendant told him it was for children only. 

Please exit through the shop

And then of course, it was time for every child’s favourite part of the trip: the gift shop.

Awash with cheap plastic replicas of Roman helmets, nasty chocolate stamped with the museum logo, and stacks of glossy books explaining – in detail – all of the facts I’d ignored on the tiny metal plaques in front of the display cases as I wandered around. 

Better still, since I was with my dad I wasn’t restricted to the school trip rules of £3 spending money to be frittered on neon rubbers and plastic rulers that were inevitably shattered on the coach ride home. 

Although the souvenirs I brought home from those trips have long since disappeared into boxes, then into bags, then probably into the bin, I still remember them. 

There was a build your own replica of the above mentioned dinosaur skeleton, which confused me even with the “helpful” input of all my family, and kept falling apart into a jumble of bones even Ross Geller couldn’t decipher. 

There was a digital watch from the electronics exhibition at the Science museum, which flashed different colours and was the envy of all my friends at school. And of course, there was a green faced, Egyptian-mummy-shaped pencil tin, which had a potted history of Isis and Osiris on the back and, helpfully, held about four pencils. 

Worth every penny

My father and I don’t always get on, but I treasure those days out and everything I learned from them. 

I still love ancient history, the stories of Egyptian mummies and Greek myths fascinate me to this day. I got so much more out of them than from any school trip, being herded around the exhibits as fast as possible. 

I was never bored seeking out the pointiest sword or the shiniest crown with my dad, unlike the half hour lectures in drafty conference rooms sat on itchy chairs that preceded every painfully slow tour around with my class. 

School trips are important – they are led by experts who know more about the exhibitions than the casual enthusiast that is most parents. But they’re no substitute for the time spent exploring with your kids, learning things as you go. 

I thank my dad for taking the time to show them to me, and I promise to try and remember these moments during our next argument. 

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