I went Norwich recently to bob about the Norfolk Festival. And then we decided that great British weather made the castle a safer bet (and a few pubs afterwards!) I had studied the castle briefly in uni as an example of this and the other, but had little idea of it's long use as a prison, or attached local museum and the stunning contents therein.
Slideshow reviews are below, just click the pic to see the next one!
The castle is a strange building in all, impressive in scale it's almost hard to get your head around as we're so used to semi ruined or very rebuilt sites, and much remains the original keep. Once inside the height and space is giddying, but as we visited when it's undergoing reinterpretation, it's hard to judge the presentation and information. An area on it's use as a prison has some good hands on kids things, but felt very text heavy with most visitors skimming through, a shame as it had some excellent tales to tell. Space downstairs covering the castle being built hold some well put together but slightly tired mannikin/diorama displays and a very good CGI of the whole Norman site.
Then... we went into the musuem, where you can find out about inexplicable skeletons, LOTS of teapots and treasure and more, in the rest of the post below..... (click the read more text ->)
The museum uses the shape of the prison well, starting you off in a large airy atrium in the centre, and spanning galleries out and along the prison wings. We didn't have time to cover it all, closing at 4.30 on a Saturday they were having to almost push visitors from the building, such a shame when it was obviously popular and many people (such as ourselves) assumed it would be open until at least 5.00. Throughout it is evident that money and attention has been paid in the right ways, with displays appealing to and engaging families and casual tourists, while more detailed information is available and accessible for the nerdier sort ("My gods! I recognise that torc from a textbook!!")
The Boudica gallery showed clever use of heavily theming areas, then the Anglo-Saxons and Celts was modern and bright, and natural history areas reuse original wooden cabinets well, fascinating children. A section on decorative arts is apparently recently renovated with two new galleries, but felt somewhat cold and lifeless compared to the other areas. We didn't make it near the art areas...
In all I'm certainly up for a second visit, not only to see how they finish the interpretation of the keep and it's displays and to see the galleries we missed, but also because there is an awful lot of stuff there and it's such an enjoyable place to look around. Busy with kids, families, groups and tourists, there is enough space and material that you can always move to see something new, and always feel a real energy and interest from all the visitors without it distracting.
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