We get to the Bare Bones of Torquay Museum's new Exhibition | Review

We get to the Bare Bones of Torquay Museum's new Exhibition | Review

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Kids can get right under the skin of some of our best-loved animals with a new exhibition at Torquay Museum. Chrissy Harris went to check out Bare Bones.


Competition time! Win free tickets to Torquay Museum’s Bare Bones exhibition for you and the family - scroll down to enter.


Like ‘Darth Vader’ or ‘chocolate cake,’ if you were to say the words ‘animal skeletons’ to my 11-year-old son, he would suddenly give you his full attention. From an early age, he’s been fascinated by the natural world and everything that lives in it – even the weird and gross stuff. For him, perhaps the only thing that would be better than seeing animals in their natural habitats would be seeing them stripped down to their bare bones. That’s the thinking behind a new summer exhibition at Torquay Museum. Bare Bones (on until 8 September) explores the form and function of the skeleton in animal physiology.

“I suppose some people might think it’s scary, but I definitely don’t,” I heard one 11-year-old boy say. He was on a school trip to the exhibition and was putting together the pieces of a horse skeleton jigsaw, one of several interactive displays here. “You can see how the bones and the bodies work and how everything connects together – there!” he said. “I’ve finished it.” He had assembled the anatomical workings of a horse in just under three minutes. “I really like this kind of thing; I like how you can see how it fits together.”

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There is something fascinating about seeing how animals work, the leg bones connected to the knee bones, the head bones connected to the neck bones, etc. But those cute and cuddly critters we know and love, such as lemurs and meerkats don’t look quite so cute and cuddly when you can see their inner workings.

“It’s very much about what’s beneath the surface,” says Torquay Museum’s Carl Smith, who is showing me around the 17 display cases, which make up the exhibition in the building’s Pengelly Hall. “Bare Bones is about trying to get kids to understand more about animals – ooh this is my favourite bit,” he says as we come to the animal skulls.

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You can get up close and personal with the heads of a gorilla, tiger, horse, dolphin and more. “They’re really tactile,” says Carl, as I poke my finger through a gorilla’s eye socket – not something I’d usually get the chance to do on a weekday morning. “Kids can come up and touch them and see which skulls match which animal,” adds Carl.

There are other matching-up activities here, including a puzzle involving a cat’s bones and a ‘who’s who’ game, where kids have to spin picture blocks to find the animal’s skeletal make-up. And in a nod to our seemingly quenchless thirst for selfies, you can also snap a picture of yourself as a skeleton. However, judging by the distribution of Year Six school kids during my visit, the display cases had the most wow factor. The x-ray view of a ray and the gaping jaws of a bull shark are pretty impressive exhibits, as is the view from deep down inside a heron and a frog. There is something very calming and artistic about it all.

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“You’re right,” says Carl. “I mean, look at that,” he says, pointing to the giant picture of a chameleon’s skull, eyeing us up from the wall. “It looks amazing. That’s fascinating to me.” The image of a crocodile’s skull, teeth and all, is menacing but also strangely beautiful. Gentle music wafting out from a showreel-type animation, showing silhouette footage of the skeletons in action adds to the art gallery feel of this exhibition. With that in mind, I’d say – and the comments in the visitors’ book here seem to back me up – Bare Bones will be enjoyed by older children. I can’t think of many toddlers who will stop to appreciate the artistic merit of the skeletal anatomy of the common frog or who will know their ulna from their tibia, but you never know.

What I am sure of though is that most kids really like a) animals and b) skeletons. A room full of both is bound to keep them busy for a while.

And an extra tip: check out Torquay Museum’s awesome Roman exhibition, called Ipplepen. This exhibition – next door to Bare Bones - has been created with the British Museum and the University of Exeter. Some of the finds from the recent excavations at an archaeological site at Ipplepen are on display for the first time. Plus, you can dress up as a Roman soldier – with a shield! (I had fun, anyway).

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Torquay Museum's Bare Bones exhibition is running up until 8 September. A standard museum pass gives you unlimited entry to the Museum for one year: Adults £6.90, Children aged 3 - 16 £4.30, Children aged under 3 are free. Family (2 Adults and 2 Children) £19.30 and smaller family (1 Adult and 2 Children) £13.20. Disabled and buggy access available: there is step-free access, lifts & facilities throughout. For more information visit: http://www.torquaymuseum.org


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