The museum is divided into three sections, the west, north and east wings leading off from the central courtyard. Once back inside we decided to explore the east wing, which is dedicated to objects.
I think mostly what I want out of any museum is an aesthetic experience. Learning and reading and lots of words generally don't really grab me much, you can do that at home before or after. Audio-guides we don't bother with, though I'm sure they are often very good, and I prefer the silent company of people plugged into then than the intrusive voices of tour guides. The use of space and light and colour is important, though it doesn't have to be anything fancy; many years ago I was so smitten with the elegant simplicity of the Cycladic art museum in Athens I almost felt I could move in and live there (don't know what it's like now, it looks rather more extensive than I remember it). However, I do like to see objects, preferably close up; often a quaint and cosy small town local history museum can be just as enjoyable, but I've been to some exhibitions which seem to be very set on impressing with lots interactive hi-tech stuff - holographic figures talking to you, projected spatial stuff, lots of touch screens etc - yet I've found myself disappointed and thinking fine, but where's the stuff?
But this section at least of the Maritime museum (we didn't bother with the more pedagogic, interactive, 'explore-and-experience-the-life-of' bits) was brilliant, with creative use of space and light and sound and electronics, but with real solid stuff a-plenty too. We went first to the navigational instruments galleries. The room was darkened midnight blue, with illuminated star maps moving over the ceiling and a low, hypnotic background sound, suggestive of waves and bells and distant voices. An open book with empty pages greeted you in a pool of light as you entered, and this is what happened when you touched it and turn the pages:
(yes, I know he's turning them backwards, I don't think it made much difference)
Then there were the transparent cases of with the instruments, from late mediaeval astrolabes to modern equipment,
while these are clearly compasses:
Then there were the decorations, not only figureheads, but stern and mast decorations, tiller heads and all manner of wild, graceful, fierce, funny and sometimes downright saucy creatures and characters, enough to people a sea-going saga on their own:
(a touch of mise-en-abyme there, a ship within a ship...)
Again the sound and light murmured and shifted and changed around and on the objects.
And after that there were the paintings, dating from the early 17th century, when there were still sea monsters,
with examples in the genre of pen-paintings, which I didn't know about, executed with eye-watering detail and precision with pen and india ink on an oil paint ground,
and moments of high and luminous drama,
We only really saw a small part of the whole collection, and this is only a small part of what we saw. It really is a splendid museum.