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Museums of the world
12.11.2010, 10:33:21

It is well known that museums are very important for development of mankind. They enrich local cultural life and help people understand and appreciate the natural world, the history of civilizations. They record humanity’s artistic, scientific, and technological achievements. Museums collect objects of scientific, aesthetic, or historical importance; care for them; and study, interpret, and exhibit them for the purposes of public education and the advancement of knowledge.

There are museums in almost every major city in the world and in many smaller communities as well. Unfortunately the number of museums in a small community or town is limited. That’s why it’s very important to learn as much as possible about outward things with the help of different museums.

Museums offer many benefits to their visitors, their communities, and society as a whole. As educational institutions, they offer unparalleled opportunities for self-directed learning and exploration by people of diverse ages, interests, backgrounds, and abilities.

For society as a whole, museums provide valuable intangible benefits as sources of national, regional, and local identity. They have the singular capacity to reflect both continuity and change, to preserve and protect cultural and natural heritage while vividly illustrating the progression of the human imagination and the natural world.

The major types of museums are art, history, natural history, and science. In certain museums, these disciplines may be combined. Within these categories there are also many specialized museums emphasizing particular topics or types of collections, such as museums of local history, music, the cultural heritage of native peoples, or maritime history.

All these facts about museums are absolutely true but the topic of this article is one more type of museums - wax figure museums. What do we know about them? Today, the interest in wax museums all over the world is keener than ever.

The art of wax portraiture goes back to ancient Egypt. It was also known in early Greece and Rome. A wax museum provides a series of snapshots of the people who have shaped and continue to shape our lives. It presents human beings in all their variety – it touches on happiness, horror, seriousness, power, rational thought and fantasy. One can say that the wax museum’s inhabitants symbolize human existence, both the good and the evil. The figures represent people of symbolic importance, such as kings, queens and princes. They represent people of power, such as heads of state, politicians and big businessmen. They represent people of the imagination such as authors, painters, actors and musicians and people who have changed our lives through their scientific discoveries. They lead us into an imaginative experience that makes life richer, more exciting, more frightening and much more fun.

The first wax museum as we know them was Madame Tussauds in London, established in the middle of last century.

Her life-size wax figures are noted for their remarkable realism and her museum is a very popular London tourist attraction. Today's wax figures at Tussauds include historical and royal figures, film stars, sports stars and famous murderers.The story of her life is also very interesting.

Marie Tussau (born Marie Grosholtz) was born in 1761 in Strasbourg, France. Her father, a soldier named Joseph Grosholtz, was killed in the Seven Years' War just two months before Marie was born. Her mother, Anne Made, took her to Berne where she moved to work as a housekeeper for Dr. Philippe Curtius (1741-1794).Curtius was a physician, and was skilled in wax modelling, which he used to illustrate anatomy. Later, he started to do portraits. Tussaud called him uncle.

Curtius moved to Paris in 1765, starting work to set up a wax figure cabinet. In 1767, Tussaud and her mother joined Curtius and also moved to Paris. The first exhibition of Curtius' waxworks was shown in 1770, and attracted a lot of people. The exhibition moved to the Palais Royal in 1776. He opened a second location in 1782.

Curtius taught Tussaud the art of wax modelling. She started to work for him and showed a lot of talent. She created her first wax figure, of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in 1778. Other famous persons she modelled at that time include Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin.

In Paris, Tussaud became involved in the French Revolution. She met many of its important figures, including Napoleon and Robespierre. On the other hand, she was also on very good terms with the royalty. In particular, from 1780 up to the revolution in 1789, she taught art to the sister of Louis XVI. In fact, they were so pleased with her that, on their invitation, she lived at Versailles.

On July 12, 1789, wax heads of Jacques Necker and the duc d'Orleans made by Curtius were carried in a protest march two days before the revolution.

However, Tussaud was arrested by the revolution on suspicion of royalist sympathies. In prison, she awaited execution by guillotine together with Josephine de Beauharnais. Even though Tussaud's head was already shaven for her execution, she was saved for her talent in wax work and employed to make death masks of the victims of the guillotine, some of whom had been her friends. Among others, she made death masks of Marie Antoinette, Marat, and Robespierre.

When Curtius died in 1794, he left his collection of waxworks to Marie. In 1795, she married Francois Tussaud. They had two children, Joseph and Francois.

In 1802 Marie Tussaud went to London together with Joseph, then 4 years old, her other son staying behind. As a result of the Franco-English war, she was unable to return to France, so she travelled with her collection throughout Great Britain and Ireland. In 1821 or 1822, her other son joined her. She established her first permanent exhibition in Baker Street in 1835 (on the "Baker Street Bazaar"). In 1838, she wrote her memoirs. In 1842, she made a self portrait which is now on display at the entrance of her museum. Some of the sculptures done by Tussaud herself still exist.

She died in her sleep aged 88 in London on April 15th 1850. There is a memorial tablet to Madame Marie Tussaud on the right side of the nave of St.Mary's, Cadogan Street, London.

Madame Tussaud's wax museum has now grown to become one of the major tourist attraction in London, and has expanded with branches in Amsterdam, Hong Kong (Victoria Peak), Las Vegas, Copenhagen and New York City. The current management is The Tussauds Group.

The work of her life was not finished with her death. There is wonderful wax museum of Louis Tussaud, the great-grandson of Madame Tussaud in Copenhagen.

Louis Tussaud's Wax Museum carries an international tradition one step further. In this museum we can find more than 200 figures in the various exciting galleries: Hall of Kings, Statesmen, Art Masters, Fairy-land, Limelight, Casablanka- and the chamber of Horrors.

Let’s become acquainted with some halls of this museum.

Politics

In the modern world power is usually vested in elected heads of state. Into their hands nations entrust their fate. Political opinions and procedures vary among the countries that elect their leaders. Common to them all, however, is the fact that power cannot be inherited as it was during the period of absolute monarchy.

Some elected leaders become the world's mightiest men and women, as in the case of the American president.

Limelight

Meet some of the world’s great entertainers Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Louis Armstrong, The Beatles, Elvis Presley and many more. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman come to life, together with several others of the actors of 'Casablanca' in ' Ricks Cafe American’.

Fairytales

Once upon a time... This is the way a fairytale should start. And then we all know that what follows is a make-believe. Or is it, after all? Perhaps the fairytale is coloured most vividly in the reader's own mind. But it can also be depicted by artists, as in Louis Tussaud's Fairy Tale Land.

Chamber of horrors

Your tour of the Wax Museum ends with a visit to the old vaulted cellars which are ideal for the Chamber of Horrors. Here is no blood and gore but spooky surprises, bats, giant spiders, vampires; a ghost comes flying through the air towards you. Animation and special sound effects make this the high point of the visit for many guests.

The Making of a Wax Figure

After a thorough research and study the subject’s head is modeled in clay. A piece mould is made from plaster, and then removed from the clay, reassembled and molten wax poured into the mould.

Hands closely resembling the subjects are cast from life. The mould is removed from the wax, section by section. Glass eyes are fitted and human hair inserted strand by strand.

A base colour is applied, followed by a final tinting process reproducing the many subtle variations found in a face. The body and limbs are made from fiberglass; assembled with the head and the hands and suitably costumed it is ready to be placed in the museum.

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