An open letter to Hugh Laurie, aka “Dr. House”
While I’m a fan of the curmudgeonly brilliant physician you play on television, I am also intrigued by your real-life polymathic tendencies. Congratulations, sir, on the unbounded success of your new blues album, “Let Them Talk.” (I will still always think of you belting out vintage tunes at a plinkety piano in “Jeeves & Wooster.”)
In the New York Times magazine interview (“Hugh Laurie Sings the Blues,” profile by Gavin Edwards, 9/4/11) you experienced while meandering through the Darwin exhibit at London’s Natural History Museum with your journalist buddy-of-the-day, you lamented the horrifyingly invasive aspects of interactive museum media and sought peace and quiet.
He headed past an array of interactive touch screens explaining evolution, then questioned a security guard about where he could find a less high-tech section of the museum. “Glass cases, mahogany cabinets, no people,” Laurie specified. Thus directed, we decamped for the mineral gallery and found a bench between the sulfides and the silicates.
Mr. Laurie, I’ve got the nexus of glass cases, mahogany cabinets and Charles Darwin to recommend to you if your publicity tour takes you through Philadelphia.
Don’t miss the Wagner Free Institute of Science, founded in the 19th century to provide free science education for the people of Philadelphia. Little has changed since its founding and you’ll find glass cases galore, filled with stuffed birds and mammals, skeletons, fossils, geologic specimens and more.
As the museum’s own website explains
The Institute is not a reflection of the past, but the past itself, visible and vital, as it continues to pursue the mission of its founder, William Wagner.
You don’t need a replica of Darwin’s ship, the H.M.S. Beagle, in order to indulge in exploration of Darwin’s theories. (Darwin, according to Laurie, is “a good contender for the single biggest idea anyone’s ever had.”) Wandering around the Wagner, one might think they just glimpsed Darwin himself disappearing around Case 71 with the hanging tree sloth.
You don’t need to thank me for the suggestion. Just enjoy yourself.