Geology in the Park, c. 1854

I especially love Helen and Hard’s use of geologic strata as an organizing feature because it resurrects the Victorian-era ideal of using park elements as teaching opportunities.

Those energetic Victorians, who basically invented the modern public park (previously parks were mostly private and invariably royal) thought that education and recreation should go hand in hand; both were necessary for improving the lot of the unwashed urban masses.  Labeling the trees and plants, a tradition still seen in public parks today, was particularly popular.

But they had even more ambitious plans for the Crystal Palace, to which the world had come in 1851 for the Great Exhibition.  Its post-exhibition home was in a public park with grounds designed by Joseph Paxton (whose landscapes inspired Central Park’s Olmsted) to be an ‘illustrated encyclopedia’, and they featured artificial geologic strata in the form of cutaway cliffs, shown above.

Also similarly to the Stavanger park, there was a display of industry:   a model of a lead-mine, with “pipe veins, rake veins, and stalactites and with life-size models of Irish Elks above the entrance” [source] 

These ideas find modern playground reflections in the crawl-inside bellies of Monstrum’s monsters, and the ever popular motifs of dinosaurs and dinosaur bones, which just goes to show, I think, that the things which delight us remain rather consistent a hundred and fifty so years later.The artificial cliff and mine displays appeared in concert with the world’s first dinosaur sculptures.  Sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkin’s ‘Dinosaur Court’  included an ‘Iguanadon’ large enough that he held a New Year’s Eve party inside its belly!

And you can still see the strata and the restored sculptures of the Dinosaur Court, at Crystal Palace Park in South London.


One Response to “Geology in the Park, c. 1854”

  1. shinnochio said:

    Hello, fellow blogger here:

    June 29, 2012 at 4:43 pm

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