10 April 2019

Review: Treasure Palaces - Great Writers Visit Great Museums Edited by Maggie Fergusson

Treasure Palaces by Maggie Fergusson book cover
RRP $22.99 AUD
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

In a further attempt to clear out my toppling unsolicited TBR pile, I finally picked up Treasure Palaces edited by Maggie Fergusson last month. This is a series of essays by authors writing about the museums they treasure and it was published in December 2016.

Originally published as a series in Intelligent Life called 'Authors on Museums', writers were asked to return to a museum that had played a significant role in their life and write about the experience.

Maggie Fergusson took over the commissioning of the series after its establishment by Tim de Lisle, and at the end of the series a total of 38 essays had been published. Here Fergusson has curated the best 24, and I enjoyed reading them.

A particular highlight for me was Tim Winton's essay on the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne) entitled 'Spurned No Longer', which began with his first visit as a scruffy nine year old boy, initially refused entry because he was barefoot. The NGV was an icon for me in my teenage years, and I'd never have imagined living less than 500m from the grand entrance on St Kilda Road many years later.

What I did find interesting was the inclusion of art galleries in this collection of essays, which raised the question: "what's the difference between a gallery and museum?" A little online digging informed me that a gallery is where you can see the art with a view to purchasing it, which makes me wonder if the NGV is suitably named after all.

Another highlight in the collection was the essay by Aminatta Forna about The Museum of Broken Relationships, and not because I've been there, but because I've read about it. (See below).

Treasure Palaces edited by Maggie Fergusson was an enjoyable read, however it was often interrupted as I went to seek out the artworks being referenced within the essays. There are no photographs or images of exhibits included in the text and this would certainly have enhanced my reading experience if there had been.

Recommended for armchair travellers, art lovers, bookworms interested in learning about treasured authors and non fiction readers with an interest in art and science.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

P.S. For more museum inspired reviews, check out the following:

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