Saturday, 1 October 2011

Marilyn : Hollywood Icon. American Museum in England Exhibition.

Yesterday I finally took myself off to the American Museum in Bath to see their exhibition on Marilyn Monroe.
I have had a fascination with Marilyn since I was about 6. I can trace it back to an occasion when I was out with my parents, possibly at Madame Tussards, and there was a waxwork of Marilyn. Not in full bombshell mode but from the film 'Bus Stop' with a suitcase at her feet. I remember being mesmerised by it for some reason and asking my Dad 'who the pretty lady was' when he came back to fetch me. I remember he said ' The pretty lady is called Marilyn Monroe, and she was an actress'.

Having done some internet research it turns out the American Musuem was not the place I thought it was! It is on the outskirts of Bath and not an easily walkable distance as I initially thought. Good job I looked it up really!!
I caught a train to Bath and then a bus to the museum. It was dead easy to do as the new bus station is right next to the train station. I don't know how regular the buses are, it may be that I was just lucky but I got straight on a bus on the way there and when I came to leave the museum a bus arrived literally as I turned the corner and walked into the bus stop. You get off at the University of Bath campus and then walk about half a mile to the museum itself. I have to confess halfway there I was starting to have grave doubts I was going the right way, as it is a pretty narrow country lane as you can see.
Lucky for me it was a beautiful day so I enjoyed the walk. At one point all I could hear was continuous barking and yowling. I did wonder if the university has a veterinary department but at this point it was a cacophony of miserable dogs, and far too many for something like that, it was actually a bit upsetting if I'm honest. All became clear when I passed the local RSPCA centre.
I decided not to call in though visitors were welcome, I fear I would have wanted to bring all the cats home with me!

This is the amazing view just as you turn into thr museum entrance.

I paid my money at the entrance to the car park and was directed down a different path as I was on foot. Finally here was Claverton Manor or the American Museum.
I loved this covered wagon at the entrance.
By now it was lunchtime so I decided first stop would be the cafe for something to eat.
 There is a beautiful terrace which is where I chose to eat my 'mac and cheese'.
 What a view! It was just so peaceful.
I was joined by an elderly couple as I had nabbed the last table in the shade. We chatted as we ate, and in that weird way life has it turns out that though there were visiting from Cardiff, the old chap was born and grew up in the next village to where I now live! Small world indeed.

Once I had had my fill of food I went to get my fill of Marilyn.

It is a small and intimate exhibition, no cameras allowed so no pics from inside I'm afraid.
One of the things I was most struck with was how tiny her dresses were. She is always thought of as having an hourglass figure with killer curves but by today's standards that is hardly the case. I have read so many accounts of Marilyn being a 'Size 16' and I think people in the U.K forget that that means an American Size 16 which is actually a British Size 12, and that was her at her biggest.
So really Marilyn was pretty damn tiny.

I liked the fact the clothes, especially the film costumes were quite often faded and damaged where they had obviously been worn and worn out during a film shoot.
 For me, there is also something about seeing a person's handwriting for real and not just reproduced on the pages of a book written about them, that I find very moving. It was incredibly poignant to see some of her prescription pill bottles and the bill from her doctor.
My only gripe about the exhibition was the signage. It was really very poor.
I would not call myself an expert on Marilyn by any means but I could have written better myself! Also the small signs in the cases just repeated word for word what was on the big signs hung on the wall and were often in front of the wrong object so they didn't even make sense.
Very shabby.
Other than that it was a wonderful snapshot of Marilyn's life.
                                                 These were my two favourite outfits.

I did take the time to look round the rest of the museum which is pretty small, but no less intersting for that. I loved the folk art room and some of the quilts were pretty mindblowing in terms of the work involved.
There was one made from old dress fabric which I loved and I would have quite happily had a dress made out of each one of the fabrics used they were so pretty.
It was also interesting to see rooms laid out from the same era but from different parts of the U.S.
So the eggshell blue and gold gilt 18th Century bedroom from a house in New York, in complete contrast to the opulence of the burgundy flock brocade and carved dark wood bed of a New Orleans plantation house.

The Marilyn exhibition runs to the end of October.


  1. I live near Bath and I still haven't been to the exhibition. It does look like there are some stunning dresses on show, really should get up there.

    There are some fab 20th century frocks in the Costume museums in the Assembly Rooms too (that's in the town centre).

  2. Ah - I was meant to go and see this - but have run out of time! So pleased I at least got to see inside of the programme!

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