Thursday 8 June 2023

New Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Opens Tomorrow


The day is upon us and it is tomorrow (Saturday 10th June) when the new exhibition opens to the public. Those with a stake in the mystery have already made statements. Adrian Shine, the curator of the previous exhibition and a consultant for this new re-presentation says it is "imaginative, creative, entertaining and accessible". When asked why he did not include the word "definitive", he said:

Stories like this are seldom definitive. But it has moved on. We don’t like to let go of our myths, but we modify them in the light of information we get. We can hold on to the myth and still be reasonable and that’s the fun.

Adrian re-affirmed his sceptical position on the BBC News yesterday, though emphasizing it was not a cynical scepticism. Monster Hunter, Steve Feltham, has also played his part in the production process and has already seen the finished product. He was a lot more positive about the monster as opposed to the myth:

If I were only to be allowed one single word to describe the new Loch Ness Centre exhibition it would be, "Sexy". Continuum have managed to bring the mystery to life in so many impressive ways. They have put back the mystery, the romance, the possibility and the humour, in such an engaging way. Honestly when I stepped out of the last room into the gift shop I just wanted to get back to the waters edge and get on with the hunt. The hunt is on, the game is afoot.

I was invited to a preview myself this Friday, but, alas, other commitments stop me from going up to the loch this weekend. I will have to find a date real soon and get up north to see this promising new development in the Loch Ness Monster story. I will have to avoid the pictures that people will doubtless post on various websites and the multitude of comments for good or ill that may prejudice one's expectations. 

But for starters, the picture at the top is an exhibition animation of St Columba's encounter with a "water beast" somewhere along the river or loch (the Latin text is ambiguous). I covered this story in a previous article. The text by Adamnan doesn't describe what the creature looked like, but the popular plesiosaur-like animal is used here. And therein lies the creative aspects of an exhibition where myth and monster can be allowed to meet without canceling each other out. In the 19th century, the demonic water horse was the explanatory wrapper put around what people were claiming to see. The following century, it was the plesiosaur wrapper. Such are the added accretions of ancient and modern folklore.

People like Adrian will say today that if you remove either wrapper, you will find nothing but empty space inside. To extend the metaphor a bit further, I would contend you can't wrap up nothing - it would just collapse. Whatever that "something" is lying under the various layers added by men over the centuries, it is solid enough and I hope the new Loch Ness Centre Exhibition attempts to take a peek at what lies under the artificial layers.

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