Known at various times in its history as the ‘Gateway to Britain’, the ‘Gateway to the Empire’ and the ‘Gateway to the World’, Southampton is renowned as a port city, the home of great ocean liners, a place of arrival and departure, and a city whose own narrative is ‘rooted in its waterway’.
The BNNS occupies a substantial, towered Italian gothic Victorian house, built in Bournemouth in 1879. The premises are part museum, part laboratory, part urban temple to learning. Its rooms are lined with wooden cases and chests whose many drawers contain butterflies, eggs, mineral specimens, fossils and archaeological remains in the tradition of nineteenth-century collectors such as General Pitt Rivers. The house and its contents, its histories and its characters, offer a remarkable new resource for literary interpretation.
The Crystal Palace has been deemed notoriously difficult to narrativize by nineteenth-century commentators and twenty-first-century critics alike. Victorian writers frequently likened the spectacular glass structure and its expansive grounds to Fairy Land or a palace from the Arabian Nights. In its second, larger incarnation on Sydenham Ridge, it could be seen from many locations across the city, standing as a landmark to Victorian grandeur and innovation. Symbolically, the Palace spoke of panoramic horizons across the British Empire and wider globe, and famously hosted the 1911 Festival of the Empire.