This post leaves me open to accusation of being something of a nerd, but never mind, here goes…
Museums come in all shapes and sizes, from the large national museums to the tiniest community-led, subject-specialist and village museums. They cover all possible subjects offering something for everyone, whether you’re a lover of a dinosaur, a pencil, a coracle or a carpet. Or a street lamp.
Just before Christmas I took myself off for a relaxing couple of days in Brussels, intent on doing nothing but test out the local beer, chips, chocolate and waffles (all of which I did and they were delicious, thank you very much). Museums weren’t high on my agenda, if I’m honest, at least not until when surfing the web, I (virtually) stumbled across one particular attraction – The Brussels Street Lamp Museum.
Most who know me would confirm that, although I am a lover of all museums, I am far more likely to head for the Witchcraft Museum, the Gas Museum, the Lawnmower Museum or the Mustard Museum than I am for the British Museum or the V&A (brilliant, though they are), so frankly the Brussels Street Lamp Museum sounded like a veritable treat and I resolved that, should I achieve nothing else in my weekend away, I would seek it out.
There was hardly any information to hand, and even its location was not made absolutely clear so I set off for the suburbs of Brussels to find this museum. Well, I walked up and down and round in circles (I could probably draw a pretty accurate map of the neighbourhood from memory) and I could not find this museum. Until I looked up. The Street Lamp Museum, you see, is not a building or even a courtyard. It’s just set in a perfectly ordinary street outside a perfectly ordinary row of buildings.
In actuality, it is an installation by artists Nathalie Mertens and Christophe Terlinden and takes the form of a row of fifteen street lamps along the pavement, but each is from a different era – from the ornate 19th century lantern to the glowing orange orb of the 1970s. And although during the day time it is possible to examine each one in detail (should you so wish), at dusk, which is by far the best time to visit, something really rather magical happens as each of these lampposts lights up, illuminating the way for passers-by .
It’s sometimes tricky to define what makes a museum. I can’t decide if the Street Lamp Museum is a museum, a piece of art or both. Whichever it is, it is certainly makes for a beautiful scene in this otherwise unremarkable suburb of the city. I rather envy the people who live there and, each and every day, have this rather lovely piece of history lighting their way home.
You can find the Street Lamp Museum at 75-87 Rue Emile Devla / Emile Devlastraat, Brussels.