Who are you looking at?

I’ve never been much of a fighter, and I’m certainly less so now at my age, but I reckon I could have taken Franco. Mano a mano, I don’t think he would have stood a chance against me. Pau Gasol is a different matter. In fact, all he would have to do is hold out an arm, grip my head in one of his huge hands, and let me exhaust myself swinging at the empty air between us. Dalí would have been way too puny to get out of one of my headlocks, although I quite fancy Picasso’s chances despite him having a few years on me.

These were some of the thoughts going through my mind as I perused Barcelona’s wax museum, which reopened not long ago after receiving a complete makeover that includes 80 new figures of famous faces from the worlds of entertainment, science, politics, sport, history and popular culture. If you want to find out more about the museum’s renovation, you can check out our article on page 26, which will tell you all you need to know.

I bring it up here because it’s one of the few museums I’ve been to since the pandemic started, and having spent so much time shut up at home, it gave me a new appreciation for visiting places that all too often I take for granted. Journalism generally offers very few perks, but one is that you can get to see new stuff before anyone else, and for free. I went to the wax museum in December when it reopened, to do a report for a news agency, and not only did I get a guided tour but I was left to roam the place to my heart’s content.

These days, modern technology allows us to visit just about any museum in the world from our desks by taking advantage of virtual tours and 360 views. That level of progress has no doubt made the recent lockdowns more bearable for many, while at the same time it makes artefacts and treasures accessible to all. As time goes by, these digital experiences will no doubt become even more sophisticated, realistic and immersive, and I’m all for that. Let’s be honest, the chances of me ever visiting the Auckland War Memorial Museum are slim to say the least.

Yet, what my visit to the Barcelona wax museum reminded me of is that there’s nothing quite like seeing things in person. Few of us in Catalonia live very far away from a museum, gallery or landmark, and from now on I for one intend to make more of an effort to get out and about and visit more places, especially once we get back to normal. In fact, given that museums were among the institutions hardest hit by the lockdowns, it’s almost our civic duty to give them a boost if we can.

I’d certainly put the wax museum on the list. At one point while I was there I was walking past Nelson Mandela and got a feeling he was looking at me funny. I stopped and turned to face him. “You want some?” I asked. Silence. “Didn’t think so,” I said dismissively, turning my back and going off to check out the Star Wars room.

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