Only Oxford? The Museum of the History of Science has recently had giant plastic spectacles stolen from the nose of one of its stone heads. Why on earth were they there in the first place? This was in honour of the museum's present exhibition, entitled 'Geek is Good', which celebrates the self-evident geekiness of the Computer Science obsessive, Maths compulsive, or as they might put it... the nerd.
What is a geek? Why would one choose to identify as one? When you first walk in there's a discussion panel on the term, and the exhibition channels you to confront and address your ideas on what constitutes a geek.
This is a hands-on exhibition. There are computer terminals with BASIC programming tasks, and handouts from the original manuals, dating back to the 1980s.
There is also a 'Geek confessional', a photo booth with a difference where they are inviting visitors to sit and confess their geek moments with pride. It isn't clear what they want to do with this data, but as a celebration of cerebral quirkiness, one hopes it will be a glorious riot of intellectual blooms.
A number of topics fill the exhibition. Beyond the computer coding, there are examples of the first tinted glasses, the precursor to the modern sunglasses. We know that different coloured lenses can help with learning difficulties, and migraine, let alone protecting eyes, but here are some of the original glasses of that type, in a fetching blue / turquoise.
'Philomath' turns up as a concept - those people who just love Maths in all its different guises. There is a giant slide rule on the wall, with information about how important they were in previous eras.
The exhibition is great for bringing together the recent and more distant past. They ask the question 'Was Chaucer a Geek?' because of his interest in astrolabes. As the museum has a particularly fine collection of this instruments, it makes for a very interesting put-stop on the tour.
Chaucer and the astrolabes
Computers started the size of whole rooms, but are now tiny things, fitting in our mobile phones and other devices. Here we see the minute lauded (the Raspberry Pi occupies a case of its own) but also the development of such humble computers as the pocket calculator too.
There's information about the exhibition on the museum website. The museum is housed in a beautiful building, but this means that the combination of stone steps up and stately wooden steps down make it somewhat inaccessible for prams and wheelchairs.
Social misfit or 21st-century icon of cool? The geek is sometimes ridiculed, sometimes celebrated, but often behind the latest developments in science and technology.
Beginning in the present day this exhibition sweeps backwards in time, from the geeky enterprise of 1980s home computing all the way to medieval astronomical instruments. Was Chaucer a geek? Were the beautiful devices of the past the geek gadgets of their day? And with our screen-based, computer-driven lifestyles are we all geeks now?
Over in the shop you can purchase various merchandise items to declare your inner geek to the world. Geek is chic, as much as good, and this exhibition does a grand job of celebrating that in a fabulous venue.