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Posts Tagged ‘museums

Standing watch…


From Minneapolis’ glorious Walker Art Center, Todd Balthazor‘s musings on the life of a museum guard

Larger versions of these comics, and many more, at the Walker’s MNArtists blog.


As we wax philosophical, we might recall that it was on this date in 2001 that the British government, making good on an election pledge, dropped all entry fees to 13 of Britain’s most popular government-sponsored museums, including the National History Museum and the Victoria and Albert.  Shortly, others– including the Tate Modern and the Imperial War Museum– followed; and over the ensuing decade, attendance rose by over 150%.

The National Gallery



Written by LW

December 1, 2013 at 1:01 am

Art that wants to be free…


Alexander the Great in the Air; Unknown; Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany, Europe; about 1400 – 1410 with addition in 1487; Tempera colors, gold, silver paint, and ink on parchment

Early this month, The Getty Museum announced the launch of their Open Content Program, which makes over 4500 images from their collection (including the three examples here) available under an open license– meaning that anyone can share the images freely and without restriction.

Among The Tree Tops Calaveras Grove; Carleton Watkins, American, 1829 – 1916; California, United States, North America; negative about 1878; print 1880 – 1890; Albumen silver print

A Crocodile [as then imagined from reports]; Unknown; England, Europe; about 1250 – 1260; Pen-and-ink drawings tinted with body color and translucent washes on parchment

Visit the Getty’s site to begin exploring. [via Public Domain Review]


As we share and share alike, we might send acerbic birthday greetings to journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, and critic Henry Louis “H. L.” Mencken; he was born on this date in 1880.  Mencken is the author of the philological work The American Language, and is remembered for his journalism (e.g., his coverage of the Scopes Trial) and for his cultural criticism (and editorship of American Mercury– published by Alfred Knopf, also born on this date, but 12 years after Mencken ) in which he championed such writers as D.H. Lawrence, Ford Madox Ford, and Sherwood Anderson.  But “H.L.” is probably most famous for the profusion of pointed one-liners and adages that leavened his work…

The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

I believe in only one thing and that thing is human liberty. If ever a man is to achieve anything like dignity, it can happen only if superior men are given absolute freedom to think what they want to think and say what they want to say. I am against any man and any organization which seeks to limit or deny that freedom. . . [and] the superior man can be sure of freedom only if it is given to all men.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

Truth would quickly cease to be stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it.

1932 portrait by Carl Van Vechten


Written by LW

September 12, 2013 at 1:01 am

Pictures at an Exhibition…


From fine arts…

… through antiquities…

… to natural history…

…”grannybeelee” has collected a mesmerizing set of museum (and, as at the top of this post, analogically-related) photos at Hours of Idleness.


As we gallery-hop with glee, we might recall that it was on this date in 1911 that Hiram Bingham discovered the Lost City of the Incas, Vilcapampa (now called Machu Picchu), where the last Incan Emperors found refuge from the conquistadors.

Machu Picchu had been forgotten by all but a few Peruvians living in close proximity.  An academic, explorer, treasure hunter, politician and acknowledged inspiration for the Indiana Jones character, Bingham, leading a Yale expedition, followed one of those locals, Melchor Arteaga, to the site, then published his findings. Machu Picchu has become one of the major tourist attractions in South America– and the switchback-filled road that carries tourist buses to the site from the Urubamba River is called the Hiram Bingham Highway.

(While Bingham is widely-acknowledged as the man who brought Machu Picchu to the modern world’s attention, there are credible claims to its re-discovery that predate his:  the Cusco explorers Enrique Palma, Gabino Sanchez and Agustín Lizarraga are said to have arrived at the site in 1901; and descendants of two local missionaries, Thomas Payne and Stuart McNairn, claimed to have climbed the ruins in 1906.)

Bingham (above) and Arteaga, at Machu Picchu




Written by LW

July 24, 2013 at 1:01 am

Another Roadside Attraction…

Readers still wrestling with the need to finalize this summer’s vacation plans will be grateful to Atlantic Cities for its survey of “9 Utterly Bizarre Museums.”  From the sublime…

The Miniature Book Museum in Baku

… to the, well…

The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka

… with body parts, voodoo, funerals, Parisian sewers, and toilets in the mix.

And then there is the Mutter Museum in Phildelphia…

…a museum “best known” for its skull collection. Other artifacts include a wax model of a woman with a horn growing out of her forehead, several wax molds of untreated conditions of the head, and a nine-foot-long human colon that contained over 40 pounds of fecal matter.

Also not to miss – the body of the Soap Lady, whose corpse turned itself into a “soapy substance called adipocere better known as grave wax.”

And Boston’s Museum of Bad Art…

The museum’s curators seek “art too bad to be ignored.” The first piece was found in the trash.

Once, the museum would not pay more than $6.50 for a piece, now most are donated by the artists themselves. The most famous piece is Lucy in the Field With Flowers, featuring a woman skipping through a field in a blue dress.

Turn summer into an educational adventure with the help of “9 Utterly Bizarre Museums.”


As we search for a docent, we might recall that this date in 1881 is the earliest of three competing candi-dates for the invention of the ice cream sundae.  In the most ancient of the creation tales, a treat-seeking patron of Edward Berner’s drug store in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, sat down at the soda-fountain counter. Since it was the Sabbath, the customer couldn’t have the desirable, but proscribed-by-Blue-Laws, ice cream soda that he wanted.  Berner improvised, putting ice cream in a dish and pouring over it the chocolate syrup that was previously only used as flavoring in ice-cream sodas. And so the “ice cream Sunday” was born.  It’s popularity grew, and soon it was ordered throughout the week. Finally, when a glass salesman convinced Berner to order special canoe-shaped vessels for the confection, the spelling of Sundae was changed… or so the denizens of Two Rivers aver; the good people of Ithaca, New York, and Evanston, Illinois beg to differ.

The ice cream sundae in its more modern vessel


History belongs to the victuals…


After our recent visit to the Creation Museum, readers might appreciate the disciplined scientific rigor (and presentational empathy) on display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History

source (and larger image)

[TotH to the eclectically-accomplished Christopher T. Palmer]


As we exit through the gift shop, we might recall that this date in 1954 was, according to the True Knowledge Answer Engine, the most boring day since 1900.



Hardcore History…

Your correspondent and his daughter were recently in Our Nation’s Capital, and visited that collection of museums arrayed around The Mall.  We were amazed to have the exhibits more or less to ourselves.

So it was a delight to discover the work of artist Jenny Burrows and copywriter Matt Kappler, who created a wonderful set of fake ads for that famous institution.  E.g.,

The originals of the ads above and below, and of the rest of the set, featured the name and logo of “America’s Treasure Chest”; but as our friends at Design Milk report, “unfortunately, that major museum was not a fan. Jenny had to change the text at the bottom to read “Museums” and change the logo. You can read all about that here.”

See the rest of the Jenny’s and Matt’s portfolio at “Historically Hardcore.”

As we wish that our tax dollars could stretch to cover a sense of humor, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940 that Booker T. Washington became the first African-American to be depicted on a U.S. postage stamp.  (The first U.S. coin to feature an African-American was the Booker T. Washington Memorial Half Dollar, minted from 1946 to 1951; he was also depicted on a [“regular”] U.S. Half Dollar from 1951–1954.)


The Annals of Exhibitionism, Vol. 12: Specialization…

Museums preserve and celebrate the extraordinary scope of human experience and accomplishment; they educate and entertain; they are, at once, a culture’s treasure chests and its hope chests.

And thus, museums come in an equally-extraordinary ranges of sizes, shapes, and foci.  While the best-known tend to be either broad in the purview (e.g., The Museum of Natural History) or focused on something central to the zeitgeist (The Air and Space Museum), there are thousands of others, devoted to more…  well, more particular corners of the human experience.

Consider for example, The Vent Haven Museum of Ventriloquism

So, what do you get when you combine the loneliness of a pet cemetery with the creepy flair of vaudeville? The Vent Haven Ventriloquist Museum, of course—where dummies go to die. The Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, museum was the brainchild of the late William Shakespeare Berger, who founded the site as a home for retired wooden puppets. In fact, he collected figures from some of the country’s most famous ventriloquist acts. And with more than 700 dummies stacked from floor to ceiling, you’re bound to feel like you’re stuck inside a 1970s horror flick—albeit a really good one. But sadly, when Berger gave the tour, you could totally tell his mouth was moving. [Image courtesy of Vic.]

Or The Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia

…did you know that PEZ was originally marketed as an adult mint for people trying to quit smoking?

Or The Museum of Bad Art

Founded in 1993, The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) in Boston is “a community-based, private institution dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms and in all its glory.” The art featured on the site is not of the middle-school drivel variety; rather, the pieces seem to be the product of people who think that if they light candles and play Mozart loudly, the talent will come. It doesn’t, but the results are fun.

Thanks to the good folks at Mental Floss, readers can discover nine other rare gems at “12 Oddly Specific Museums Preserving Our History.”

As we celebrate enthusiasms for their own sakes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1965, at 11:00 pm, that Dale Cummings did the first sit-up in the set that would, almost exactly twelve hours later, result in his having set a new world record– 14,118 sit-ups.

click here to see enlargement at source


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