Posted in Art, Humor, World, tagged Art, Art Museums, Australia, Hobart, Humor, MONA, Museum of Old and New Art, Museums, World on February 14, 2013 |
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Museums tend to be pretty stodgy places. Now there’s a museum in Hobart, Australia that is shaking up the dusty museum world.
The Museum of Old and New Art, or MONA, breaks just about every rule we associate with museums. Instead of an imposing marble structure, it’s housed in a curious building. Rather than ascending broad steps, you descend several flights of stairs to get to the exhibit floors. There are no labels or informational signs prepared by curators on the walls of the museum; visitors get an iPod crammed with information about the exhibits and are asked whether they “love” or “hate” each piece. And the museum has an on-site brewery and vineyard, too.
MONA features eclectic pieces, such as “living” art consisting of fermenting fruit and agar and a piece that replicates a digestive tract and produces, at 2 p.m. daily, a stinky piece of artistic fecal matter.
I’m not sure why anyone would want to see a turd, no matter how artistically it was produced or presented — we get to see them often enough. But the idea of shaking up the museum world, and presenting art in different settings, is a good one. I don’t think I’d travel to Hobart, Australia to see MONA, but I’m still kind of glad it’s there.
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Posted in America, Movies, Travel, World, tagged America, Beyond All Boundaries, Higgins Boats, Movies, Museums, National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Travel, World on April 21, 2012 |
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New Orleans is home to the National World War II Museum. It’s an effort to remember and recognize the significance of a war that increasingly is being forgotten, with the passage of time and the passing of those who fought in history’s greatest conflict.
The annual meeting I’m attending had a dinner at the Museum. Although the hour and the occasion didn’t allow a visit to the exhibits, I did have the chance to walk around a hall where planes hang from the ceiling and PT boats and tanks and jeeps are available to be examined. One of the devices was a Higgins boat, the famed amphibious landing craft with the plop-down bow that ferried our invading troops from ships to shore and made the invasion of Normandy and the island-hopping strategy in the Pacific possible.
We also watched Beyond All Boundaries, a film about the war narrated by Tom Hanks. The movie, and a short introductory film that set the stage for the conflict, are powerful reminders of how many millions of people were killed across the globe, the awful horrors of the war, and how dramatically the war changed society and the world.
The film is designed to make the audience feel like part of the story, as lights flash around the theater, seats rumble, snow falls, smoke fills that air, and objects drop from the ceiling and rise from the floor. However, the words of the soldiers and some of the pictures in the film — the starving Holocaust survivors in their ragged concentration camp uniforms, frozen bodies of dead soldiers loaded onto trucks, a dead Japanese child floating in the surf off one of the Pacific islands where the fighting was so intense — pack far more of a punch than the gadgetry ever could.
After watching the devastation, and the death, and the carnage, I wasn’t exactly in the mood for a dinner party. We should all thank the Americans who fought in that bloody conflict that helped to restore freedom to the world.
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The world is a very old place. Human civilizations have been around for a long time, too — we just tend not to think about it unless something reminds us.
One reminder is the story of the world’s oldest museum, which was established in the city of Ur 2,500 years ago. It was discovered in 1925, when an archaeologist was excavating a Babylonian palace and found some neatly arranged objects from many different times and places. The archaeologist thought he might have discovered a museum, and he confirmed that conclusion when he uncovered the world’s oldest known label for a museum exhibit, in the form of a clay cylinder, pictured at right, with text written in three different languages. The museum was established by a Princess named Ennigaldi, at a time when the Babylonians — whose civilization stretched back thousands of years — were obsessed with their past.
At first blush, it seems strange to think that people living in 500 B.C. would be interested in studying history — but there is no reason why they wouldn’t find the story of humanity as compelling as modern people do. The story of the Babylonian museum reminds me of a passage I read in The Story of Civilization series of books by Will and Ariel Durant. In the book about ancient Egypt, they quoted a passage from a world-weary Egyptian writer who lamented that the world was old and that everything worth writing had been written already. His lament was written about 2500 years before Shakespeare.
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