March 22, 2009

The Desert Museum

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 8:17 am by classicalmusic

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a zoo. It is also a botanic garden. But when you add up all the fauna and flora on display, what this place really is, is a giant, open air museum.

If you have ever wanted to learn about the desert, this is the place. There are displays detailing every aspect of the Sonora Desert including climate, geology, and history. Staffed by a large number of experts in diverse fields, this place has something for everyone. Whatever questions you may have, there is no doubt that they can get you the answers you need.

The many and varied exhibits reflect the natural landscape of the Sonora Desert Region. It is so realistic that you soon will lose yourself as you wander the many winding paths and end up face to face with mountain lions, prairie dogs, Gila monsters, and more. In fact, the Museum hosts over 300 animal species and 1,200 kinds of plants. The paths go on for almost 2 miles traversing 21 acres of beautiful desert.

The Sonora Desert Museum is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is a member of the American Association of Museums. Few places can entertain both young children and seniors and everyone in between. this place can and will fascinate you and your family for hours. No matter how much time you leave for the museum, you will want to come back again and again.

Just make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and a hat to keep the sun off your face as you walk around the exhibits. Of course if you forget, there is always the ubiquitous museum gift shop.

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March 16, 2009

The National Museum of Iraq

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 8:03 am by classicalmusic

Now here is one of the most significant museums of the world, if you can get there.

For the first time since 2003, the Iraqi National Museum is open again. The museum is the collection place for over 5,000 priceless artifacts that date back to the dawn of history. Although thousands more pieces were looted and are currently showing up around the world in the black market, the current collection holds pieces that are a must see for any serious scholar of ancient civilization.

Ancient Iraq played host to many significant empires including those of the Babylonians, Sumerians, and Islamic Caliphate. Long referred to as the “Cradle of Civilization” the land is considered to be where man first developed large scale, sophisticated sedentary communities. Some of the artifacts in the collection date back over ten thousand years! There is even evidence of some of the earliest writing by human beings, etched into stones that are prominently on display on the museum’s ground floor.

A great deal of work must still be done to restore the museum to its full potential. years of neglect and looting have taken their toll. But the museum staff is eager for the challenge and hope to have the entire facility restored within five years. So for the history buff who believes he or she has seen everything, this is one stop you cannot miss.

March 8, 2009

The National Museum of the American Indian, Washington DC

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:55 am by classicalmusic

The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. is the newest branch of the Smithsonian Institution, America’s collective national museum series. The museum is probably the least well known of the National museums, but that’s a shame because it is one of the best. The museum is especially good at highlighting little known episodes in history that provide much greater historical context to the story of the American Indian than one is liable to get anywhere else.

For example, a current exhibition is called “They Came as Sovereign Leaders.” This photo and text exhibit tell the story of President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 inaugural parade in which he invited six prominent Indian chiefs to participate. To the new President, including the Indian chiefs was done to add a touch of the exotic to the festivities. Yet the six chiefs believed that they were being invited as representatives of their people to discuss the actual needs of their tribes with the President. This episode, unknown to most Americans, sheds light on what the attitude of the establishment had been toward the Indians. It was done at a time when the Indians saw the federal government taking more and more of their land away without due process — at least from the standpoint of the Indians.

The museum is not immense and all the exhibits can be seen if you give yourself about three hours. The museum is located right on the national mall alongside such famous counterparts as the National museum of American History and the always popular National Air and Space Museum.

It is best to arrive early as the museum can become crowded in the afternoons, especially on weekends and holidays. There is a great bookstore as well as a coffee shop on the premises.

March 2, 2009

The New York Museum of Natural History

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 7:25 am by classicalmusic

There are many museums around the world that bear the name “Museum of Natural History.” Basically, natural history can be a label for a huge assortment of divergent subjects. The history of evolution, ancient cultures, the development of gemstones — all these and a great deal more are at home in any museum of natural history. But, if you had to pick the greatest such museum in the world, the answer would be obvious. It would have to be the New York Museum of Natural History in New York City.

This museum has become so famous that it is known around the world. The collections it hosts are considered among the most complete anywhere. In fact, what is on display at any one time only represents about five percent of the museum’s actual holdings. The rest are carefully maintained in climate controlled warehouses until they are rotated through the museum’s permanent displays.

Many youngsters who live in the New York area will always remember their class trip, a virtual rite of passage, to the museum. By far, the one thing that kids remember most is the incredible dinosaur exhibit. The complete skeletons of dozens of dinosaurs, including the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex and Brontosaurus tower over your head as you walk through. Artwork surrounding the exhibit give you a sense of what it must have been like when these giant beasts roamed the earth.

Don’t plan on seeing everything in one day, it cannot be done. If your time is limited speak to one of the museum’s curators and with a map determine what most interests you. You can even take in a show at the world famous Haden Planetarium if you have time.

February 22, 2009

The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, New York City

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 11:06 am by classicalmusic

Here’s a museum that you may never have guessed existed. It’s the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. This collection of all things comic is located in the heart of New York City. Not only does it host an ever changing series of comic exhibits, but there are weekly events such as speakers, panel discussions, and comic workshops.

You may wonder why bother? What could be important about an old Batman comic or a Ritchie Rich series? Well, comics can actually tell us a lot more about historic time periods than other sources. that’s because comics really reflect contemporary values in an honest, non-judgmental way. But when you visit, you will have top decide for yourself.

The collections are kept in mint condition so that they can be enjoyed for generations of comic fans and historians. According to the museum’s website: “The museum’s rigid collection policy ensures that the art collections are maintained in an environment of the highest integrity.”

Another important subject that is skillfully presented is the way comics have changed and evolved over time. Once, comics were a prime source of entertainment. Where do they fit in today when our lives are crowded with high tech options such as Internet, video on demand, and smart phones? The museum shows how the comic art form may be changing, but it’s not going away anytime soon.

Plan on at least two hours to see the exhibits and more time if you have a research project. For serious historians, call ahead and book an appointment with one of the curators. If you are hungry, there is a great coffee shop very close by.

February 15, 2009

Steamtown National Train Museum, Scranton PA

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 7:20 am by classicalmusic

If you are interested in classic steam powered trains, you should visit the Steam town National Train Museum in Scranton, PA. This vast museum has two huge exhibits: the indoor rail yard and the outdoor classic trains. Set aside at least three hours if you want to do both. If you are brining kids, set aside four. In fact, whenever you want to go home, you will have to drag them away.

There is something about seeing a huge steam powered locomotive up close that takes your breath away. Inside the rail yard, there are about thirty examples of locomotives and passenger cars from days gone by. Many of them are open and you can walk through and see how the old rail men lived and worked on board these giants. You learn a bit of history too as the descriptions tell about how important steam trains were to opening the Western United States.

When you finish with the rail yard, walk across the street for some real fun. First, you can go through President Teddy Roosevelt’s famous Presidential rail car. Then, check the schedule because every half an hour, an actual steam train goes on about a 5 miles scenic ride. Tickets are only a few bucks and everyone will have an amazing time.

The train museum is a real gem. Few people know about it but it is one of the best organized museums I have ever visited. Make sure to plan a family stop in Scranton next time you are in the area.

February 8, 2009

Cats at the Eretz Israel Museum

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 8:08 am by classicalmusic

Disappointing Cats
The much advertised exhibition on cats at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv was quite a disappointment when I finally was able to see it. Because it had been advertised on the radio and in the newspapers as an “interactive” exhibition about cats and the people connected with them, I was expecting something a bit more exciting.

I am not a “cat person”, therefore I must admit that I did learn something about the various kinds or species of cats. But I went with someone who is a great cat lover, has a large cat library and has owned cats all her life. She found nothing new or of great interest there. The exhibition is not large and as for the “interactive” part of it, it is almost non-existent.

The only really interesting section, to me, was the explanation of the Egyptian worship of cats and their goddess, Bast. I had not known this about the Eqyptians and found the cat burial graves and the cat mummies quite an eye opener. As for the rest of it, the cat cartoons, the videos of international cat shows, and art works about and with cats, were not particularly enlightening.

All told – a disappointing visit to this museum which is usually a lovely place to visit.

February 1, 2009

The Cathedral of Orvieto

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:55 am by classicalmusic

The Duomo of Orvieto
The charming hilltown of Orvieto in Umbria, Italy, contains a duomo (cathedral) which is a magnificent example of the Romanesque-Gothic style of architecture. It was begun in the year 1290 and more than 100 architects, sculptors, painters and mosaicists took part in its construction which was only completed in the year 1600. The facade is a glittering and sumptuous splendor of sculptures, multi-colored marbles and golden mosaics. Seen in bright sunlight it is absolutely dazzling.

But the facade is not all. Inside in its chapel, called the Cappella della Madonna di San Brizio, are a series of frescoes portraying the Apocalypse. They were begun in 1447 by the painter Fra Angelico and then given over to the great Luca Signorelli in 1499 who completed them in 1504 accoding to Fra Angelico’s plans. The human figure was Signorelli’s main interest, and, with his careful portrayal of the human anatomy, he composed figures of such dramatic dimensions and powerful emotion that it is said that Michelangelo was inspired by these frescoes in some of his paintings of the Sistine Chapel.

If you are fortunate enough to visit the chapel when there is a guide to explain the frescoes, you will find it a most rewarding experience.

January 25, 2009

One of the Best Sights in Florence

Posted in museums at 12:49 pm by classicalmusic

The Palazzo Pitti of Firenze

Firenze (Florence) is my favorite Italian city.  In addition to its outstanding architecture, there is so much to see there that the two or three days, which tourists generally allow it, are only enough to catch a “feel” of the Florentine treasures.  One of my favorite places to wander about is the Palazzo Pitti.

Built on what was once the “wrong” side of the Arno, you approach it by crossing Firenze’s oldest and most beautiful bridge, the Ponte Vecchio.  The Pitti family who were rivals of the powerful Medici, built their palace on high ground overlooking the Arno to prove that they were loftier than the Medici.  They only lived there for a few years and the Palazzo was eventually bought by the Medici.  It is huge containing about 1000 rooms of all sizes, and it is not just one museum but a combination of five:  the Pitti Gallery, the Modern Art Gallery, the Silver Museum, the Royal Apartments and the Carriage Museum.  It holds artworks of some of the greatest painters of the Renaissance and beyond, including Titian, Tintoretto, Rubens, Van Dyke, Raphael, Veronese, Perogino and more.  And it also contains a lot of mediocre artwork.

If you tire of walking through the endless gallery rooms of the museums, you can go out throught the courtyard to the Boboli Gardens, one of the most imposing gardens in Italy with stately trees, fountains, a grotto and Neptune’s pond.  It is lovely, quiet and restful to walk through the area even going up the long hill to the Belvedere Fort, which the Medici built to use as a refuge in troubled times.  A delightful place to relax after viewing the Palazzo museums.

January 18, 2009

Musee Picasso in Paris

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 7:29 am by classicalmusic

When Pablo Picasso died in 1973, having lived most of his life in France, the French government inherited many of his works as payment of death taxes or duties. Some say that the government received the works as a family bequest. However they may have acquired them, the French used the works to establish the Musee Picasso in a large 17th century mansion called the Hotel Sale because it was built by a salt tax collector. The original mansion has been preserved and is a lovely building in its own right.

I am not a great Picasso lover, but for those who are, the museum is a must. The collection portrays the full scope of Picasso’s development, including his Blue, Pink and Cubist periods. What is also very interesting is that the museum houses some of Picasso’s own collections of artworks of other artists.

Not all of the collection is shown at one time so that you can go back many times and find paintings that you hadn’t seen before.

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