Museum Monday

History, art or culture – for free – during Museum Day Live!

From “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline”: ‘Minivan to the Polar Forest,’ by Ray Troll. Courtesy Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center

 

Spending time at a museum, garden, science center or a special cultural attraction is a great way to learn about a new subject or a city you’re visiting. But with some admission prices tipping the scales at $20, the costs of being curious can add up. Especially if you’ve got a family in tow.

That’s why the always-free-entry policy at Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. is such a great draw and why, once a year, Smithsonian magazine hosts Museum Day Live!, an event in which more than 1000 museums across the country waive admission for anyone who takes the time to download a free ticket.

2017 Museum Day Live! takes place this Saturday, September 23 and includes large and small museums in all 50 states.

Seattle’s Museum of Flight is on the list, as is the Carolina’s Aviation Museum, the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor  and Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinville, Oregon.

Visitors are permitted to download one ticket – granting access to the ticketholder and a guest – per email address. A full list of participating venues, including many with special events planned for the day, can be found here.

Here are some of the more than 1,300 participating museums to consider visiting

North to Alaska

Courtesy Anchorage Museum

The Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center Alaska’s largest museum, is celebrating the opening of a brand new wing, refreshed galleries and several new exhibitions. A variety of media in ‘Art of the North’ offer varied takes on the Northern landscape and wilderness; the renovated ‘Alaska’ exhibition looks at the Land of the Midnight Sun through more than 400 objects; and ‘Cruisin’ the Ephemeral Coastline’ presents a quirky tour of Alaska fossils through the eyes of Alaska resident Ray Troll and paleontologist Kirk Johnson (director of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History), who are described, respectively, as “an artist with a fondness for cheeseburgers, ratfish and trilobites” and a “a walrus-and ammonite-obsessed scientist.”

Savings with Museum Day Live! ticket: $15 per adult

Meteorites and microbes

From World in a Drop exhibition at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Courtesy Scott Chimileski and Roberto Kolter, Harvard Medical School.

 

A ten-year participant in Museum Day Live!, Boston’s Harvard Museum of Natural History has just launched ‘World in a Drop: Photographic Explorations of Microbial Life,’ offering a rare and often beautiful view of tiny ecosystems. Equally intriguing exhibits elsewhere in the museum include a huge Triceratops skull, three huge whale skeletons, a 15-foot giraffe, thousands of rare minerals, meteorites and gemstones and the hard-to-believe-they’re-not-real collection of over 4000 glass flowers and plants made from 1887 through 1936 by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, father and son glass artisans from Germany.

Savings with Museum Day Live! ticket: $12 per adult.

Industrial History 

Photo courtesy of NMIH

 

Housed in a former Bethlehem Steel facility that is more than 100 years old, the National Museum of Industrial History is a shrine to America’s industrial history, displaying industrial artifacts from a variety of industries.

Among the items on display are a restored 115-ton Corliss steam engine that was once used to pump 8 million gallons of water a day, a 13-ton, 20-foot-tall Nasmyth steam hammer, and the Scalamandre “White House” loom that made fabric for every White House presidency from Hoover to Clinton. A temporary exhibition about baseball, “Making America’s Pastime,” shows how balls, bats, gloves and uniforms are made, and how they’ve changed over time.

“The museum opened in August 2016 and many in the community have yet to experience all that we have to offer,” said NMIH spokesman Glenn Koehler, “Museum Day Live! gives us a chance to bring those patrons into the museum and engage them in ways we might have not been able to otherwise.”

Savings with Museum Day Live! ticket: $12 per adult.

Popular culture 

Credit: Suzi Pratt

 

Ten interactive exhibits and galleries at MoPOP, Seattle’s Museum of Popular Culture (formerly the EMP) offer visitors a far-ranging tour of music history, contemporary pop culture, science fiction and fantasy and a variety of offbeat trends.

Beyond galleries devoted to the history and development of the electric guitar, Seattle-native Jimi Hendrix and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, current exhibitions include a photo retrospective about the of the late rock icon, David Bowie, and more than 100 artifacts  and props from the ‘Star Trek’ television series and films franchise.

Savings with Museum Day Live! ticket: $28 per adult

 The Lone Star State in World War I, plus a visit from a national treasure

Drafted men reporting for service. Camp Travis, San Antonio, Texas. Ca. 1917-18. San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. (War Dept.) National Archives

 At the University of Texas at San Antonio, the Institute of Texan Cultures is currently hosting exhibits exploring the history of beer, brewers and breweries in Texas (“Brewing up Texas”); the stories and customs of more than 20 of the earliest cultural groups to settle in Texas (“Texans One and All”); and the role played by citizens from the Lone Star State (198,000 men and 450 women) in the World War I.

Museum Day Live! visitors will get a special treat: from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eva Ybarra, the Queen of the Accordion and a newly minted recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, will perform in the museum and a documentary about Ybarra’s life will be premiered.

Savings with Museum Day Live! ticket: $10 per adult.

Credit: Adam Rodriguez

 Gardens galore

Not all participants in the Museum Day Live! are museums. In Phoenix, Arizona, the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden will welcome free ticket holders to explore the wildflowers, herbs, cacti, succulents and other plants on the garden’s five looped trails exploring the Sonoran Desert.

“Our Garden believes in celebrating the impact that all public gardens and museums have on their communities, and we’re so proud to have become one of the unofficial flagships for this annual event,” said, Ken Schutz, Executive Director of the Desert Botanical Garden, “In the short term, we may forego revenue on the actual day, but all the benefits that accrue over time more than make up for that.”

Savings with Museum Day Live! ticket: $24.95 per adult.

(My story about Smithsonian magazine’s 2017 Museum Day Live! first appeared on CNBC in a shorter version.)

 

Museum Monday: At SFO, All Roads Lead to Rome

Capriccio view of anicent Roman monuments c 1755. From 17th–19th Century Architectural Souvenirs from the Collection of Piraneseum

The newest exhibition from the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport includes more than 70 artworks and objects depicting Roman architecture and monuments.

Why Rome?

“Rome was the world’s largest city from circa 100 BCE to 400 CE, and the cultural and political center of an empire lasting for more than a millennium,” the exhibit notes point out. “Its territory encompassed nearly fifty 21st century nations that owe much of their culture, religion, political systems, and infrastructure to Roman models. Arguably, Rome resonates most potently in its enduring architectural forms and public monuments, which were first widely disseminated in a very familiar method —through tourism.”

Arch of Titus c. 1830

 

In this exhibit, some items show how Rome’s structures and city places looked way back when. Others depict them as they appeared when the artwork now on display was first created. And many are souvenirs brought home by visitors to Rome.

Temple of Castor and Pollux – c. 1860

 

All the objects on view – and included here – are from the Collection of Piraneseum and curators David Weingarten and Lucia Howard, souvenir collectors of the best sort.

Arch of Constantine – c 1820

All Roads Lead to Rome: 17th–19th Century Architectural Souvenirs from the Collection of Piraneseum is located pre-security in the International Terminal Main Hall Departures Lobby, San Francisco International Airport through August 13, 2017.

Museum Monday: Games of Chance at SFO Airport

If, by chance, you’ve got some time before or between flights at San Francisco International Airport, you’re in luck.

That’s because the SFO Museum has just kicked off a new exhibition featuring more than sixty examples of early gambling devices, including the first automatic payout, three reel slot machine.

 

 

According to the exhibition notes, at one time San Francisco was a hotbed for these types of games:

In no part of the world did gambling take place so openly and on such a large scale than in San Francisco during the Victorian era. The city’s residents were largely pioneers or one generation removed from those who risked all to relocate and gamble on a new life in the West. San Franciscans wagered in nearly every possible manner, including horse races, sporting contests, card games, wheels-of-fortune, and impromptu barroom arguments on every conceivable subject. At the beginning of the twentieth century, more than 3,000 machines operated freely, enticing customers from busy sidewalks into the saloons and cigar stores that proliferated throughout San Francisco. “

 

 

The devices on display range from very early models that rely on simple clock mechanisms and a payout by the bartender to automatic slot machines with elaborate carved-wood, cast-iron, or painted-aluminum bodies – and each was designed to part a person with a small bit of their money.

 

 

All the objects in this exhibit (and all photos used here) are courtesy of Joe Welch American Antique Museum in San Bruno, California and will be on display at SFO Airport in Terminal 3, Boarding Area F through June 18, 2017.

You can see descriptions of the gambling devices featured here – and photos of others – in the SFO Museum’s online exhibition.  But I bet the exhibition is far more entertaining if you see it in person.

Museum Monday: solar system made in Kentucky

kentuck-orrery

While visiting Kentucky last week I spent a few hours with the knowledgeable and very gracious staff at the museum of the Kentucky Historical Center in Frankfort. While there I was pleased to see – and learn about – the orrery pictured above.

An orrery, I learned, is a mechanical model of the solar system. This one was made by Thomas Barlow – a mechanic and inventor who lived in Kentucky – and purchased in 1887 for use at a school in Lexington. It’s unknown how many orreries Barlow (and his son) made in their shop, but today there are only three intact models remaining around the world.

Museum Monday: SFO Museum’s latest offering

Platter, Tomb of the Emperor Shah Jehan (Taj Mahal) pattern c. 1824–30s Oriental Scenery Cartouche series maker unknown possibly Staffordshire, England earthenware, blue underglaze Collection of Michael Sack . Courtesy SFO

Platter, Tomb of the Emperor Shah Jehan Collection of Michael Sack . Courtesy SFO

The newest exhibit from the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport, “From Print to Plate: Views of the East on Transferware,” features early nineteenth-century blue-and-white transferware with scenes of India, the Middle East, and China.

You’ve likely seen examples of transferware or transferware-like plates, but never looked closely at the actual images there. If you’ve got a some time to spend at SFO on a layover, here’s your chance.

This exhibition features blue-and-white wares made by Spode and a number of other British potters featuring scenes of famous architectural views of India, such as the Taj Mahal, drawn from early illustrated books, such as ‘A Picturesque Tour along the Rivers Ganges’ and ‘Jumna in India’ (1824) to scenes of Turkey and China taken from ‘Views in the Ottoman Empire’ (1803) and ‘A Picturesque Voyage to India by the Way of China’ (1810). The prints are alongside the corresponding plates and all come from the collection of Michael Sack.

from Print to Plate

courtesy SFO Museum

 

‘From Print to Plate: Views of the East on Transferware’ is located pre-security in the International Terminal Main Hall Departures Lobby at San Francisco International Airport and will be on view through March 19, 2017.

More images from the exhibition are on line here.