Museums

Museum Monday: St. Louis Gateway Arch museum

Courtesy Gateway Arch Park Foundation

July 3 is opening day for the new museum at the iconic Gateway Arch, the iconic 630-foot-tall concrete and stainless-steel structure on the St. Louis riverfront that commemorates Thomas Jefferson and the role St. Louis played in the westward expansion of the United States.

Completed in 1965, the arch began offering tram rides to a viewing platform at its top in 1967. Now $380 million of upgrades to the parkland around the country’s tallest man-made monument and to the underground museum below it are being readied for visitors.

Here’s a preview of the upgraded ground-level Gateway Arch experience that I originally prepared for CNBC.

 

The arch itself and the tram ride that brings visitors to the small observation room at the top of the arch remains unchanged, but the way visitors get to the arch and experience the Gateway Arch Park has been transformed.

“You don’t change a masterpiece,” said Eric Moraczewski, Executive Director of the Gateway Arch Park Foundation, “What we’ve done is renovate about 100 acres of park space, added 46,000 square feet of museum space, a café and raised the riverfront about 30 inches to prevent flooding and give us more useable days on the riverfront. We also built a land bridge over Interstate 44 to make the park more accessible to visitors.”

When the free museum inside the Gateway Arch reopens on July 3, visitors will see some old favorites, such as the statue of Thomas Jefferson, and many new artifacts, including a resin version of the much-loved taxidermy buffalo that park officials say was showing too much wear and tear.

The new museum has six galleries: Colonial St. Louis explores the founding of St. Louis and the indigenous and Creole culture before the Louisiana Purchase; Jefferson’s Vision documents how St. Louis shaped the west; and Manifest Destiny follows the trails, the settlers and the conflicts for those heading west. The Riverfront Era gallery shows how steamboats created an American metropolis at St. Louis and New Frontiers presents the history of railroads, industry, and the myth of the West. Finally, Building the Gateway Arch presents the history of the Eero Saarinen-designed monument itself.

The Riverfront Era gallery in the new museum at the Gateway Arch features a façade made with stones from the Old Rock House, a structure built as a warehouse in 1818 that was demolished to make may for the construction of the arch.

“The history preservation team for National Park Service kept the stones, carefully stored them and was able to reuse them. Now you walk into the museum through the stones of the Old Rock House,” said Eric Moraczewski, Executive Director of the Gateway Arch Park Foundation.

A new feature in the tram lobby will offer visitors on the ground a live webcam stream of the view from the observation space at the top of the Gateway Arch. The webcam will give those waiting for the ticketed tram ride a preview of what they’ll see and also make the view accessible to people who use wheelchairs, visitors afraid of heights and others who choose not to purchase a ticket to the top.

 

The new museum and visitor center on the renovated grounds of the Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, MO will be celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 3 as part of Fair St. Louis, a July 4th celebration dubbed “America’s Biggest Birthday Party.”

All phoots courtesy Gateway Arch Park Foundation

Vintage radios on display at SFO Airport

The “Mystic” Radio Bug and headset c. 1927 – courtesy SFO Museum

Radio – the invention – was a transformational technological triumph of the 20th century and today some of the earliest radios – the objects – are sought after collectible objects.

A new exhibition – On the Radio – from the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport brings together classic radio sets spanning sixty years of design, from crystal sets and luxury consoles, to stylish tabletop models and pocket-sized transistors.

Here are some highlights from the exhibition on view post-security on the Departures Level of SFO Terminal 3 through September 30, 2018. All photos courtesy SFO Museum.

Put on a podcast -or better yet, download an old-time radio classic – and take a tour.

Model 400–3 “Patriot” 1940

 

Model 21 “Minuette” 1932

X–11 Aladino 1949 

 

Regency TR–1 1954

 

Travel Tidbits: Cool ANZ safety video, free museums, fun stuff

 

Happy Friday. Here’s hoping you have a great weekend of adventures planned.

Here are some travel tidbits that might be useful as you head out on the road.

Air New Zealand has a new in-fligh safety video it is calling “The World’s Coolest” – becuase it was filmed in Antarctica.

Pittsburgh International Airport gets arty

In addition to hosting a new paint-it-yourself art studio called Paint Monkey, Pittsburgh International Airport has appointed its first artist-in-residence. Blaine Siegel will have studio space at the airport for a year and during his residency he’ll interact with travelers and airport workers to better understand the airport environment. He’ll then produce an artwork that will be exhibited at the airport.

Visit museums free this weekend 

Thanks to the Museums on Us program, anyone with a Bank of America, Merrill Lynch or U.S. Trust credit or debit card can gain free entry to any of more than 200 museums, science centers and cultural attractions around the country this weekend – and on the first full weekend of every month. The full roster of participating venues can be found here.

Norwegian debuts female-driven in flight comedy channel

Norwegian has put together a female-driven in-flight comedy channel called PYPO (Put Your Pretty On), with Emmy-winner Stephanie Laing, that will be available on the airlines’ Dreamliner long-haul flights.  The channel will start with seven comedy sketches, totaling about 20 minutes, with more to come later this year.

Check out some samples here and here.

JFK Terminal has its own website

As a reminder that every terminal at New York’s JFK airport is pretty much its own world, JFK Terminal 4 now has its own website featuring an interactive terminal map, current information about security and taxi wait times, a FAQ section and tourist information. (T4 also has its own Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts).

 

Museum Monday: Missouri’s Wonders of Wildlife Museum

Photo by Harriet Baskas

 

It’s been a wild couple of weeks for Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris.

First former U.S. Presidents (and anglers) Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, along with  a boatload of actors, country western stars and outdoors-minded enthusiasts, helped Morris celebrate the opening of his 350,000-square-foot Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri.

Then, Bass Pro Shops completed its $4 billion acquisition of the rival outdoor retailer Cabela’s

“It’s been like a whirlwind,” Morris told CNBC a day before the museum opened, “Two of the biggest things in my life are happening at once. It was not by design, I’ll tell you that. We’d prefer a little more space in there.”

Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris- photo by Harriet Baskas

Negotiations over the Bass Pro/Cabela’s deal have been underway for over a year. However, it has taken more than 10 years to complete the 350,000-square-foot Wonders of Wildlife museum (WOW) adjacent to the sprawling Bass Pro Shops National Headquarters, about an hour’s drive from Branson.

Billed as being larger than the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the new Wonders of Wildlife Museum & Aquarium boasts 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds; 1.5 million gallons of freshwater and saltwater aquariums; and more than 1.5 miles of trails that meander through 4-D dioramas that share sights, sounds and smells of wildlife habitat, including the African savannah, the Amazon rainforest, ten U.S. National Parks and the Arctic.

Wonders of Wildlife Museum exhibit – photo by Harriet Baskas

“We wanted to make things fun and create some excitement about big fish and wildlife,” said Morris, “So, for example, when you walk through the Arctic exhibit you’ll hear the wind blow, you’ll see the Northern Lights, you’ll feel cold and be immersed in the environment with the musk ox, the polar bears and the birds of the region.”

Photo by Harriet Baskas

Notable galleries on the aquarium side of WOW include a 300,000-gallon wraparound aquarium, a two-story Shipwreck Room where visitors can touch stingrays, a 3-story ‘bait ball’ created by thousands of herring on the defense against circling sharks; and a gallery filled with photos, fishing artifacts and mementos associated with noted anglers such as Earnest Hemingway, Zane Gray and several U.S. presidents.

Bait Ball – courtesy WOW

While Morris clearly loves it all, two of his favorite spaces in the museum are the detailed recreation of his dad’s Brown Derby liquor store, where Bass Pro began, and the room housing the National Collection of Heads and Horns from the Boone and Crockett Club, which was founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887.

Record Polar Bear – photo by Harriet Baskas

In that exhibit, World Record bears, bison, caribou, elk and other big game species are displayed just as they were at New York’s Bronx Zoo in 1908 in an exhibit dedicated to conservation and the protection of animals.

“It looks kind of sterile. But it’s a really significant piece of history in our country,” said Morris,  “Roosevelt was concerned about the management of fish and wildlife and he wanted these trophy animals displayed to send a shocking message that if we don’t have good laws and regulations we could lose our buffalo and other wild free ranging animals.”

WOW Museum exhibit – courtesy WOW

With more than 4 million annual visitors, the massive Bass Pro Shops national headquarters in Springfield is known as the “Grandaddy” of outdoor stores and is already the top tourist attraction in Missouri.

In addition to all manner of outdoor gear that is for sale, the store offers a wide variety of free entertainment, including aquariums, an in-store swamp with alligators and turtles, archery and shooting ranges, waterfalls, several sports-related Halls of Fame, and a restaurant.

Admission to the new Wonders of Wildlife is a hefty $39.95 for adults and $23.95 for kids, but Susan Wade of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau doesn’t think tourists or locals will balk.

“In other cities, there are museums and aquariums that charge the same, or more, but give you less,” said Wade, who is also confident Wonders of Wildlife will be a boost for the local economy.

“Visitors now have more of a reason to spend the whole day at the Bass Pro Shops complex. And the longer they stay the more likely they’re going to spend a night in a local hotel,” she said.

And the longer they stay in town, the more likely tourists will visit local restaurants, wineries, breweries, and attractions such as Fantastic Caverns, the Smallin Civil War Cave, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield and the spot in downtown Springfield where Wild Bill Hickok was involved in the country’s first recorded quick-draw shootout.

(My story about the new Wonders of Wildlife Museum & Aquarium in Springfield, MO first appeared on CNBC in a slight different version.)

 

 

 

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.)