Museums

What we’re watching: Museum Masterpiece Moments

Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin” at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

We are getting ready to get on the road. And we are making a list of museums we want to visit and art we want to see.

So we were pleased to find the “Masterpiece Moments” series of short, 5-7 minute videos that Bank of America started putting out in January.

The features showcase works of art in the collections of 25 museums across the country. And there’s a new video rolling out every two weeks.

Here are just a few of our favorites. You can sign up to get alerts when a new video is released and see the full list of participating museums here.

Museums are opening across the country

Are you ready to visit a museum? If so, it’s a good bet you’ll find a museum near you that’s open, or getting to ready to open its doors to the (masked ) public again soon.

Here are some of the museums we’ve got on our list.

Seattle’s Museum of Flight

It was cute when animals from Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo got to visit the Museum of Flight. But we were still jealous. Now we’re happy people can visit the museum too.

Can’t make it? Don’t worry. The museum’s collection can be viewed online. In the artifact section, we found this talking GI Joe Astronaut from 1970.
“When his dog tag is pulled, GI Joe narrates his way through a lunar mission, from liftoff to Moon landing to splashdown.”

Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum 

The Mütter Museum is a medical museum with far-ranging collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments. Einstein’s brain is here. And so is a specimen from John Wilkes Booth’s vertebra.

We’ve spent a lot of time with Memento Mütter, the museum’s online exhibit of more than 60 items from the Museum’s collection, about half of which are not on public display.  If you check it out, be warned that the paper mache eyeball is one of the least alarming objects you’ll see.

Now that the museum has reopened, there’s a new exhibit of photographs by Nikki Johnson, who got to go behind-the-scenes at the museum and create still-life photos of items that intrigued her.

Fashioning Art from Paper at Louisville’s Speed Art Museum

A new exhibit at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, KY features life-size costumes that look like fabric but are actually made from paper. Beginning in 1994, Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave started creating these incredible paper works. She ended up with four collections ranging from the fashion of Elizabeth I to 20th century Venice and tributes to famous artists like Picasso and Matisse. All four collections are part of this exhibit.

The museum made a video of the ‘unboxing’ of some of the dresses in the exhibit.

SFO Museum presents Early American Motorcycles

Flying Merkel twin-cylinder racer 1912- courtesy SFO Museum

If we can’t fly anywhere right now, how about a ride on a motorcycle?

A new exhibition by the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) explores the history of motorcycling from the 1890s to 1915. On display are fourteen motorcycles that were made prior to 1916, rare engines, and photographs from the pioneering era of motorcycling.

Harley-Davidson Model 6  1910 – Courtesy SFO Museum

From the exhibition notes:

Along with the automobile, the motorcycle was one of the earliest and most exciting applications of another new invention, the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine. Motorcycle technology progressed rapidly during the early 1900s, and as motorcycling gained traction, riding evolved from a novelty to a hobby, sport, and reliable source of transportation. By the 1910s, there were approximately 100 motorcycle manufacturers in the United States, all vying for consumer attention with distinctive attributes and designs.

Today, early American motorcycles are prized by collectors around the world who showcase their bikes on vintage rides, endurance runs, and at special events.

Here are some photos of the motorcycles on display in the Early American Motorcycles exhibition in the International Terminal of San Francisco International Airport. The exhibition will be on view through September 19, 2021.

Jefferson twin-cylinder racer  1914 – Courtesy SFO Museum
Pierce Four Cylinder 1911- Courtesy SFO Museum
Two women on a Pierce Four and sidecar  c. 1910
Courtesy of Pierce-Arrow Museum

Museum Monday: Amelia Earhart’s Goggles

Courtesy Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Here’s proof that you never know when you’ll come across something cool in an unexpected place.

Case in point: the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. The sprawling museum is not just the largest children’s museum in the world. It is also home to more than 130,000 artifacts, many of them true treasures.

One example: these aviator goggles that belonged to Amelia Earhart. According to museum notes, Earhart “supposedly didn’t enjoy wearing goggles, and would only put them on at the end of the runway and would take them off as soon as she landed.” The museum says these goggles were given to Earhart by a friend who also gave her a leather jacket and a flight cap.

No word on what happened to the leather jacket and the flight cap. But the goggles are on display at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis right now as part of an exhibit called Barbie You Can Be Anything: The Experience. In addition to telling the story of the iconic doll, the exhibit highlights more than 200 careers Barbie has had over the years. Airline pilot is one of them.

Mattel’s Amelia Earhart Barbie doll and the museum’s Amelia Earhart goggles are part of the exhibit.

Barbie as Amelia Earhart

Museums are in big trouble

Courtesy The Field Museum

In ‘normal’ times, when we’re not in airports, we’re in museums.

And the ongoing pandemic is wreaking havoc with museums.

“The financial state of U.S. museums is moving from bad to worse,” said Laura Lott, President and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums.

AAM has been surveying its membership since the pandemic began. And in its latest survey of 850 museum directors around the country it finds that 30% of museums remain closed since the March lockdown.

“Those that have reopened are operating on an average of 35% of their regular attendance—a reduction that is unsustainable long-term,” says Lott. “Those that did safely serve their communities this summer do not have enough revenue to offset higher costs, especially during a potential winter lockdown,” she adds.

And, as we know, communities around the country have already begun to institute winter lockdowns.

Here are some other key points from the survey that are sure to alarm museum-lovers.

 *Over half (52%) of museums report that they have six months or less of operating reserves.

*Over half (53%) of responding museums have had to furlough or lay off staff. And about 30% of museum staff around the country are currently out of work.

*On average, museums responding to the survey anticipate losing approximately 35% of their 2020 operating income and an additional 28% of normal operating income in 2021.

Why care?

Because besides the wonderful exhibits museum present and the special collections they protect, museums employ a lot of people. And they add a lot to the economy of their communities.

Prior to the pandemic, museums supported 726,000 direct and indirect jobs and contributed $50 billion each year to the economy, according to
AAM.

What will help museums make it through the pandemic?

Museums are asking federal, state, and local governments for financial support.

They deserve it.

We can help out museums by making donations to our favorites. By joining museums as new members or by making sure to renew our memberships. We can give memberships as holiday gifts, shop in museum giftshops (many are online), and we can make a point to visit the museums that are open in our communities and/or offering activities online.