I took a busman’s holiday to New York last weekend, so I wanted to give you a wee report on my museum and history related activities in a non-Minnesota location.
I saw the Slavery and the Civil War exhibit at the New-York Historical Society, which was excellent and full of rare items: a lottery wheel from the draft, the record books of an African-American orphanage, tons of periodicals. I learned a lot about Dr. James McCune Smith, whose medical and political career is fascinating. What really impressed me about the exhibit, however, was its stylishness. The first few rooms were decorated as to evoke a period counting house and then a hotel, and all the signage and much of the interpretive text was in a faux-19thc-newspaper style. If the narration was a bit disjointed at times, the design still held my attention. (I also skipped the introductory video, shown in the lobby outside the exhibit–I didn’t feel like sitting and watching when I could be engaged more actively–but it might have elucidated some things for me.)
At the Central Childrens’ Room of the Donnell Branch of the NYPL, I saw some history of children’s literature items: the original Winnie the Pooh and friends, all worn out with love and use, Mary Poppins’ umbrella and other memorabilia donated by PL Travers, sketches from Madeline, and original paintings by Wyeth from Robin Hood. I did not, however, see famous kidlit blogger Fuse #8, who is a librarian there.
At the Brooklyn Museum, which I went to because of their excellent presentation on social networking at MW2007 this year, I saw the new Center for Feminist Art, where Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party is a long-term resident, and is housed in this hushed and darkened triangular gallery. It’s really an amazing piece, and I enjoyed seeing some women from the history of science at the table (Caroline Herschel!). I do think the third section of the piece, the herstory gallery, needs some updating. Incorporating some of the new research done since the piece was conceived could really make the herstory gallery fascinating rather than a bit dutiful. I also saw the Global Feminisms Redux exhibit, which was great, and walked through the next door Brooklyn Botanical Gardens pointing out wild edibles to my friend. The Brooklyn Museum also has a great behind-the-scenes blog.
Also, I heard a concert in a community garden in the Bronx, went to Books of Wonder and Bluestockings, and went to the farmers market. A busy vacation, and now back to grant and dissertation writing in the lovely Midwest.