Category Archives: Museum

Washington’s Newest Museum

African-Americans’ struggles & triumphs shown.

The 19th and newest component of the exemplary Smithsonian Institution on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  is the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC). Its 12 galleries contain more than 3,000 images and artifacts, plus s interactive and  oral histories.

Media who previewed it have singlee out an exhibit showing how separate and unequal life was for African Americans during segregation at the turn of the last century. Others feature a slave cabin from the Point of Pines Plantation on Edisto Island that was dismantled and painstakingly reconstructed piece by piece inside the new museum, a replica of the set of Oprah Winfrey’s television show, a room with pieces of an actual slave ship that wrecked off the coast of South Africa and an airplane used by Tuskegee Airmen, who like the Navajo code talkers in World War II, are finally getting the recognition they deserve. The NMAAHC also honors the better-known African American musicians and sports heroes.

The windows of the $540-million museum are placed to frame views of other iconic buildings around the city. The Contemplative Court is off the history galleries with glass and copper walls and a central, cascading waterfall to enable visitors to begin processing what they have seen.

Consulting chef Carla Hall, a popular Top Chef contestant and one of the country’s best-known African-American chefs of the modern era, is credited with The Sweet Home Café whose four stations serve food from four regions: the agricultural South, the Creole coast, the Northern states and the Western range.

As with all Smithsonian institutions, admission to the NMAAHC is free. Timed passes, which give visitors specific time windows for entry.

The Two Museums of Ghost Ranch

Anthropology & paleontology on campus.

ghostranch-logoI wrote a recent post about a short visit to Ghost Ranch. There was time on my group’s program to look in on two worthwhile museums that offer classes and workshops but can also be visited on a one-day entry.

Florence Hawley Ellis Museum of Anthropology

Dr. Martha Yates
Dr. Martha Yates

Named after museum founder Florence Hawley Ellis, one of the first women to receive a Ph.D. in anthropology (University of Chicago, in 1934), this museum specializes displays ancient artifacts from Paleo Indian cultures reaching back 10,000 years.  Ellis and her students are best known for discovering an archaeological site north of the ranch. There, they unearthed a remarkable group of ceramic pots hidden in a lava field. – never happens. It was a remarkable site to have stumbled upon.”

Early pueblo pottery includes blackware, a type that continues to be produced today.
Early pueblo pottery includes blackware, a type that continues to be produced today.

The museum is named for the late Dr. Florence Hawley Ellis, long-time professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and original curator of this museum. Dr. Ellis initiated and led Ghost Ranch archaeology seminar from 1971 until 1990, and now, Dr. Martha Yates is in charge of the collection that includes finds from 20nold villages on the mesa between Abiquiu and Española.

The Museum of Anthropology excavation class Can You Dig It continues excavation on Ranch property sites and is part of our summer programming in July, open to all. We also offer a two-week Archaeological Surveying class in October, with the chance to hike through areas not open to the public and discover unknown, unmapped archaeological sites at Ghost Ranch.

Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology

Ghost Ranch boasts a dig-site a laboratory for sorting out and cataloging bones and a museum displaying both the process and the specimens. In 1985 an 8-ton block of plaster-encased dinosaur bones was hoisted onto a flatbed truck and moved from an on-site quarry to the main campus of Ghost Ranch. The Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology was built around it and named for amateur paleontologist Ruth Hall, wife of Jim Hall, the first resident director of Ghost Ranch.

It takes a trained eye to identify fossilized bones from a complicated digsite.
It takes a trained eye to identify fossilized bones from a complicated digsite.

The paleontological dig at Ghost Ranch is known world-wide. Resident paleontologist Alex Down, an ebullient man with a passion for paleontology, is currently at work on a large block taken from the quarry on Ghost Ranch. Visit the museum and watch fossil discovery right before your eyes. Treasures from the Triassic era  from 210 million years ago include two little dinosaurs discovered at Ghost Ranch decades apart are the bones of the Coelophysis,, which roamed the ranch 220 million years ago, were discovered in 1947. More recently, the Tawa Hallae and new, very well preserved, articulated skeleton of of Vancleavea, was discovered at Ghost Ranch. Newly renovated exhibits also highlight the recent discoveries of Tawa, a new species of small carnivorous dinosaur and Effigia, the archosaur species named okeeffeae (O’Keeffe’s Ghost).

Turntable Challenge is a Wager on the Rails

Super Bowl inspires railroad museum wagers.

SuperBowl50-logoGovernors, mayors, chefs and others seem compelled (or pressured) to bet something iconic from their regions every Super Bowl. Here’s a new twist — railroad museums.  The North Carolina Transportation Museum has laid down a “Turntable Challenge” to the Colorado Railroad Museum for the big game between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. Each museum is confident that its team will be dominant and has promised the following concessions, should its team lose. And this, of course, will be posted on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.

NorthCarolinaTransportationMuseum-logoIf the Denver Broncos win, the North Carolina Transportation Museum will send:

  • North Carolina Pit cooked pork BBQ
  • Red Oak Brewery Beer, a popular North Carolina brewed old- style lager
  • Krispy Kreme glazed donuts, which were born in Winston-Salem
  • Cheerwine, a beloved and locally made soft drink created in Salisbury and still based there
  • Video of one of their engines on the turntable with Denver Broncos flags flying and a performed by staff version of the Denver Broncos fight song.

ColoRRMuseum-logoIf the North Carolina Panthers win, the Colorado Railroad Museum will send:

  • Colorado Native beer, made by AC Golden, (all ingredients are from Colorado, and the beer is only available in Colorado).
  • Rocky Mountain Oysters and chile sauce, prepared by The Fort. It is one of their popular signature and very Colorado menu items.
  • Video of one of their engines on the turntable with North Carolina Panthers flags flying and a performed by staff version of the Panthers fight song.  They will also fly the Panther flags on their Galloping Goose through the month of February.

Planes of Fame Military Aircraft on Display

Originals, replicas & models fill hangars.

Plane-logoMy engineer husband is fascinated with and knowledgeable about aircraft and spacecraft, so when we travel, we visit any nearby museums specializing in those technologies. Long on his bucket list was the  Planes of Fame Museum that documents a big chunk aviation history, aims to inspire interest in aviation, educate the public about aerial warfare and honors aviation pioneers and veterans.  It is dedicated to the preservation, perpetuation and exhibition of historical aircraft and to the men and women who devoted their lives to flight, especially military aviation.

The collection in largely World War II era airplanes, some restored to flying condition and stars of the museum’s annual air show each May. I’m not captivated by the technology, but I am interested in the history represented there.

Dusting a vintage airplane with a long-handled mop and Pledge.
Dusting a vintage airplane with a long-handled mop and Pledge.
This World War II warplane was retrieved from a South Pacific island, where it once was used for target practice. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has bought the wreck and is having it taken to Seattle for restoration. The ultimate fixer-upper.
This World War II warplane was retrieved from a South Pacific island, where it once was used for target practice. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has bought the wreck and is having it taken to Seattle for restoration. The ultimate fixer-upper.

Continue reading Planes of Fame Military Aircraft on Display

Denver Art Museum Wows With Wyeths

Father and son works juxtaposed in exclusive exhibition.

Jamie Wyeth at the entrance to the new exhibition at the Denver Art Museum.
Jamie Wyeth at the entrance to the new exhibition at the Denver Art Museum.

I first “met” the Wyeths — N.C., Andrew and Jamie — at the Brandywine River Museum, dedicated to preserving the landscape, art and culture of a poetic part of Pennsylvania and Delaware. I got to know them better at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockport, Maine. Now, highlights of the Wyeths’ remarkable artworks have come practically to my doorstep.

Two of the three generations of this gifted family are represented in “Wyeth: Andrew & Jamie in the Studio,” which opens tomorrow at the Denver Art Museum. Jamie Wyeth was in town for the media preview. What a treat to hear his stories of the ways he and his father create(d) art. Timothy Standring, the DAM’s curator of painting and sculpture, spent 4 years assembling the show. Its 100-plus works in various media ( including pen and ink, graphite, charcoal, watercolor, dry brush, tempera, oil and mixed media, including ground-up pearls from a necklace of Jamie’s wife) are in Denver through February 7.

Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s Word,” enshrined at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art, is not in the exhibition. It is an iconic painting, IMO on the order of the “Mona Lisa” or”Whistler’s Mother,” this is a a must-see for the legions of visitors who visit the museums that house them. MOMA has loaned it out just once and only for a single day. The Wyeth exhibition does include a study for this famous work.

Jamie is delightful raconteur but also an intense and private painter. For a time in Maine, he painted in a plywood bait box where he wouldn’t be disturbed. He likes to do subjects in series — farm animals, dogs, ravens, Rudolf Nureyev, the Seven Deadly Sins, Andy Warhol, nudes, currently screen doors. Famous for his portraits, Jamie doesn’t take commissions but paints only those people he wishes to. He often asks the “sitter” (i.e., the subject) to sign the work because he feels that each one is a collaboration between painter and subject.

I asked whether there are any younger Wyeths painting? He replied, “God, I hope not!” and then admitted that some younger relatives are artists. Lauren Whitney of CBS4 also came to interview him. This exhibition is at the DAM through Feb 7, and then a portion goes to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid — and that’s it. Aren’t we lucky to have it in Denver?
@WyethInDenver

A Visit to Harman’s House

‘Cowboy artist’ remembered in Poncha Springs museum.

026My son started attending Fort Lewis College in 2001, and he has lived in Durango ever since. I haven’t counted how many times I’ve traveled U.S. 160, but the last time, my husband and I finally stopped to visit the Fred Harman Art Museum. In my/our defense, it is open six days a week (10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.) in the warm months and open only by appointment in winter, and that schedule doesn’t usually coincide with our travel itinerary.

Volunteer docent shares stories of  Fred Harmon's life and points out important and interesting pieces
Volunteer docent shares stories from Fred Harmon’s life and points out important and interesting pieces

The Harman is one of those fascinating little museums that is too often bypassed. Fred Harman was a gifted self-taught artist who at one time entered into a short-lived, failed film partnership with Walt Disney in Kansas City. Disney went to Hollywood, and Harman  returned to his native Colorado to ranch and make art, working with oils, watercolors, pen-and-ink and bronze. He is best known as the creator of the Red Ryder comic strip, which at its height was syndicated to more than 750 newspapers on three continents.

The museum was Fred Harmon's home and studio.
The museum was Fred Harmon’s home and studio.
Harmon always depicted Native Americans accurately and respectfully, not to be taken for granted. The museum features works by Native artists, and he was made an honorary member of the Navajo Nation.
Harmon always depicted Native Americans accurately and respectfully, not to be taken for granted. The museum features works by Native artists, and he was made an honorary member of the Navajo Nation.

Having finally visited and been captivated by the modest museum and its contents, I am putting it on my recommended list for anyone traveling that way. The address is 85 Harman Park Drive, but you really can’t miss it if you follow the signs on the south side of U.S. 160, just west of downtown Pagosa Springs. The phone number is 970-731-5785. And admission is just $3.

Baltimore’s Washington Monument

Treasures in century-old time capsule revealed.

VisitBaltimore-logoGiven the recent protests in Baltimore that spiraled out of control, I am happy that there is good news from the city — and that news takes us back into history. The fabled obelisk on the Mall in Washington, DC. may be the best-known memorial to the first president of the US.

But an older one is in nearby Baltimore. Time capsules from 1815 and 1915 discovered during renovations of Baltimore’s Washington Monument, revealed a Bible printed using a miniscule font dating back to 1812 and what could be one of the earliest existing photographs of the Declaration of Independence that opened at the city’s famous Walters Art Museum.

Baltimore's newly restored Washington Monument.
Baltimore’s newly restored Washington Monument. (Flickr image)

The 1915 time capsule was discovered last October behind a bronze plaque commemorating the monument’s Centennial. It contains more than 50 items, including an iron spike, a map of trade routes from the port of Baltimore to the Panama Canal, a picture of Francis Scott Key and what could be one of the earliest existing photographs of the Declaration of Independence, taken in 1903 by L.C. Handy, the son-in-law of famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady.

The monument’s original 1815 cornerstone, found in February, contained three glass jars that were put in the ground as the nation’s first civic monument to George Washington was being built.  Contents from the first jar include a published copy of Washington’s Presidential farewell address, ten United States coins in copper, silver and gold, a “Joseph Sansom” medal of Washington and a medal honoring the Duke of Wellington’s successful military campaigns in the Spanish Peninsular Wars. The second jar contained a copy of the Bible published in Baltimore by John Hagerty in 1812. Like a small volume in the first jar, it celebrates advances in local printing technology, being printed in miniscule “Diamond Type” developed at the Baltimore Type Foundry.

The smallest jar held examples of the Federal Gazette from July 5 and 6, 1815. The latter date includes a full account of the laying of the cornerstone. The presence of this jar was a complete surprise as the original accounts suggest that the cornerstone was laid and sealed on July 4. Perhaps the most important item found in the well is a copy of the Declaration of Independence, reprinted in the Federal Gazette on July 3, 1815, the day before the cornerstone was laid.

The monument, the first to honor George Washington in the United States, celebrates its bicentennial on July 4 and re-opens to the public following a $5.5 million restoration. Select items from both the 1815 Cornerstone and 1915 Time Capsule will go on display at the Maryland Historical Society this Independence Day.

Endless Winter in Colorado’s Iconic National Park

Trail Ridge Road just opened for the park’s centennial summer.

Logo_FINAL_BLUE_4CP_NEWTrail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park between Estes Park on the east and Grand Lake on the west is one of the country’s iconic drives. Cresting at an elevation of 12,183 feet, the road is usually plowed out by Memorial Day. But not this year — the park’s centennial — when high road opened today but with probably night-time closures for a while.  The snows have been coming, and the plows and shovelers are still at it.

May 29, 2015, on Trail Ridge Road.
May 29, 2015, on Trail Ridge Road.
Still all sorts of snow at the Alpine Visitor Center.
Still all sorts of snow at the Alpine Visitor Center.
Aerial view of Trail Ridge Road today.
Looking down at Trail Ridge Road today.

The park’s centennial celebrations kicked off in low gear last fall, were confined largely to historic exhibits, workshops, presentations and such that lent themselves to indoor venues.  An RMNP exhibit  will continue for some indefinite time at the History Colorado Center in Denver, the state’s wonderful historic museum.

Rocky Mountain National Park artifacts and memorabilia.
Rocky Mountain National Park artifacts and memorabilia.

With the approach of summer, summer events are coming into view.  A group of Model T enthusiasts plans to car-camp in August with old-style canvas tents; the Colorado Mountain Club is organizing a series of hikes, climbs and wildflower walks, and the Rocky Mountain Conservancy has a passel of commemorative activities planned too, including a John Denver tribute concert by local musician Brad Fitch in Estes Park on July 25 and in Grand Lake on August 1.

Click here FoMoInfo on Centennial celebrations, which conclude with a rededication of the park at Glacier Basin Campground on September 4, the Friday before Labor Day. I plan to be there. You too?

Homage to the Oklahoma City Bombing Victims

Twentieth anniversary of Murrah Building bombing.

MurrahMemorial-sealTwenty years ago today — before the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, assorted school shootings and other horrific acts of violence, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols set off a massive explosion next to the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City. The blast killed 168 people and injured 680 others, including children, and sent shockwaves through the nation. At first, makeshift memorials of plush toys, crucifixes, photographs, flags and other personal items were hung on the chainlink fence surrounding the site by grief-stricken citizens.

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Chainlink fence remaining at the site honors the original makeshift memorial.

Then, plans were made for an official memorial. When the call went out, 624 entries from all 50 states and 23 countries were received. A commission narrowed them down to five finalists, and the selected design is by Butzer Design Partnership (then of Berlin, Germany, and later of Oklahoma City). Designers Hans and Torrey Butzer with Sven Berg created what is now the Oklahoma City National Memorial. 

Back in 2008, I was a speaker at a conference in Oklahoma City. I arrived in the evening and walked the few blocks from the historic Skirvin Hotel to the Murrah memorial. The sight of the memorial and its empty glass chairs atop illuminated glass pedestals at night was powerful. Being there by myself added to the sense of tragic loss of life.

First look at the Murrah Memorial was at night. The haunting sight of empty chairs atop lighted glass cubes remains with me.
First look at the Murrah Memorial was at night. The haunting sight of empty chairs atop lighted glass cubes remains with me.

Two days later, my speech out of the way, I returned to visit the museum. It was, of course, poignant too, with chronologically arranged curated photographs and artifacts from the explosion artfully displayed, multi-media displays and interactive exhibits too. At the Murrah site, the clock has permanently stopped at 9:03, the morning hour when the truck bomb went off two decades ago.

The museum is located at 620 N. Harvey Ave., Oklahoma City. The outdoor memorial is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year; entry is free. The museum is open daily. Admission is adults $15; senior (62+) $12; military (with ID) $12; student (6 to 17 or college student with current ID) $12 and child (5 years and under) free.

Highlights of the Eastern Four Corners

Southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico sites worth seeing.

WorldAtlas.com
WorldAtlas.com

My son has lived in Durango since he went there for college in 2001, and I’ve been there often. I’ve driven by the Chimney Rock ancient site (now a National Monument), and my husband and I hiked up on a splendid fall day some years ago and explored the site, I’ve driven past the signs on US Highway 160 pointing to Ignacio but never turned off the highway. I knew about the Aztec Ruins National Monument just outside of Farmington, New Mexico, but hadn’t been there, and I’d driven past Shiprock to the west. My husband and I recently went to the Four Corners area to see my son and also our friend, Mary, who had just moved to Bayfield from Seattle. We did several day trips, both to introduce Mary to her new turf and to revisit it ourselves. Some highlights of what I think of as the eastern half of the Four Corners — that is, southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico but not Arizona or Utah.

Downtown Bayfield

A cute little town that still maintains its rural flavor, though now there’s a brew pub and a couple of cute restaurants.

An appliance store with a sense-of-humor front yard display.
A main street Laundromat with a sense-of-humor front yard display.

Weminuche Wilderness

At 488,210 acres, this is the largest wilderness area in the state of Colorado. It is just 15 miles from Durango. The nearest access is from a campground just north of Vallecito Lake, a lake  surrounded by cottages, resorts, outfitters and other small commercial businesses. This area was devastated during the Missionary Ridge Fire of 2002. It also made headlines a couple of years ago when young Dylan Redwine disappeared while visiting his father a decade later; his remains were eventually found. The area is considerably more tranquil in early spring, when few visitors are around. We started up a trail from a seasonally closed campground and hiked a short distance up Vallecito Creek. Looks like a promising hike later in the year.

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Aspens tall and straight as lodgepoles.
Aspens tall and straight as lodgepoles.
Vallecito Creek.
Vallecito Creek.

Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum

Ignacio, the main town on the Southern Ute Reservation, has an obligatory casino that I’d never bother with and the excellent Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum. The dramatic building encompasses includes many symbols of Native life in the Southwest, and the exhibition inside calmly and poignantly documents the history of the Four Corners’ people. No photos inside.

The main entrance recalls a teepee shape within the kiva-inspired circle.
The main entrance recalls a teepee shape within the kiva-inspired circle.
Soaring entrance lobby.
Soaring entrance lobby.

Continue reading Highlights of the Eastern Four Corners