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Something that always cracks me up: when you see babies in…

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Something that always cracks me up: when you see babies in strollers, at about the "recently learned to sit up by themselves" age, maybe in the ballpark of 6 - 10 months, and they do that thing where they are sitting straight up, instead of leaning back into the recline of the stroller, like THEY HAVE SOMEWHERE TO BE, DAWG. And they look dead serious about it, like the somewhere is not the park, it is definitely a meeting of the Joint Chiefs.

Moving topics, I often find myself wishing that museums and museum-type institutions would give more tours of the architecture and design of the physical space, and how it reflects past (and/or present) ideas of curating. I was recently at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) two times! The first was an outing with friends including kids, and it was a nice visit, but the other mom and I were talking about how we have not absorbed ANY new knowledge from a museum since having kids, because essentially all of our time is spent making sure our kids don't climb up on anything, or get lost (I totally lost Lu at this same museum when she was 3, btw), or run around and knock over littler kids (a surprising hazard that I really didn't anticipate). So, I was really excited when I had the opportunity to head back to the AMNH during the week for work, to sign some contracts for student events (and go to the gift shop). After the meeting, I took the long way out, via the dinosaur exhibit.

One of the things I find fascinating about it is that it's a relatively new exhibit. And I should call it the Fossil exhibit, because it's other non-dinosaur things as well, like mammoths, but you know, you say "dinosaurs" and everyone gets it. You can picture what this is. Wait, where was I? Oh, it's a relatively new exhibit, it was closed down for YEARS around the time I was in college and just after, and let's face it, I wasn't doing that much museum-going for various budgetary and sleeping in late reasons. It (re)opened in around 1996, but there is something so 1940s about the overall look and tone of the space. Not about the science of the fossils -- that's all very cutting edge -- but about the colors and the typefaces and simply the presentation. There's a lot of that really muted green, that in my head (and my heart!) I've always called "swimmy green." I know a lot of people aren't wowwed by this color, it's too closely associated with impersonal institutions like hospitals and public elementary schools. But I love it, I've always thought of it being the "in the public trust" in a WPA way sort of color. Anyway, this comes up a lot as an accent, and the floor tiles in the Ornithiscian Hall particular look so green and public school. I took about a million photos of the floor. It's nice to go on a Monday when it's less crowded than on weekends. I even wondered if it was a floor from either of the last major resigns of the AMNH dinosaurs, either from 1955, or 1940 ... but after looking at lot of pictures online, I don't think so, I think it's really a newly designed floor. Also, you'd be amazed at how many pictures of a dinosaur museum do not feature a very good view of the floor.

So overall I think it's so interesting that this latest iteration is designed in a way that's evocative of an earlier era, design-wise, although not specifically the design of this actual space from that time.

All my online research, or "research," as it were, was valuable anyway (to me), even if there wasn't a lot of information about the floors. The overhead lighting fixtures are all original, they're very nice. I had always wondered why, exactly, the museum originally decided that the heaviest possible exhibit should go on the fourth floor -- there is ONE dinosaur whose exhibit weighs TWENTY-TWO TONS. How much did they possibly spend on the construction of that floor if they are putting a twenty-two ton thing, which is just one of many things, on it? Shouldn't you put that ish in the basement? (and also, great, because now I will have visions of falling right through the floor every time I am there in the future.) But I was reminded that at least the bones (heh) of the Fossil collection, part of the original Geology collection, have always been on the fourth floor, in part because the original halls weren't electrified so you needed big galleries with lots of windows for people to view the exhibits. And having all that natural light is still a wonderful feature, which you don't always get at museums. A lot of the time I feel very out of the environment when I am at a museum, because anything could be happening outside. At the Buffalo Museum of Science, which also had some upper galleries with windows (that housed the Egyptian artifacts), I remember going on school field trips when it was gray and raining outside, and how that created a difference experience from visiting when it was blue skies and sunny.
  • I like the way you appreciate things.
  • This is delightfully nerdy. I would like to go the AMNH with you, with or without kids.
    • Have you ever done the whole "child's day in the city!" stuff with your kids when you've been up for the holidays (because there is so much free time to do things when you visit your family, I'm sure)? Natural History, Central Park, Empire State ...
      • We have not, but we've kicked the idea around. For the last several years, we've spent one week with one family, then rented a car and driven to visit the other family for the following week. The drive takes us through/near NYC. I think it would be great to cut a couple days off the family weeks and spend 1-2 days tooling around the city. If we do it this year, I will let you know, and maybe we can meet up. Our trip is the first two weeks of August, so maybe Aug. 6-7.
        • I bet the boys would love it, and it does seem conveniently in the middle of your route.

          That's the same span of days that I'm planning to be in Oakland with some of the girls, rats.
  • Well, I am 100% with you on being keenly interested in the backroom details of museums. The architecture, the workings, the design and curation of exhibits. I think about the museum visits and exhibits that have really stayed with me, and several of them are because they featured this kind of information.

    The MSI in Chicago has a passenger airline in the building. The plane itself is mildly interesting but the film about how they got that sucker in the building is a great watch!

    The Milwaukee Museum of Art also has an entire room dedicated to the working aspects of a museum=storage, conservation, cataloguing, etc. That was fantastic.
    • Zoos are the other kind of attraction where I love getting this stuff, especially since what we know about how to keep animals happy and healthy has changed so much.
      • If a zoo wants to part me & my money, they just need to wave "BEHIND THE SCENES TOUR" literature in front of my face.
  • I am a big fan of dinosaurs, but feel that other extinct animals well represented in the fossil record to not get enough credit for being fascinating too!
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