Sunday, January 16, 2011

Layered Links to Museum Exhibits

Reading Patti Smith's Just Kids I am reminded of the tiny slice I know about my icons or probably anything. Yes, she is the Mother of Punk Rock, but who knew she was Robert Mapplethorpe's lover, muse, lifelong friend and creative consort? Just Kids won the National Book Awards for nonfiction. In it, she recounts the story of two fragile souls who cling to one another as they wonder who they will become, encouraging it to happen, pledging each other support. Who knew Patti Smith as poet with a narrative mastery of grace and power, sweetness and calm?


Patti Smith by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1975

By chance this week, I discovered that Felix Angel, an admired arts administrator and colleague from the Inter-American Development Bank is also one of Columbia's renowned creative exports.


Joanne McNeil's blog post of 12/31/2010 Tomorrow Museum provides a lively history of blogging and predicts that in 2011 posts will be longer than three-ish paragraphs recommended by current Internet gurus, if one has something fresh to say.

This leads me to reflect on the long form of museum exhibitions and recommend one in DC now: Human Origins at the Smithsonian Institutions' National Museum of Natural History. The exhibit attempts to ask the questions: What does it mean to be human? On the rich website, you will see what a big institution like NMNH can do for a wide public. The site provides curriculum for school teacher and home-schoolers and teacher network projects. There is an interactive floor plan, information about related research projects, maps, images of fossil collections and information about them. The curators have held back nothing.

At the museum, look past the bio-mass of living humans milling through the giant hall, and focus on the many aspects of the exhibit. The difficulty of creating worthy exhibition products of this scale cannon be over-estimated, but NMNH has achieved success in every important way: design, content, visitor attention and people flow, novelty, beauty. This is art and science, mystery and light, 21century technology coupled to stories of millennials past.

Time is needed to absorb what the curators, designers, educators, and scientists have provided. Several visits. Time at the site (on-line or in-house), the same kind of time we need to find about about the layers of our icons and our colleagues. Luscious.


John Gurche's reconstructions of early humans on display in the Hall of Human Origins, National Museum of Natural History

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