An Announcement

With an hour left of this month, I am just barely getting an April blog post in. These days, I aim to post at least once a month, but focusing on my non-museum career has taken precedence over my museum hobby. However, I am happy to share the next chapter in my career: I will soon be joining the American Red Cross as a paralegal. Below are some photos from the tour of the historic headquarters I took a few years ago.


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People of the Coloring Book

Last year, a dear friend of mine bought me a coloring book for adults. We worked on the first page of it together, but since then I had not set out to finish it, and have left most of the book uncolored.

Yesterday, the cover of the Washington Post’s free Express newspaper was an adult coloring page.

Last night, after a rough day, thinking of the Express cover, I got out my own coloring book. And colored and colored and colored. (Scroll down to see my masterpiece! It is from Enchanted by Angela Porter.)

When I say “adult coloring book,” this term has nothing to do with any X-rated content in the pictures. Rather, these coloring books are designed for the fine motor skills of adults, with much more intricate detail and abstract designs than coloring books designed for children.

Many of these intricately detailed pages take the form of the mandala: circular designs, each unique, with tiny repeating elements that can be colored any color you like. The mandala has a great deal of meaning to Indian religions including Buddhism.

A children’s coloring page would be more likely to feature a scene calling for specific colors (green grass, yellow sun, blue sky, etc.) – if it features, say, a favorite movie character, a devoted child may know exactly which crayon to use for the hair, eyes, dress, shoes. In fact, in my preschool teaching days, coloring pages were discouraged in favor of more open-ended art projects, ones that did not require literally staying within the lines. The mandalas designed for adults to color, by contrast, do not impose any canon of “correct” colors.

Articles on the popularity of adult coloring books emphasize the relaxing, stress-relieving, creative, and meditative aspects of this hobby. One blogger, however, is not so keen on the mandala coloring pages. The Last Hiker blog refers to coloring mandalas as “knocking on the door of a false temple.” With adult coloring books (often featuring mandalas) popular among Christians and non-Christians alike, this blog post warning of demons entering souls via coloring books is refuted and ridiculed in many of the comments. Indeed, the blogger writes that it was a devout Christian friend who gave the coloring book as a gift in the first place.

As an aside, mandalas, with their circular form, central point, repeating patterns, and meditative uses, remind me of labyrinths, a configuration used in Christian as well as other religions’ spiritual practice. Earlier today, for example, I walked a labyrinth outside a Protestant church.

When I started reading the blog post maligning mandala coloring pages, I wondered if the blogger would object even to looking at mandalas (such as at the Freer-Sackler), but as I read on, I learned that there was something specifically about coloring them – spending so much time concentrating on them, and helping to bring them into their full colorful being – that the blogger considers problematic.

mandala.JPGEveryone should color the coloring books that feel right (including spiritually) to them, and for me, the mandala and non-mandala pages of my coloring book have both been enjoyable and relaxing. This is a form of artistic expression that adults can begin without a sizable financial or time commitment, whereas other art forms that adults have as hobbies may only seem worthwhile if the adult has special talent, a place to keep the equipment, and motivation to keep up the endeavor. Young children are encouraged with crayons and finger paint and Play-Doh and all sorts of things, but do not necessarily keep or act on their love of creative art when they reach adulthood.

For adults who enjoy both looking at art in the museum and doing some coloring of their own, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has turned a few works of art in their collection, ones with detailed patterns, into coloring pages for adults. An Internet search will also yield numerous other pages you can print, or you can buy a book in a bookstore, wherever bookstores still exist.

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Take a Book, Leave a Book at Twinbrook

I do not think of Twinbrook as a visitor destination, but rather as a place with various resources (commercial and otherwise) for the local community. The first time I ever used this Metro, I was shopping for fabric at Michaels in one of the every-chain-store-you-could-need shopping centers. Nearby Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington was one of my Weekly Museum Visits, but I seemed to be the only person there in the capacity of a museum/gallery visitor. The center is there primarily for community members and also has gallery space where visitors are welcomed.

On one of the residential streets near the Metro station, there is a Little Free Library. I have written this before, and I will say again that I am enchanted by Little Free Libraries. This particular one in Rockville near the Twinbrook Metro was extra charming because it matches the house it sits in front of:


Stopping by the Little Free Library on New Year’s Day (and ringing in the New Year at a literary-themed restaurant, and going to a public library today…) was apropos given that one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to read more books. Not just articles and tweets and memes on my phone, but more actual books.

The content I can read on my phone is addictive, but I am beginning to question how much I am really learning from it. For every article that cites certain statistics to support a position, there seems to be another article that cites opposite statistics to support the opposite position. I do believe it is possible to sift through it all and get down to the actual facts as we can best know them, but to do so could easily become a full-time job and would require time and energy I don’t have.

Books are not immune to this phenomenon, but there are some mitigating aspects of books: the length of time that goes into researching and writing them, the lack of 24-hour-news-cycle pressure, the (however flawed) standards for getting a book published, the longer and more in-depth exploration provided to the reader.

As a museum person at heart, and as an ethical culturist, I wish and hope for an informed and humane citizenry. I do not want to be stuck in an echo chamber, only to leave completely ill-equipped to discuss anything with someone who has been stuck in their own, different echo chamber.

Little Free Libraries, while not by any means purporting to offer a complete canon or broad selection of literature in any one kiosk, nonetheless play their own little free role in promoting an informed and humane citizenry.  And anyone can play a part – just as I did by leaving a few books in the Little Free Library a few blocks from the Twinbrook Metro the other day.

Happy, literary New Year!

Twinbrook is on the Red Line.

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Photo of the Day: Baltimore Basilica

At work yesterday afternoon, we were spontaneously given today (New Year’s Eve) off as a holiday. Hooray! So I took an excursion to Baltimore. I did not succeed in visiting anything only open on weekdays, but I did visit the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as America’s first cathedral (the process of building it began in 1806). The basilica offers guided and self-guided tours, with the self-guide showing points of interest on the main and crypt levels, and some exhibit space in and near the crypt as well.

Happy New Year!

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Photo of the Day: Jefferson Memorial

One more place my parents and sister went without me (not that I hadn’t been a thousand times before!) on Monday.

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Photo of the Day: Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Another DC site my family visited while I was at work yesterday – photos taken by me when it was one of my Weekly Museum Visits. Oh how audacious it is to be an idealist!


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Photo of the Day: BNSIC

While I went back to work today, my parents and sister visited the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Fortunately, I have seen its immediately-after-Christmas beauty before.

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