- “Christmas in Museum Land” by Alena Pirok in her blog Museuming. It’s a little less timely for me to write about, now that the holidays are over, but it’s not as if they won’t be back. Pirok writes, with a focus on history-oriented museums, “Christmas events at museums (in general) do nothing if not an adhere to the museum’s expressed goals of bring people closer to the past, helping them create an appreciation for the past, and teaching them about the period.” I agree that having Christmas (or other holiday) displays and events does not inherently mean that a museum is selling out. The museum’s challenge, as with everything it does, is to relate its celebrating the season to its mission. I wrote about this idea in 2011, in a list of considerations for museums when planning exhibits and programming for the holidays. What would you add to this list? What do you think were some of the best examples of museums doing the holidays this past holiday season?
- “A Brooklyn museum has every Biblical animal – but no money to stay open” by David Gibson in the Washington Post. Here’s a unique idea for a museum: display a taxidermy version of every animal mentioned in the Bible, and give tours that relate not primarily to natural history, but to the role that the animal plays in religious scripture. The rabbi who conceived and runs the museum, Shaul Shimon Deutsch, gears his tours toward fellow Jewish visitors as well as Christian visitors. I think it would also be an interesting starting point for visitors who are neither, and/or who are not all that familiar with the Bible, who are interested in learning more about it as a piece of literature or a religious text. When I posted this article on Facebook, a former co-worker from the museum world commented that the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo uses the same concept, but with live animals.
- “Congress is hated, but people still love to visit” by Nancy Marshall-Genzer in Marketplace. This article does not surprise me, having worked in visitor services at the Capitol Visitor Center. No matter what Congress is or is not doing now, the Capitol building is still an architectural icon, full of beautiful art, where centuries of important events in American history have taken place. And watching today’s Congress in session is fascinating, if infuriating.
- “National Book Festival to move indoors this year” by Ron Charles in the Washington Post. The National Book Festival is my absolute favorite time of the year. I am not going to give up on it because of the Library of Congress moving it from the National Mall to the Convention Center. The LOC touts benefits to the move, like the ability to add cooking and cinema components, as well as protection from the elements. Meanwhile, commenters on the article think something is fishy and demand more investigative journalism. I am hopeful that the basic draws for me won’t change: a big celebration of books, and hearing author after author talk about their work. And I hope the event continues to be free.
- “Reflections on Leading Tours About Race” by Andrea Kim Taylor on the WestMuse Blog. Taylor writes about working at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in Seattle, and making the transition from tours whose topics related to race to tours where the topic was race. One difference:
“One of the ideas that came out of our community collaboration was to begin the tour with the docent discussing one piece that personally spoke to them, and why they thought it added to the dialogue on race. We (The Wing museum educators) generally try not to talk about ourselves very much on tours, but it was brought to our attention that if we began the tour creating that personal connection, it could spur active participation from students on how they may see themselves in the artwork.”
In this case, the educators found it appropriate to talk about themselves on a tour – insofar as it got visitors willing to talk about themselves, to each other, and thereby learn from each other.
6. “Try Another Day: Steve Ander’s Metrothon” by Vicky Hallett in the Washington Post’s Express. Steve Ander, who is my age and lives in the DC area like me, tried visiting all 86 Metro stations on one Saturday. Tellingly (of the system’s usability on weekends), there was not enough time for him to ride to, exit, and photograph more than 66 of the stations. I have a similar nerdy goal: to visit all 86 stations, not in one day, but simply to visit them all. I would like to experience not just each station but the neighborhood surrounding each station – including a visit to any nearby museum. Some places I hope to visit, that I have not yet seen, are the Mount Rainier Nature Center near West Hyattsville, Mexican Cultural Institute near Columbia Heights, Fort Dupont near Benning Road, and the Arlington Arts Center and/or Arlington Planetarium near Virginia Square. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to visit the DEA Museum near Pentagon City, the NIH Museum near Medical Center or the Airmen Memorial Museum near Branch Avenue, since these are only open on weekdays (more on that later).
7. “Amazing German Designed Cat Climbing Furniture” in HausPanther. A must-see for everyone out there designing museums for cats.