Category Archives: Museum of the Day

International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame

9278b6988f4a14b792298a2ff607fb3eArlington, Texas is home to the International Bowling Museum & Hall of Fame, today’s “Museum of the Day”.

I knew about this museum when it was still based in St. Louis, Missouri. We had a great group party at this museum during one of the American Alliance of Museum annual meetings in the gateway city.

The International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame collects, preserves and exhibits the 5,000-year history of the worldwide sport of bowling.  From the ancient Egyptians to British monarchs to an enterprising German immigrant, follow the sport’s journey from archeological digs… to American taverns…  to today’s cutting-edge computer assisted training centers.  No visit to the International Bowling Campus is complete without experiencing the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame.

I look forward to seeing this newer version of the museum I experienced in Missouri.

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Maryland Historical Society

mining-1Baltimore, Maryland is home to one of the many state historical societies in the U.S., the Maryland Historical Society, today’s “Museum of the Day”.

Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) features Maryland’s largest and most comprehensive Civil War exhibit. The impact of the war on the people of Maryland is told on personal terms in “Divided Voices: Maryland in the Civil War.” The largest Civil War exhibit in the museum’s 167-year history occupies over 5,000 square feet and tells the story of a tragedy in three acts: the romantic war, the real war and the long reunion.

Founded in 1844, the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) is the state’s oldest continuously operating cultural institution. In keeping with the founders’ commitment to preserve the remnants of Maryland’s past, MdHS remains the premier institution for state history. With over 350,000 objects and seven million books and documents, this institution now serves upward of 100,000 people through its through museum, library, press, and educational programs.

MdHS is located in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland.

In 1992, artist Fred Wilson created “Mining the Museum”, a historical exhibition for MdHS , which was quite provocative. Museum exhibit designers and educators still reference his ability to reinterpret history with simple changes to labeling and presentation.

I will visit this museum very soon!

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Related article: https://collectingseminar.wordpress.com/2008/11/03/fred-wilson-re-presents-history-and-objects-by-maria-gaspar/

Mütter Museum

mutter-museum-philadelphia-587Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is home to today’s “Museum of the Day” – the Mütter Museum, one of the most unusual and surprising museums that is part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

America’s finest museum of medical history, the Mütter displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a 19th century “cabinet museum” setting. The goal of the Museum is to help the public understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body while appreciating the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.

The Collection began as a donation from Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter, who was determined to improve and reform medical education. The donation stipulated that the College had to hire a Curator, maintain and expand the collection, fund annual lectures and erect a brick building to house the collection. Since 1858, the College has held true to its promise to Dr. Mütter. Today the museum enjoys steadily rising international popularity, including a recent documentary on the Discovery Channel and two best-selling books.

I love the museum and will definitely make a trip to Philadelphia to see this one again, and to take in all the cultural organizations in one of my favorite cities in the United States.

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Museum of Bad Art

lBoston, Massachusetts is home to the Museum of Bad Art, today’s “Museum of the Day”.

From the Guggenheim to the Museum of Bad Art, I am taking a strong turn from great to quirky museum to help diversify my blog’s focus!

The Museum Of Bad Art (MOBA) is a community-based, private institution dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms and in all its glory.

MOBA was founded in the fall of 1993 and presented its first show in March 1994. The response was overwhelming. Since then, MOBA’s collection and ambitions have grown exponentially.

Initially, MOBA was housed in the basement of a private home in Boston. This meager exhibition space limited the museum to being a regional cultural resource for the New England area.

As the only museum dedicated to bringing the worst of art to the widest of audiences we felt morally compelled to explore new, more creative ways of bringing this priceless collection of quality bad art to a global audience. Another Boston-area cultural institution, Dedham Community Theatre, generously allowed MOBA the use of their basement. Our first permanent gallery is now conveniently located just outside the men’s room in a 1927 movie theatre. The ambience created such a convivial atmosphere, that when we went looking for a second location, the only place that was up to our quality standards was another theatre basement. The Somerville Theater in Davis Square, Somerville MA is now our second gallery.

Never think that I only like the “best” museums – my passion for the interpretive space goes out to all museums and I make no judgement about the quality of the collections that are presented. I am, however, a strong advocate for great interpretation and accessibility! I look forward to visiting this museum on my next trip to Boston.

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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

NY-16New York City, New York is home to perhaps one of the most iconic museums in the world, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – today’s “Museum of the Day”.

Located on the upper east side of Manhattan on what is commonly called “Museum Mile” by New Yorkers, the Guggenheim is housed in a building designed by the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright and could be called “the” museum building that is most recognizable as an art museum.

In June 1943, Frank Lloyd Wright received a letter from Hilla Rebay, the art advisor to Solomon R. Guggenheim, asking the architect to design a new building to house Guggenheim’s four-year-old Museum of Non-Objective Painting. The project evolved into a complex struggle pitting the architect against his clients, city officials, the art world, and public opinion. Both Guggenheim and Wright would die before the building’s 1959 completion. The resultant achievement, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, testifies not only to Wright’s architectural genius, but to the adventurous spirit that characterized its founders.

Wright made no secret of his disenchantment with Guggenheim’s choice of New York for his museum: “I can think of several more desirable places in the world to build his great museum,” Wright wrote in 1949 to Arthur Holden, “but we will have to try New York.” To Wright, the city was overbuilt, overpopulated, and lacked architectural merit.

Still, he proceeded with his client’s wishes, considering locations on 36th Street, 54th Street, and Park Avenue (all in Manhattan), as well as in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, before settling on the present site on Fifth Avenue between 88th and 89th Streets. Its proximity to Central Park was key; as close to nature as one gets in New York, the park afforded relief from the noise and congestion of the city.

Nature not only provided the museum with a respite from New York’s distractions but also leant it inspiration. The Guggenheim Museum is an embodiment of Wright’s attempts to render the inherent plasticity of organic forms in architecture. His inverted ziggurat (a stepped or winding pyramidal temple of Babylonian origin) dispensed with the conventional approach to museum design, which led visitors through a series of interconnected rooms and forced them to retrace their steps when exiting. Instead, Wright whisked people to the top of the building via elevator, and led them downward at a leisurely pace on the gentle slope of a continuous ramp. The galleries were divided like the membranes in citrus fruit, with self-contained yet interdependent sections. The open rotunda afforded viewers the unique possibility of seeing several bays of work on different levels simultaneously. The spiral design recalled a nautilus shell, with continuous spaces flowing freely one into another.

Even as it embraced nature, Wright’s design also expresses his unique take on modernist architecture’s rigid geometry. The building is a symphony of triangles, ovals, arcs, circles, and squares. Forms echo one another throughout: oval-shaped columns, for example, reiterate the geometry of the fountain and the stairwell of the Thannhauser Building. Circularity is the leitmotif, from the rotunda to the inlaid design of the terrazzo floors.

The meticulous vision took decades to be fulfilled. Originally, the large rotunda was to be accompanied by a small rotunda and a tower. The small rotunda (or monitor building, as Wright called it) was intended to house apartments for Rebay and Guggenheim but instead became offices and miscellaneous storage space. In 1965, the second floor of the building was renovated to display the museum’s growing permanent collection, and with the restoration of the museum in 1990–92, it was turned over entirely to exhibition space and rechristened the Thannhauser Building in honor of one of the most important bequests to the museum.

Wright’s original plan for the tower—artists’ studios and apartments—went unrealized, largely for financial reasons. As part of the restoration, a 1968 office/art-storage annex (designed by Wright’s son-in-law William Wesley Peters) was replaced by the current structure, designed by Gwathmey Siegel and Associates Architects, LLC. This tower provides four additional exhibition galleries and, some thirty-five years after the initiation of construction, completed Wright’s concept for the museum. In 2001, the Sackler Center for Arts Education opened to the public. Located just below the rotunda, this 8,200-square-foot education facility includes the Peter B. Lewis Theater, part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s original architectural design for the building.

Some people, especially artists, criticized Wright for creating a museum environment that might overpower the art inside. “On the contrary,” he wrote, “it was to make the building and the painting an uninterrupted, beautiful symphony such as never existed in the World of Art before.” In conquering the static regularity of geometric design and combining it with the plasticity of nature, Wright produced a vibrant building whose architecture is as refreshing now as it was 40 years ago. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is arguably Wright’s most eloquent presentation and certainly the most important building of his late career.

I always make a stop at the Guggenheim when in NYC. It’s not the only landmark building in the city, but it is one of my personal favorites; I always love to see what artist is on display in the rotunda, since the inside perspective is always uniquely interpreted by the artists who are blessed with the opportunity to be featured there. It’s a “not to be missed” museum!

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John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art

ringling_art_museum1Sarasota, Florida is home to one of the best museums in Florida, The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art – today’s “Museum of the Day”.

I lived in Sarasota for four years and have been visiting there for over 20 years – my family members have chosen this magical city as their place to retire and I am fortunate to be able to enjoy the amazing beaches, great cultural attractions and low-key environment whenever I need to “get away”.

The Ringling Museum (as it is commonly called) is the largest university-based museum in the United States and it has benefited tremendously from the recent affiliation with Florida State University. I remember seeing the museum a bit run-down before the university involvement, and now the campus, which features a historic house, an art museum, and a circus museum, is flourishing and is the main pulse of cultural engagement in this city of culture.

Today, The Ringling, the State Art Museum of Florida, is home to one of the preeminent art and cultural collections in the United States.  But its story begins nearly a century ago, with the circus impresario and his beloved wife’s shared love for Sarasota, Italy and art.

John Ringling was one of the five brothers who owned and operated the circus rightly called  “The Greatest Show on Earth.”  His success with the circus and entrepreneurial skills helped to make him, in the Roaring Twenties, one of the richest men in America, with an estimated worth of nearly $200 million.

In 1911, John and his wife, Mable, purchased 20 acres of waterfront property in Sarasota. In 1912, they began spending winters in what was then still a small town. They became active in the community and purchased more and more real estate, at one time owning more than 25 percent of Sarasota’s total area.

After a few years the couple decided to build a house and hired the noted New York architect Dwight James Baum to design it. Mable, who kept a portfolio filled with sketches, postcards and photos, wanted a home in the Venetian Gothic style of the palazzi in Venice, Italy, with Sarasota Bay serving as her Grand Canal. Construction began in 1924 and was completed two years later at a then staggering cost of $1.5 million. Five stories tall, the 36,000 square foot mansion has 41 rooms and 15 bathrooms.

Mable supervised every aspect of the building, down to the mixing of the terra cotta and the glazing of the tiles. Today, the entrance to the grounds is through the Venetian gothic gateway where the Ringlings welcomed their guests to the opulent Ca’ d’Zan, or “House of John” in the Venetian dialect.

While traveling through Europe in search of acts for his circus, John Ringling, in the spirit of America’s wealthiest Gilded Age industrialists, began acquiring art and gradually built a significant collection. The more he collected, the more passionate and voracious a collector he became, educating himself and working with dealers such as Julius Bohler. He began buying and devouring art books – that would become the foundation of the now 85,000 volume Ringling Art Library.

Soon after the completion of Ca’ d’Zan, John built a 21-gallery museum modeled on the Florentine Uffizi Gallery to house his treasure trove of paintings and art objects, highlighted by his collection of Old Masters, including Velazquez, Poussin, van Dyke and Rubens. The result is the museum and a courtyard filled with replicas of Greek and Roman sculpture, including a bronze cast of Michelangelo’s David.

John opened the Museum of Art to the public in 1931, two years after the death of his beloved Mable, saying he hoped it would “promote education and art appreciation, especially among our young people.” And five years later, upon his death, he bequeathed it to the people of Florida.

Hurt by the Depression, John had by the time of his passing, fallen into debt. Creditors and legal wrangling would delay the settling of his estate for a decade. While the state prevailed and took control in 1946, funds languished. The $1.2 million endowment Ringling left was poorly managed and barely grew. Between 1936 and 1946 the Museum was only occasionally opened and not properly maintained. The Ca’ d’Zan was used privately and remained closed to the public.

Gradually, the care that the buildings required – weatherproofing, mechanical upgrades, and maintenance of Mable’s gardens – was either put off or handled piecemeal. Some private donors came forward to help keep the Museum open, while a dedicated, but severely underfunded staff struggled to fulfill the Museum’s potential.

There were, however, some bright spots during this period. In 1948, the Museum’s first Director, A. Everett ‘Chick’ Austin, Jr., used Ringling memorabilia to open the first Circus Museum. In 1950 Austin oversaw the purchase of all the decorative elements of a theater originally built in 1798 by architect Antonio Locateli. The theater was originally located in the castle of Queen Caterina Cornaro, the Venetian-born widow of the King of Cyprus, in the town of Asolo near Venice, Italy.

Plans were finally made in 1954 for a separate building to be constructed for the theater off the west end of the Museum’s north wing. The building was constructed, the theater installed during 1955-56, and then completed in 1957. The U-shaped theater, with three tiers of boxes adorned by decorative panels, was used for plays, concerts, operas, lectures, films and other cultural programming. But because of its immense popularity as the center of Sarasota’s culture life, restoration was difficult and long-term deterioration was inevitable. It was finally closed to the public in the late 1990s and remained unused until The Ringling’s recent renaissance.

In 2000, after years of negotiation, the state passed on governance of the Museum to Florida State University (FSU). As part of the arrangement, the state promised to fund immediate repairs and in 2002 provided through the University another $43 million to fund all four buildings – the Museum of Art, Ca’ d’Zan, Circus Museum and Historic Asolo Theater – provided the Museum board could raise another $50 million within five years. Thanks to a heroic effort by some in the community and truly generous public support, they exceeded beyond expectations and more than $56 million was raised by 2007.

As importantly, a new Director, John Wetenhall, was appointed in 2001 and under his care The Ringling experienced an extraordinary rebirth. A new roof was put on the Museum of Art and the galleries refurbished. Ca’ d’Zan underwent a $15 million restoration. The Historic Asolo Theater was restored and moved inside the new Visitor Pavilion, designed by Yann Weymouth, chief architect for the Pyramide du Louvre and East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., as well as the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Visitor Pavilion was one of four new buildings added. The Circus Museum Tibbals Learning Center, was built featuring the world’s largest model circus, the Howard Bros. Circus Model, built over 50 years by master model maker and philanthropist Howard Tibbals. A state-of the-art Education Center was also built with storage facilities, offices and an art library that has become an essential resource for scholars, educators and students. The crowning touch, the Searing Wing, provides more than 20,000 square feet of exhibition space capable of accommodating up to four exhibitions at a time.

Interim director Marshall Rousseau, a longtime Ringling supporter, oversaw The Ringling after Wetenhall’s departure and was instrumental in the 2011hiring of Steven High, who had been serving as the Director and CEO of the Telfair Museums in Savannah, Georgia.

High is committed to expanding the range of Museum offerings by introducing audiences to those emerging talents in the international arts community who are defining current trends in contemporary art. Under his leadership, Joseph’s Coat, a Skyspace by modern master James Turrell, became part of the Museum’s permanent collection, thrilling audiences by inviting them to contemplate light and perception as they gaze at the sky through a 24-foot aperture, in the ceiling.

High has also overseen the mounting of Paolo Veronese, the first major exhibition of the renaissance artist in over 20 years and the first artist that John Ringling acquired.

To the delight of all, the Tibbals Learning Center has since expanded with the opening of its interactive family galleries, inviting all to experience the excitement of a day at the circus while preserving the legacy of the Museum’s founder and circus king, John Ringling.

In September of 2013 ground was broken on a new building that will house the Asian Art Center, a dynamic new extension of the Museum of Art that will support teaching and research on Asian art and culture. Scheduled for completion in late 2014,  Asian Art Center will provide educational opportunities for students and scholars from around the world and enable the public to better understand and appreciate Asian history and society through exhibitions, programs, and publications. It promises to make the Museum one the most significant centers for Asian art studies in the United States.

Also underway is the building of a Museum Playspace. Made possible by the Bolger Foundation, the David F. Bolger Playspace will be an outdoor installation designed to engage visitors of all ages and abilities in spontaneous play, creating for families and school groups a place to gather and enjoy their visit.

“The creation of this exciting new component to The Ringling experience marks a giant step forward in our on-going development and expansion as a center for art education,” Director High has said. Plans call for an early 2014 opening.

The momentum of these and other recent Museum of Art successes have accelerated exciting plans for new acquisitions, buildings and programs, fulfilling John Ringling’s dream of a great cultural center on Florida’s West Coast.

This is, without a doubt, a “must see” museum when in Florida! I am always excited to visit the museum when I travel to Sarasota for some R&R – it’s great to see how the museum has grown and changed over the years and it is a testament to the power of cross-sector collaboration. Universities can certainly benefit from the educational and cultural resources that museums provide and museums, in  exchange, can really thrive under the umbrella of important educational organizations.

I look forward to my next visit to Sarasota!

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Moundville Archaeological Park & Museum

moundmuseumTuscaloosa, Alabama is home to the Moundville Archaeological Park and is today’s “Museum of the Day”.

Opened and dedicated on May 16, 1939 at what was then known as “Mound State Monument,” built with labor from the Civilian Conservation Corps. In 1999, The University of Alabama Museums began a comprehensive effort to rebuild and redefine the museum, resulting in a $5 million renovation completed in 2010. Today, the museum combines the latest technology with more than 200 stunning artifacts to describe one of the most significant Native American archaeological sites in the United States.

Outside, visitors are greeted by symbols of the Native American culture mounted on enormous wooden heraldic poles. Inside, visitors will find life-size figures displaying the clothing and jewelry of Mississippian cultures, ceremonial feather decorations hand-sewn by Native-American artists, stunning pottery and other artworks placed in display cases that light up when recorded narratives talk about them and three-dimensional, moving depiction of a Native American maker of medicine who appears in a reconstructed earthlodge, taking them on a journey into the afterlife.

Archaeological sites have always fascinated me, and I hope to visit this one sometime in the coming year!

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Fargo Air Museum

DSC_0001_tFargo, North Dakota is home to today’s “Museum of the Day,” the Fargo Air Museum.

I’ve  been getting things set-up in my new home in Washington, D.C. and apologize to my dedicated reader for the delay in posting new museums to this blog! After a short hiatus, “Museum of the Day” is back with a great little air museum in the Mountain-Plains region of the U.S.

The museum showcases historic non-flying aircraft and engine exhibits. An EAA 317 Wright flyer replica, Pitts Special, ME 109, Huey helicopter, Iskra Jet, DC-3 and other historic aircraft. Aviation and military exhibits range from the North Dakota Wall of Aces, Carl Ben Eielson, Charles Lindbergh, the Golden Era, air racing, Tuskegee Airman and more.

In the late 1990’s, a group of local military folks, agriculture  pilots and international Warbird restorers were at the Fargo AirSho.  After the show they realized there was a wealth of historic aircraft, knowledge and a passion for aviation, education and restoration.  The founders developed the mission statement, developed a three-building long-term plan and opened the museum’s first hangar in 2001.  In 2008,  the organization retired the debt on the first building and plans are now in play to build the next two buildings.

The Fargo Air Museum founding members believed in the vision of creating a premier flying museum in the Upper Midwest. The vision and the dream included a long-range plan to build a series of three buildings. The museum first established themselves as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and set forth to raise funds through charitable giving contributions. The first building Wing was completed in 2001 and serves to showcase flying Warbird airplanes and Building Wing II will be devoted to education and traveling flyable aircraft exhibits. The third building will be devoted to the interpretative education entrance with a library, multi-media center and interactive exhibits.

I’m always excited to see smaller, more rural museums with great content and an engaged community to help make the museum a more significant institution of learning. Hopefully, one day, I can see this museum in Fargo.

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Airborne & Special Operations Museum

Museum of the Day

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Fayetteville, North Caroline is home to the Airborne & Special Operations Museum which is today’s “Museum of the Day”.

For more than eighty years Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, Cumberland County and North Carolina have lived and worked in cooperation with one another. The Airborne & Special Operations Museum now stands as a symbol for many years of teamwork, sacrifice, and victory.

The Airborne & Special Operations Museum Foundation provides marketing and advertising efforts to the non-military community in support of the ongoing mission of the United States Army’s Airborne & Special Operations Museum (ASOM). The ASOM serves as an adjunct to the local academic and cultural community and provides military history of the airborne and special operations soldiers, from 1940 to the present, to active duty soldiers, veterans, their families and the public at large. The Foundation conducts private and public fundraising efforts in support of this mission, ongoing ASOM programs…

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Airborne & Special Operations Museum

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Fayetteville, North Caroline is home to the Airborne & Special Operations Museum which is today’s “Museum of the Day”.

For more than eighty years Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, Cumberland County and North Carolina have lived and worked in cooperation with one another. The Airborne & Special Operations Museum now stands as a symbol for many years of teamwork, sacrifice, and victory.

The Airborne & Special Operations Museum Foundation provides marketing and advertising efforts to the non-military community in support of the ongoing mission of the United States Army’s Airborne & Special Operations Museum (ASOM). The ASOM serves as an adjunct to the local academic and cultural community and provides military history of the airborne and special operations soldiers, from 1940 to the present, to active duty soldiers, veterans, their families and the public at large. The Foundation conducts private and public fundraising efforts in support of this mission, ongoing ASOM programs, and future exhibit support.

The Airborne & Special Operations Museum is part of the U.S. Army Museum System and functions in partnership with a non-profit foundation. The Foundation Board of Directors is composed of retired military, veteran military and civilian members from both the public and private sectors.

Both public and private funding has been vital to the opening of the $22.5 million museum. Fundraising by the Foundation began in 1992 with a generous grant awarded from Congress. In addition to the federal grant, the State of North Carolina, Cumberland County, and the City of Fayetteville have provided grants to the museum.

I hope to visit the museum on my travels around the country. It looks like a great experience!

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