Tag Archive | museums

London 2018: Museums

Day 13, Friday, July 6, 2018

It was our last full day in London, and we slept in; we all needed the lazy day.  I got up about 9 and was the first one up!  Once we got moving, we walked over to the Natural History Museum; it was a little over a mile walk.

Me with a Petrified Tree, outside the Natural History Museum


Pillars at the Natural History Museum

I thought the Natural History Museum was a little disappointing.  They have a huge section with taxidermy animals, but the specimens are old.  The museum doesn’t want to obtain new specimens, for obvious reasons.  The cute armadillo was an exception though!


The dinosaur exhibit is cool, and very crowded.  They have a lot of dinosaur fossils and casts hanging from the ceiling, which makes it a little tough to see them, but I understand that they don’t want everybody touching them.  They do have a lot of information on how dinosaurs lived; what scientists know about their lives based on how their legs and claws are shaped, what their teeth tell us, etc.  It is impressive to see the educated guesses they can make based on the fossil evidence.

A dinosaur!


A whale skeleton

They need to do some dusting though!

We had a snack at the museum cafe; I had lemonade and pesto pasta.

After that, we headed over to the Victoria and Albert Museum next door.  This is a giant museum with exhibits on everything you could imagine.  Asian artifacts, the Italian wing, historic ceramics, mid-century furniture, clocks, glass, modern ceramics…  They had it all.  Five floors and many, many wings of exhibits.  It was far too much to see in one day, and we didn’t even try.  This place was definitely a gem.

We wandered until we were getting hot and burned out on museums for the day.  Taryn and I were going to go have an English Tea!

Tube Stations:  None.  We walked to the Museums and back.
Costs: Both the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum are free.


Atlanta 2018: Margaret Mitchell House

Day 5, Thursday, January 25, 2018

After the High Museum and lunch, I made my way over to the Margaret Mitchell Museum; if you don’t recognize the name, she wrote Gone with the Wind.  She was an affluent, very intelligent and ambitious woman who started writing the book as a distraction as she was recovering from a broken leg.

The “Dump” – Mitchell’s apartment was in the lower left corner of the house

My guide at the museum was excellent; he was a graduate student studying Mitchell for his thesis.  I was all alone on my tour (fortunately I got there right after the big bus tour departed), and we had some pretty interesting conversations about Mitchell and the book.  He encouraged me to think about Scarlett O’Hara, and imagine her coming of age in the flapper era, which of course, was exactly when Mitchell was writing the book.

Scarlett and Margaret Mitchell were both women ahead of their time, of course you know about Scarlett’s story, but Mitchell divorced an alcoholic, abusive husband at a time when divorce was uncommon, and later married her ex-husband’s friend (the best man at her first wedding).  She worked as a journalist, but actually talked her way into the job with no experience.

Mitchell’s second husband was a business manager, so she wasn’t really very affected by the Great Depression, which was occurring during the time as well.  The guide and I talked about the fact that Mitchell’s grandfathers were Civil War officers for the Confederacy, so of course her view of the Old South, the war, and slavery were deeply shaped by the stories that she heard growing up.  Gone with the Wind is one of the books that is often considered for book ban lists, but it is important to learn about all perspectives on history, not just the one that is politically correct now. Despite your viewpoint, it was a pivotal novel of the time and remains so today.

Interesting, the guide and museum exhibits shared that the US military took copies of Gone with the Wind over to Japan after the defeat of Japan in World War II. They thought that the story would resonate with the Japanese people – rising up from the ashes and overcoming obstacles to rebuild your life.  They suspected (and were right), that if he could give the Japanese people something to connect with, they would be more likely to maintain the motivation to overcome their hardships and rebuild their lives.  Gone with the Wind is extremely popular to this day with the Japanese market – and the bus tour I mentioned earlier was filled with Japanese tourists! I never knew that!  A quick internet search couldn’t corroborate this story, so who knows, but it seems plausible, given the popularity of the novel in Japan.

Mitchell’s writing process was interesting – she wrote the chapters of the book out of order and then stashed them all over the house in manila envelopes.  She stuffed envelopes in drawers, under couch cushions, and sometimes lost them.  She started her book at the end.

Mitchell’s living room (not her furniture)


Margaret Mitchell’s writing area (not her furniture)

The tour takes place in the apartment that Mitchell lived in after marrying her second husband.  She called it “The Dump”, but it was a fairly nice apartment for the time, and she did have a black servant.  The house it was in contained several apartments, and was abandoned after she lived there and later in was purchased in order to renovate it for the museum.  When the historical society was almost finished, someone set the building on fire, but fortunately the area of the house that contained Mitchell’s former apartment wasn’t badly damaged and they rebuilt it after the fire.

Mitchell’s Kitchen, looking into the bedroom


Margaret Mitchell’s Bedroom (not her furniture)

The furniture is period, rather than having belonged to Mitchell, but you still get an idea of what it would have been like when she lived there.  I thought it was actually a pretty decent, and pretty large, apartment.

Once I got back to the hotel, I went out to eat at Pitty Pat’s Porch, just around the corner from my hotel. I sat in the bar, and ordered a German Riesling, which I ended up getting for free because the bartender forgot about me for a while.  Oops.  I ordered the Shrimp and Grits, which came with their version of a salad bar.  There were all sorts of traditional southern “salad” foods – including pickled watermelon rind.  To be honest the pickled watermelon rind doesn’t taste like much, and was kind of weird.  The shrimp and grits were amazing though!


SW National Parks Trip: Palace of the Governor’s

Our last morning in Santa Fe had arrived…  Jon wasn’t feeling like trying out a new place for breakfast, so we went back to the Plaza Café – our breakfast haunt from the previous morning.  Jon had his new usual – the egg white omelet with fruit and toast.  And coffee.  I ordered something different – the Traditional, with two eggs over medium, ham, toast, hash browns and hot tea.  Once again, it was a good meal, with fast and friendly service.

After breakfast, we sat on a bench in the middle of Santa Fe’s plaza and watched the fattest pigeon I have ever seen scrounge for his breakfast.  Amusing, but sad to to think that he probably got that way because people feed him lots of unhealthy snacks.

Look at this Fat Guy!

Look at this Fat Guy!

When the Palace of the Governor’s opened, we went inside and got our tickets. $9 admits one adult non-New Mexico resident to the Palace of the Governor’s and the New Mexico History Museum.  If you are going to be in the area for longer, $20 will get you admission into 4 Santa Fe museums in a 4 day period.  Or if you are visiting more than just Santa Fe, the New Mexico Culture Pass will get you admission to 8 New Mexico Museums and 7 State Historic Sites for $25 (the Culture Pass lasts for one year – and admits you once to each location).  Both are pretty great deals – if you are into museums and historic sites, like we are…

Palace of the Governor’s – Built 1610

Palace of the Governor’s – Built 1610

The Palace of the Governor’s is fascinating.  It was built in 1610 by the Spanish – it was the seat of government for the Spanish colony of Nuevo Mexico, which covered present day Texas, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, California, and New Mexico.  During the Spanish colonial period, the Spanish treated the Native Indians poorly, with a forced labor system that was basically slavery.

One tribal leader, Popé, planned and executed a revolt of several of the tribes in the area.  He dispatched runners with knotted cords to each of the tribal leaders.  The knots were to be untied one each day, and on the day that the last knot was untied, the Indians were to attack the Spanish and drive them from the area in a collaborated revolt.

The Spanish caught some of the runners and tortured them to learn the significance of the knots, and as a result the revolt had to happen earlier than planned.  However, it was still very successful.  They managed to drive the Spanish out of the area for twelve years. During that time they attempted to wipe all Spanish influence from the Palace of the Governor’s, which the Indians had begun using.

When New Mexico was annexed as a U.S. territory, the Palace of the Governor’s was used as the first territorial capitol building.  It is the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States.

The museum has lots of artifacts from the colonial period when the Spanish were exploring the area and setting up outposts. They have cookware, pottery, lists of supplies etc.  They also display a lot of artifacts that were excavated from the building and its surrounding area when it was renovated. Pottery, ironwork objects, beads from jewelry, religious objects – there was a lot to look at.

Pottery Fragments found at the Palace of the Governor’s

Pottery Fragments found at the Palace of the Governor’s

They also have cutouts in the floor that show the original adobe brick floor – they show where one room has a herringbone pattern, which indicates that the room would have been used for higher status individuals. Next door they showed where the servant class or Indians would have lived or worked, with rooms that had a simple adobe brick floor. It was interesting to see how even back then, there were significant markers showing the distinction between the classes.

Dishware Found at the Palace of the Governor’s

Dishware Found at the Palace of the Governor’s

After checking out the Palace of the Governor’s, we crossed the courtyard and made our way into the New Mexico History Museum (you get both museums with the same admission, even if you don’t have a pass).  If you do the museum in the right order, it begins during the same Spanish Colonial period, with overviews of the beginnings of the Spanish mission system, the Pueblo Revolt and the retaking of the areas that were regained by the Indians during the revolt.  It also detailed the period after Mexico lost the land to the United States, the expansion into the New Mexico territory by U.S. citizens, and its subsequent frontier and ranching days.  New Mexico entered the union in 1912, the 47th state to join. I didn’t realize it was such a late state!

A Civil War Era Saddle – Used at Fort Wingate

A Civil War Era Saddle – Used at Fort Wingate

There is also an interesting exhibit on the development of the atomic bombs during World War II.  The administrative office for the Manhattan Project was in Santa Fe, and the bombs were built in Los Alamos and tested in the New Mexico desert nearby.  It was interesting to learn that people who were living and working on the project had to maintain absolute secrecy.  They were not allowed to even tell their families where they were – or to send them photos that identified the landscape of New Mexico.  Their mail was screened.

We also went upstairs to see a modern art photography exhibit, but it just didn’t suit my fancy – too modern and weird for my taste.  But it was interesting to see.

If you are in Santa Fe – I strongly recommend these two museums.  The exhibits are very well done – and you get a fantastic overview of New Mexico history.  After we were done at the New Mexico History Museum – it was time to get back on the road to our next destination – Albuquerque!


California Road Trip: The Long Road Home

Sadly, any good vacation must come to an end, and we were at the end of our California Road Trip.  We loved the scenery, we loved the things we saw and experienced, and I think we managed to pack a lot into it!  The summary of what we did:

Other notable stats include:

  • seven different hotels
  • 2,492 miles driven
  • two times driving around the same blocks in San Francisco while trying to find the parking garage
  • one fight about the San Francisco traffic
  • one killer bike fell off a car in front of us on the freeway
  • ten bottles of wine made it home with us (I thought that showed a lot of restraint!)
  • 2,476,983 bugs lost their lives on our windshield, grille and mirrors
  • Six – the number of times I vomited, in two different towns
Mount Shasta From the Car Window

Mount Shasta From the Car Window

Jon and I had a fabulous time, and we managed to make the long, boring drive home from Sacramento in one long, boring, exhausting, marathon of a day.  The drive without any stops is about 11 hours – we only stopped for gas, food and bathroom breaks.  We did run into heavy traffic in all the usual places – Tacoma, Seattle and Everett (a complete stop in Everett due to a car accident) – but otherwise it was smooth sailing the whole way.  We made it in about 13 hours.  The non-stop drive made for some sore, stiff bodies the next day, but thankfully we had a day to do some laundry and get some rest before we had to go back to work!  And Oliver and Oscar were so happy to see us!

I Don't Condone This - But This Guy Did Look Like He Was Enjoying Himself!

I Don’t Condone This – But This Guy Did Look Like He Was Enjoying Himself!

If you want to go back and read from the beginning of the trip – of course you do!  I can’t wait for the next trip – for now we are saving and planning until we can make it happen!

King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs

Jon and I went to the King Tut: Valley of the Kings exhibit with Jon’s parents, sister and brother-in-law on October 21, 2012. The exhibit is on display at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington, through early January 2013. I had been excited about going for a while, but we had a pretty busy summer, and we figured that the crowds might die down in the fall when there aren’t quite so many tourists in Seattle. Jon and I were planning to head down to Seattle to see the Calexico show on Friday night (you can read more about that in my previous post), so we decided to just stay another day and hang out with the family and see the exhibit on Sunday. What a great weekend!

The exhibit starts out with a movie in the ante-chamber (that’s a play on words folks, because King Tut’s tomb also has an ante-chamber!) before you are released to go into the actual exhibit. Once you begin there is a big crowd of people, because even though they do a timed entry, you are still entering the exhibit all at once with the other people at your time. Once you are in, you have as much time as you would like to view the exhibit, but there is no food, no bathroom and no re-entry.

The first several rooms of the exhibit contain statues of various pharaohs and advisors from different periods in Egyptian history. Some of the statues are full bodies, some are just heads. They explain how the facial features actually are portraits, which serve as a good representation of what that individual looked like. They can also tell, based on finding a statue that doesn’t look like who is it supposed to be, that the statue was appropriated by a pharaoh for re-use. Basically, pharaohs sometimes took statues of earlier pharaohs, and had their names carved over the name of the previous ruler. I guess ego isn’t something that is new to this world!

They had a sarcophagus (a box that was built to hold a mummy) for a royal cat who had died and was mummified. They did not explain whether the cat died of natural causes and then was mummified, or if the rulers had their pets killed and then placed in the tombs with them. At any rate, the box was carved with all sorts of cat pictures that were pretty neat.

As you get further along in the exhibit, you get to see gold artifacts from both King Tut’s tomb and others. No, you won’t see his death mask (the Egyptian government has decided that the mask is too fragile to be traveling the world and will remain permanently in Cairo now), but you will see lots of beautiful gold jewelry, including earrings, pendants, bracelets and breast plates. There are also gold chalices, and boxes inlaid with gold and other precious stones. The detail on all of it is exquisite, and it is hard to comprehend how they did this beautiful work 3,000 years ago without the metalworking technology that we have today.

Then, you get to King Tut’s “tomb”, or at least this exhibit’s representation of it. King Tut was buried in a very small tomb compared to all the other pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings, and archaeologists believe that it because he died unexpectedly, and they had to use a tomb that was originally meant for another individual of lesser status. But even so, it had four rooms. There was the ante-chamber, the annex, the burial chamber and the treasury. They were all stuffed to the gills with artifacts. The Egyptians believed that the mummies would magically return to life in the afterlife, so they needed to be buried with all the stuff they would need in the afterlife. King Tut’s tomb was no different.

Archaeologists believe that the tomb was robbed twice, but both times were shortly after King Tut was placed there (within months), because the stolen items were oils and perfumes that were perishable. I’m not sure why they would go for oils, and leave the gold, but that’s just me. That must have been some awesome oil! The next pharaoh went on a campaign to try to scrub King Tut’s name from the records, erasing his name off of statues in his honor, etc., and archaeologists believe that this was good for him in the long run, because his tomb was quickly forgotten and covered over. At one point, there were worker’s huts built over the entrance to the tomb, and the inhabitants likely had no idea what they were sleeping over!

So, the stuff, you ask. The exhibit showed some pictures of the items in the tomb, which included a model boat, complete with oars and sails, figurines of animals, furniture, sandals, and jewelry. When the tomb was discovered, they had to be very careful about removing all the artifacts for preservation, and items were piled high on top of each other in a jumble. Removing one artifact could cause the rest to come tumbling down, so it took 7 weeks to clear out the ante-chamber. King Tut’s mummy was not uncovered until a year and a half after the tomb was discovered!

There were figurines in the form of humans called shabtis, which were representations of servants who would magically come to life in the afterlife so the pharaoh didn’t have to do any work. I would love to have a shabti, although I would want it to come to life right away, and deal with the big pile of laundry on my floor.  The mummy’s organs were also preserved in canopic coffinettes and placed into the canopic chest.  The exhibit shows one of the coffinettes, which are made of gold, and inlaid with carnelian and colored glass.  All four have individual decoration.  And they are magnificent!  Oddly, the ancient Egyptians did not see the brain as important, and they discarded the brain during the mummification process.

A wooden box was also in the tomb, and within the box were two tiny coffins containing the mummies of King Tut’s two daughters, both fetuses.  One fetus was about 5 months along, and the other was 8-9 months (they did remove these mummies before sending the coffins off to tour the world).  It is known that Tutankhamen did not have any surviving children, because the throne did not pass to a descendant of his.

I thought the exhibit was excellent, but I wish they would have provided a bit more information on what the items were used for or whey they were placed in the tomb.  I mean some things were obvious, like a bed or a chair, but what did a ewer hold?  And what was a unguent vessel used for?  If you have a chance to visit, you should – and plan on taking your time!  Maybe it drives Jon’s family nuts that I’m always the last to finish, but at least they don’t try to rush me through!

The exhibit didn’t allow photography, so I don’t have any photos to share, but OregonLive has a Photo Essay with some fantastic exhibit photos.  Check it out here.