How We Became Us Innovation Nation Exploring Pop Culture SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019 Rs. 20
How We Became Us
By MICHAEL GALLANT
Experience the creation of a nation’s story at the Smithsonian’s
Photographs courtesy National Museum of American History
National Museum of American History.
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istory may seem like nothing more than facts frozen in the past. But a visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., proves otherwise. From priceless, centuries-old artifacts to groundbreaking scientific breakthroughs, and iconic items from American popular culture to world-shifting artistic innovations, the museum presents American history not as an old tale, but as an always-new story—vivid, alive and evolving. Melinda Machado, director of the Office of Communications and Marketing, has been working at the museum for two decades and knows that story well. Excerpts from an
interview with her about the museum’s stunning collection and inspiring mission, and why it’s a must-see for any visitor from India. Could you tell us a bit about the museum? The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest collection of museums and research centers, and includes the National Zoo. The National Museum of American History is one of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums. It is located in the heart of the monuments and museums of Washington, D.C. “Real stories, real stuff” is what you will find here—our mission is to tell the complex and complicated story of American history.
V O LU M E L X N U M B E R 5
How We Became Us
Framing the Future
World of Words
Tales of Transit
Art of American Experience
The Rights Museum
12 Above: George Washington Statue, 1841, by sculptor Horatio Greenough, at the National Museum of American History (above center). Top: An architectural representation of a waving flag, created from 960 reflective tiles made of polycarbonate material, which frames the entrance to the museum’s The Star-Spangled Banner Gallery. Left: Visitors view the main attraction of the gallery—the over 200-year-old flag, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the U.S. national anthem.
Editor in Chief Conrad W. Turner
Reviewing Editor Karl M. Adam
Editor Deepanjali Kakati Associate Editor Suparna Mukherji Hindi Editor Giriraj Agarwal Urdu Editor Syed Sulaiman Akhtar Copy Editor Shah Md. Tahsin Usmani
Art Director/ Production Chief Hemant Bhatnagar Deputy Art Directors / Production Assistants Qasim Raza, Shah Faisal Khan
Bringing the Past to Life
Walk in Space
Lights, Camera, Museum!
Exploring Pop Culture
Presenting the City of Angels
Courtesy MAGNIN-A Gallery, Paris
Courtesy Walker Sands Communications
Courtesy The Henry Ford
Photographs by DEEPANJALI KAKATI
© Nam June Paik Estate
41 Front cover: Collage by Hemant Bhatnagar. Photographs courtesy The Henry Ford; Grammy Museum; The Tech Interactive; National Civil Rights Museum; Smithsonian American Art Museum/Flickr; Andos_pics/Flickr; Jesse Arroyo; Amey_A/Wikipedia; Getty Images; © AP Images; © Plimoth Plantation; Joshua White, JWPictures/ ©Academy Museum Foundation.
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Photographs by DEEPANJALI KAKATI
One way we help our visitors engage with history is to look at the story of America through popular culture.
At the museum, we explore the story of how “we” became “us.” The United States is made of the people who were here, people like African slaves who were brought here, and those who chose to come here. So, it is a complicated story. You can see how American democracy evolved and expanded along the way. Do you remember the first time you visited the Smithsonian and the National Museum of American History? When my family first came to visit the Smithsonian we were surprised, like many tourists, to find that there was not just one
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museum, but many to choose from. On that first visit, we actually did not go to the American History Museum because to us kids, it sounded like homework! Now that I work here, I can tell you it’s not like that at all. Yes, you will find exhibits about U.S. military history and American democracy, but when you come in on the first floor, the first large object you will see is a Batmobile. One way we help our visitors engage with history is to look at the story of America through popular culture. What other sorts of exhibits are particularly exciting? Left: The Batmobile from the Tim Burton-directed superhero film, “Batman,” on display at the National Museum of American History. Below: The “Tracing American Journeys” display of personal objects and businessrelated artifacts of immigrants from around the world who found a home in America. Above right: Children enjoy hands-on activities at the museum’s Draper Spark!Lab. These activities blend science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) with art and creativity.
Right: First Lady Melania Trump donates her inaugural gown, designed by Hervé Pierre, to the First Ladies Collection of the museum. Far right: The first computer mouse prototype, by Douglas Engelbart, displayed at the museum. Below right: Historic vehicles, like this “Pacific” type steam locomotive for passenger trains from the 1920’s, are part of the museum’s collection. Below far right: The Gunboat Philadelphia, the oldest surviving American fighting vessel, built in 1776.
Photographs courtesy National Museum of American History
PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS Â© AP Images
National Museum of American History
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Photographs by DEEPANJALI KAKATI Courtesy National Museum of American History
Invention and innovation are other ways we help interpret history.
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Left: The National Museum of American History’s collection includes the pen used to sign the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which gave women the right to vote. Above and above right: Its collection also includes images and objects related to U.S.-India connections, like a photograph of Indian restaurants in Little India, New York, and a three-tier tiffin, with the legend “Eat Drink Live,” on the different tiers.
Invention and innovation are other ways we help interpret history. Did you know that hiphop was invented in a neighborhood of New York known as the Bronx? In our “Places of Invention” exhibition, you can learn this story, and also do a hands-on activity to see how DJs [disc jockeys] learn their craft. In the Draper Spark!Lab, kids can go from idea to invention with all kinds of hands-on activities. One of the favorite exhibits among visitors is “The First Ladies,” which includes gowns worn by Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Melania Trump at their husbands’ presidential inaugurations. Visitors also love “The American Presidency” exhibit, which includes one of our national treasures—President Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, which he wore to the theater the night he was assassinated. We also display the original Star-Spangled Banner, which is the actual flag that inspired the words that became the American national anthem. And we have the ruby slippers that were worn by actress Judy Garland in the movie “The Wizard of Oz.” How many objects are in the museum’s collection? Not only do we have almost two million objects, we also have archival papers that would stretch from Boston to London if you
lay them all out. These include unpublished music by American jazz great Duke Ellington. How do you keep it all straight, and decide what to display? When a curator brings in an object, we give the artifact a number and create a file with information about it, cataloging when it was collected and why. Staff members, such as curators, educators and designers, present ideas for exhibitions in the museum. We also look for major anniversaries that we should celebrate or commemorate. For example, this year is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when the Allies were victorious in World War II. So we have a small exhibition in our military history wing to mark that occasion. And we’re getting ready to open a small display about how people interact with their computing devices. When new visitors come to the museum, what surprises them most? That we don’t always tell stories of history in the chronological way you learn them in school. For example, in “The American Presidency” exhibition, there is a timeline that shows all the presidents from George Washington to Donald Trump. But the exhibit is organized by the roles an American president takes on at the same time—the president is the leader of a political party, the commander in chief of the military, the top diplomat and the primary resident of the White House. One of my favorite things in that exhibit are President Warren Harding’s silk pajamas! Michael Gallant is the founder and chief executive officer of Gallant Music. He lives in New York City.
Framing the Future
By DEEPANJALI KAKATI
The All India
Museum Summit 2019 provided
American and Indian experts a platform to share ideas and best practices for museum modernization. Top: U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth I. Juster (left) speaks at the summit. Above: Susan Bean, who led the summit initiative.
he All India Museum Summit 2019 in New Delhi convened a gathering of museum professionals, including curators, administrators, conservationists and educators, from across the country. Over three days in July, they discussed ways to enrich the role that museums play in the lives of Indians and means for building institutional capacities to manage collections and resources. Led by American and Indian experts, the summit provided a platform to share expertise and best practices for museum modernization. It will result in a white paper for presentation to the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, recommending actions to advance India’s leading museums. The summit was organized by the American Institute of Indian Studies, with financial support from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. It focused on topics like challenges and strategies for India’s new museums, reaching audiences, and preventive care and conservation. The summit initiative was led by Susan Bean, chair of the Center for Art and Archaeology of the American Institute of Indian Studies, which is headquartered at the University of Chicago and has offices in New Delhi and Gurugram. An associate of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, Bean is also an independent scholar and curator specializing in the visual arts of modern South Asia.
Excerpts from an interview with Bean on the summit and Indian museums. How did the plan for the All India Museum Summit develop? We began by speaking with a lot of colleagues in the museum field, mostly in India but also some in the U.S., with experience of Indian museums. Based on those discussions, we formed a planning committee representing the diversity of India’s museums—large and small, based in the north and the south, art and culture, etc. The committee members were Naman Ahuja, professor of Indian art and architecture at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Madhuvanti Ghose, Alsdorf associate curator of Indian, Southeast Asian, Himalayan and Islamic art at Art Institute of Chicago; Pramod Kumar K.G., managing director of Éka Cultural Resources and Research, New Delhi; Sabyasachi Mukherjee, director general of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai; Manvi Seth, dean (academic affairs) of the National Museum Institute, New Delhi; and Venu Vasudevan, principal secretary of tourism, Government of Kerala, and former director general of the National Museum, New Delhi. Over the months of planning, there were many meetings to discuss topics and possible presenters. What was the focus of the summit? The aim was to bring together a critical
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Susan Bean www.susanbean.com
All India Museum Summit 2019 https://allindiamuseum summit.com
India and its museums are on the move. So, it’s a good moment to assess and articulate wishes, hopes and dreams for the future role of museums in the lives of India’s citizens.
Below: Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai, one of the Indian museums Susan Bean loves to visit.
mass of professionals who are actively engaged in running and working with museums. They talked about the state of the field and aspirations for the future to cover a broad range of museum functions, and considered how to move forward productively. The title of the summit was “India’s Museums in the New Millennium.” India and its museums are on the move. So, it’s a good moment to assess and articulate wishes, hopes and dreams for the future role of museums in the lives of India’s citizens. Many people, myself included, treasure museums as public places. They offer opportunities to look at things otherwise hidden from our everyday lives, and to think about what they meant in their original time and place, how they came to be on display in a museum, and what their significance is to us here and now, and in the future. Each day of the summit had a theme, beginning with “Reimagining museums for the 21st century.” It opened with morning presentations from several people instrumental in founding new museums. It was such a great way to get at what a museum is about, what it presents to the public, what it hopes to achieve and what impediments are encountered that must be overcome. The afternoon was focused on what it takes to support museums’ progress—funding, of course, public and private, but also philanthropic interest and engagement, international connections, and a well-trained, professional staff. Over the next two days, we discussed how to conceptualize and realize exhibitions—the centerpieces of art and cultural history museums—to draw people in and get them
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looking, thinking and talking with one another. We also looked at ways to connect with different constituencies like old and young, well-educated and new learners, teachers and shopkeepers, etc. We also focused on the responsibilities of maintaining collections of art and visual culture. This includes taking physical care of objects, using them to learn about the worlds and situations they represent and communicate that knowledge to people who view them. We focused on devising electronic means for keeping track of museum collections and sharing them with the public, including those who can only visit a museum online. What were some of the key outcomes of the summit? I hope the museum summit is a beginning of a more robust nationwide dialogue among museum professionals. This would be directed toward finding ways to use the resources of their collections in creating public forums that people can use to enrich their lives and their understandings of India’s incredible artistic and cultural achievements. Could you tell us about some of the Indian museums you have enjoyed visiting? I’ve loved visiting museums since childhood. I like museums where visitors are talking to each other, pointing out objects, seeking information—museums where there is activity and engagement. In January, I was in a museum gallery and watched a very traditionally attired elderly grandpa and his little grandson hand-in-hand, leaning close to glass cases and looking inside. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but their interest in what they saw and in each other was in their body language. Recently, I especially enjoyed my visits on weekends to DakshinaChitra in Chennai and the City Palace museum in Jaipur. There were a lot of families and groups of friends finding things to share and finding mutual interest in those collections and displays. I love going to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya and Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai, where there is always something new and interesting to see. Both museums could have just rested on the displays of their permanent collections but, instead, have found ways to keep their offerings lively and timely. I also enjoy smaller museums with specialized collections, like the Sanskriti Museums in New Delhi.
World of Words
By HILLARY HOPPOCK
Courtesy Rickshaw Photo, Inc.
celebrates writers and inspires people to engage in reading and writing through innovative and interactive exhibits.
Above right: The “Word Waterfall,” a light-driven art installation at the American Writers Museum, cycles through a display of literary history, with quotes from authors.
eaders take note. There is a museum where the written word is revered and celebrated, right in the heart of the United States. The American Writers Museum (AWM) in Chicago, Illinois, opened its doors two years ago, with a mission to educate, engage and inspire people through the works of American writers. With a nod to single-author museums dotting the United States, mostly located in a home the writer occupied, the American Writers Museum finally gives the country’s great writers, spanning more than five centuries, a place to call home. It is located on Chicago Cultural Mile, aptly named for the neighboring Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium
Park. Museum President Carey Cranston proudly points to its placement on top of the list of the world’s best museums by travel and tourism publisher Fodor as well as its rating by USA Today’s readers as one of the best attractions in Illinois. “We are thrilled at the passionate belief by our visitors and supporters who voted to rank the American Writers Museum number one amongst them all,” he says. This one-of-a-kind museum’s Stead Family Foundation Writers Hall has rows of multi-hued books suspended like tree branches from the ceiling, depicting great cover art. A U.S. map wall represents the writers in the museum, spiraling in small circles from their hometowns to a staccato
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Courtesy American Writers Museum
The museum embraces all forms of writing: from fiction, poetry, lyrics and drama to nonfiction, speeches and journalistic pieces.
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“popping popcorn” typewriter background sound. And those who immerse themselves in the shiny, sheer intersecting walls of the large projected “Word Waterfall,” find their faces and torsos covered with the white on black quotations addressing the theme of what the word “American” means. “We are so fortunate to have this rare gem here in Chicago,” says a local patron of the museum. “My kids and I spent hours reading about the writers and playing with words, accepting invitations to play games that ranged from a vintage typewriter station to touchscreen writing games.” She highlights the museum’s lasting influence: “The museum inspired my crew to stretch their writing muscles, both at the museum and at home. Great writing comes across as effortless, but it is not. The writers featured here at the museum spent years honing their craft— practicing, practicing, practicing.” Engaging in the craft of writing is the focus of the American Writers Museum’s flagship Write In youth education program for middle and high school students. This in-museum program combines a field trip with specially designed curriculum utilizing the exhibits and
featured authors to encourage young people to write with creativity and confidence. A participating student felt “amazed by the process of writing...I appreciated the opportunity to make a mistake, revise my writing and continue to create something new.” Other visitors get to create, too. The museum has an interactive station that allows them to create their own string of words and meanings. The museum staff members begin with a single sentence and visitors add to it to form a collective story. This helps engage writers and encourage their craft. The museum embraces all forms of writing: from fiction, poetry, lyrics and drama to nonfiction, speeches and journalistic pieces. “The decision was made that there wasn’t going to be a distinction here; that we were just going to celebrate writers,” says Cranston. “That’s going to include fiction and nonfiction. And as soon as you do that, you have to include journalists because they’re the backbone of who we are as a nation as far as the written word goes.” Equally comprehensive is the museum’s outreach to all ages and audiences. It
Photographs courtesy American Writers Museum
organizes programs and events by renowned authors, poets, historians, screenwriters and professors for preschool children, parents, students, adults and seniors from the greater community, including aspiring writers in family homeless shelters. The museum offers a full calendar of special exhibits and presentations, including Sonia Sotomayor, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, reading from her children’s books; “Bob Dylan: Electric,” showcasing Dylan’s writings between the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and his 2016 Nobel Prize for
American Writers Museum
Literature; and the Frederick Douglass AGITATOR special exhibit, featuring his 1845 memoir “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.” The museum’s current exhibit, “Tools of the Trade,” features typewriters used by iconic American authors, poets, screenwriters, playwrights and journalists, and would run through June 2020. Hillary Hoppock is a freelance writer, former newspaper publisher and reporter based in Orinda, California. Above left: The American Writers Museum’s Stead Family Foundation Writers Hall, with rows of books suspended from the ceiling, depicting great cover art. Above far left: Visitors at the museum’s Frederick Douglass AGITATOR special exhibit, featuring his 1845 memoir “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.” Left: The museum explores the influence of American writers on the country’s history, identity, culture and daily life. Far left: Visitors look at a timeline display that celebrates authors emblematic of “American Voices,” from the early Native American oral traditions up to the 20th century.
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Innovation Nation By JASON CHIANG
From rare cars to freedom rides, modular houses to microprocessors, the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation offers exhibits that showcase incredible examples of ingenuity and creativity.
Above: Kids tinker, hack and invent at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.
ocated in Dearborn, Michigan, the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation immerses visitors in the ingenuity, resourcefulness and creativity that helped build America. The museum aims to preserve and restore important moments in American innovation in order to inspire people to shape a better future. From the history of the automobile and pioneering technologies that made aviation possible, to exploring America’s rich cultural history and Thomas Edison’s personal laboratory, the Henry Ford museum tells the
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stories of the incredible innovations and people that made the country what it is today. At the Henry Ford museum, great innovators have their stories told through interactive exhibits and a massive collection of rare historical artifacts. Here, visitors can pay homage to some of America’s most important thinkers and doers. “The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation showcases the ideas and innovations, technological and social, that have changed our world and continue to inspire on a daily
Photographs courtesy The Henry Ford
basis,” says John Neilson, vice president of venues at The Henry Ford. “It’s the only place where visitors can browse through the world’s premier automotive collection, explore the early years of flight, walk past an array of presidential limousines and see an unparalleled collection of artifacts representing powerful change.” The Henry Ford includes four venues: the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village, Ford Rouge Factory tour and the Benson Ford Research Center. It is also home
Left: The 1972 Lincoln Continental Presidential Limousine used by President Ronald Reagan, exhibited at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. Above: The “Mathematica” exhibition at the museum seeks to inspire visitors by the playfulness of math. Above left: At the “Heroes of the Sky” exhibit, visitors can view innovative aircraft, like the 1928 Ford 4-AT-B Tri-Motor airplane. Top: Interactive kiosks allow visitors to learn about American automotive innovation at the museum’s “Driving America” exhibit (top left).
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Photographs courtesy The Henry Ford
Top: The Rosa Parks bus is part of the “With Liberty and Justice for All” exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. Above: The 1926 Fokker Trimotor displayed at the “Heroes of the Sky” exhibit. Above right: The 1859 Corliss steam engine on display at the museum. It is the only engine built by the Corliss Steam Engine Company during inventor George Corliss’ lifetime to have survived. It still runs.
The Henry Ford is among the largest indoor-outdoor museum complexes in the United States.
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to the Henry Ford Academy, a public charter high school. The Henry Ford is among the largest indoor-outdoor museum complexes in the United States. The museum is named after Henry Ford, the renowned American industrialist and automobile industry pioneer, who founded the Ford Motor Company. Even though he did not invent the automobile or the assembly line, he was instrumental in launching the first automobiles that many middle-class Americans could afford in the early 1900’s. When the Ford Motor Company introduced the legendary Model T automobile in 1908, it provided an affordable transportation option to the masses and became an iconic symbol of America’s age of modernization. Ford’s contributions to the automotive industry are on full display in “Driving America,” one of the must-see exhibits at the museum. It features more than 100 historic vehicles and 20 interactive touchscreens with activities, video interviews, images and information about the automobile’s amazing history. Even after Ford’s passing in 1947, the museum’s staff continued to honor and expand his vision of preserving the past to inspire the future. In 2004, the Ford Motor Company launched a new partnership with the museum: The Ford Rouge Factory tour. It features a fully-functioning on-site automobile manufacturing facility for visitors to experience. It is a self-guided, five-part tour that showcases how Ford F-150 trucks are made in real life, right on the assembly line.
Buses transport people to the factory, which is located about 15 minutes away from the museum. In 2014, The Henry Ford premiered its firstever national television series, “The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation,” in partnership with the museum. The Emmy-winning show highlights present-day innovators, who challenge themselves to think outside the box and create new solutions for a better future. Each episode also highlights the Henry Ford museum’s artifacts, unique experiences and upcoming special exhibits and events. Another program is The Henry Ford’s annual National Invention Convention, where the next generation of young inventors and entrepreneurs from across the United States get to put their best ideas on display. The event brings together winners of youth invention and entrepreneurship competitions from across the country to display their hard work. This year, more than 500 young inventors attended the convention. The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation is open seven days a week, 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission tickets range from $17.25 for youth to $23 for adults. The Ford Rouge Factory Tour is open Monday to Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and requires a separate admission ticket from the museum. The ticket prices range from $10 for youth to $18 for adults. Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.
Henry Ford Museum
Photographs courtesy The Henry Ford
The Henry Ford
Above left: The original shop sign used by McDonald’s fast food restaurant franchises, with a single “golden” arch and Speedee, displayed at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation (top). Left: The only remaining prototype of the aluminum Dymaxion House, conceived by architect R. Buckminster Fuller, at the museum. It was designed to be the strongest, lightest and most cost-effective housing ever built.
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TREVOR L. JOCKIMS
Tales of Transit
New York Transit Museum
presents the story of the city’s mass transportation system and its impact on the lives of the people. 16 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
he New York Transit Museum was founded in 1976, with the mission of telling and preserving the story of how public transportation transformed New York. This fascinating story is animated by the museum itself, which offers an immersive and transformative experience to its visitors. Life, as New Yorkers know it, simply wouldn’t be possible without the city’s transportation system. “If you live in the New York region, you live the way you do because of proximity to mass transit,” says Museum Director Concetta Bencivenga. In a city with many world-famous museums, the transit museum stands apart. “The New York Transit Museum offers a museum experience with relatively universal appeal in a time when life seems hypersegmented,” says Bencivenga. “We’re a great initial museum experience.” The transit museum is housed underground, in a decommissioned 1936 subway station in Downtown Brooklyn. Its gallery of rotating exhibits and retail store are located in Grand Central Terminal. The museum is home to a rotating selection of 20 vintage subway and elevated cars dating back to 1907. Visitors can
By TREVOR LAURENCE JOCKIMS
board the vintage cars, sit at the wheel of a city bus and step through a time tunnel of turnstiles. The exhibits highlight the cultural, social and technological history—and future—of mass transit. And, they present stories of extraordinary engineering feats, the workers who labored in the tunnels over 100 years ago and the communities that were transformed through mass transportation. The museum also organizes events that offer visitors the chance to learn about the different aspects of public transportation. The museum draws its funding from a range of sources. It is a public-private partnership of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and Friends of the New York Transit Museum. It further gets foundational support as well as philanthropic support from individuals. “Kids absolutely love us,” says Bencivenga. “Our historic collection of vintage subway cars on the museum’s platform afford little ones with an incredible chance to interact with history through transportation.” The museum hosts over 30,000 school children every year, and about the same number of children and families participate in the family programs
Right: The Annual Holiday Train Show at the New York Transit Museum. Below right: Interior of IRT R-12 car, number 5760 (1948), a vintage subway car displayed at the museum. Below far right: Betsy, a 1931 double-decker Fifth Avenue Coach and a 1948 GMC TDH-5101, at the New York Transit Museum Bus Festival.
MTA Arts & Design
Poetry Society of America
New York Transit Museum
during their trip. “In 2018, we celebrated 25 years of Poetry in Motion,” says Bencivenga, adding that the program is a “great collaboration between MTA Arts & Design and the Poetry Society of America, which has brought more than 200 poems to subway and bus riders in New York.” There is an exhibit of a selection of these poems, which features works by many celebrated figures, including Walt Whitman, John Ashbery and Maya Angelou. “I am a bit partial to the Billy Collins poem ‘Subway,’ ” says Bencivenga, “because it really ties together the past and present of the subway, and by extension, the city.” Trevor Laurence Jockims teaches writing, literature and contemporary culture at New York University.
Photographs by TREVOR L. JOCKIMS
and activities throughout the year. “All of this instills in young people a feeling that we are truly a community museum that becomes part of the family,” she adds. Along with the chance to walk through vintage trains, and view and interact with artifacts, comes the knowledge about how the city grew with and around its transit system. “There have been incredible advances in mass transit technology,” notes Bencivenga. “But the thing I find fascinating is that while the technology has evolved, it’s human behavior that has created the biggest changes and challenges.” This evolution continues even today. “With generations re-embracing cities and more urban lifestyles,” says Bencivenga, “more people are committing to mass transit and are using it in different ways. Thankfully, there are planners and transportation experts working through the impact of what all this means for mass transit.” This connection between people and urban planning, between vast networks and individual citizens of the city, is embodied in the Poetry in Motion program, which displays poems inside subway cars for riders to read and reflect on
Left, below right and below far right: The New York Transit Museum displays model mass transit systems, historical artifacts and more. Bottom far right: Entrance to the museum, in a decommissioned 1936 subway station.
MARC A. HERMANN/MTA New York City Transit
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Art of American
By MICHAEL GALLANT
Smithsonian American Art Museum and
witness centuries of dreams, challenges and creativity in the United States. 18 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
hat does it mean to be American? This is the question that one museum in Washington, D.C., seeks to answer not with words, but with paint, pencil, photograph, collage, sculpture, technology and more. Located in the heart of the United States’ capital, the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) houses an unparalleled array of American works that span centuries. On display are creations ranging from modern folk art and room-sized installations made from televisions to distinctive African American art and even video games. The museum describes its collection as one of the largest and most inclusive in the world, a vast spread of works that reveal America’s rich cultural history from the late 1600’s to today.
It’s a visually stunning array, and every work carries a deeper significance as well. The museum’s collection of folk and selftaught art shows the creations of American artists who were untrained but nonetheless crafted significant works; ranging from beautiful, hand-sewn quilts to large and small pieces carved from materials like limestone and wood. These pieces reflect themes of personal exploration, struggle and transformation. Equally symbolic is “Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii,” a massive electronic installation shaped like a map of the United States. The work includes neon lighting, steel and wood, and over 300 televisions simultaneously showing 51 different channels of video. Artist
KEN RAHAIM/Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM/Courtesy Flickr
Left: A visitor celebrates Museum Selfie Day at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (above and above left) by posing as if the artwork is taking a selfie.
Nam June Paik, an immigrant from Korea, drew inspiration from the United Statesâ€™ interstate highway system, the huge diversity of the American people and the transformative power of digital media to explore the meaning and identity of his new home country. The museum also has a vast collection of paintings that may be more traditional in format and materials, but are creatively groundbreaking. These include Edward Hopperâ€™s rich, contemplative paintings of American buildings and structures, as well as the works of William H. Johnson, a virtuosic and folk art-influenced African American painter. Many of the exhibitions at SAAM focus on inspiring visions of the present and future. An SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019 19
Above: “A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets” exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum explores the revival of traditional basketry in America during the past 50 years through works of 63 contemporary basketmakers. Right: Museum staff and interns participate in Art Charades, posing as William Rimmer’s “The Falling Gladiator,” 1861, gift of Caroline Hunt Rimmer, 1915.5.1. Above right: Museum visitors use 3D printing to make crafts at its “Handi-hour Innovation” event.
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Photographs by Smithsonian American Art Museum/Courtesy Flickr
exhibition of photographs by David Levinthal fills gallery walls with iconic images of popular American culture, like those of Barbie dolls, baseball players and toy cowboys. Despite a playful veneer, the museum website states that the exhibition encourages visitors to “consider the stories we tell about ourselves— what it means to be strong, beautiful, masculine, feminine, and ultimately, American.” Visitors to SAAM’s Renwick Gallery, a branch located across the street from the White House, can also view an exhibition that blends traditional craft with augmented reality technology; unique sculptures of clay, glass and metal meant to inspire wonder in the natural world; and much more. Till January 2019, the
gallery hosted “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man,” a showcase of works created for the massive, bohemian Burning Man festival that happens every year in the desert of Nevada. The exhibition filled the gallery with immersive, ceiling-scraping installation sculptures, as well as funky, one-of-a-kind costumes and jewelry created for the festival. SAAM describes “No Spectators” as a major success for the institution. The exhibition is currently being shown at other museums around the United States. Beyond its compelling exhibitions and storied collection, SAAM organizes a wide variety of programs that spread and support the legacy of American art. The museum hosts lectures by prominent American artists and
Beyond its compelling exhibitions and storied collection, SAAM organizes a wide variety of programs that spread and support the legacy of American art.
Top: Visitors explore “A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum” exhibit. Top right: Edward Hopper’s “Cape Cod Morning,” 1950, oil on canvas, gift of the Sara Roby Foundation, 1986.6.92. Above right: Childe Hassam’s “In the Garden (Celia Thaxter in Her Garden),” 1892, oil on canvas, gift of John Gellatly, 1929.6.52.
Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum
Photographs by Smithsonian American Art Museum/Courtesy Flickr
Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum
Smithsonian American Art Museum
curators, for example, as well as film festivals and hands-on art-making workshops. It also has initiatives to make SAAM’s offerings accessible to visually- and hearing-impaired visitors. The museum is also home to the Lunder Conservation Center, a group of five laboratories and studios that give visitors unprecedented access to watch, on a daily basis, the conservation experts of both SAAM and the National Portrait Gallery restoring and maintaining artworks, frames and objects. The museum describes the center as the “first permanent, fully-visible conservation lab” of its kind. SAAM houses the Research and Scholars Center, which supports the study of American
art. College students can engage in internships at the museum, while artists and art historians can take part in a residential fellowship program. Other initiatives include prizes, research archives and peer-reviewed journals of new scholarship. Whether you’re eager to dive deep into the art of American history, see cutting-edge installations that encourage us to dream of the future or watch the preservation of priceless works in real time, don’t miss your chance to explore this special museum. Michael Gallant is the founder and chief executive officer of Gallant Music. He lives in New York City.
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The Rights Museum By BURTON BOLLAG
National Civil Rights Museum in
Photographs courtesy National Civil Rights Museum
Tennessee presents key episodes of the American Civil Rights Movement and examines todayâ€™s global human rights issues. 22 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
n the early evening of April 4, 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a leader of America’s civil rights movement, stepped onto the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Moments later, an assassin’s shot rang out and King fell to the floor. He had come to Memphis a day earlier to support a strike of the city’s predominantly African American sanitation workers. He and his entourage stayed at the Lorraine Motel because, at a time when overt racial segregation was still practiced in
America’s South, it was one of the few hotels in the city where African Americans were welcome. King had stayed at the motel numerous times before. It was also quite popular among songwriters and musicians, including Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding. Today, the Lorraine Motel has a new role. It is the home of the National Civil Rights Museum. Its mission is to tell the story of the movement that led to the end of racial segregation. Even the boarding house
Below: An exhibit at the National Civil Rights Museum (above left), titled “A Culture of Resistance: Slavery in America 1619–1861.”
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Photographs courtesy National Civil Rights Museum
We try to encourage people to have a debate about uncomfortable subjects. Above: Terri Lee Freeman, president of the National Civil Rights Museum. Above right: Lorraine Motel’s Room 306, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stayed in April 1968, part of the “King’s Last Hours: Rooms 306 and 307” exhibit at the museum. Below: The “I Am a Man: Memphis Sanitation Strike 1968” gallery expands the story of the strike and shows the iconic strikers with the “I Am a Man” signs.
opposite the motel, from where King’s assassin, James Earl Ray, fired the fateful shot, has been acquired and is part of the museum. The motel has been designated a historic site by the Tennessee Historical Commission. Established in 1991, the museum uses interactive exhibits, events, historic documents, films and other artifacts to tell the story of the struggle for equal rights for African Americans. It also examines current civil and human rights issues around the globe. The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, headquartered in Washington, D.C., and is a founding member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience. The coalition brings together historic sites, museums and memory
initiatives from all around the world that connect past struggles to today’s human rights and social justice movements. “We don’t really see [the museum] as a collection of artifacts sitting on shelves getting dusty,” says Terri Lee Freeman, the museum’s president. Instead, according to its mission statement, it “provokes thoughtful debate and serves as a catalyst for positive social change.” The museum regularly invites thought leaders to lecture, and has commissioned research into such issues as persistent economic disparities between African Americans and other sections of society. The museum plans to soon start a program to train school teachers about these issues. It has created a six-month program, called Unpacking Racism for Action, in which
National Civil Rights Museum
Photographs courtesy National Civil Rights Museum
Right: At “The Children Shall Lead Them: Birmingham 1963” exhibit at the National Civil Rights Museum, visitors enter a jail cell to hear the audio of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reading a portion of his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” while the text appears on the cell wall. Below: A replica of the Greyhound bus that was firebombed on the outskirts of Anniston, Alabama, in 1961. It is part of the “We Are Prepared to Die: The Freedom Rides 1961” exhibit at the museum. Bottom: A garbage truck from the “I Am a Man: Memphis Sanitation Strike 1968” exhibit. A film on the strike is projected upon the truck. Below right: 3D figures and signs at the “For Jobs and Freedom: March on Washington 1963” exhibit.
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Photographs courtesy National Civil Rights Museum
Above: A video display at the National Civil Rights Museum’s “World in Transition” exhibit shows the temper of the times and the changes taking place in America and around the world related to the movements for women’s rights, gay rights and more. Left: “The Year They Walked: Montgomery Bus Boycott 1955-1956” exhibit at the museum features a vintage city bus and 3D figures of women on the sidewalk, to indicate their role in sustaining the boycott. Visitors can also go inside the bus and sit next to a figure of civil rights activist Rosa Parks.
The museum also examines current civil and human rights issues around the globe.
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groups of about 30 people from different races and walks of life meet regularly to discuss “issues of implicit bias and structural racism.” “We try to encourage people to have a debate about uncomfortable subjects,” says Freeman. The museum offers 260 artifacts, more than 40 new films and several interactive media and audio recordings that guide visitors through five centuries of history—from the transAtlantic slave trade and the beginning of the resistance to slavery, through the Civil War and the Reconstruction era, the rise of Jim Crow (state and local laws that enforced racial segregation), and the key events of the second half of the 20th century in which a large number of people stood up for equality.
Current exhibits include the works of Romare Bearden, one of the 20th century’s leading visual artists and a champion of social action against racism and racial stereotypes; and “Ferguson Voices: Disrupting the Frame,” about the 2014 killing of Michael Brown, a young black man, by the police in Ferguson, Missouri. The incident propelled the Black Lives Matter movement to national attention. In addition, the museum is exhibiting “Voices of the Civil Rights Movement,” a collection of videos from eyewitnesses, activists and icons of the movement, hosted on a touchscreen platform. Burton Bollag is a freelance journalist living in Washington, D.C.
City of Angels
OMAR BÁRCENA/Courtesy Flickr
A model of Downtown Los Angeles from the 1930’s, part of the “Becoming Los Angeles” exhibition.
By JASON CHIANG
The Natural History Museum’s “Becoming Los Angeles” exhibition presents the city’s journey from a small pueblo to a booming metropolis.
ave you ever wondered how the City of Los Angeles became one of America’s most sprawling metropolises? “Becoming Los Angeles,” a permanent exhibition at the city’s Natural History Museum (NHM), tells the epic story of how the City of Angels evolved from a tiny pueblo into the bustling capital of the film and entertainment industry and the world-class global destination that it is today. In 2013, NHM, which is part of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County, opened “Becoming Los Angeles,” an eclectic 14,000-square-foot exhibition that explores the evolution of Los Angeles over five centuries. The exhibition kicked off a
$135-million-dollar restoration project, called “NHM Next,” which was the most ambitious transformation in the museum’s history. This added about 1.4 hectares of nature gardens, new permanent exhibitions and focus on novel ways to tell the story of interactions between the natural and the manmade. After closing briefly, the exhibit reopened in 2018, with freshly commissioned artworks by local artists and new artifacts from the NHM archaeology/anthropology collection. Most notably, the update includes an expanded section on The First Angelenos, the indigenous Californians. Through photos, artworks and stories from modern and
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OMAR BÁRCENA/Courtesy Flickr
Courtesy Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Right: The magnificent altar, titled “Altar to el Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles,” created by Ofelia Esparza (below) and Rosanna Esparza Ahrens, for the “Becoming Los Angeles” exhibition. The altar celebrates the diversity and cultural richness of the city.
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Bottom left: Reproduction of Toypurina by Daniel Gomez, 2014, part of the “Becoming Los Angeles” exhibition at the Natural History Museum (above).
historical native Californians, the exhibit paints a picture of what Los Angeles was like for thousands of years prior to 1542, when Spanish explorers ventured into Alta California and encountered its indigenous people. Whether you are a local Angeleno or are visiting the city for the first time, “Becoming Los Angeles” contains countless artifacts and timeless human stories that illustrate the city’s incredible journey to being one of the world’s signature metropolises. “ ‘Becoming Los Angeles’ explores the rich history of Los Angeles and the diverse groups of people that have made the city their home,” explains Sarah Crawford, the exhibit developer. “When the groundbreaking exhibition opened in 2013, it was the only permanent museum exhibition to address the city’s development over five centuries, including its transformation from a small pueblo to a booming metropolis. We aimed to weave Los Angeles’ natural and cultural developments into a single narrative, to show how people’s actions have a direct impact on their environment and vice versa.” The displays and photographs of “Becoming Los Angeles” include the names of the region’s original 44 Mexican settlers and even a bottle of water taken the first day the Los Angeles aqueduct opened in 1913. Overhead, a striking white steel sculptural canopy guides visitors through six major sections of the exhibit.
One of its most eye-catching pieces is a magnificent altar, titled “Altar to el Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles,” the town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels. Ofelia Esparza and her daughter, Rosanna Esparza Ahrens, constructed this vibrant homage to celebrate the diversity and cultural richness of the city. It features objects that celebrate local neighborhoods, photos of iconic historical figures, a woven piece symbolizing the Los Angeles River and many beautiful bouquets of flowers. Another noteworthy section documents the birth and growth of Hollywood, the entertainment business that the city is almost synonymous with. Through a series of photos, unique items like a lifelike mannequin of Charlie Chaplin and artifacts like Walt Disney’s original animation machine, visitors are treated to an insider’s look into how early Hollywood pioneers created cinematic magic well before the days of computer graphics. “Becoming Los Angeles” also features innovative multimedia installations, including an interactive scale model of Downtown L.A. in the 1930’s, which takes visitors back in time through 10 distinct neighborhoods in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the final gallery, the museum invites visitors to share their Los Angeles stories in their own voices in special audio booths. They can also listen to the audio recordings of fellow museum visitors. The exhibits’ content is available in both English and Spanish. Admission to the NHM costs $12, and it is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.
SERGEY GALYONKIN/Courtesy Flickr
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
We aimed to weave Los Angeles’ natural and cultural developments into a single narrative, to show how people’s actions have a direct impact on their environment and vice versa. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019 29
Bringing the Past to Life
Living history museums offer
an interactive way to learn about the past and bring history to life.
Above right: Visitors to the Maritime Museum of San Diego sail out to sea in California’s official tall ship, Californian. Below: The Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer features a Pawnee Earth Lodge, a log cabin settlement, and the living history community, Railroad Town.
magine the year 1898 in rural Nebraska— a horse-drawn carriage drives down Main Street, an arithmetic teacher lectures to students in a one-room schoolhouse, the smell of freshly made chocolate drifts from the mercantile. At “living” history museums, visitors don’t have to imagine. Museumgoers experience the past for themselves. Here are three living history museums highlighting different periods in the United States’ history.
Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer
estled among the tall prairie grasses of central Nebraska, Stuhr Museum preserves the memory of the early pioneers who settled the Midwest territory. “We tell the story of this part of the country—how things worked and didn’t work, how the cultures clashed…how the growth of this part of the country was part of the growth of America,” says Joe Black, the museum’s
© Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer
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© George Adkins/Maritime Museum of San Diego
By SADIE GOERING
executive director. Railroad Town is staffed by living historians, who operate the town’s businesses and homes. Visitors can make tools at the tinsmith’s, purchase candy at the mercantile and watch embers burn at the blacksmith’s shop. “What’s popular is the ‘living history’ aspect,” says Black. “Visitors actually get to see, smell, hear, touch or put their hands on an activity of the past.” The museum’s immersive Christmas, All Hallows’ Eve and Fourth of July celebrations draw crowds from around the state, and across the country. In the summer months, historians teach classes that range from fishing and horseback riding to pie baking and watercolor painting. “That ability to make yourself forget that you are in a museum, even if it’s just for a second, because you let yourself get so immersed in visiting Railroad Town, I think, that’s the advantage that we have,” says Black. “We are able to create that moment.”
© Plimoth Plantation
ounded in 1947 on the historic grounds of Plymouth, Massachusetts, Plimoth Plantation tells the story of the 17th-century English colonists who settled the area and the Wampanoag people native to the region. More than 300,000 guests visit the museum annually to walk the streets of the 17th-century English village, purchase cornmeal at the water-powered grist mill and engage with the modern Wampanoag people. “Living history has the power to transport guests in a way that can have a really profound impact on the way you go forward and see the world,” says museum staff member Kate Sheehan. According to Sheehan, certain exhibits such as the Mayflower II—a replica of the original ship that sailed from England to Plymouth— cannot be experienced anywhere else. Mayflower II came under the stewardship of the museum in 1957, as a gift from the British people. “She is really a floating classroom,” says
Sheehan. “Mayflower II tells the story of the 1620 voyage…but it’s also a historic ship in her own right.” Currently under renovation, Mayflower II will return home in 2020 to mark the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ docking in Plymouth.
Maritime Museum of San Diego
A © Ryan Hawk/Maritime Museum of San Diego
Above: Trained historians dressed in period clothing strengthen the immersive experience at the Plimoth Plantation.
t the Maritime Museum of San Diego, visitors can board original boats and replica ships that span 500 years of history. Education programs allow guests to explore the ships, learn from role-playing instructors and crew, voyage out to sea on a replica of a 1542 Spanish galleon and even board the Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship. Children build teamwork skills through performing boat chores and adults enjoy historic day cruises, while learning the history of the navy of San Diego. “It’s more than just a museum you’re walking through,” says Theresa Smullen, a museum staff member. “It’s something that takes you off land, to sea, and really gives you a fuller experience of the West Coast and our rich maritime heritage and historic connections with the Pacific world.” Text courtesy ShareAmerica (https://share. america.gov/).
Above: Living history instructors lead the day and overnight programs at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. To share articles go to https://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019 31
WALLY GOBETZ/Courtesy Flickr
Right: A glimpse of lunar exploration, at Space Center Houston. Below: A spacesuit from Space Center Houstonâ€™s large collection on display.
Walk Space By PAROMITA PAIN
Explore the wonders of science and space through exhibits, events and learning opportunities at the Space
umans have a long history of fascination with the cosmos. Space Center Houston is a tribute to this abiding wonder and humankindâ€™s forays into space. For many, a trip to Houston is incomplete without a visit to the space center. A Smithsonian Affiliate, the museum is also the official visitor center of NASA Johnson Space Center. More than 250,000 teachers and students from around the world come here annually, since the museum is a space and science exploration learning center, with more than 400 things to see and do. It is also a certified autism center. It draws more than a million visitors annually and generates about $73 million annual economic impact in the greater Houston area.
Documenting space history
Space Center Houston https://spacecenter.org
NASA Johnson Space Center www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/home
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Space Center Houston has one of the largest collections of spacesuits and Moon rocks on public display in the world. Its Starship Gallery is home to multiple flown spacecraft and amazing artifacts that trace the history of space exploration. Chronicling our attempts to fly to the
NEIL ALEXANDER MCKEE/Courtesy Flickr Photographs by WALLY GOBETZ/Courtesy Flickr CUB SCOUT PACK 101/Courtesy Flickr
Apollo era and the future of space exploration, through an array of space-themed activities. These included NASA Tram Tours to Rocket Park and the Apollo Mission Control Center, notable speakers, book signings, an outdoor festival with a concert and a family zone with handson activities, robotics challenges and Apollo-themed learning experiences.
Celebrating STEM Space Center Houston’s Learning Innovation Center is among the United States’ leading science education resources. Different programs, based on national science standards and with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), are designed to help children and adults think critically; learn about the past, present and future of America’s space flight program; and build a greater understanding of the world. Its educational programs for children are aimed to inspire them to be among the first humans to walk on Mars. Also, aspiring astronauts can stay overnight at the museum and work on exciting,
program-specific, hands-on activities designed to build STEM skills. The museum has accessible educational camp experiences specially designed for individuals ages 4 and above who can benefit from a learning environment tailored for those with complex learning needs. The Mars for Everyone camp, for instance, is recommended for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities. To meet the growing need to make STEM learning accessible, Space Center Houston is expanding the way people learn about space exploration and its unique offerings. It has launched a free mobile phone app for an interactive experience. Available in multiple languages, the app features self-guided virtual tours, augmented reality experiences, information and updates about the museum, and videos and audio stories about the historic feats in space exploration and the future. Paromita Pain is an assistant professor of Global Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno.
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Photographs by ANDOS_PICS/Courtesy Flickr and GORODENKOFF/iStock/Getty Images
Moon, for instance, the gallery has the Apollo 17 Command Module and a Moon rock that visitors are encouraged to touch. It also has a fullsize Skylab Training module, created out of the final stage of a Saturn V rocket to develop methods of living and working in space for long periods. The people behind the missions are celebrated through insights into their lives. For example, Eugene Kranz, flight director for the Gemini and Apollo programs, wore colorful vests handmade by his wife for luck. “Given his record of success, including the recovery of the three astronauts on Apollo 13, the vests seem to have held up their end of the bargain,” states the space center website. Kranz’s iconic Apollo 17 vest can be seen in the Starship Gallery timeline. As Chris W, a recent visitor, writes on a TripAdvisor review, “The exhibits were amazing, and I loved the authenticity of all the exhibits we saw. Nothing could prepare me for seeing the Saturn V in person though. The size was astounding.” Earlier this year, Space Center Houston celebrated the legacy of the
Above and above left: Space Center Houston offers exhibits, educational programs and activities, with a focus on STEM. Above right: Little Joe II, a single-stage, solid-propellant rocket, on display at NASA Johnson Space Center’s Rocket Park. Space Center Houston is its official visitor center. Far left: Space Center Houston’s Lunar Roving Vehicle trainer, at the Starship Gallery. Left: Mercury 9 “Faith 7,” the final Mercury spacecraft to go into orbit, on display at the Starship Gallery.
Music Museum By MICHAEL GALLANT
Learn about the history, art, creativity and technology of American music at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.
rom Elvis Presley to Taylor Swift, Louis Armstrong to Jay-Z, American music icons have inspired billions of people worldwide through word and sound. It’s a powerful legacy, and one that the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, California, aims to preserve for new generations of musicians and listeners alike. “The museum is an exciting and interactive cultural institution,” says Michael Sticka, executive director of the Grammy Museum. “It’s a one-of-a-kind visitor experience that’s engaging, educational and inspirational.” The core of the museum’s mission is music education, he continues, “which we all know to be essential, especially since music is the one true international language.” Founded in 2008, the museum is uniquely positioned to spread the unifying lessons, inspiration and history of music. This is due, in no small part, to being the official foundation of choice for the Recording Academy, an American organization that supports professional musicians and advocates for artist rights. It also hosts the annual
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Grammy Awards, which honor the best in music. To achieve its goals, the Grammy Museum creates exhibits, programs and initiatives that are as diverse as the American music they celebrate. These include “Take Me Out to the Ball Game: Popular Music and the National Pastime,” a fascinating exhibit that examines the long relationship between baseball and popular music in American culture. Special items on display include sheet music from the iconic song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” handwritten lyric sheets from other baseballthemed classic songs, and historic guitars and microphones that played key roles in baseballthemed music. Visitors to the museum can also see a unique photography exhibit that chronicles the famously controversial prison shows of singer and songwriter Johnny Cash. In the late 1960’s, he gave concerts for prisoners at two different jails, seeking to highlight the conditions that inmates faced at the time. Legendary music photographer Jim Marshall
Photographs courtesy Grammy Museum
our visitors about country, rock, jazz, hip-hop, pop and many other genres in an experiential way,” says Sticka. The museum puts its principles into practice within its Los Angeles home and through off-site exhibits around the country and even across oceans. In April 2019, the museum announced a partnership with the Bengaluru-based Indian Music Experience (IME), India’s first interactive music museum. IME and the Grammy Museum will work together with over two dozen other affiliate institutions to co-curate exhibitions, facilitate academic exchanges and “explore new ways to keep music and the performing arts flourishing, both inside and outside the classroom, internationally,” says Sticka. “We put a lot of effort into expanding our relationships with organizations across the world. For IME in particular, I see great potential for traveling exhibitions celebrating all forms of music.” At a local level, the Grammy Museum seeks to inspire via educational programs like Grammy Museum Summer Sessions, a
Indian Music Experience
Above far left: Listening and interactive technologies are a big part of the Grammy Museum (above) experience. Above left and top left: The museum’s “Backstreet Boys: The Experience” exhibition, which displays objects and images related to the pop group. It also offers technological innovations to engage visitors.
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captured key moments before, during and after these performances. Several of his images on display at the museum have never before been publicly shown. Many museum exhibits use not just historically significant objects and images, but also cutting-edge technological innovations to help visitors engage with the process of musicmaking. “Right now, I love our ‘Backstreet Boys: The Experience’ exhibition,” says Sticka, referring to the American pop group that became hugely popular in the late 1990’s. “It really allows us to expand on our technology offerings. For instance, we have a great hologram experience that allows visitors to sing, dance or pose with the band, and put themselves in a hologram that they can send to their phone and share with their friends.” Although the museum honors widely loved artists like the Backstreet Boys, key to its mission is a commitment to embrace and celebrate all music; not just the most popular. “Being the Grammy Museum, we are crossgenre in such a way that allows us to teach
Photographs courtesy Grammy Museum
JUSTIN HIGUCHI/Courtesy Flickr
Above: Baseball-themed special edition Fender guitars and other historical objects (below) on display as part of the “Take Me Out to the Ball Game: Popular Music and the National Pastime” exhibit at the Grammy Museum. Left: The gramophone, on the museum’s 3rd Floor Gallery, is the symbol of the museum, as well as the Grammy Awards. Below left: Singer Demi Lovato performs live at the Grammy Museum.
Being the Grammy Museum, we are cross-genre in such a way that allows us to teach our visitors about country, rock, jazz, hip-hop, pop and many other genres in an experiential way. summer camp that teaches students the art of songwriting, as well as the renowned Grammy Camp, “which is a week-long intensive program for students to learn about a career in the music industry,” says Sticka. “From both programs, our students emerge inspired and ready to make music!” He sees these efforts as just the beginning, and hopes to further expand the museum’s music education efforts in the coming years through additional innovative programs. Michael Gallant is the founder and chief executive officer of Gallant Music. He lives in New York City.
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By CANDICE YACONO
Slated to open in 2020, the Academy Museum
of Motion Pictures
will celebrate the art and science of movies to inspire, entertain and educate visitors.
he Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is one of the most ambitious projects of its kind. Founded by the Los Angeles-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscar awards, the museum is set to open in 2020. From Dorothy’s ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” and the doors of Rick’s Café Américain from “Casablanca” to the very first Steadicam ever used in film production and countless Oscar statuettes, the museum’s collection will To share articles go to https://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019 37
Photographs by Joshua White, JWPictures/©Academy Museum Foundation
©Renzo Piano Building Workshop/ ©Academy Museum Foundation
©Academy Museum Foundation, 2019
©Renzo Piano Building Workshop/©Academy Museum Foundation/Image from L’Autre Image
Left and above left: Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, exterior rendering. Above: The museum currently under construction. Below: The Juvenile Oscar awarded to actor Shirley Temple for the eight films she made in 1934. Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Gift of Shirley Temple Black and Family, 2013. Below left: Clapperboard for “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953). Gift of Michael Forman and Cinerama, Inc.
©Academy Museum Foundation/Gallery Design, Rick Carter and Gallagher & Associates, Artist Illustration, Erik Tiemens, Edward Scissorhands (1990), ©Twentieth Century Fox; Black Panther (2018), ©Marvel Studios
Joshua White, JWPictures/©Academy Museum Foundation
Below: Morticia Addams dress worn by Anjelica Huston and designed by Ruth Myers from “The Addams Family” (1991). Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Gift of Anjelica Huston, 2014.
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cater to a range of interests. The museum is being constructed in a historic Art Deco building—the now-defunct May Company department store site on Wilshire Boulevard. The building is part of the city’s Miracle Mile area, which includes cultural powerhouses like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. Many organizations and individuals have made substantial donations to the Academy museum, including some of Hollywood’s biggest names. Bob Iger, chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, has joined actors Tom Hanks and Annette Bening in working to secure funding for the museum. “The Academy museum’s intention is to create a unique and unparalleled museum experience,” says a museum spokesperson. “Achieving this has required a highly complex construction effort—renovating a 1939 L.A. landmark, building a new spherical structure that includes a 1,500-panel glass dome, and joining them together to produce 300,000 square feet of spectacular public and exhibition space.” There will be a permanent gallery as well as temporary exhibitions, two theaters for live performances and film screenings, an education studio and event space. Architect Renzo Piano, known for buildings like The
Photographs ©Renzo Piano Building Workshop/ ©Academy Museum Foundation/Image from Cristiano Zaccaria
Left: Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, “Where Dreams Are Made: A Journey Inside the Movies,” concept illustration for Imaginary World gallery, collaborative process of creation. Below: Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, interior rendering, David Geffen Theater. Above right: Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Dolby Family Terrace rendering.
Shard in London, Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, created the spherical structure, which would house a theater. The Academy museum is slated to become one of the world’s top institutions dedicated to the craft of moviemaking. In a press release, it stated that it aims “to convey the power of movies, to give viewers a look behind the scenes into how movies are made, and to explore movies’ impact on culture and our lives.” While it will trace the artistic and scientific history of cinema, specific galleries will focus on topics like early female directors, international silent films and Indian independent films. The museum has spent more than 10 years collecting a vast range of coveted objects related to the motion picture industry, from cameras and other industry technology to
merica loves its museums. And a string of new and up-andcoming ones are set to highlight some of the country’s cultural and historical offerings. In Philadelphia, for instance, there are plans to build one of the nation’s largest museums dedicated to organized sports. The Museum of Sports would celebrate America’s greatest athletic teams and stars, in all major sports disciplines. It would showcase memorabilia and have digital and virtual reality activity zones, a theater, a sports restaurant, and shops for collectibles. New York City will now have the National Museum of LGBT History & Culture. It seeks to identify, study and showcase the social, historical and cultural contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to U.S. society. It would offer exhibitions, research, publications and other public programs. The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement is under development in St. Petersburg, Florida. The five-story architectural achievement features more than 40,000 square feet of gallery space, a grand atrium, skylights, a spiral staircase, a library, a theater, a graphic studio and a park. Located in the Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Fort Totten, The Hub will become the future home of Explore! Children’s Museum. In early 2017, Explore! and the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery opened an interactive children’s museum experience inside the Portrait Gallery. Opening this October, the New Burke museum will be a flagship facility for the Washington State Museum of Natural History and Culture. The New Burke turns the museum “inside-out,” breaking down traditional museum barriers and inviting visitors to be part of a working research facility. In other words, exhibit galleries will be side-by-side with 12 visible, state-of-the-art labs and workrooms, along with an artists’ workshop. —C.Y.
©Renzo Piano Building Workshop/ ©Academy Museum Foundation
Joshua White, JWPictures/©Academy Museum Foundation, 2019
Museums in the Making
Above: Academy Museum of Motion Pictures under construction. Right: Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, cross-section.
Photographs ©teamLab, courtesy Pace Gallery
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
Above and above right: Installation view of teamLab: Transcending Boundaries, 2017, at Pace Gallery, London, 6 Burlington Gardens.
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
The installation will be featured in the Academy museum’s Hurd Gallery.
Right: Typewriter used by Joseph Stefano to write the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960). Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Gift of Michael Eisenberg care of “The Estate of Joseph Stefano,” 2016.
Photographs by Joshua White, JWPictures/ ©Academy Museum Foundation
Below: Screen-used close-up pair of the Ruby Slippers, designed by Adrian, from “The Wizard of Oz” (1939). Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
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promotional materials, costumes, set elements and props. It will also draw from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ collections of more than 12 million photographs; 190,000 films and videos; 80,000 screenplays; 61,000 posters; and 104,000 pieces of production art. Access for all is of utmost importance to the museum creators. Thanks to a “transformative grant” from the George Lucas Family Foundation, it announced earlier this year that all visitors ages 17 and under will be admitted free of charge. “At the Academy museum, we are committed to helping educate our youngest visitors, the children and teens who will be the next generation of filmmakers, writers and visual artists,” said the museum director Kerry Brougher in a statement. The museum will soon announce its opening date. “As we continue working through the permitting process and move closer to completion, we are weighing the overall schedule for major industry events in 2020,” says the museum spokesperson. “On this basis, we will choose the optimal moment for our official opening.” Candice Yacono is a magazine and newspaper writer based in southern California.
At the Academy museum, we are committed to helping educate our youngest visitors, the children and teens who will be the next generation of filmmakers, writers and visual artists. Right: Costume worn by Jared Leto and designed by Kurt and Bart for “Dallas Buyers Club” (2013). Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Accessories gift of Kurt and Bart, Inc., 2014.
The Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle offers a glimpse of some of the biggest
cultural icons and
Museum of Pop Culture www.mopop.org
imi Hendrix. Star Wars. The Wizard of Oz. Ravi Shankar. Prince. Some of the world’s biggest cultural touchstones can be experienced under one roof: the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) in Seattle, Washington. It is located in the Seattle Center, one of the city’s most visited areas. It was first founded to house some of the items from the extensive range of art and collectibles acquired by Microsoft co-founder, billionaire and philanthropist Paul Allen. Today, the Frank Gehry-designed museum not only pays homage to the late Allen’s many interests, but has branched off into many other areas. “The Museum of Pop Culture was developed out of the inspiration and joy that our founder, Paul Allen, felt when first hearing Jimi Hendrix in his 1967 album, ‘Are You Experienced?’ ” says Jacob McMurray, director of curatorial affairs at the museum. “Paul was interested in creating a museum dedicated to Jimi Hendrix. And in the early 1990’s, development began. After a few years, we expanded the purview of the museum to include American popular music as well. In 2000, we opened as the Experience Music Project.” As Allen acquired key props and costumes from popular series like “Star Trek,” the museum curators quickly realized that their scope had grown beyond music. In 2004, they turned half the building into the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. “With these two content centers of music and science fiction, we continued to expand and explore new territories, until it became clear that we needed a further change,” says McMurray. “In 2016, we became the Museum of Popular Culture, exploring an ever-expanding territory of nerdy, passionate popular culture.” “Since our inception,” he continues, “we’ve showcased almost 100 exhibitions in the realm of music, science fiction, fantasy, horror, fashion, sports, film, video games, comics and more.”
Photographer Allen Beaulieu’s “Prince Looking,” 1982, on display at the Museum of Pop Culture.
© ALLEN BEAULIEU
Pop Culture By CANDICE YACONO
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We are a rare museum, where there is something that everyone in the family will love.
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Above: Fashion designer Iris van Herpen’s installation at the Museum of Pop Culture’s (above center right) “A Queen Within” exhibit. It highlights works of famous and emerging designers to create a deep inquiry into the diverse nature of the feminine.
Candice Yacono is a magazine and newspaper writer based in southern California. Top right: Erik Noren’s “The Prince Bike,” 2017, is part of the museum’s “Prince From Minneapolis” exhibit, which examines the icon’s image and his influence on fans and other artists.
ZANE SPANG Courtesy Museum of Pop Culture DANNY CLINCH
A permanent Hall of Fame exhibition features artifacts from the world’s most popular and celebrated franchises. Current exhibitions include deep dives into the works and lives of musicians and bands like Prince, Nirvana and Pearl Jam; explorations of fantasy, science fiction and horror franchises; and the chance to explore what it’s like to be an indie game developer. Patrons can also see weapons from “Lord of the Rings,” Mork’s spacesuit from “Mork & Mindy,” and Hendrix’s passport. The museum even owns approximately 200 of Hendrix’s personal records, which include Ravi Shankar and Alla Rakha’s “Sound of the Sitar” and M.S. Subbulakshmi’s “The Sounds of Subbulakshmi.” Some of the museum’s most popular exhibitions, “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds” and “Bowie by Mick Rock,” now travel around the United States for those who are unable to visit them in Seattle. “The Museum of Pop Culture’s mission is to make creative expression a life-changing force by offering experiences that inspire and connect our communities,” states the museum website. “We promote the mission by showcasing extraordinary exhibitions and programs that highlight personal creativity and reflect our visitors’ pop culture passions and expertise,” adds McMurray. Part of MoPOP’s appeal is that it endeavors to offer a wide range of exhibitions and programs for people of all ages and interests. “We are a rare museum, where there is something that everyone in the family will love,” says McMurray. “Pop culture, by its very nature, is comprised of experiences and events that we all share and deem valuable. It’s shared culture that isn’t dictated from on high, but generated by the masses for the masses. As a museum, we don’t feel that we are telling visitors what is important in culture; the visitors already know what is important. We are just reflecting those narratives back to them.” In addition to an onsite shop, the museum has its own urban café and bar, called Culture Kitchen Seattle by Wolfgang Puck, galleries, lounges, learning labs and more spaces to augment visitors’ experiences. The museum hosts a wide range of programming year-round. Events include the annual MoPOP Pop Conference, which brings together academics, critics, fans and musicians; the Movies at MoPOP film series in the museum’s in-house JBL Theater; a Campout Cinema Series, which uses the museum’s mammoth Sky Church 33’ x 60’ HD LED screen and offers trivia, themed drinks and giveaways; and music and writing competitions.
Above right: An image from the museum’s “Pearl Jam: Home and Away” exhibit, which provides a glimpse of the rock band’s journey from 1990.
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Courtesy Museum of Pop Culture
Registered under RNI-6586/60
Left: Tailored Chelsea coat and River Dress, “Mirror the World,” S/S 2016, courtesy of Vivienne Westwood. The creation is part of the Museum of Pop Culture’s “A Queen Within” exhibit. Above: IF VI WAS IX, a sculpture consisting of more than 500 musical instruments and 30 computers, developed by sound sculptor Trimpin. It is equipped with earphones that allow audiences to tune in to the various musical permutations performed.