I made another first time in a long time visit to a Boston institution with a day out at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Unlike the Museum of Fine Arts, there is only one work of art at the Gardner Museum, a collaboration of Mrs. Gardner and thousands of painters, sculptors, designers, architects, and gardeners. This was my first visit since the opening of the new Renzo Piano wing, which is impressive, but seems mostly a utilitarian annex to the historic museum. It was also the first time I’ve been to the museum since photography is allowed, although only of the courtyard on the main level. Plenty of scofflaws took photos from the upper levels too, but were only stopped by the guards when using flash. I followed Mrs. Gardner’s preference of immersing myself in the art and beauty.
This will be the first of several posts from a Spring Break trip to New York City with my mother and my son.
One highlight of the trip was a visit the American Museum of Natural History. I hadn’t visited the museum since I was a child, and several galleries were much as I remembered. The AMNH is known for it’s “dead zoo” collections of preserved animals set up in naturalistic dioramas. I noticed in the African mammals gallery how all the displays were surrounded by marble and carved friezes which made me realize just how much money went into the museum when it was built. A nearby gallery of mammals from New York State showed that the money was not spread around evenly as it was just simple cases with the pelts of various animals pinned to the wall. We also explored the halls of North American mammals, Asian mammals, and ocean life. The highlight of any visit to the AMNH are the two galleries of dinosaur fossils which are vastly different from my childhood with the new scientific understanding of dinosaurs incorporated in the exhibits.
We visited only a fraction of the museum and will have to return to explore more.
Some of my favorite photos from our recent trip to Virginia are below. See the complete photo album on my website.
For Spring Break, my son Peter and I traveled to Virginia to visit my mother and play tourist at Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestowne, and Go-Karts Plus. It was three-day trip but it felt like we saw and learned a lot. Now, I once lived in Williamsburg. I attended the College of William & Mary, worked on an archaeological site as part of a field school, studied 18th-century furniture at the art museums, and then was an employee of Colonial Williamsburg for four years during my senior year of college and the years immediately afterwards. So, these places are familiar to me. But this was the first time I’d visited as just a plain old tourist in close to 25 years, and the first time I visited as a parent, sharing my enthusiasm for history with my son.
We actually visited few of the sites I actually worked at in my time as a historical interpreter as Peter was drawn more to the historic trades (which, ironically, I rarely had time to visit when I actually worked there). For a place rooted in history, a lot has changed at Colonial Williamsburg. The Charlton Coffehouse was reconstructed in recent years and we enjoyed the unexpected treat of a free serving of hot chocolate of an 18th-century recipe. There’s also a daily event called Revolution in the Streets where the last block of Duke of Gloucester street is open only to paying guests and character interpreters perform a drama right in the middle of the crowd. The story we witnessed was about a slave couple deciding to “jump the broom” to marry before the man was taken away to Richmond (for some reason I never learned). We were among the witnesses to the jumping the broom ceremony which involved everyone participating in song and dance. It is kind of cheesy and probably not 100% authentic, but I think it gets across the point of what daily life and choices were faced by ordinary people of the past. I liked it better than the military reviews and speeches by great men that are more typical of living history performance.
Related Post: Jamestown 2007 – America’s 400th Anniversary
My son & I spent the Columbus Day Weekend in Washington, D.C. Some of my favorite photos from the weekend are below, the rest are here.
A few photos from a visit to Boston’s Museum of Science with my son this weekend.
My son and I journeyed to the Ecotarium for Free Fun Fridays. The Ecotarium is a science museum surrounded by outdoor compound including nature trails, animal exhibits, a playground, and even a train ride. We had a great time with the only downside being that my parochial Bostonian view found the drive to Worcester a bit too long.
Jamaica Plain continued welcoming in the spring with Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum. We took some time to pedal our bikes and sniff the petals. Here are a few photos.
Last night we returned to Drumlin Farm for the Friday Evening Hayride. Farmer Caroline drove the tractor out to through the fields. Along the way Drumlin Farm educator Debbie taught us that we were in fact taking a strawride and that Drumlin Farm has been under cultivation for 250 years. Of course, around these parts I wondered “only 250 years?”
We stopped by a campfire to roast marshmallows and make s’mores. Then we sang “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Drumlin” for Farmer Caroline and a song about a farm called “Muscle and Arm.” Then we heard a native American story about our special evening visitor, a screech owl!
A good time was had by all.
This week marks yet another anniversary in which the number of years being marked is increasingly baffling. 30 years ago on Easter weekend my father took my sister and I for my first visit to the city of Boston (Easter was on April 6th that year so let’s just say we arrived on April 5th).
Here’s what I can remember:
- Our first day there it rained. A lot. I have a specific memory of walking past the Boston Massacre marker while being pelted by sheets of rain and wind.
- Easter Sunday, however, was beautiful and sunny. We walked around Boston Common and the Public Garden in our Sunday best.
- It really annoyed our Dad that we insisted on walking toe-to-toe along the red paint of the Freedom Trail. As a dad myself now I can understand how frustrating it is when the little ones dawdle.
- I really enjoyed visiting historic sites like the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill. From that point on I loved to read about history and visit historical sites whenever possible.
- I’m pretty sure we went to the Childrens Museum too. It was a busy weekend. This was back when the Childrens Museum had the giant’s desktop and grandma’s attic. I miss those exhibits.
- It’s really eerie to think that this weekend really set the course for my future careers in museums and libraries as well as moving to Boston.